One thing every married retiree notices straight away, is that they spend a lot more time with their spouses. Like it or not, most couples will spend most of their waking hours in each others company. They may have different friends, and be involved in different activities through the week, but on many days, you will spend significant amounts of time with your wife. I heard of one bloke, a retired manager who has spent his life telling people what to do, who followed his wife around giving her “suggestions!” Since she had been doing all that stuff for years and didn’t need any help in working out what to do, you can guess that didn’t turns out well. So, how can you ensure your marriage improves over time rather than going nowhere and making you both miserable?
The First Step
The first step is to discover more about each other. If you read my recent blog on retiring well, you will know your Myers Briggs personality type by now. If you haven’t, Myers and Briggs invented a way to measure your likes and dislikes and your operating style. When you have done the test, you will end up with a 4 letter code – like ESTJ. Thats my personality type. It means I am an Extravert, a Sensor, a Thinker and a Judger. A quick look at that type means the E says I like being with people, the S says I use things around me to give me clues about the situation, I prefer to think my way through things and as a J, I like to be reasonably organised. (I am not a strong J so I can go with the flow sometimes too.) You should do as much research on your personality type as you can. There are hidden gems there for you to discover. According to my book of personality types, my personality types can make decisions too quickly (true), miss long term implications of decisions and be too businesslike when dealing with people. Those things can leads to trouble sometimes. There are lots of positive things too but you will have to do some research to find out what they are for you!
My wife’s profile on the other hand, is exactly opposite on all these scales. She is an INFP. Because she gets energy from being by herself (as an Introvert), if we are going somewhere where there will be a lot of people, she will probably be ready to go after me and ready to come home before me. She is iNtuitive and somehow “just knows” about the situation we are in. She is a Feeler and more driven by her feelings than me and she is much more Perceptive and so ready to go with the flow much more than I am.
Knowing these things about each other, helps us be more understanding of each other in our relationship. So after you have done a personality test yourself, ask her to do the same one, then look at the meaning of each type. You may discover things about the way you have operated for years and it will help you understand each others likes and dislikes much better.
What is your love language
Another thing you need to discover about each other is your love language. How do you tell each other you love them? Gary Chapman wrote a book a few years ago thats become a best seller. It’s called “The Five Love Languages.” The thesis of the book is that there are different ways we use to express love to others. I recommend that you read the book. It’s available in many forms but they all say the same thing – that is each of us has a preferred way of expressing love to and receiving love from others. If you are in a relationship with someone who has a different love language, you may struggle with knowing if your wife actually loves you and she will struggle with the same thing.
Now the deal with this book is not that you learn to show love the same way, but rather that you show her love in the way thats most meaningful to her. So for example if she prefers a love language that requires “Words of Affirmation” and you prefer “Acts of Service” it’s most likely that you have been showing your love for her by doing things for her which she may or may not notice. On the other hand, she will often get you aside and say encouraging things to you. So the way you show your love for each other will be different. Again, knowing your love language and your wife’s love language can give you insight into how you can make your marriage better.
After you have read the book, then head to this website and take the test and encourage her to do the same thing. It’s an interesting exercise for you to guess what her love language is before she takes the test. But you will need to have read the book to understand what the love language is all about.
So you face a choice in retirement – you can do things to build each other up, or you can go with the flow and watch your relationship get more distant over time. If you want the rest of your life to be the best of your life, you must do things to make things better. That way, your retirement can be the best time of your life. But it probably wont happen without you making it happen!