Flourishing Can Only Happen With Others.
Writing in his book “Flourish” about positive psychology, Martin Seligman says “very little that is positive is solitary.” * He points out that the last time you laughed uproariously, the last time you felt meaning and purpose in your life, and the time you felt proud of your accomplishments, happened in the presence of 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.
I don’t want to get theological on you so early, but the truth is, the bible tells us God made you in His image and the curious thing about that is, it also tells us 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 desperate need for others. This need for intimacy with others is built into your very being. I believe that is 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 noticed that particularly when I retired the first time (I’ve retired twice). The people I had spent 10 years 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 those relationships I’d built over those years of my life and leave it all to the next bloke. I’ve seen very few of them since. Truth is, I was very alone and I felt it. To be honest, I felt invisible as well. Maybe that’s because in my work I was often leading a group of 200 people, but when I retired, I was a nobody and was leading no-one – except my wife who wasn’t particularly keen on being told what to do and how to do it.
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 give you something worthwhile to do, as well as possibly opening up social interactions with other blokes. 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 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 hole inside of you for relationships, 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. 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