Dads Need to Plan for an Empty Nest, Too
Otherwise they risk watching their marriages crumble away…..
by Jon Beaty
Our kids are still at home, but my wife and I are preparing for our empty nest now.
Our daughter is 20 years old and spreading her wings. We expect our 13-year-old son to be around for a few more years. But we’ve realized that if we don’t prepare now, once the nest is empty our marriage might be dead.
God intended for a husband and wife to grow closer together. As the Bible puts it, they should be joined together as one flesh (Genesis 2:24). For too many couples, that doesn’t happen. The responsibilities of work and raising children turn their attention away from each other. Unless they make an effort to regularly connect with each other, they drift in different directions.
A couple can live under the same roof for years and not notice they’ve drifted apart until it’s far too late.
Laura and Bob Smith (not their real names) of Vancouver, Washington, worked as nurses in the same hospital. In the beginning, they had a lot in common. They chose shifts that made it possible to spend most of their time off together. When their first child came along, they sacrificed time with each other to avoid sending baby Kayla to daycare — one worked while the other was home.
But their time apart didn’t keep them from finding time to have their second child, Kyle, two years later. Laura cut back on work to be at home more, but she still worked part time, taking shifts when Bob would be home with the kids.
As the two children grew, after-school music lessons and sports for the kids took the parents in different directions on the evenings they were both home. Weekends could be just as busy with games, concerts, and recitals. When time allowed, Bob Smith would squeeze in time for a round of golf with the guys on the weekend. Laura Smith, meanwhile, would go shopping with her girlfriends. Their family seldom spent time together.
Daughter Kayla went away to college after high school. Two years later, son Kyle enlisted in the Army. The day after he left home for boot camp, Bob handed Laura divorce papers and announced he was moving out.
My wife and I are celebrating 27 years of marriage this year. It’s not by chance we’re celebrating a thriving marriage. We both feel more connected and more in love with each other than ever before. We’ve had challenges threaten our marriage. We may have challenges in the future. But we’ve committed to giving all we have to make our marriage satisfying to both of us. That commitment includes preparing for an empty nest.
If you’re married with kids, consider using these three tips for keeping your marriage alive and thriving for years to come:
1.) Start planning for an empty nest today.
Husbands, don’t wait for your wives to take the initiative. It can start with you. When the kids are asleep, or when you’re out together without the kids, ask your wife, “What’s your dream for us after the kids move out?” She may not have a dream to share right away. The point is to start a conversation. The question will get you both thinking about life after the kids move out. Share ideas until you both come up with a vision that is exciting to each of you. My wife and I have been discussing this for years. We haven’t always been excited about each other’s vision. We haven’t settled on a plan. Someday we will. But today we have fun imagining what our future might be like.
2.) Plan time together.
If you expect time together to happen without a plan, it won’t happen enough. To cultivate a thriving relationship with your wife, planning time to be alone with each other is necessary. My wife and I have a one-hour “date” most weeknights starting at 9 p.m. If your schedules don’t allow for daily time together, make it happen weekly if you can. If that’s not possible, plan at least an eight-hour day together once or twice a month. Anything less that that will strain most marriages beyond what they can bear. If at least one of you is in a job that takes you away for weeks or months at a time, such as the military, make time alone a priority on leaves and calls home.
3.) Invest in each other’s happiness.
Discover the things you do that make your wife happy, and do them often. Gary Chapman’s best-selling book, “The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts,” is a useful tool to help each spouse identify and “speak” each other’s love language. My wife’s first love language is quality time. Mine is physical touch. Knowing this, I’ve learned that the more time I spend with her, giving my full attention to her interests, the happier she is in our marriage. When she makes a priority of touching my arm, or holds my hand each day, I’m happy.
Start putting your plan for an empty nest into action today.
Jon Beaty, a life coach and father of two, lives near Portland, Oregon. He’s the author of the book If You’re Not Growing, You’re Dying: 7 Habits for Thriving in Your Faith, Relationships and Work
You can check out more of Jon Beaty’s writings by going Going Here
Marriage After the Nest Empties
Are you one of those couples finding it nice now that the last of the kids have left the Nest? You can do all those things you’ve been wanting to but kept putting off for one reason or another because of the kids?
