For a Happy Retirement, Marry Your Best Friend

Spending all day together in retirement can put stress on a marriage.

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I met my best friend during my junior year in college and married him 8 years later. Turns out that was a savvy move with respect to my retirement two decades later. In retirement, marriage becomes more of a 24/7 venture, so it pays to sign up with someone that you not only love, but that you also really like.

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The importance of a strong social network in retirement is well established. Not only are people with strong social connections happier, they are healthier, according to a recent study by Brigham Young University. And since enjoying good health is the most important ingredient to a happy retirement, maintaining friendships is doubly important.

When we leave the work world for retirement, we are often leaving our social support group behind. It should come as no surprise that the social support group you are left with in retirement, namely your spouse or significant other, plays a significant role in determining the level of happiness you will enjoy once you’re retired. Researchers at the University of Greenwich reported earlier this year that married retirees, or those in long-term relationships, are more satisfied with their lives than those without a significant other.

[See 7 Secrets to a Happy Retirement.]

The results echo an earlier study by the University of California at Berkeley, showing a direct correlation between a happy marriage and a happy retirement. Without a job to go to each day, you’ll be spending a lot more concentrated time with your partner. And since retirement usually corresponds with an empty nest, the time won’t be filled with the tasks of parenting. It’s just the two of you now, so it certainly makes sense that you’ll want to love the one you’re left with.

The first two years of retirement seem to be the toughest on marriages. A Cornell University study reported that most marriages were negatively impacted during this time. But once both partners settle into retirement, marital satisfaction rebounds and couples report high levels of satisfaction. Sixty percent of couples report an improvement in their marriage after retirement, according to Jan Cullinane and Cathy Fitzgerald, co-authors of The New Retirement: The Ultimate Guide to the Rest of Your Life. The divorce rate among retirees is only in the single-digits.

[See 5 Surprising Retirement Truths.]

No matter how much you enjoy time with your spouse, you’re going to want to create a life together that doesn’t include being together all the time. Finding new activities to share together is important, but so is finding your own interests and developing your own friendships. While you’ll finally have the time to enjoy traveling and playing golf together, you’ll also need to figure out whose turn it is to cook dinner. After you sort out those dinner plans, you’ll be most content if your best friend is sitting right across the table enjoying it with you.

Sydney Lagier is a former certified public accountant. Since retiring in 2008 at the age of 44, she has been writing about the transition from productive member of society to gal of leisure at her blog, Retirement: A Full-Time Job.