Bringing That Spark Back
We hear it often from friends and family members: What are we going to do with each other when the kids leave the house? If you’re in the weeds of parenting, an empty nest sounds like a 5 star vacation, but ask those who’ve been alone for a while and they might claim they miss the hustle and bustle.
The Marriage Dynamic Institute offers some advice on reconnecting with your spouse during these empty nester years. For a complete list and a more in depth look at ways to connect after your children leave home, please click HERE.
GET SOME REST
When you’re going through a big change, it can take more energy than you think. If you are tired, slow down and rest! If possible, sleep in or take naps. Give your body and soul a little time to recover.
ACCEPT THAT THINGS ARE CHANGING
Try to be patient with your spouse (and yourself). Remind each other that it’s normal to feel unsettled during times of transition, and that it’s OK.
REMEMBER HOW IT ALL BEGAN
Take time together to reminisce. Look at photos from when you dated and the early years of your marriage. Talk about favorite memories from those times and the qualities that attracted you to each other.
PLAN A GETAWAY
Taking a trip together can be a great way to reconnect. Talk about the good parts of your relationship and calmly discuss any areas that need work. Try to let go of past disappointments and forgive one another. Commit to each other to work toward making your marriage the very best it can be now. Talk about what that means to each of you.
RECREATE SPECIAL TIMES
If you can, revisit some of the places you went when you were dating. Listen to your favorite love songs, and dance together in the living room or the backyard. Watch movies you’ve both enjoyed.
TALK ABOUT NEW INTERESTS
Share with each other any new interests or dreams you have, including things you might be able to do together. Your spouse may secretly dream of visiting Italy. You might think it sounds fun to join a bowling league together or try ballroom dancing. Maybe your spouse would like to take a day trip to visit a nearby attraction. You may be surprised to learn how each other’s interests have changed over time.
CREATE NEW ROUTINES
Dedicate one night a week as “date night” … now that you actually have time for regular date nights again! Take turns planning where you’ll go and what you’ll do on your dates. You could also spend time volunteering together at church or a charity you both support. Or, schedule regular times to take walks together. If you have interests that our spouse doesn’t share, designate certain times of the week for those—he can watch his TV show each Thursday night while you join a friend for coffee or take a pottery class.
SEEK HELP IF NEEDED
If you’ve tried to reconnect with your spouse and it doesn’t seem to be working, seek outside help. There may be unresolved losses and disappointments that you set aside during the busy years, and old hurts can spring to mind when life slows down a bit. A marriage course or some counseling may be just what you need to get back on track.
Remember, it probably took a while for the two of you to grow apart, and it may take time (and patience) to reconnect. In fact, it may feel as if you’re starting all over.
The important thing is to be proactive—communicate, spend time together, and lean on each other for support. The second half of your marriage can be miserable or better than ever—it’s up to the two of you to decide.