One challenge facing today's two career families is how to deal with the issue of both husband and wife retiring. At some point these couples will confront situations they may not have anticipated. Making plans for one retirement is stressful enough but without addressing potential problems early on, coordinating two retirements may cause unexpected tensions in a marriage. It would be wise for baby boomers approaching retirement age to carefully consider their particular situation as early as possible to avoid potential conflicts later on.

Of three possible double retirement scenarios, a man retiring before his wife may be the most troubling. According to Barbara Vinick, a research sociologist from Boston, most of the men she studied who retired before their wives were initially thrilled. They, however, expected their wives to retire soon. When their wives continued working, the men felt disappointment. Often the woman felt pressured to retire earlier than she had planned and did not know how to handle the situation. If she retired early, she was not very happy. When the man retires first, it is important for him to make another life for himself. He may now have an additional 40 or 50 hours a week to himself but he cannot depend on someone else to help him fill them. There are many paid, volunteer and recreational opportunities for retired men. When he becomes involved in his newly created world, it will take the pressure off his wife, and make him a more interesting person to be with.

When the man retires first, he is not necessarily the problem. Working women can also be a cause of marital stress if they impose a change of roles on their retired husbands without discussing things first. Take the case of a client I worked with recently. Both he and his wife are career professionals but, being 10 years older than his wife, he retired before her. Upon his retirement, his wife began to leave "to do" lists on the kitchen counter when she left for work. The list often contained items that he did not consider his responsibilities such as ironing the shirts and going to the grocery store.. When he confronted her, his argument was that just because he was home it did not mean he had nothing else to do. He should be free to spend his retired days as he pleased. Her response was that he had the time to help her out and still be able to enjoy his retirement. Needless to say, the compromise that resolved this issue would have been arrived at with much less tension had the couple discussed their new roles sooner.

The second possibility, when the woman retires first, has its own set of potential problems. When a career woman becomes a homemaker she may or may not appreciate her new role in life. Some women identify themselves by their careers. Retiring while her husband is still working may lead to feelings that she is now less worthy because her career is over. She may resent her husband for still having the social and personal benefits of work. Her husband may now expect her to assume the role of a traditional stay at home wife such as having a home cooked meal waiting for him when he comes home from work. She may be fine with this role however if a woman does not want to be put in this position, trouble may be looming for the couple. She will need to be clear in what her idea of retirement is. She may prefer to become involved with activities she did not have a chance to participate in while working. Again, the idea of open communication about changed roles is the only way to avoid an ugly situation.

The final situation, where husband and wife retire together, can be the best one. As long as a couple has agreed upon plans for how to spend their retired years, simultaneous retirement is ideal. Of course, there can be a danger of too much togetherness. A retired couple needs to plan joint activities, but there is also a need for alone time. It is healthy, and desirable, to have your own experiences separate from your spouse's. Some couples have difficulty with too much time together. After decades of separate careers, being together constantly may seem smothering.. There is no reason, for example, why a man should quit golf just because his wife prefers going to the beach. As long as the separate activities don't consume all of your time to the exclusion of time together, they will make you a more interesting person to be with. Retired couples need to strike a balance between separate interests and shared experiences to attain a satisfying retirement.

In summary, the lifestyle changes that retirement brings can be very stressful to a marriage. By communicating early and often, problems that may arise can be more easily resolved than by not facing them until the situation explodes.

Author's Bio: 

Tony Lacertosa, M.A. is a retired teacher and certified life coach. In his practice, Tony leads young retirees, and people who plan to retire in the near future, through the challenging transition from work to retirement. By means of his individual or group coaching programs, he guides these retirees through the process of rethinking their idea of retirement and supports them as they learn how to live the new, exciting, lifestyle that they create for themselves. For a free report on dealing with the most common causes of unhappy retirement go to his website at