My children lovingly call me by two affectionate titles: Captain Oblivious or Captain Obvious. I don’t think I need to explain the first title. To begin this blog, I will put on my Captain Obvious hat.
I glorify the obvious when I say that couples today are overwhelmed with activities, responsibilities, and opportunities. I believe the number one deterrent to a vibrant marriage is all the good and necessary things we get caught up in: our jobs, many of which we can’t get done in a forty hour week and which we have a hard time leaving at the office; our homes whose chores and improvements never end; and, probably at the top of our list, our children. Our goals to enrich their lives and help them develop new skills and achieve worthy victories are important to them and to us. There are so many demands on our time and energy and too few hours in the day.
No wonder we have so little time for each other. And too often, when we find a few minutes for quality connection, we’re too exhausted to take advantage of the moment.
I know many couples who focus on everything but their relationship. Dads can find fulfillment in their work. Moms are devoted to their children and so define themselves. These commitments are good and will supply a measure of well-being. Couples go on for years, decades in this mode of operation. They can be so locked in to these good goals, that they don’t think about what they may be missing.
Let me ask the too often unasked question. Did you fall in love with your spouse and choose to live your lives together to end up with a never ending to do list, or a few snatched moments together as one of both of you rush off to your next commitment? What happened to the delight and joy you found in just being together? You majored in such moments in your courtship. In those heady days just being with your loved one turned your black and white day into Technicolor. Do you really want to settle for black and white again?
Where Carol and I clearly see this issue is when a couple moves into the empty nest stage. The kids have left home and you are left with just each other. Too many couples look at each other and wonder, “What do we have in common?” They realize they have to some degree become strangers. The developmental task at this stage is to re-invent your relationship from a children centered marriage to a couple centered (or companionship) marriage. If a couple can successfully make this transition, the best years of their marriage lie before them.
The ease with which they make this transition depends on how much of a companionship marriage they built and maintained in those years of building a family and careers. A couple which took time to enrich their relationship and to build a close friendship in these initial years can look forward to their marriage only getting better in the empty nest years. Failure to create a companionship marriage at this point is one of the reasons this transition stage has a high incidence of divorce.
Carol and I are twelve years into the empty nest stage. I often comment that the bad news is that our children have left home, and that the good news is that our children have left home — bad in that we miss seeing them as much as we would like, good in that we thoroughly enjoy the freedom of being just two again. For us the transition was easy; but then we always have been best friends and always made time to focus on us.
The wisdom I would share in this blog is that couples need to start building a companionship marriage now. Make your marriage a high priority. This can energize your marriage now, and set you up for the best years of your marriage once the kids leave.
10 Great Dates to Energize Your Marriage is a program that helps you do just this. Click on the workshops page to the left to learn about our fall 2008 Great Dates program. You can also go to our home page to learn more about this program, which is the most widely used marriage enrichment program in this country. Just click on the 10 Great Dates link on the left.
If you found this blog valuable, please pass it on to friends and family. Those of you to whom this blog was forwarded can reply to:
copyright 2008 G Brenton Mock