Flourishing Happens With Others.
Like it or not, you need people more than you realise. Writing in his book “Flourish”, Martin Seligman says “very little that is positive is solitary.” * He points out that the last time you laughed uproariously, you felt meaning and purpose in your life, and the time you felt proud of your accomplishments, happened with other people. In fact, he says “other people are the best antidote to the downs of life and the single most reliable up”.*
The Theology of Relationship.
The truth is, the bible tells us God made you in His image and the curious thing about that is, God is three persons in one. That means the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have been in an intimate relationship from eternity past and will be eternally into the future. It therefore goes without saying that, because you are made in the image of God, you have within you, a serious need for others. It is built into your very being. That’s where your sex drive comes from, but don’t use that as an excuse to have sex with anybody. It’s intimacy you need more than sex.
So, whether you like it or not, you have a need for relationships with others. The way that need expresses itself, will depend on your personality type. Extroverts often like to have lots of reasonably shallow relationships but introverts prefer deep relationships with just a few individuals. And, you can probably guess by now that I believe relationship with others is one reason God made each of us – so we can bring happiness, joy and meaning into the lives of others as well as receiving those things ourselves.
The Problem of Retirement
The problem is, for most blokes, they have a social network within their work environment. Not only do you spend a lot of time with your fellow workers at work, but many spend their leisure hours with this group of people as well. And because of the demands of your work, you probably have had very little time to keep up any friendships you made outside of work. That’s all good until you retire. Suddenly you are left alone. Your whole social network disappears or at least changes dramatically. Those who once had time for you, no longer have, and the longer you are retired, the less likely you will be able to maintain those relationships.
I’ve retired three times to date and I noticed the loss of a social network every time but particularly when I retired the first time. The people I had spent the last decade of my life with, were suddenly not as available as they once were. In fact, because of the nature of my work, I had to move out of that workplace and leave it all to the next bloke. Very few ever rang me. I have contacted a few from time to time but the reality is, retirement usually means you won’t see them again. Truth is, it can be very lonely and I’ve felt that – three times.
To be honest, I felt invisible as well. Maybe that’s because in my work I was leading a group of 200 people, but when I retired, I was leading no-one – except my wife who wasn’t particularly keen on being told what to do or how to do it. Suddenly I went from leader who everyone wanted to speak to to being a nobody. It was tough.
Fixing The Problem.
So when you retire, one thing you must do, is intentionally rebuild a social network. Theres a number of things you can do to make this happen. You could join your local men’s shed and get involved in doing stuff for others. That will opening up social interactions with other blokes and give you something worthwhile to do. But, if there is no men’s shed near you, then you can choose to get involved in your local church or football club or anything where theres a few blokes that do something that takes you fancy. If you are doing something you like, you may very well attract people who are just like you, into your group of friends. But one word of warning – don’t go down the track of fixing it with wine. That’s not a fix and the consequences can be devastating.
But none of these options will guarantee that you will build a social network. You may get to know some names over a cup of coffee, but you must take the next step as well. Sometimes, that will mean getting involved in a small group in the church or on a committee in your football club and this is a great first step because you will get to know a few people at greater depth than just having a coffee together. And you can also invite people over for a barbecue or lunch or whatever. The point is, you must take steps to build a network or the relationship need inside you, will never be filled.
Get Out And Do It.
So what are you going to do about it? You can sit around and watch TV all day or read stories on this website. As good as those stories are, they are not a substitute for real conversation with other blokes.
You can also fiddle around in your shed but like someone said, the odds are against you finding friends while you’re lying on a couch or peering into a refrigerator or fixing stuff by yourself in your shed. You have to actually get up, go out, and do something about it. It’s your call, but unless you put in the effort, real friendships will never happen and real needs will never be met.
* Seligman, Martin. Flourish. Australia: William Heinemann, First Published 2011. Page41