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The retired husband syndrome has become a worldwide issue of concern characterizing old women whose husbands have retired. Psychologists and psychiatrists have established that the syndrome affects a considerable large number of people. More so, in Japan, such cases are very much prevalent with an approximated value of sixty percent of old women being diagnosed with the problem (Lawrence, 2011, para. 1). Husbands in Japan spend most of their employment time dedicated to their jobs. They spare little time for their wives back at home so as to meet the demands at the working places. Upon retiring, they give an unexpected effect on the wellbeing of their wives. This paper will discuss the retired husband syndrome and its application in Japan. It will also address the social repercussions of the syndrome. In addition, the paper will address the cultural and medical factors related to this issue as well as reasons that make it more prevalent in Japan.
Cultural and Medical perspectives
Retirement involves the termination of a person’s normal professional day to day work and instead replacing the time for other enjoyable activities. Some people engage in gardening, fishing, playing golf or any other sport among many other delightful activities (Wei, 2011, para. 2). During the early years of marriage life, every party in the companion looks for the best thing to do to please each other. For instance, they sacrifice a lot to spend time together by engaging in social and recreational activities. However, as the husband continues to grow in his career, he gets more responsibilities laid on his shoulder to tackle at the workplace (Lawrence, 2011, para. 8). Consequently, he gets less time to spend with his wife and he even becomes less interested in the niceties that they used to enjoy earlier on.
Most of the Japanese women are housewives and therefore they seek attention in other activities that will create joy and satisfaction on daily basis. Most of the time, they engage themselves in community or church based activities or even recreational and sporting activities to avoid boredom (Goodman, 2008, P 106). Also, as the marriage life continues to grow gradually, children come along and the wife has the responsibility to take care of them. The husband spends little time with his family as he focuses more on success of his career (Lawrence, 2011, para. 10). He usually leaves very early in the morning and comes back home late in the evening. Even upon his arrival at home, he is still preoccupied by issues that concern his job and therefore, he cannot concentrate on every detail regarding his family.
His retirement brings along a whole new life for both the husband and the wife (Faiola, 2005, para. 3). First, at this time of their age, their children have left them for marriage and therefore, the couple has more free time. The husband has more time to engage in pleasurable activities at his convenient time and on the other hand, his wife has more free time to spend with her friends (Lawrence, 2011, para. 6).
Problems arise when the unpleasant behaviors of her husband becomes more manifested. These habits could have been less evident due to the less time that he spent at home during the period of his employment. For instance, his aggressiveness becomes very well pronounced and his dependency on her compromises the free time she used to enjoy earlier on (Wei, 2011, para. 6). Consequently, most of the women in Japan have become ill, suffering from depression and physical illness (Kenyon, 2006, p 58). Some of the established symptoms of the medical syndrome include depression, hypertension, ulcers, asthma and ulcers. This is after the wife discovers that she will be forced into a permanent companionship with a man who appears to be like a stranger to her. Most of these old Japanese men demand total obedience and subservience from their wives, something that they had not been used to. This makes their wives to feel irritated and stressed every time they see their husbands around.
After their retirement, Japanese men lose their relationship with their former workmates and other activities they engaged in while working. They also lose the fundamental source of appreciation and self-image that they enjoyed during their career life. They suddenly lose the domain where they used to command other employees and now their homes become their own fortresses. Through their assertiveness and vigor, they end up being very demanding towards their wives (Goodman, 2008, P 104). They also infringe into the daily chores of their housewives, creating disarray in the house.
Reasons why the disorder is more prevalent in Japan
In Japan, retirement has turned out to be a dangerous dealing for many wives who are unable to bear with the stress of having their husbands around home all the time. After retirement, stress is usually evident among old women in the developed countries as couples try to stabilize relationships in their twilight years. However, the case in Japan is extraordinary due to several reasons. It is worth noting that one fifth of the Japanese population is above sixty five years of age (Lawrence, 2011, para. 12). This is the highest value of old people in a given population in the world.
In addition, Japanese culture does not encourage people to express their problems openly. As a result, most of the old women in the country remain with their problems undisclosed as they lack avenues to show their discomfort. Gender roles have greatly revolutionalized the young Japanese task force (Wei, 2011, para. 2). However, the older Japan residents are still rigid and unwilling to accept change on gender issues. Old men demand high level of obedience and submissiveness from their wives.
Part of the problem that causes retired husband syndrome is that the life in Japanese families has greatly changed during the past few decades. In the past, it was conventionally accepted that retired parents spend their lives with their married children (Széll and Széll, 2009, p 142). Nevertheless, this practice is gradually being phased out as modern couples prefer to lead lives of privacy. Older couples therefore are forced to stay alone together. This turns out to be another factor that aggravates the problem.
The retired husband syndrome has resulted in some social implications. For instance, divorce rate among the older couples has increased tremendously. This rate has doubled within two decades due to the fact that the couples are forced to stay together and they no longer enjoy each other’s company (Faiola, 2005, para. 11). With more Japanese men expected to reach the retirement age in the near future, the effects of the disorder is projected to explode. Most of the women are forced to live and behave in a specific way due to the syndrome (C. Goodman, 2008, p 126). Japanese women have to cope with their husband’s change of behavior which disrupts her daily routine.
Although Japanese are known to have longer life spans, their older women view it as more of a curse than a blessing. Also, research has shown that the excitement that results from retirement among old men is never found in their wives. They are often depressed at the mention of such prospects. Furthermore, as the men lose their self-esteem, they may end up enslaved to alcoholism (Tipton, 2008, p 250). Some of them end up spending much of their time in an unproductive way such as too much television watching.
Retired husband syndrome in other countries
Research has shown that it is not only Japanese women who are affected by this issue. The disorder is found in most of the developed countries in the world. Similar to Japanese women, those in the United States sacrificed their recreational activities to raise their children (Trafford, 2010, P 34). After the children grew up and moved away presumably into their marriage life, women had enough time for leisure activities and companionship away from home. The old women were also observed to have their lives deteriorate after their husbands retired from professional work. Just like the Japanese, husbands in United States takes over kitchen chores (Trafford, 2010, P 34). After these men channel their feelings of loss by being abusive and insensitive, relationship between parties in a couple becomes worse. Their wives become physically, emotionally as well as psychologically unwell. This could be the biggest contributing factor to high rates of divorce in the country.
The issue of retired husband syndrome has become a heated topic in Japan and as a result, its prevalence calls for intervention from the responsible stakeholders. One of the major interventions has been creation of support groups which aim at retraining the old men after their retirement (Faiola, 2005). They are advised on how to be independent as well as maintain effective communication with their wives. Effective communication will ensure that every couple understands each other’s needs and feelings. Several support groups have mushroomed nationwide and their effort is outstanding.
Therefore, when a woman starts to complain about some of the aforementioned symptoms, she might be suffering from the disorder. As a matter of intervention, physicians need to be understanding and sympathize with the patients. They are also required to advise the old men that their retirement is not a one sided matter (Rimbach, n.d, p 122). It is true that love cannot be forced to a person but instead, it must be gained through consistent thoughtfulness. As a matter of fact, retirement should be a well organized program for both the wife and the husband so that there can be a mutual understanding between them.
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