A Workshop for Empty-Nesters
Your children have left the nest to face their future, pursuing college, career, family; but what about your own future? What’s in store for the second half of your marriage? David and Claudia Arp have created a workshop that can help make the empty nest years the best yet. Skillful Couples Vibrant Marriages offers a workshop that addresses the challenges listed below:
Facing the Eight Challenges of the Empty Nest Years
In the second half of marriage, couples face the challenge to reinvent their marriage, to make mid-course adjustments, and to reconnect with one another in a more meaningful way. From our work in marriage education over the years and based on our national survey, we believe the following eight challenges describe the areas where healthy long-term marriages are investing their energies.
CHALLENGE 1: Let go of past marital disappointments, forgive each other, and commit to making the rest of your marriage the best.
Giving up lost dreams and dealing with each other’s imperfections is a positive step toward forgiving past hurts, and moving on in your marriage. Holding on to marital grudges and disappointments will prevent you from developing a new, more loving marriage.
CHALLENGE 2: Create a marriage that is partner-focused, rather than child-focused. In the second half, the dynamics of the relationship change. Without children at home, you have the opportunity to refocus and redefine your marriage. Marriage in the second half can be more personal and more fulfilling as you focus on the couple relationship and not on children.
CHALLENGE 3: Maintain an effective communication system that allows you to express your deepest feelings, joys, and concerns. Mid-life is a time when it is vitally important to develop interpersonal competence — the ability to converse on a more personal level by sharing your deepest feelings, joys, and concerns. Successful second half couples are able to find a proper balance between intimacy and autonomy.
CHALLENGE 4: Use anger and conflict in a creative way to build your relationship. A healthy marriage is a safe place to resolve honest conflict and process anger. Actually, both love and anger can be positive forces in a marriage, but you must process your anger in an appropriate way that allows you to express your concerns in the context of a loving relationship.
CHALLENGE 5: Build a deeper friendship and enjoy your spouse. Friendship and fun in marriage–especially in the second half–is serious business! One advantage of a long-term marriage is being more familiar and comfortable with each other. We can relax and enjoy each other and develop a deeper couple friendship.
CHALLENGE 6: Renew romance and restore a pleasurable sexual relationship. Our survey results suggest that sexual satisfaction increases rather than decreases with number of years married, but it is important for couples to protect their privacy, cherish their love relationship, and renew romance while acknowledging the inevitable changes in our bodies. The quality of our love life is not so much a matter of performance as it is a function of the quality of the relationship.
CHALLENGE 7: Adjust to changing roles with aging parents and adult children. Releasing children into adulthood and reconnecting with them on an adult level can be challenging. At the same time you need to balance relationships with your own aging parents. Realizing and accepting what is realistic in your own situation is important. Then choose to forge better relationships with those loved ones on both sides of the generational seesaw.
CHALLENGE 8: Evaluate where you are on your spiritual pilgrimage, grow closer to each other and to God, and together serve others. Our faith in God should make a difference in the quality of our marriage — especially in the second half. The relationship of the husband and the wife to God is tested and validated in their relationship to each other. Evaluate where you are on your own spiritual pilgrimage and seek to develop spiritual intimacy with each other and with God. Then together serve others.