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What Is Retired Husband Syndrome?

Updated on July 17, 2013

He's Home!

That's right - your husband has finally retired. You can do all those things you've always dreamed over! You can travel, garden, fix up the house, and visit the grandkids. Everything is going to be great - until you get sick. Why are you sick? You just feel run down and stressed out all the time. You thought having him home all the time would be wonderful, but you can't enjoy spending time with him because you're spending more time with your bed. The doctor tells you there are no physical symptoms, but you know something is wrong. Don't lie down and take it. Visit a psychologist and find out if you have retired husband syndrome.


The symptoms of Retired Husband Syndrome, or RHS, are:


Skin Rash



High Blood Pressure

Okay, depression, ulcers and high blood pressure make sense. But rashes? Really? Well, I guess an annoying husband might give us hives.

Of course, this doesn't mean you don't love your husband. You both just experienced a major change in life. Coming down with a rash or asthma only means that your body is feeling the strain of the life change. We go through many changes throughout life - our bodies need to adjust along with our minds.

Theories Behind The Problems

The issue was first defined in Japan by a doctor named Nobuo Kurokawa and it can actually happen just before retirement. It is only found in women whose husbands will retire soon. Dr. Kurokawa believes the issue, at least in Japan, is partially due to the fact that many women sufferers are part of the baby boomer generation. This generation was led to believe that the man should be the breadwinner of the family. The woman was to stay home and keep the house as well as show great respect for the man who made the money which allowed her to do so.

As men were expected to work long hours then socialize with their bosses or coworkers after work, many Japanese men would not return home until the late hours of the night. As a result, retirement introduces a virtual stranger into the home for most Japanese women.

As a society, Japanese women are expected to tend to the husband's every need. When the husband retires and is home every day, this demand heightens greatly. No wonder the woman's stress level raises! Some women even feel resentful toward their husbands simply because the woman's work doubles after retirement.

Many couples separate over the issue, but Japanese law strongly discourages divorce. The woman is not entitled to any pension if she were to divorce her husband, so many women simply cannot afford to get divorced.

The divorce rate has gone up in droves, despite the financial hardships the woman will face. Many Japanese women are opting for an end-of-life poor lifestyle over the stresses of caring for their husband full time.

Many Japanese women never tell their husbands they are suffering due to a lifetime of subservient attitude toward the family. The husbands are completely surprised when their wives suddenly feel the need to separate or even divorce.

But I Don't Live in Japan

You're still not off the hook. War wives experience the same symptoms when their husbands come home from long tours. Countries around the world have reported cases of RHS in military families where the husband has been away for months or even years.

Even countries with very few ties to wars or overseas deployment have had reported cases of this syndrome. India has discovered a rise in women with the issue in recent years.

Part of the issue for other countries are the recreational activities available to women. While the husbands work, the women find things to do during the day. After the husbands retire, the women aren't sure how to fit the husbands into the schedules they have created.

Husbands feel "lost" after retirement because they have worked every day for decades. They look to their wives to help them find something to do, but the wives have already established full lives outside of their husband. The paradox causes stress in a great number of marriages.


Treatments include preparing women for their husband's impending entrance into the home full time. Women can attend seminars where they learn how to deal with the impending changes of having their husbands home all the time. The seminars teach women how to cope, how to integrate their husbands into their lives, and how to encourage their husbands to find personal hobbies.

Husbands are also invited to attend seminars to learn how to cook small meals, how to help out around the house and how to find others with the same interests outside of their wives.

If there are already symptoms, couples or individual therapy are highly recommended. The couple needs to work through the change and learn what comes next. The unknown future is just as frightening as getting to know each other again, so learning to deal with the change is the best path of treatment.

Couples should enjoy the golden years together, but they need to prepare for the change. Attending seminars and learning how to live harmoniously with a near stranger are important lessons to learn before and during this important life transition.

Do you know anyone with RHS?

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    • beckieland profile image

      Rebecca Mayglothling 4 years ago from Binghamton NY

      Thank you peachpurple! I see you're from Malaysia - they say that it's more of an issue in Asian countries. I hope it works out for you!

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 4 years ago from Home Sweet Home

      Bookmark this hub just in case when my hubby starts to reach the retired age, I would have to look out for these symptoms, voted useful

    • beckieland profile image

      Rebecca Mayglothling 4 years ago from Binghamton NY

      That's one thing I found interesting about this syndrome - it's focused on women. I'm sure this will be outdated very quickly because both sexes have to work in today's society.

    • NMLady profile image

      NMLady 4 years ago from New Mexico & Arizona

      Wow! I can understand how this is true. We moved to a retirement community and there are many things to do that keep us busy. These things are fun, worthwhile, and will help stop this syndrome.

      Thanks for teaching me something today!

      (Also, I worked F/T and did not have much of a life outside work and I had to branch out too! But women are better socially.)