Renew Your Empty Nest Marriage
- Whitney Hopler Live It Editor
- 2004 10 Oct
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.
• Date Six: Discovering the Second Spring of Love. Get away to a hotel on this date so you can focus without distractions on revitalizing your sexual relationship. Slow down your pace so you can savor the experience. Don't worry about how often you make love; just strive to make it a good time when you do. Pay attention to your physical fitness. Be willing to experiment with new approaches to sex together. Talk openly and honestly about your desires and expectations, letting your spouse know specific things you find romantic.
• Date Seven: Loving Your Family Tree. Use this date to establish realistic expectations of how to best deal with your extended family. If one of your adult children will be moving back in with you, make a plan for it, set a time limit for how long he or she can stay, clarify your house rules, and protect your weekly date night to ensure you'll still have couple time. If you're caring for an aging parent, take the breaks you need so you can still care for yourself and your marriage as well. Consider how you and your spouse can both promote family harmony while also setting healthy boundaries.
• Date Eight: Growing Together Spiritually. On this date, take the time to discuss and reaffirm your core values and beliefs. Then consider ways you can grow together spiritually in the future. Perhaps you'll want to begin praying together, serving together on a project for your community, taking a mission trip together, or mentoring newlyweds.
• Date Nine: Investing in Your Future. This date is the time to set marriage goals for your future together. Think and talk about the last ten years of your marriage. Consider all the changes you've each gone through during that time. Then envision what you'd like your marriage to look like ten years from now, and why. Make a list of goals on which you both agree, then develop an action plan for achieving them that answers the questions "What?," "How?," and "When?". Be willing to be flexible and persevere as you work to accomplish your goals, knowing that you can still make progress even when the unexpected happens. Pray for the courage to keep taking risks and enjoying adventures together.
• Date Ten: Feathering Your Empty Nest with Fun. Use this date to figure out how to have more fun together. Focus on building the friendship you and your spouse enjoy. Practice making at least five positive statements for every negative statement you make to your spouse. Compliment your partner on his or her strengths, and give both your spouse and yourself permission to be less than perfect. Look for opportunities to laugh together, and introduce a sense of humor into every situation you can. Decide to pursue activities, hobbies, and courses you could both enjoy together.
Adapted from 10 Great Dates for Empty Nesters, copyright 2004 by David and Claudia Arp. Published by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Mich., 1-800-9-BOOK-IT, www.zondervan.com.
David Arp, MSW and Claudia Arp, founders of Marriage Alive International, are educators, popular speakers, and frequent contributors to print and broadcast media. They have appeared on The Today Show, CBS This Morning, Public Television and Focus on the Family. Their numerous books include the Gold Medallion Award-winning The Second Half of Marriage. Visit their Website at www.marriagealive.com.