Why is it that so many men and women who have weathered countless ups and downs over years of marriage suddenly give up? It’s happening all over America – couples married for 30 years, as soon as their children move out (for good) – they split up. Why is this? What is it about the empty nest that dooms so many marriages? If you are among that growing number, I believe there is hope.
Some couples say they don’t have anything in common anymore. Others say the only reason they stayed married for as long as they did was for the kids’ sake. Then there are those who admit they simply aren’t willing to make the effort it takes to create a full marriage that spans both time and seasons of change.
So how can you have an empty nest and a full marriage at the same time?
1. Keep talking.
Let me make one thing perfectly clear: I love a quiet house. Still, after rearing four children, these walls can feel eerily still at times, which is why I advocate talking to one’s spouse. Regularly. Daily. Hourly, if possible. I would never suggest that an empty-nest mom immediately unload her quota of unused words on her unsuspecting husband the minute he walks in the door after work. On the other hand, I’ve seen more damage done when couples decide it’s too much hassle to keep talking to each other. Ask questions. Discuss. Stay curious. Keep talking.
2. Put your spouse first.
Some husbands and wives believe that after their children leave home they won’t be privy to their kids’ problems anymore. More often, parents find themselves on the receiving end of news more troubling than ever before. Expect your kids to come back and dump their stuff on you. But put your spouse’s needs ahead of your kids’ needs. Sure, that sounds tough. But is also sounds biblical. Take tender care of your primary relationship so you’ll have what you need to responsibly care for your adult children when they need your help.
3. Choose activities together.
One of the aspects of having been married to the same person for so long is that both of you understand the other’s likes and dislikes. Gone are the early days of guessing what your partner might enjoy, and now is the time to start dreaming as you put to paper some imaginative ideas for having fun together. To start, make his and hers lists. Later, bring the two together and create a master list that blends the best from both. Don’t be afraid to try new adventures. Have fun. Together.
4. Don’t allow the past to ruin the future.
Most married couples could admit to knowing there were times when they could have given up on each other. For my husband and me, it doesn’t take much for either of us to peer back into our past and dredge up heartaches or pains we caused each other. In hopes of not letting past hurts and disappointments ruin our future hopes and dreams, we need to intentionally have a terrible memory about what’s past and painful at the same time we develop an eagle eye for recalling every wonderful thing our spouse has done for us.
About the Author
Michele Howe is a writer and the author of 17 books for women, including Empty Nest and What’s Next?