14 February 2022
#1 It’s not easy
Retirement creates various layers of complexities for an individual. So much more for a couple trying to figure retirement out together.
Here, retirement coaches have a profound opportunity to anchor constructive conversations for clients, reveal the differences they are facing, help them reach some common ground, and ultimately grow closer in this next phase of life together.
#2 Coaches need a framework for working with couples
It’s fair to say each spouse will have preconceived notions, differing attitudes, and priorities about life in retirement.
The couple’s coaching process entails each spouse developing an ‘individual retirement vision’.
Next each spouse takes turns exchanging visions, and exploring where they align and where they diverge, particularly around new experiences and interests they’d like to pursue, and how much time each spouse wants to spend alone, together, and/or with others.
Invariably, spouses can be surprised as they could be hearing certain preferences for the first time, and while these discoveries can yield unexpected insights, the goal is to create a ‘shared retirement vision’ that is flexible since life situations can suddenly change.
#3 Questions to get couples talking more about their Individual and Combined Retirement Visions
#4 How to handle emotionally charged conversations
In my experience, couples in session can start arguing when struggling to communicate.
The key here is for the coach to remain neutral and to make room for each spouse to safely express his/her feelings and viewpoint.
In the heat of the moment, you may want to interject and say, ‘I hear loud and clear that you’re both angry because you are not feeling heard and appreciated’.
It’s helpful to normalize these challenges and affirm that many couples face similar issues. In fact, the Holmes-Rahe stress scale ranks retirement from work as the 10th most stressful life event. Paired with other impending changes in living conditions, it’s not surprising to encounter a momentary breakdown in communication.
When the couple sees you are not afraid of their strong emotions and are able to guide them to process what’s going on between them, it helps build trust and confidence.
#5 Strategies for bringing each (position) a little closer to the other
#6 What to do if the couple remains stuck?
The couple’s retirement coach can emphasize that there are certain topics which require ongoing discussion to work through and can also re-focus conversations on areas where there is more positive energy to be grateful and appreciative.
However, the coach must bear in mind there may be long-standing issues between the couple and may suggest they seek couples therapy first to resolve these issues, before returning for retirement coaching.
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