Jill: Imagine this: You finish dropping your last child off at college, you work through some of the heavy emotions in the car ride home, and you sit down at dinner once you get back home. You’ve made it to a major milestone: An empty nest. But wait… Who is that familiar yet unfamiliar person sitting across from you? Wasn’t your nest supposed to be empty? Help! 😉
Mark: Of course, we share this scene in a lighthearted way. However, the reality is that so many people feel something similar to this after they reach this milestone or as they are approaching it. Preparing to launch your children can bring an entire host of emotions. You may feel anxious, sad, lonely, excited, and more. In addition to having to deal with all the feelings that come when a child leaves the house or even having an empty nest entirely, this shifting dynamic has an impact on your marriage too.
Jill: You may have even thought, What am I supposed to do with my spouse now? Many married couples have spent decades making their kids the top priority, to the detriment of their marriage. While some of that truly is a normal shift, such as not being able to go on as many date nights because you have children you have to coordinate, there are some cases where you might feel like you have lost sight of who your spouse is entirely.
Get to Know Your Spouse Again
Mark: We’ve coached many couples who feel like strangers after they’ve launched their children. Now, they are wondering how they can re-spark the connection and passion they once had together.
Jill: If you are reading this and thinking, I haven’t even launched any of our kids yet and I already feel like we aren’t as close as we used to be, you aren’t alone! This feeling can start long before our “launching” and empty nest years.
Mark: What we found as our nest slowly emptied over 13 years is that the dynamic of our marriage and our family changed with each child’s departure. Parents are adjusting to a child leaving. Siblings are adjusting to a new dynamic between them. It’s an adjustment for every member of your family.
6 Ways to Rebuild Connection
Jill: So how can you strengthen or even rebuild the connection with your spouse? These are even some reminders you can utilize to strengthen your relationship prior to launching your kids.
Mark: Even if you are just starting out on your parenting journey, these are some good tips to stay connected to your spouse now that kids are in the picture.
Jill: Regardless of where you sit on the marriage spectrum—madly in love and so glad for it to be just the two of you, or feeling disconnected and not sure what to do to rebuild the relationship—this is one part of your life where you can start to see the growth of something new beginning to blossom!
#1: Date Your Spouse
Mark: You’ve heard this before, and for good reason! Make a regular habit of going on dates together, whether that’s going to a fun restaurant, taking a walk together, grabbing her favorite flowers on the way home, or going to a baseball game together. These kinds of thoughtful connections can be both big and small things throughout the week.
Jill: You might even decide to have a set night of the week as “date night.” You can sit down together to make a list of activities to choose from or even take turns planning the date. If you don’t like making plans or need help coming up with ideas, you might subscribe to our No More Perfect Date Night toolbox where you can find 52 ready-made creative date nights PLUS we send our members a new one each month!
#2: Talk Together
Mark: Want to know the best way to get to know your spouse’s heart? Talking! As we all grow older, our perspectives, passions, and interests change. It’s important to set aside time to talk and not only be unified on the plan for the day, but also to better understand who your spouse is becoming. Here are a few questions that are great to ask:
- What brought you the most joy today?
- What do you need most tonight?
- What’s something that’s been on your heart recently?
- Is there anything I can pray with you about?
Jill: One of my favorite places around our home to connect is our front porch. I just love sitting and taking in the fresh air. We enjoy taking time to sit out there with our favorite drinks while we share about the things that are important to us.
Mark: It’s valuable during those talk times to be a good “question-asker” and to be honest about what you’re thinking and feeling. This is a time to intentionally ask follow-up questions to what your spouse shares and to open up to your spouse yourself, sharing your dreams, concerns, and hopes for the future.
#3: Be Intimate
Jill: No more kids to worry about or plan around? Making love without worrying if the bedroom door is open or closed? Count us in! It’s easy to let physical intimacy go rather than bringing intentionality towards reigniting that flame.
Mark: When it comes to sex in our empty nest years, we need to be adaptable. Couples report sex both increasing and decreasing after kids leave the home. Perhaps you’ll adapt to a different frequency, or you may get creative and enjoy each other in different ways physically than you had before. Due to physical changes, you may have to connect physically in new ways! What’s important is to keep the priority of connecting sexually in your marriage as physical intimacy can increase our connection in marriage greatly.
Jill: God has given sex to us in marriage to experience the closest intimate relationship we can have with another person. It’s designed for a married couple to have a private playground for two.
#4: Learn Together
Jill: The next way you can connect with your spouse is to learn together, which is a personal favorite for Mark and I. This could look like reading a book together, taking a course to learn new communication skills, or just growing together in your marriage.
Mark: This could also look like picking up a new hobby together like gardening, hiking, playing darts, or anything else! You can pick up our Marriage Playbook and watch the short videos or take our No More Perfect Marriages Online Course and learn together, too!
#5: Spend Your Finances in New Ways
Jill: Think about it: Your money has likely been devoted to buying school supplies, clothes, and putting your kids into various sports and extracurricular activities for quite some time. Well, now it’s your turn!
Mark: You don’t have to set aside a ton of money for this. However, set some aside to do something fun together! Maybe you pick up a hobby that you always wanted to try or plan a weekend getaway to a location you’ve wanted to see.
#6: Embrace Your New Role
Jill: The truth is that this new stage of life is full of emotional ups and downs as you adjust to the new dynamic in your relationship, but you can embrace your new role as a focused friend and lover of your spouse.
Mark: While there absolutely are elements of loss and grief as we launch our children into adulthood, there also can be excitement and beauty. Lean into this moment to rediscover who you are, who your spouse is, and who you both are together.
Jill: It has been so rewarding in our empty nest season of life to deepen our relationship with one another, encourage one another, and see how we have grown. It’s been full of fond memories and fun, and we hope the same is true for you as well!
Ready to put it into practice?
Share with your spouse one thing on your “bucket list” you’d like to do.
Pick a date night activity and ask your spouse out.
Do you need to rebuild trust?
Learn how through our free Rebuilding Trust webinar!
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