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A New Marriage
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A little over a year ago, my husband and I entered the Empty Nest phase of our lives together. For a while, the "Nest" had become a refueling station. However, I believe that Empty is what we are currently experiencing with both children married and living in their own homes. I am still adjusting to purchasing fewer groceries, washing fewer loads of clothes, and having more hours in a quiet house. How would I describe this part of our lives?

1. Time for Change—bad and good

For some couples this is a time of basking in much-needed attention without anyone else crawling into bed in the middle of the night, or interrupting each conversation. Yet Empty Nesting can also mean that couples are no longer interested in protecting their marriage “for the sake of the children.” And as parents die, couples no longer have to spare their parents from distress. Some couples enter this phase with some fear and anxiety—am I still a priority to my partner? Is he bored with me? Can we find anything in common other than the children? A variety of insecurities and temptations can emerge. Individual developmental stages sometimes seem to work against the achievement of a thriving marriage. While some women struggle with their changing status, others seem eager to explore their independence. Men may entertain romantic ideas or “soften” as they age. Husbands and wives often struggle with their own changing physical conditions.

2. Time for Evaluation/Making New Memories

One of our first projects together was a healthy lifestyle adjustment as we re-discovered making and eating nutritious meals. We take daily walks together as often as possible. While learning about enhancing our later years in life, we know that our brains and souls need continuing social connections and intellectual refreshment. We are trying some new recipes, mentoring a young couple, planning to learn Spanish, and hoping to take a cruise. We have also taken stock of some house repairs, explored options for finances, and re-energized a career.

3. Time for Another Wedding

Now it is just the three of us, and I do not mean two people and the dog. The third member of our home is our marriage. Just as our children have developed through various stages, so has our marriage. Maintaining marriage during the active parenting years seemed at times as though hanging on by God’s grace. We now have another marriage that can thrive with nurture and investment.

I am reminded of what Mary Pipher, Ph.D., says in her book, The Shelter of Each Other (p. 237):

"In our rapidly changing world, people who stay married for fifty years really have multiple marriages to the same mate. They have a romantic relationship, a child-rearing relationship, and later one strong in commitment and caretaking. One marriage ceremony at the beginning is not enough to hold such a marriage in place. Couples need new ceremonies and rites of passage, second honeymoons and even third and fourth ones. It's good to renew vows and write new vows every few years."

Recently I read that rather than taking marriages for granted we should take infidelity for granted—that seems to be the status quo on this earth. Marriage is teased, tempted and triumphs on a daily basis. As I recommit myself to my relationship with Christ each day, I am encouraged to make a daily choice for our marriage and to love.

The realization that multiple marriages exist between the same two people can change expectations, encourage forgiveness, and help establish new goals and understanding.

When children have launched or careers have changed, it is the best time to share renewal vows, moments of prayer and blessing, besides planning special adventures.

4. Time for Added Support

Friends, family and the church can acknowledge and support marriages with a renewal service or a party. Waiting until a 40th or 50th anniversary may be too late for many couples. Spiritual, emotional, financial and physical challenges exist every day. Now is the time to “rally the troops” and dedicate a new marriage.

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By Karen Spruill, M.A. Copyright © 2015 by GraceNotes. All rights reserved. Use of this material is subject to usage guidelines.

Pipher, Mary. The Shelter of Each Other; rebuilding our families. 1996, Grosset/Putnam, N.Y., N.Y.

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