Renew Your Empty Nest Marriage
- Saturday, October 23, 2004
Now that your kids are grown, it's just you and your spouse. The empty nest years are a prime time to renew your marriage and recapture the excitement you shared when your marriage was new.
Here are ten dates you and your spouse can use to revive your relationship now that your children have left home:
• Date One: Celebrating the Empty Nest. Realize that the transition from having kids at home to having an empty nest is significant and can be stressful. First, get some rest. Resist filling up your time with new activities right away just to stay busy; instead, think and pray about what you really want to do, and why. Don't make any major changes (like changing jobs or moving) immediately. Enjoy the peace and quiet you have at home. For your date, go to a relaxing place together and discuss your dreams and disappointments so far in life. Talk about your shared values, and focus on how you can have a fulfilling future together.
• Date Two: Becoming a Couple Again. On this date, focus on how you can reconnect as a couple by developing greater intimacy. Take the time to grieve the fact that your children are on their own now, and release them to live as adults by doing something to bring closure to their childhoods. One way you can do this is by writing each a letter expressing how glad you are that they have grown up to become the people they are. Make a list of the interests you and your spouse have in common. Plan to pursue these things together.
• Date Three: Rediscovering "Intimate Talk." Try to communicate on a deeper, more intimate level with your spouse on this date. Start by identifying your personal communication style. Practice healthy communication by being positive rather than negative, using "I" statements that describe what you think and feel while avoiding "you" statements that place blame or "why" questions that attack your spouse. Seek to understand your spouse's perspective by genuinely listening to him or her. Give your spouse your full attention when he or she is speaking. When you're the one speaking, watch your body language and tone of voice to make sure that you're conveying respect. Make this date the start of many regularly scheduled couple communication times.
• Date Four: Clearing the Air. Use this date to deal with issues that are causing conflict between you and your spouse. Choose any topic (such as health, money, sex, etc.) and practice discussing it using the "Speaker/Listener Technique" to share the floor. Use an object (like a pencil or a cup) to designate who has the floor, and take turns so each of you gets equal time to speak and listen. The person speaking should stay on the topic, and the person listening should strive to clearly understand and validate the speaker's thoughts and feelings. Brainstorm possible solutions. Try to resolve what you can and accept what you can't. Then celebrate the progress you've made talking about a controversial issue by going out for dessert together.
• Date Five: Rocking the Roles. On this date, discuss how your roles as husband and wife are changing. Now that your parenting years are over, consider switching some responsibilities or tackling some chores together. Figure out how who will now perform such tasks as shopping, preparing meals, doing yard work, cleaning the house, paying bills, caring for pets, making repairs, and scheduling appointments. Negotiate amicably and compromise where you need to do so. Look for fun things you can do together, as well, such as spending social time with other couples who are mutual friends and volunteering with your spouse to do a community service project together.
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