Aug 182014 1 Response

Empty Nest: Rediscovering the One You Loved

Marriage is full of many transitions. The honeymoon wears off and real life begins. The first pregnancy. Chasing toddlers. The School years. Parenting a driver.

But few transitions are as difficult on a marriage as the move from a house full of kids to an empty nest. While some couples thrive in the transition, many struggle, and more than too many do not make it.

What should a couple do when the last child leaves the house?

When empty nest strikes, an intentional time of rediscovery should be enjoyed in which a couple not only rediscovers themselves but also rediscovers one another. (See: Five Keys to Save Your Marriage)

The great threat to raising a family is the demands are so many that we often lose ourselves. This isn’t all bad; part of us probably needs to be lost. Yet it should never be the case that a person loses their individual identity because of family. However, that is often the case.

Not only do individuals lose themselves, couples run the risk of growing apart amidst the busyness of parenting and life. Many spouses live parallel lives through the junior high and senior high years. It’s a dangerous way to live, but the thought of growing a relationship takes a back seat to raising children and paying bills.  (See: When Marriage Feels Like You Just Co-exist)

While I would never encourage this type of marriage and would always beg couples to get help as soon as they feel they are drifting apart, many spouses do not realize the drift until the home is empty. It’s at this point that they look at each other and realize they do not know each other anymore.

Some, sadly, go their separate ways. As a pastor, I dread back-to-school because every year some couples who have pledged to stay together until the kids go to college finally hit the end of their negotiated time together. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The empty-nest years can be some of the best and most exciting years of marriage. They can lay a second foundation upon which the rest of the couple’s lives will be lived.

Here are three recommendations of how to make the most of the empty-nest years:

1. Prepare to suffer well together. It’s sad but often true; it is not unusual for there to be an overlap of raising kids and helping aging parents. While it is not every couple’s story, it is a common story. As your kids leave the house, form a deep partnership which will allow you to suffer well together. If your parents remain in good health and need no help, give thanks. But don’t be surprised if other demands test your emotional reserves. If a couple understands the possibility, prepares for them, and works well together, their relationship can grow. (See: The Most Overlooked Characteristics of Who You Want to Marry)

2. Discover yourself beyond your partner. Your spouse is not meant to be your only friend. They cannot meet your every need and should not be expected to. Each spouse needs to develop friendships, hobbies, and activities beyond their spouse. Develop yourself and offer who you are to your spouse. (See: My Best Friend, But Not My Only Friend)

3. Reignite the intimacy of your relationship. This isn’t just about sex. This is far more than sex. It is important at this point in marriage that a couple intentionally walks toward each other lest they begin to walk away from one another. You have to rediscover one another. Forget about what you think you know. Ask questions, share dreams, find a joint pursuit, etc. Attend a marriage retreat. Start studying the Bible together. Take intentional action which draws you toward one another. Don’t hesitate to call a marriage counselor and have some refresher sessions. Develop a plan so your relationship can get better. (See: No Wonder You Don’t Love Each Other)

Empty nest can be a difficult transition, but it can also be one of the most meaningful times in your marriage. If a couple works with intention, they can rediscover the person they fell in love with and build a stronger marriage than they ever imagined they could have. Doing this is the greatest gift you can give to your adult children. It strengthens the foundation upon which their lives were built and it models for them the way a healthy couple deals with change.

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