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Sunday, March 6, 2011

Marital Relations After Retirement

        As usual I decided to explore the research database to see what has been found and discussed regarding marital relations following male or female retirement. One major finding, and not surprising, is the continuing division of labour based on gender.  The article I have used is listed at the bottom of this entry[i]
         To begin with Liat Kulik, the author, acknowledges that decision-making based on resources, division of labor in household tasks and about how to use leisure time are affected by men’s retirement more than women’s.  The main goal of her study is to explore the changes in household activities after retirement. She found that in many cases “men’s retirement will have more negative impact on the quality of marriage than that of women.”
         In some ways our marriage is not a very common example of marital relationships following retirement. For one thing I have only been teaching half time for the last six years and consequently I have been spending a lot more time at home than the average 9 to 5 workers or full time university instructors.   In addition, four years ago, Elizabeth broke her ankle and I began engaging in a number of household activities including food shopping, cooking, and doing dishes, laundry and to some degree house maintenance. During the summer I do most of the yard work.
         On the other side of it Elizabeth is our “chief financial officer” who keeps track of the bills and how the money is flowing.  She knows what and how much is invested and keeps a sharp eye on our credit card purchases.  There are some things from our experience and the information from the research article that may be useful to other couples.
                  The article investigates “marital power relations” defined as “…who makes the final decisions at home and in various areas of marital life.” The research is divided into “major decisions” e.g. family budget and major purposes and “minor decisions” such as purchasing household items and renovations.  It also looks at who decides about leisure activities including vacations, entertainment decisions, and how to spend time.
         The quality of the marriage is defined in two ways “ First marital enjoyment” for example laughing together and going out to eat.  Second, and perhaps more important are “marital complaints” such as “money matters, disturbing habits and disagreement regarding entertainment.
         The research found that; “With respect to power relations, similarities between pre-retired and retired respondents were found in major and minor decisions…”   With retirement men became more involved in feminine and general household tasks.  But they still maintained their “masculine roles” and tended to think they should take charge. International Women’s Day is just around the corner and according to the local newspapers we have a long way to go for genuine equality including male attempts to stay dominant in relationships. This can lead to stressful experience for both persons espceically if it’s about the “money.”
         Stressors may lead to an increase in marital tension and decline of marital vitality. It would be interesting to see material exploring retirement of earlier generations where the gender roles were more rigidly applied.

[i] Kulik, L. (2001). The Impact of Men’s and Women’s Retirement on Marital Relations: A Comparative Analysis, Journal of Women and Aging, 13(1),  21-35

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