This phase of life is an adaptation that each person experiences and handles in their own way.



Many people tell how they look forward to their retirement - a time they no longer need to live in a hurry - and can spend time on the things they truly enjoy. For some, however, it is a frightening thought to no longer practice their profession, or to be as active as before, outside the home.

This phase of life is an adaptation that each person experiences and handles in their own way. Please see our section on adjustments to read more about how people adapt and the skills it requires.


Personal comments from a case study:
My partner and I have been planning our retirement for years. We have experienced numerous financial setbacks and have had to postpone our plans time and time again. However, he has now become ill and is forced to stop working. After some adjustments in our budget, we decided that I would retire at the same time. At first I was very excited about the prospect, but now that we're in each other's company every day, I can not stand it. I like to drive around and see places, while he would rather stay quiet at home. I want to invite people over, while he rather wants us to hang out alone. He is also now much more punctual about things in the house and often has something he comments on, or something he wants to move or change. All of a sudden we have a lot more conflict than usual. I can not go on like this. Every day we get stuck on something. Before, we could sort it out and move on, but now it's a lot harder. Please help!

Christine and Lise talk

Is it common for relationship partners to struggle to retire, especially to retire?

This is more general than we think that retirement, and retiring together, is fraught with many challenges. Older generations did not talk about their experiences so easily and so one could easily think that it was not difficult for them. Nowadays, we know that retirement is a big step with far-reaching consequences and, as with any other life-stage change, is accompanied by adjustments. Each person will experience it differently because of their temperament, history, support network, etc. So it is not unnatural that it will also strain the intimate relationship.

What role do personality differences play in the writer's experience and why is it more troubling now than before?

One can conclude from the letter that the author and her partner have diverse needs, probably due to differences in temperament and personality (see also temperament and personality). The author needs more stimulation and interaction with other people than her relationship partner. Neither of them is wrong. These are simply differences in their compositions. Previously, the differences may not have been as noticeable as the work's needs were met at work. This may have made it easier to live with one another. Now they spend more time together and are more confronted with their differences.

What can the writer and her partner do to make it easier for them to live with each other?

As we repeatedly say on this site - good communication is extremely important. You have to be honest about your emotions and needs. Expecting them to do everything together is probably not the best thing for these relationships. Everyone needs space to go their own way too. A separate week and weekend routine can help them create structure. Within this framework, they can then plan for times to do things together and separately to meet everyone's needs. There is not one perfect way. The idea is simply to find a compromise that allows both parties to live together.

Is professional help necessarily necessary?

No, not necessarily. If relationship partners have good communication skills, they can tackle and solve this problem together. It depends a lot on the history of the relationship and their ability to speak and handle things in a constructive way. If they are struggling to successfully tackle the challenge themselves, they can ask a psychologist to help facilitate a conversation.

Depression and anxiety with retirement are very common and can also affect one's behavior. What mental health signs should one be aware of?

Any change in pattern, unrelated to the changes with retirement, is important - someone who, e.g. excessively more sleep than usual, not just because they don't have to get up early.


If they decide to consult a psychologist, they may consider the following options:

  1. to ask their family doctor or nearest hospital for a referral; or
  2. they can visit one of the following websites for the details of a psychologist in their area:
    1. Find help
    2. SA Medical Specialists
    3. Medpages
    4. contact Wie is ek?
  3. they can also call the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (Sadag) 24-hour helpline on 0800 12 13 14.


Here are some signs and symptoms of people struggling with adaptation and who may develop further psychological problems:

  1. struggling to sleep
  2. loss or increase in appetite
  3. struggling to relax
  4. forgetfulness
  5. problems with focus and concentration
  6. lack of energy and motivation
  7. start to disregard rules and boundaries more often
  8. feeling anxious
  9. haughtiness
  10. increase in irritation
  11. explosiveness (more than usual)
  12. teariness
  13. increase in alcohol use
  14. reluctance to participate in activities that he / she has previously enjoyed
  15. withdrawing from ordinary social relationships
  16. struggling to be alone

If someone experiences two or more of the above symptoms, we recommend a further examination by a professional.

Disclaimer: The above is not indicative of a diagnosis. Diagnoses should only be made by a professional.

You can also get more information by reading more about cognitive health en dementia.


The “Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale (HADS)” was originally developed by Zigmond and Snaith (1983) and is commonly used by physicians to determine the levels of anxiety and depression that a person experiences. Please complete our online HADS (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) questionnaire to find out if you or a loved one may be suffering from anxiety and depression symptoms.


If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, we suggest the following options:
  1. call your GP (if available);
  2. go to your nearest hospital emergency room;
  3. call one of the following emergency numbers: SADAG (the South African Depression and Anxiety Group) 24-hour helpline: 0800 456 789 or suicide crisis line: 0800 567 567; or
  4. contact Wie is ek?