This past Sunday, we wrapped up our Bad Dates, Roommates & Soulmates series with “The Empty Nest.” Remember, falling in love only requires a pulse, but staying in love requires a plan. The empty nest can be a wonderful season of marital satisfaction, but it can also be a season filled with crisis because of the changes in family and marriage dynamics.
According to a 2012 research paper entitled “The Gray Divorce Revolution,” the authors crunched marriage data and discovered that of all those who divorced in 2009, one in four was age 50 or older, compared with one in ten in 1990. Why the jump in divorces for this age group? Could it be that as people begin to realize they are going to live longer, they don’t want to spend the rest of their life in an unhappy and unfulfilled marriage? One husband, married twenty-five years, commented, “We never had a very close relationship, but the kids kept us together. They were our connecting point. When they left home, it was just the two of us, with no buffers. We had nothing in common and decided it was crazy to waste the rest of our lives. So we divorced.” Unfortunately, this is all too common in marriages entering this season of life.
Here are three keys to staying in love through the empty nest years (David & Claudia Arp’s book The Second Half of Marriage was very helpful in developing these three keys):
1. Commit to making the rest of your marriage the best. You may have some marriage disappointments and unfulfilled expectations. Take some time and assess your expectations. Are they realistic or unrealistic? Forgive your spouse. Give them grace. Make a decision with Jesus’ love and mercy to make the second half of your marriage the best season of your marriage.
2. Focus on your spouse more than your kids. This is applicable for any season of marriage. Healthy families begin with healthy marriages. As I said on Sunday, one of the best gifts you can give your children is a mother and father who deeply love each other. Schedule a regular date night (at least once a month) with your spouse.
3. Renew the romance in your marriage. Sex is a beautiful gift for all seasons of marriage, and as you enter into the empty nest, take time to talk about this aspect of your marriage relationship. Remember King Solomon’s sage wisdom, “Let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth” (Proverbs 5:18). Enjoy your spouse for a lifetime!
Here are some great resources for the empty nest season of marriage:
What 50 Years of Marriage Looks Like (Warning: have tissues in hand)
The Second Half of Marriage – David & Claudia Arp
Boomerang Kids – Carl Pickhardt, Ph.D (a book for those of you with children who have moved back into your home). Dr. Pickhardt also provide a “Contract for Parents and Kids” that can provide clarity and expectations if and when your kids move back into your home.
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