Why Too Much Togetherness Can Ruin Retirement

Submitted on Sun, 09/08/2013 - 12:00 am

Many couples dream of being joined at the hip when they're no longer working. A more satisfying approach may be 'parallel play.'

Try watching two children in a sandbox—a boy playing with toy trucks and a girl using a pail and shovel to build sand castles. It's a phenomenon called parallel play—two individuals engrossed in separate but parallel activities. And it might hold the key to happiness in later life. Eight years ago, I wrote a book about the challenges that partners can expect to face when planning for and living together during retirement. In the time since, I have seen thousands of couples in connection with speeches, seminars, therapy sessions and email/mail/phone encounters. One issue has become abundantly clear: Individuals who do almost everything together in later life—who are "joined at the hip"—usually aren't as satisfied or fulfilled as couples where spouses have their own interests and, ideally, are learning new skills.