Or maybe you’re one of those that find yourself looking at your spouse and wondering, “Who is this person and what are we going to do now? Maybe you’ve even been thinking and dreading that time when it will be just “the two of you”.
It’s certainly not uncommon for couples to suddenly find themselves in that kind of situation. You’ve basically spent much of the past 18 – 20+ years devoted to “Kids” and not much to each other. Just seemed easier to float right along. You know, kind of taking each other for granted? Sound familiar?
Don’t despair; there is still hope for rekindling the romance or just getting some of the old “spark” back in the marriage. After all, life isn’t over because the kids have all left home, its really just beginning a whole new phase.
Maybe you will have to be the one to take the initiative to get things back on track again, but, hey, so what, as long as someone is making an effort! Much better then doing nothing and letting things just float along like they are (and maybe silently complaining to yourself?), unless, of course you prefer it that way?
Lots of times the Mom (and it could be vice versa in either situation here) spends so much time trying to be that “perfect” mom devoting a lot of time to the kids that hubby may feel neglected or maybe hubby is spending so much time working trying to keep bills paid, get the kids through school not to mention worrying about college, that Mom might feel the same.
Either way now is the time to get started making some changes, if you’re really serious about getting some spark back in your marriage. No more “He or She just doesn’t or won’t…………”or isn’t interested in me anymore, maybe we should just go ahead and get a divorce!
At least try devoting a certain length of time to getting back to the way it use to be. That way you can say that you really tried (and do be sincere about it!) and who knows it may just work out really well for both of you. A time period of 6 months to a year would be good. After all what have you got to lose trying?
First off, talk to your spouse!! Tell him/her how you feel and that you would like to start doing things together as a couple again. You don’t really expect them to Wine and Dine you like Royalty, but just doing little things together would be nice. It just might surprise you that the other has been feeling the same way. After all you must have had something going for you in the beginning, you got married didn’t you? A lot of time it’s just a matter of falling into that “comfort” zone and not thinking.
Start slow at first. Make “dates” with your spouse and keep them! Try a dinner date maybe at first. Once a week, every two weeks or even once a month, it’s at least a start.
Is there something the other has always liked to do but hasn’t in a long while because of other obligations? Maybe you could plan something around that? Make a date to eat in one of your favorite restaurants that you haven’t been to in a long time. You could even make it a Dinner and Movie date.
Starting even slower; how about the two of you fixing a nice quick dinner (like grilled steaks and salad) at home, have a rented movie that you can both watch right after eating, have some dessert or popcorn while watching the movie, then get a discussion going about what you just watched.
On the fun side, how about slipping an I.O.U. note in his/her pocket or purse, somewhere you know they will find it during the day; saying IOU one back rub at 8 pm tonight, don’t be late! Or just a small note saying “Yes, I still love you after all these years!” That could get something going back and forth between you, each trying to outdo the other.
Make a date for lunch sometime during the week if at all possible.
Even better, how about trying to plan a short weekend getaway? Once a month would be nice, twice even better, but you could settle for every couple months or so! Doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive if budget is a problem, the point is for the two of you to get away and spend some quality time together. Start “communicating” with each other again.
Do you like to camp and still have all that camping gear in the attic or garage? Get it out and dust it off and go for a short camping trip. What about the beach? Lake? Like to fish? Swim? Hike?
Just make a special point of getting together. Start enjoying each other and the things you use to like to do. Can’t do a lot of them still? Start new things, go new places, see new things! It’s your time now, enjoy it! You have the house to yourself, get ‘frisky’ and chase each other around, have fun with life now. It’s NOT over; it’s only starting a new phase.
Even if you still have a busy life, make time for each other.
You know is this new “electronic” age you could even send and “I love You” or “Miss You” text sometime during the day.
If all else seems to fail and you really would like to keep your marriage together, please don’t hesitate to get professional help; there is no shame in that!
You’ll find many topics on the Empty Nest Moms Community Forum covering just about all aspects that we face at this time of our lives so be sure to check them all out! (We are a very friendly group!)
