With University well underway for the year, some parents will find themselves in a season of change as they sent their teenager off to study in another city.
I had a conversation recently with a man who expressed concern about men struggling in the season of life called the “Empty Nest”. I suppose I was aware of the issue, but I personally hadn’t dwelt on the topic as I missed this season.
How did you do that you may ask? I have been married for 40 years and relatively speaking I married late for our time period. I was 27 years old, which today is close to the average age of marriage at 29 years.
After three years of marriage, we started a family and had three children in close sequence. By the time I was nearly 40 my family was complete (or so I thought). But my wife had a yearning for another child. I stoically held fast for a couple of years until God spoke to me and said, “You don’t have the right to deny your wife the child she wishes to bear.” So, acting on this directive we were blessed with another son who was seven years younger than our third child.
This youngest son who is now in his mid-20’s left home about two years ago, about five years after I retired. I moved from being married with children, into The Third Age, missing that gap between these two seasons often called the Empty Nest Season.
It has been said that when your children leave home, many couples find they are exhausted and that their marriage has been on the back burner for many years. Some people may be emotionally drained and feel disconnected from their spouse. Intimacy may have slowed or stopped which widens the relationship gap and maybe men you stopped courting your wife and maybe your wife stopped flirting with you.
But you have now reached a time of life that you have been waiting for, with a list of things and activities to do because you have the time and financial freedom to do so. If you race into doing these things with a person with whom you are disconnected, the busyness of the process, may widen the disconnection.
The danger is that if you don’t reconnect with the love of your youth you may find attraction in the arms of another.
You could try these suggestions for making this an enjoyable and satisfying season:
- Initially slow down and make time to be with each other. This is the second half of your marriage.
- Be real, this is a time of change and it can be scary. Don’t be afraid to seek help if you need it.
- Reflect together and celebrate on the season that has finished.
- As you reflect on your season of marriage with children, ask for forgiveness in your failings as individuals or as a couple. Don’t let the past dictate the future.
- Plan the next season together so that you can enjoy the list of things and activities you were going to do. You may find in planning, your original list will change dramatically.
- Plan a getaway experience at the beginning of this new season - maybe call it a second honeymoon.
- This season maybe for 10 to 15-years before you enter the Third Age. Start also to plan for your Third Age experience together.
- You need to refocus. You are back to a partner only focus like when you were first married. It is a time to rebuild intimacy.
- Men actively support your wife as she makes choices around re-establishing her career, if that's what she would like to do.
- You have released your children progressively over several years. Now is the time to reconnect as “cheerleaders and mentors” as you see another generation come into being. Plan to invest into these opportunities.
- It is also a season to support your aging parents. So together work with family to achieve the best for your parents.
- Reconnect with lost friends and other empty nesters.
- Pray together and ask for God’s help and revelation.
Plan your empty nest season. Reconnect with the love of your youth. Enjoy what God has before you in the second half of your marriage.