Relationships are vital to wellbeing

One of the most immediate changes to your life when you stop working full time is the way it changes your relationships. Many of the regular ways and times that you interact with people through your job are gone forever. You often feel disconnected. No more meetings, conferences, networking events or serendipitously bumping into people in the office kitchen. You move from the structure of a well-established work schedule to one you set yourself.

This can often cause unexpected difficulties at first including:

  • Social disconnection. People often lose their sense of belonging if their colleagues were their main ‘tribe’, especially if they don’t move to an equally busy new life full of social interaction.

  • Loss of identity. Many people have inextricably linked their self-worth to their job and when the two are torn apart there can be a palpable sense of loss.

  • Relationship difficulties. With the rhythms of many long years cast aside you and your partner or spouse need to find a new rhythm which works for both of you. You might have different ideas on what sort of life to lead after work. One of you might want more travel and adventure and the other more rest and relaxation.

While your connection with society changes massively this provides a big opportunity to develop new and meaningful relationships. Whether this is through getting closer to those in your community, meeting people through shared interests and hobbies, or volunteering with charities or sporting organisations. Having a sense of community, or belonging, is often a very important part of what makes people feel fulfilled and engaged when they leave full-time work. It’s also been shown to be one of the key factors for people living longer, healthier lives.

One thing is for sure, close relationships have proven to be one of the most important aspects for keeping people happy throughout their lives. This is never more important than when you stop working full time and it’s something worth spending time on.

Further reading

  • Friendship: a guarantee for our successful ageing. An article summarising much of the recent research on how important relationships are: “supportive family members are very important for our older ages, but a good friend is even more crucial!”.

  • Give and Take by Adam Grant. A bestselling book which uses academic research to show that nice guys don’t always finish last. In fact, ‘givers’, rather than ‘takers’, are generally more successful.