Empty Nest Moms
On the Verge of Divorce?…..(article courtesy of FirstThingsFirst.com)
You started out with such great intentions, but today your marriage is floundering. The emotional pain runs deep, and both of you struggle with a sense of bewilderment. How can your relationship be in such turmoil when it started out so strong?
“I encounter many couples who find themselves in this exact place,” says Pam Johnson, a licensed clinical social worker. “They think that sex, children, money or who took the garbage out last are the issues creating obstacles in their relationship. In reality, 80 to 95 percent of what couples argue about has its origins in the first 12 years of life.”
Research shows that people learn many things about marriage during their early years of life, and they carry these perceptions into adulthood. Johnson says that every child is born with three questions: Am I lovable? Am I worthy? Do I belong?
“We arrive into adulthood with these questions answered,” Johnson asserts. “Many people have no idea how much these questions, and what they learned about marriage early on, impact their relationship right now.”
Johnson is quick to say that couples who find themselves in what appears to be a hopeless marriage need to slow down and work to gain insight and learn skills through counseling or classes.
“Abuse, addiction, and/or chronic infidelity could make a marriage unviable,” Johnson says. “Short of those dire conditions, there is hope.”
Having unmet needs is one of the most common struggles for couples. For example, a husband has played golf five Saturdays in a row while his wife is caring for their children. He walks in the door and she says, “I can’t believe you played golf again today. All you do is play. Some of us have to take care of the children.”
What if, instead of getting defensive, the husband could hear past the blast to the need behind it?
“His wife needs time for herself,” Johnson says. “If the husband can hear the need and help address the need, it becomes a win. It doesn’t mean ‘no golf,’ it means figuring out together a way for his wife to have time away, and for him to get in a round of golf.
“One of the greatest keys to moving your marriage from hopeless to hopeful is learning how to communicate. This does not mean talking more effectively. It means listening to hear the need being expressed so you can work on meeting the need. When one spouse attacks and the other gets defensive, both alienate the very person who can help change the situation.”
According to Johnson, it’s easy for both husbands and wives to get stuck in “attack and blame” mode. Moving to a healthier place in your marriage has everything to do with your attitude when approaching the issue. When you both feel you’re on the same team, that a sense of fairness exists and you want the best for each other and your marriage, it is very empowering. People don’t walk away from a marriage that’s meeting their needs.
If your marriage is in crisis, there are resources to help you get your marriage back on track. Don’t throw in the towel on a perfectly good marriage. Ask for help.
Living Life With Meaning…..(article courtesy of FirstThingsFirst.com)
Joseph Hernandez and his wife of 47 years were preparing for retirement and discussing how they would celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. At 67, Joseph was full of life and had just received a clean bill of health from his doctor.
Joseph loved people, and he devoted his life’s work to helping others build strong families. While attending a conference this past July where he was teaching on how to help families thrive, Hernandez became ill and passed away. In the blink of an eye, an undetected aneurysm took him from his bride, his family, friends and colleagues.
In the midst of tragedy, meaningful moments can offer powerful takeaways about living life.
When Mrs. Hernandez realized something was wrong and called the ambulance, team members and colleagues who had become friends immediately surrounded her. Some put their dinner plans on hold when they realized what was happening. Friends rushed to the hospital, orchestrated phone calls and tried to thoughtfully anticipate potential needs. Although they had no idea what to expect, they wanted to be there and offer support.
Joseph left this earth doing what he loved, surrounded by the people he loved. While remembering him, many felt it was amazing that he died doing what he was most passionate about. They discussed the importance of doing what you love and making the most of every day. “Life is short,” they said. “Make what you are doing count.”
While it is hard to believe that Joseph is gone, it reminds those left behind to focus on what really matters in life – relationships.
At the end of the day, the relationships we cultivate make life rich. Life’s pace seems to move faster and faster. Relationships are often neglected while people pursue career aspirations, take care of children and fulfill community commitments.
Have you told your loved ones how you feel lately or taken time to catch up with a longtime friend? Have you forgiven those who have offended you? It is easy to assume there will always be tomorrow, but there is no guarantee.
