Re-establishing a Relationship Profile

All the books & blogs on retirement agree: active healthy relationships are critical for healthy aging. There are four major relationship areas in a person’s life, and the transition to retirement can stress, change, or eliminate your “relationship profile” overnight.  As with all my transitioning, understanding how my relationship profile was changing and then addressing the changes required personal reflection, exploring options, and moving to action.

Professional Relationships – When I retired, I lost almost all my daily “conversational connections”.   I knew it would happen. Everyone says they will stay in touch, but it really doesn’t happen with most co-workers.   You don’t want to be the living ghost coming back to haunt the halls.  But what I failed to realize was what those daily conversations provided: they gave me idea builders, cheerleaders, devil’s advocates, and validation of my actions and thinking.  How would I replace not only the mind-stimulating technical debates but even the daily what’s-up conversations?  What would I do with all those (now silent) hours of the day?

Social Friends – Most social connections are based on convenience, whether it is school or work or where you live.  And since work dominated my life, my work-based connections dominated my social life.  Most people I called “friends” were actually work colleagues and really professional relationships. And since our convenience was gone, many of those relationships just didn’t have common ground anymore.  Could I salvage any of those relationships into true friendships?  Where would I find new friends?  How would I use my new free time to reconnect with old friends and strengthen the friendships I did have?

Family – I know many women who enter retirement only to become primary caregiver – to grandkids or aging parents/parents-in-law.  Even with no kids and only one parent still living, how would having more time available change family relationships for me?

Spouse – We both retired on the same timing.  How would more time with both of us at home change dynamics and house routines?  When time apart is no longer structured as we go to our separate work environments, how do we think about time together and time apart?

My solution: an intentional Relationship Action Plan.  Part of the relationship plan was identifying where I would re-create the support network that I naturally had at work – who was going to be my cheerleader, my great idea person, my positive critic?  Part of the plan was also to identify other relationship needs I had – who could be my accountability buddy, my “partner in crime”, my reality checker?  And yes, this is an intentional plan that has weekly/monthly goals that I monitor.  Sounds like work?  Maybe. But I come back to the statement I started with – active healthy relationships are critical for healthy aging.  And I as I transitioned into retirement, I noted that I did not have many active healthy relationships.
1. Creating a coupledom vision. I am quite fortunate that my marriage was one of the healthy relationships I did have.  We did need to come to a shared vision on many of the Life Domains like where would we live, relationships besides our own (friends & family connections), pleasure plans (travel, toys), and work or not. But one of the most challenging aspects, and one we are continually working, is the time together/time apart balance.  Regular conversation helps. Some of those conversations were about exploring some new things together and re-evaluating household task distribution.

2. Active networking. Let me remind you, I am an introvert, so the concept of active networking is really difficult.  But it is necessary for achieving my future life vision. I plan 10 networking meetings a month – everything from coffee, lunch or happy hour with an “old” colleague to going to full-on networking meetings with lots of people.  I have a few work-based relationships that I hope can survive the transition and thrive into real friendships.  Networking takes scheduling and sometimes thinking through what to talk about, especially as I reach out to colleagues I didn’t know that well but are doing things now that I find intriguing. But it has also been a case of planned serendipity. I’ve gotten ideas for blogs, classes, and travel. And it does keep my mind stimulated as we often talk about the corporate world or I get to do some mentoring and advising on things they are working on.

3. Fun with Friends – old and new. This started out as Food & Friends since being a “foodie” is in my life vision.  I love a good meal with friends – new foods to explore and great conversation is my ideal connection.  But this turned into too many eating out moments.  So I am working to have shared communal actives that are beyond meals – walks in the park, going to events, taking a class. I am not giving up on food & friends, just thinking about finding more shared activities that both rekindle “old” friendships and allow the formation of new relationships that can be nurtured into friendships.  Again, this requires active scheduling and watching for opportunities.  One area I have struggled with here is reciprocity. I feel like I am always the initiator with so many of the acquaintances. But perseverance is one of my strengths, so I will continue on this path, trying to understand each relationship and cultivate it.

4. Embrace technology – For years I was a “Facebook stalker”, merely reading what’s up with family and friends. Now I try to comment and post – interact and feel more connected.  I entered the world of blogging similarly – not just reading but actively commenting. Both of these social media connections are creating a outer-circle of connections for me – people around the world with whom I converse and share ideas.  And in the continually learning mode, I am trying Instagram and Twitter, but am a total beginner (i.e. clueless) on both of these formats!

These 4 areas of focus are helping me to create the active, healthy (non-work-related) relationships that are both necessary for healthy aging and just bring joy into my life every day.  As you move through your retirement transition, what are your focus areas in the Relationship/Connection Life Domain?

