Q: Many of the older couples I counsel have disagreements about how to live out their retirement years. How can I help them develop a plan?
A: Several years ago, I left a full-time university counseling job to open a family-counseling center in my coastal community in South Carolina, where many retirees move for its balmy weather, relaxed way of life, and plentiful opportunities for golf, tennis, swimming, and sailing.
Not long after I opened my private practice, I realized that many of the older couples who came to see me were struggling with arriving at a cooperative and collaborative view of how to spend their time, money, and energy in retirement. After all, when spouses have different views about how to spend their retirement years, it can lead to resentment and a sense of isolation in the relationship. Designing a shared vision became an important part of our work, and eventually, I came to specialize in working with retired couples.
When I first ask older clients about a shared vision or mission for their future together, I’ll usually get some blank stares, awkward silence, or perhaps a laugh or two. Few have ever asked this question of themselves, even as retirement loomed.
According to Erik Erikson’s theory of psychosocial development, we reach a crisis of generativity vs. stagnation between the ages of 40 and 65, which is followed by a crisis of ego integrity (the sense of a life fulfilled) vs. despair.…