Have you ever felt the nudge to visit a sick friend or provide child care for a busy parent? Have you thought about calling someone just to check in? If so, did you talk yourself out of it because it would throw your entire schedule out of whack? Or maybe you thought you weren’t the right person, wouldn’t know what to say or that it might have been awkward somehow. Perhaps you look back and wish you had taken the time because everything else wasn’t that important. You might even understand that whether you had the words or not, your presence would have been comforting.
During the ordeal and its aftermath, Mrs. Hernandez said it meant a lot that people came to be with her, knowing they had stepped away from important work.
Simply being willing to show up says you care. Life is short, so make your moments count.
What is Empty Nest Syndrome…..by Ruth Rusk
Sylvia walks into Beth’s room and sits down on the bed. There, piled up on the pillows are all the stuffed animals that she had given her over the years. Fluffy bunny was given to her daughter on her first Easter. He looks at her now with a sad look in his eyes, or so it seems to her. She picks him up and hugs him to her breast, and it somehow makes her feel close to her daughter. Sylvia looks around the room at the trophies that her daughter received for her many academic achievements. Beth always was smart in school, and now she is gone to college, to a new life without her. The memories come flooding back: the day she brought Beth home from the hospital, she was so tiny; the first day of kindergarten, she felt lost then too, but not this bad; and the first time she went out on a date. It seemed like yesterday. Sylvia begins to cry.
Sylvia is a fictitious character, but the sadness and emptiness that can accompany a child leaving home for the first time is real. It is called the Empty Nest Syndrome, and can be devastating for a parent. Even though it can affect both parents, more times than not, it is the mother who suddenly finds herself with these feelings of being lost and alone. The affects can vary, depending on different factors. For instance, when the mother is divorced and living alone, it can be particularly difficult. When a mother has been a stay at home mom, she might feel that life is over, that she has no purpose in living. In severe cases, when depression is severe or last a long time, counseling may be needed.>/p>
What some people don’t realize is that Empty Nest Syndrome actually begins sometime during the high school years. Our children become more independent and begin to make important decisions for themselves, and their future. We begin to miss the children they once were.
I am reminded of a time when my youngest daughter was in high school. At the beginning of the school year, I went to Wal-Mart, and saw a lot of young mothers buying school supplies for their elementary aged children. I found myself wanting to buy colors and paste and scissors and one of those little cardboard boxes they had to have to put it all in. Remember those? One year, around Valentine’s Day, my youngest daughter wanted me to buy a box of Valentine’s Day cards, (Winnie the Pooh, I think), to give to her friends just for fun. She was in high school then too. I don’t think she ever knew how happy I was to do it! It’s funny the things we do miss.
When our children are in high school, they begin to form new friendships, and start going out on weekends. We worry about so many things during this time, and rightfully so. With drugs and alcohol abuse at an all time high, it is a frightening time for parents. While we must be diligent in keeping the lines of communication open, we must also remember that our children need some privacy too. As much as we wish they would tell us everything, the fact is, they will not. We have to respect that. All we can really do is let them know that we are there for them, no matter what.
When the time does come that our children marry or graduate from high school and leave for college, it can be difficult to deal with the emotions that we feel. We try to hide our sadness from others because these events in a child’s life are supposed to be happy occasions. While we are happy for our children, we are also feeling a deep sense of loss. We have to remember that these feelings are perfectly normal, and not be afraid to seek out comfort from friends and family.
Even though this time in a mother’s life can be a difficult time, it can also be a time of refreshing and a time for new beginnings. It can be a time of reflection, and a time to rejoice for a job well done. Did you ever have dreams that you put on the back burner, and said to yourself, “Maybe when the kids are grown?” Now is the time to bring those dreams out, brush them off, and move forward. Maybe you had always thought about going back to school or starting a business. Whatever it is, know that it is never to late. Remember, Moses was 80 years old when he led the Israelites out of Egypt.
Ever wanted to try your hand at painting? Or maybe you always wanted to start writing. Maybe now is a good time to start a journal. What are you particularly good at? Turn it into an extra source of income. There are many things that you can do to alleviate the feelings of sadness and loneliness.
I am reminded of the verse in Ecclesiastes 3:4, which says, ” A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Let this be your time to laugh and your time to dance.