What springs to mind when you hear the term “empty nesters”? For me, it used to conjure up images of a somewhat sad, middle-aged, saggy-baggy couple pining at home for the next visit from their kids. I know, that’s awful. But now I’m actually there, I have good news: this is, in fact, an exciting new chapter of life that need not be dreaded at all! And marriage in the empty nest? Well, with some intentionality, it can be the icing on the wedding cake…
We had kids full-time in the home for 26 years. Our eldest left in 2010 and the youngest in 2018 with another in the middle, so we’ve had the s-l-o-w Band-Aid pull rather than all kids leaving within a couple of years in one massive rip.
It gave us the opportunity to observe other couples, and they seem to fall into one of two camps once their kids leave home:
- Separated or divorced couples who had been staying together for their kids and had sadly grown apart and wanted different things.
- Vibrant couples, very much in love, living their best lives enjoying healthy relationships with their grown kids.
We wanted the latter, please! In my bio, I even refer to my husband and me as “audacious empty nesters”… not because we are rash and reckless (bahaha), but because we are actually excited to be in this next phase of life and want to eke out every drop of joy with courage and adventure together!
“A good marriage isn’t something you find; it’s something you make.” Gary L. Thomas
We all know marriage, like any relationship, takes work. A good, thriving marriage needs attention throughout the years and stages and phases—but it’s never too early to start preparing for the empty nest!
Imagine a couch. You and your husband begin your marriage sitting side by side, close together, holding hands. When babies come along, you could choose to shuffle apart and allow them to sit between you. Then over the years, you may find yourselves pushed farther from each other as a couple until the day the kids leave home and you’re left with a gaping void between you and your spouse on that couch.
However, if you sit the babies on your laps, on your shoulders, on either side of you so that nothing and no one comes between you and your spouse—when the nest is empty, you’re already close, squeezing one another’s hands and ready to continue on together.
“Drifting is our default setting. All we have to do to drift, is nothing.” Christine Caine
When I heard this poignant quote, it was referring primarily to our spiritual lives, but it pricked my soul as I considered its implication in regard to marriage. How many marriages simply drift apart by doing nothing to keep it together? Apathy and lethargy lead to discontent and disconnect. The antidote has to be putting the work in, implementing effective tools, continually finding ways to keep our marriages healthy and whole.
So… I’ve compiled a free PDF resource of “10 TOOLS FOR THE EMPTY NEST MARRIAGE”. Here are 3 of the tools to whet our appetites:
- DATE NIGHT: I can’t stress enough how vital this tool is in any marriage. Whether you are pre-empty nest or living it for real, regular date nights are invaluable!
They don’t have to be fancy or expensive, it can be lunch or coffee or a walk or a picnic or a concert or a movie—just let it be intentional alone time for the two of you. Preferably, once a week. Belly laugh or have deep and meaningful conversations. Don’t be fooled into thinking the two of you in a house alone counts as a “date night”. This evening/ morning/ afternoon needs to be planned and purposeful and protected! You won’t regret it.
- DON’TS: It may be helpful to decide what you DON’T want your empty nest years to look like in order to see what you actually DO desire. Look at each “don’t” on your list and then consider the flip side. Here are some examples we considered:
-We don’t want to be selfish.
-We don’t want to waste the time we have been given.
-We don’t want to ever be a financial drain on anyone.
-We don’t want to navel-gaze and rest on our laurels.
-We don’t want to have an attitude of mature entitlement.
- DREAM: This is something you can do as a couple and as individuals. SHARE your dreams with each other. Encourage. Be his greatest cheerleader.
The empty nest does not mean an empty life. Do you want to pursue a career in the workforce? Learn a new skill? Go back to school or take a course online? Find a perfect volunteer position? Think back to your childhood and recall what made you come alive—that will often reveal true passions. Fulfill that buried dream…. I acted upon my dream to write a book after keeping it secret for 25 years. This is a FUN tool and will make for some fascinating conversation!
To read the complete “10 TOOLS FOR THE EMPTY NEST MARRIAGE” free PDF, you can sign up for my monthly newsletter HERE!
And if you’re already a subscriber, the link will be in your JULY newsletter… but if you want it right now, contact me HERE! 🙂
🎙 As an extra bonus, you can listen in to my recent conversation at the BUILDING STRONG HOMES podcast on all things marriage, empty nest life, as well my conversion and childhood growing up in England. Why not pop in your earbuds while you walk the dog or clean the bathroom? Multitasking at its best! The link is HERE or tune in wherever you love to listen to your favorite podcasts!
Friend, it’s my prayer that our marriages in the empty nest will be steeped in love, laughter, peace, and purpose.
“Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:29-30
That these Bible verses from Matthew 11 will encourage us to walk with Jesus as couples.
That in this special chapter of our lives, we might live “freely and lightly” finding real rest in Him, and enjoy those unforced rhythms of grace as we experience full lives together in the empty nest.
Until next time,
P.S. When my daughter got married, I wrote a little book called PEARLS FOR THE BRIDE. It’s full of tips and stories and Biblical encouragement, perfect for the newlywed and as a bridal shower gift. But I’m delighted that readers who have been married for many, many years say how much they enjoyed it, too. Feel free to check it out HERE!
Linking up with some fabulous encouragers! Check them out: