Susan Hesk.

 

Did you ever sit alone on a Saturday night in your twenties, when your friends were out with their friends or partners? Maybe it felt like everyone was having fun except you. You might even have thought about all the other Saturdays you were on your own. Your Beatle’s seven- single ‘ Help’ wasn’t even able to lift your heavy mood back then.

Fast track to retirement. The feelings associated with being lonely and excluded on a Saturday night run the risk of coming full circle in retirement if the gap left open for relationships is not occupied.

We know from research that attachment to others is one of the most important links to psychological health. Without others, loneliness, depression and isolation band together creating a mix that can become unbearable. If you are relationship-less during early, middle or late retirement, these feelings become more pronounced and debilitating. Adapting to this life-changing process alone is challenging and daunting at times.

Importantly, if you were social and invested in your relationships throughout your working life, making new connections and lovingly, respectfully maintaining the ones you already have, will come easily.

Retirement, as you know, is a process. Building enduring relationships is the same. Whether you are seeking romantic involvement, friendship or companionships, the primary ingredients remain the same. Respectfulness, consistency, trust and being open to new adventures are important aspects of starting new relationships and building up the ones you already have.  If you are someone who has difficulty sustaining or making new relationships, now is the time to wonder what this might be about. If your introspection brings to the conclusion that you are not a people connector, then it’s important to start up a relationship with a significant pet. Animals often fill empty gaps. Their love is unconditional and they will live in the moment with you.

When someone retires in Zulu culture there are parties and much celebration. A deep sense of community and how retirement influences relationships, ensure that generally, no one is lonely at this time. There is a significant difference between being alone and loneliness. Being alone means one is able to enjoy one’s own company and pursuits. Loneliness, alternatively, is an emotion of isolation, dislocation, and sadness. Loneliness can happen in and out of relationships when the connection is lost or not respected.

The words of that infamous Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young song comes to mind when I think about relationships in retirement: “Love the one you with”. So love respectfully, genuinely with integrity and kindness. If, sadly, you have lost friends and lovers along the way, stretch and germinate new and different relationships. Now more than ever, relationships are important.