Retired Couples Checklist: How to Live Happily Ever After

Posted by Damian J. Duplechain, LPC, LCDC, AAC, CGP on April 15, 2024 at 4:32 PM
Damian J. Duplechain, LPC, LCDC, AAC, CGP

4 minute read

Retired Couples Checklist and how to live happily ever after

Are you and your partner ready to retire? If yes, my tips will prepare you to enter the next phase and keep your relationship thriving.

When you share a life journey, milestones and changes are common in all relationships. So, learning to adapt relatively early in your partnership is essential for a healthy and lasting relationship. Relationship changes can range in so many areas, such as:

  • Going from dating casually to dating exclusively
  • Living individually into moving in together as a couple
  • Being a committed couple to getting married
  • Going from being a couple to having children

These significant relationship steps can change your interactions with each other in unexpected ways. Still, most people inherently understand, accept, and go in willing and ready to work to be better together. Yet, even after a couple has undergone many major changes in adult life, retirement can still cause problems that didn't occur to most partners.

After all, how could the retirement change be any more complicated to manage than getting your kids through their teen years? Or, one or both of you being jobless and struggling financially? Right! Wrong.

What makes retirement even more complex is it's a time couples have looked forward to and even fantasized about how wonderful their lives would become. Perhaps they believe they'll finally be free to enjoy their lives and reinvigorate the relationship.

So when all that freedom from retirement turns negative, couples can begin to struggle with some of the following:

  • Anxiety
  • Conflict
  • Boredom
  • Depression
  • Disappointment
  • Loneliness, and more.

So, it's essential to ensure you and your partner are on the same page about how your new retired life should look and feel together. Discuss and plan for day-to-day life, both big and small details.

Tips For Retired Couples To Live Happily Ever After

How to Create a Retired Couples Checklist

Get Organized: Make a Couple's Retirement Plan

It may seem simple, yet often overlooked. The best relationship advice I can offer couples thinking about retirement is to discuss the details and create a retirement plan together.

Much like when planning to get married, you may think you know exactly what your partner wants for the wedding and the life you'll build together. However, you may soon discover you need to know the depth of their wants and needs. So, talk about it and get on the same page in the beginning.

You may feel apprehensive about discussing the details or feel unnecessary, but believe me, it's far worse to learn about these differences after you've both retired. Below are several items couples should discuss before retirement:

Discuss How Much Couple Time You Want to Spend Together in Retirement

Discussing how much time you want to spend together can be a touchy subject, but it is one of the most important things for couples to consider seriously.

Many people romanticize all the extra time they'll get with their spouse, only to realize their spouse is more interested in using their new freedom to do some of the following:

  • Play golf
  • Take a dance class
  • Learn how to play pickleball
  • Volunteer with animals
  • Spend more time with kids or grandkids
  • Join a book club and more

All of these paths are good choices for spending retirement time, especially after you and your partner agree upon how you'll each devote individual time and couple time. Getting clear on partner expectations is essential to planning for a smooth transition.

retirement and family

Discuss How Household Responsibilities Will Change in Retirement

More and more couples split household duties, especially if both partners work. However, when both partners are home full-time and no longer working, retirement can suddenly change expectations, especially around the house. Sometimes, this is more common when one person retires before the other partner.

Discuss with your partner who "owns" specific household tasks so no one is responsible for being the "homemaker," doing all the cooking and cleaning. You may want to list all the items for running the home inside and outside the house and begin to divide and conquer so both of you feel it's more of an even playing field and you both have plenty of time to enjoy retired life together and apart with a sense of peace and contentment.

Discuss Your Financial Picture: Semi-Retirement vs. Retirement

You and your partner likely saved lots of money, but is it enough? Sometimes, one partner is more involved with the financial picture, so make sure you know what it will take to live the rest of your day on the money you've earned and saved.

For some couples, it can be quite a shock if one partner dreams of constant vacations in their golden years only to discover that you can barely afford to keep your house. Have you planned for the medical care you may need for long-term needs? You may need to consider reducing day-to-day living expenses to afford travel.

You may also want to ensure you are both covered for any medical issues and have looked at finances involved for long-term care plans.

The bottom line is that both of you need to be prepared for what you're getting into, and it may mean that one or both of you decide to look for part-time work. If you choose to work part-time, hopefully, do something easier and more fun than your career work. You may even want to speak with a financial planner or an advisor to ensure you are both set.

living well in retirement

Discuss Where You and Your Partner Will Live in Retirement

Some couples are happy keeping the home they've had for years because they are comfortable there. While other couples feel retirement is a time to downsize to save on expenses and have less house to manage, some couples may even want to change it up and enjoy retirement in a warmer climate, be closer to their grandkids, etc. Regardless, you and your partner need to be on the same page about where you both envision living in those golden retirement years.

I hope you and your partner will take the time to make a retirement plan and discuss the small and big tips to ensure you are both thriving while retired. My ultimate marriage advice is to communicate and respect each other. If you've lasted this long together, most likely you've already learned this, but if you want a successful, happy relationship, you must be able to talk things out and adapt to your partner's plans and desires, just like they should adapt to yours.

Do the work and plan. Many couples find the transition to retirement reasonably smooth with a bit of planning; however, if you and your partner need further advice, we are here to help. Check out our virtual and in-person Imago Relationships Workshops and Imago Relationships Therapy.

Discover more about Imago with our Imago Professional Membership, Imago Professional Facilitators, Imago Professional Training, and Imago Insights Education.

Connect. Transform. Thrive.


This blog post was written by Damian Duplechain, the co-founder, and chief clinical officer for the Center for Marriage & Family Relationships in Houston, Texas.

Damian brings decades of experience to his practice, helping hundreds of couples and families discover how to co-create the relationships they want. He has also supervised many clinicians in couples and family therapy over the years.

His work in helping couples and families learn to communicate effectively and connect more strongly, and to practice understanding and empathy is rooted in Imago philosophy. He is a certified Imago therapist with additional training in the Emotional Freedom Technique, John Gottman’s model, Terry Real’s model, and PACT (Psychological Approach to Couples Therapy) by Dr. Stan Tatkin.

He has presented 200-plus Imago Couples Workshops that have served more than 2,000 couples and has collaborated with a number of his colleagues on clinical presentations both in the United States and internationally.

Check out his Website and Couples Workshops too!

Topics: Healthy Relationships, Happy Relationships, Creating Healthy Relationships, Active Listening, Happy Marriage, Healthy Love, Relationship Goals, Marriage Goals, Couple Goals, Relationship Help, Relationship Tips, Relationship Advice, Retired Couples, Retired Couples Checklist, Growing Old Together, Retired Life, Depression in Retirement, Retirement Plan, Golden Years, Smart Retirement Plan, Stress in Retirement, Semi-Retirement

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The Imago Relationships Blog features content from our team of professional therapists, workshop presenters and facilitators who are passionate about helping you discover a new way to communicate and love your life.

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