Picture credit: Pixabay

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11 thoughts on “Re-establishing a Relationship Profile

  1. Ha! I haven’t figured out how to Twitter! And now, my granddaughter talks about SnapChat. How to keep up?

    It is so much harder to make new friends when you are older. And I’m like you — an introvert. I’d rather spend time alone than with someone I can’t find anything interesting to talk about. I have been thinking of starting a Meetup group of potluck type get togethers. I find the eating out ones make it difficult to really have good conversations, what with the noise, large attendees, long tables, separate tables, etc.

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    1. That describes the Meet-up we just did! Long table, loud venue. I think we will still try another 1-2, especially if it’s a venue I’ve been wanting to try. One guy at our dinner talked about meet-up walks and hikes, so I’m going to look into that also. And I am starting a mid-week dining out, with one woman I do know. She invited 3 others, and one of them invited one other, making us 7 total (5 women, 2 men, all retired). We shall see how it goes. If they don’t work out, I will try something else. But no potluck for me; or not until my cooking classes are done!

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  2. I’m one who entered retirement only to be come a caregiver. That was 15 years ago and we’re still working on that. As time has progressed, along with his health issues, my life has become more restricted, as has my contact with others. However, I attack the problem by staying close to those I can, but not in a clingy, Poor Me, way, but by truly enjoying what they share and being glad for what they can do. I also have extended what few techie skills I have (almost none) and using them in a more social way. And I work to learn new things via the internet. I think I’m going to enjoy your site and the insight on living life to the fullest, whatever circumstances you encounter.

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    1. Karen, thanks for your comments. Learning the techie stuff is not easy for me either. This week, someone is encouraging me to learn to Skype! I can tell you that even though I have made blunders in all this tech stuff …weird tweets, bad selfies, unable to link things correctly…it has been fun to be able to say I did it! What are you learning about on the Internet?

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  3. Great post. Very relevant! I have to say that you’ve captured post retirement relationships perfectly. Maintaining relationships is further complicated when you relocate after retirement. Thanks to technology, we are able to reach out regularly to friends and family who are caught up in their daily routines. Keep up the great entries!

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  4. Oh, yes . . . everything has been intentional including relationship finding and building. I knew this would be a task of retirement as I resigned teaching for a bit to raise my daughter. I was home for near five years (many years ago) and lost most if not all my professional relationships. So, I knew it would happen again. And, I am also home with a retired hubby. We continue to find our way, argue a lot but keep conversations going, so it works. And, most of our exercise routine is together which works very well for the both of us. Regarding outside relationships, my newly retired job of publication chair for the local knitting guild has put me on the Board and all of a sudden, I have near 400 new friends. We begin church scouting this Sunday, a new body for finding friends. All intentional, definitely is work, and all necessary and fulfilling.

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    1. Holly, my next area of focus is health, including exercise! What exercize routine do you & hubby do together? I need to find something active for us to do more regularly. I will also put church on my future thinking; we hope to downsize, moving in a couple of years and a new parish might provide another outlet for us to find friends. Thanks for that idea.

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    2. Well, I have an entire category here on my blog called “Fashion Fit” for a more lengthy answer as what motivates me most in fitness and behaving ‘healthily’ is fashion. Hubby has a history of fitness and guides it all. In short, mornings, ALL mornings except our designated ‘bye’ days are dedicated to exercise done together. Biking, snow-shoeing but mainly running (goal to run a marathon), we do together altering to keep motivated. I just joined Orangetheory Fitness 1 day/wk. A day that begins with exercise regime is far better than one that does not. We watch our diet, I am my own model for my knitting so my shape is very important to me. I write posts about this regularly and set goals, the key to success.

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  5. My social network was definitely the thing I miss the most since leaving the corporate world. I worked for a large company with a very diverse employee base so it was amazing how many opinions, ideas, skill sets, life styles, and world views I was exposed to. I’ve managed to maintain friendships with a few, but you are right about others just fading away. I am fortunate to have a few retired friends but we are all so busy. I recently joined a book club and am taking a few classes, but it’s much harder to develop older adult friends than it was when we were younger. I’m thinking about started a cooking club with a few interested couples outside of our close circle of neighborhood friends to help my husband and me expand our network.

    I really like your idea of an intentional relationship action plan with a set of achievable and measurable goals.

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    1. I just started a mid-week dining out club….and struggled to find couples! When we got to 5 women and my husband, I insisted someone bring in another guy. ( we will see how it goes…I only know one of the other people we’ve gathered together. ). Where did you find couples interested in a cooking club? New folks or old friends?

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