Thirty-five years ago, I married my sweet Hart. Fifteen months later our first daughter was born. I was immediately thrust into a lifestyle of babies and toddlers, with three kids within five years. Then we had a five year stretch before our last two daughters were born. This made their ages span from 1-12. Soon I was teaching my girls from home. Life was busy and never dull. And I loved it.
As children do, they grew up. One by one they left the nest and soon only one was left at home. Nan chose to go to a local university and to live at home. Therefore, we had the chance to enjoy each other’s company for a while longer. We loved to walk together and talk, shop and talk, watch our favorite chick flick and talk. One day in December, my life changed for good when Nan got married. She was the youngest. Now all my girls are married and living their lives to the fullest and they are all thriving. I am so thankful and happy for each one of them, truly I am. It is only right and natural for children to leave home. But it does change things, for those left behind.
Like I said, I married my sweet Hart and we had one year together before we started our family, which means we’ve had thirty-four years of children in our home. Our love and devotion for each other has never wavered. We love spending time together and even tried to get away when the kids were young and at home. We went on fun and meaningful anniversary trips. We had dinners alone, while the kids were at Grandmother’shouse. We were intentional as we could be with our relationship. We count each other our best friend, which is good because we get to see a lot of each other these days!
Hart still walks around the house, in the evening, remarking how quiet it is without Nan here. I miss having her constant chatter, encouraging words and someone who likes to talk girl-talk and watch those cheesy TV shows. But at the same time, I am treasuring my quiet and FREE days to do what I want to do and need to do. Hart and I each have hobbies and interests of our own. We can remain busy doing these things. Yet something was missing. After I had a small break down, because in spite of it all, I was feeling lonely and without purpose, we sat down and looked at the issue before us. There were things we could do that would help fill in the gaps we were both experiencing. We both admitted we could make some changes to our lives that would make our relationship more intentional. As I said we truly do love each other, therefore we desire our marriage to grow and to become even stronger. We want to enjoy one another and to make our home full of life, even if it’s only the two of us. So, we came up with ten ways to make a strong marriage even stronger and more interesting. Some of these we are already doing, others we are still implementing into our marriage. They are not in any particular order.
1. Appreciate your spouse. I love this quote by Terri Guillemets, “do not take anything for granted-not one smile or one person or one rainbow or one breath, or one night in your cozy bed.” Smile at your spouse and really look them in the eyes and breathe a prayer of thankfulness that you have this moment together.
2. Deeply admire each other. Hold your spouse in high esteem and regard. Admire their abilities and qualities. Thoughtfully think of them throughout the day and show them every courtesy you’d show a guest in your home.
3. Have something you enjoy doing together. Hart and I like going on short day trips to interesting places, passed over by most people. (The home repairs will keep just fine until you get home.). We also play cards together. We still keep our TV off except for a Netflix occasionally. Basically, enjoy each other’s company and be grateful for it.
4. Romance each other. Hold hands in public.. and private. Give long back rubs and foot massages. Touch each other. Let your significant other know they are still the one that makes your heart beat faster!
5. Make conversations lively (or not). Read up on current events or an interesting topic to share at dinner time. One reason I loved to homeschool, was I loved to learn. It was fun to brush up on subjects I learned in school, but also interesting to learn new subjects that my girls pursued. Hart enjoys researching and has been researching Aylen Lake, Ontario Canada, the place where we like to vacation. He has discovered so much of its history and enjoys sharing it with me. But on another note, its also good to enjoy the quietness of each other. Hart and I are not big talkers or chatterers. In fact, when we drive together somewhere, it’s not unusual for us to not say a word. I remarked about this to a friend and she wisely commented, “Oh but isn’t it a most contented silence”. Just being in each other’s presence is enough at times.
6. Pray for one another and pray together. Seek God together, as well as separately. We have a prayer journal and pray together before Hart leaves for work, but I also spend time praying for him alone. We enjoy reading aloud to each other spiritual books that draw us both closer to God. This also makes for good conservation.
7. Continue to grow as a couple, to learn from each other and other couples you admire. How easy is it for the older sect to get set in their ways! With the ever-changing landscape of technology, we must stay up to date or get left behind. Then how can we understand the younger generation of our children and grandchildren? Try new things and get out of your comfort zone.
8. Cultivate couple friendships. We both have friends of our own, but we really enjoy getting together with other couples to have a meal together, to laugh together and to do fun activities together. We want to do this more often.
9. Motivate and inspire each other in the endeavors each of you undertake. A few encouraging words go a long way. Hart wants to write a book and with his love of researching, I know he can do it. I want to encourage him as he works to reach this goal.
10. Get rid of useless arguing. It doesn’t matter who’s right or wrong, or who started it or who wins, does it? In most cases, we let pettiness take the place of the greater good. If the outcome doesn’t really matter, then why continue or even start a fight? I am trying to major in the significant issues of life and minor in the unimportant issues. Does it really matter if he said it happened yesterday, but you know it was really two days ago? No, it does not and no one listening to you cares either. I think this goes back to being respectful of each other. And we’ve seen enough bickering couples to know we don’t want to be like them! Concede to each other graciously. Romans 12:18 says it plainly, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (or your wife or your husband).
I know there are so many other ways to improve relationships in marriage, but these ten are important to us as empty nesters. No one has a perfect marriage, but we can come pretty close if we truly desire it and give it our all.
What other advice do you have for married couples? What advice to you have for empty nesters? Leave a comment, we love to read what you think