Coaching Retired Couples by Joanne Waldman
Retirement is a dramatic shift in lifestyle and a coach can help prepare couples for this transition. When coaching couples in the process of retirement, there are many issues to consider. First, has the couple discussed when they each want to retire? Sometimes one is ready and the other is not. Jim took an early retirement from his corporate position, but his wife Jill decided that she was not yet ready to retire. From the coaching, she came up with a two-year plan to phase back her job to part-time and then full retirement.
One of the next issues and perhaps one of the most important is how will they spend their time after the retirement? During the hectic years of working, the couple may not have had much time to spend together. Interest assessments may help each person identify individual and mutual interests or activities. What have they always wanted to do but never had time or resources to do? Jim and Jill each wrote out lists of activities in which they wanted to participate and the prioritized and compared them. This helped them plan their time individually and as a couple. It surprised them that there were items on the list that they still wanted to partake in as individuals and not as a couple.
One of the most interesting issues in coaching retired couples is role assignment. In Victor’s high-level corporate job, he ran a company and had many individuals reporting to him. After he retired, he attempted to take over running the household. His wife, Betsy, had been in charge of that for many years and was not prepared for the coup that took place! Through coaching, they learned how to express their feelings and negotiate tasks and roles that made them both feel important. They were also coached on how to take on a new perspective and reframe a situation.
Bernice had a similar situation, as her husband, Bill, had traveled Monday through Friday for over ten years with his Vice President of Sales position. When he retired, they had to learn what to do with each other during the week since they had both filled up their days very differently, and they had to learn to reassign daily and household tasks as well. Bernice had been in charge of paying the bills for years, but when Bill retired he wanted to take on that task. A compromise ensued where they each took on part of the bills.
It is common for couples to review all the facets of their lives when discussing retirement. Issues such as wellness, fitness, family and relocation take center stage. As a coach it is important to help clients design a life that keeps them happy, healthy and productive for many years. As part of the retirement plan, Victor and Betsy wanted to focus on wellness. So they met with a nutritionist to make sure that they were preparing and eating healthy foods. In addition, they hired a personal trainer to show them how to keep fit and promote wellness. With their coach they created and put some solid structures in place around eating, exercise and lifestyle issues that helped them feel good both physically and emotionally.
It is important to note that these couples were not seeking to mend damaged relationships but build upon healthy ones to make them stronger. Coaching is action based and future oriented; it does not dwell on the past. A healthy retirement for couples is also future based, and with focused planning will offer many good years together.
By Joanne Waldman