New empty nesters often experience struggles as they transition away from full-time parenting. They often say something like: “Now that our kids are gone we don’t know what to talk about,” “We are having difficulty getting used to being alone together so much,” or “I didn’t realize how poorly we know each other… since our kids moved out it feels so awkward.” If you are an empty nester, does this sound familiar? If not, do you want to make sure this doesn’t happen to your marriage?
It is easy to lose your marriage to your parenting. Not because of some vindictive thing that makes you want to stop focusing on your marriage. Rather, I think it is because your spouse will rarely demand as much from you as your children. The fact is, children depend on you every day to exist, feel loved, feel important and learn to navigate the treacherous growing years. You know the marriage will be ok if you table that outing tonight or skip the alone time you wanted as a couple because the kids deserve our attention. The result is that parents spend too much energy on parenting and too little energy on their marriage. Over time this can compound resulting in significant problems. To avoid this, you should:
Go on a date every week. Dating was likely instrumental for you when you and your spouse fell in love. If it was so important then, it is even more important now when so many other things pull your attention away from each other. My wife and I, like many of you I imagine, often find it difficult to arrange babysitting, have the necessary money for dates and arrange our schedules to make sure we regularly date. However, when we make it a priority, it always happens. When we don’t, it doesn’t.
Get your kids to bed on time. If you have had young children, you can probably relate to the many struggles parents face trying to get their kids to go to bed. Kids need sleep and your marriage needs time every day.
Set some boundaries with your kids. Too often parents focus too much on being parents and let their marriage relationship slide. Your spouse needs your attention just as much as your children.
When you finally get some alone time with your spouse, be alone with your spouse. Don’t multi-task, fold laundry, play on your phone or work on some other parent responsibility during your couple time.
I love children. As a father, much of my greatest joy, satisfaction and meaning in life comes from my role as a father. Fulfilling that role is a responsibility I take very seriously, as I am sure most of you do as well. I am not suggesting that any parent neglect his/her responsibilities as parents. However, you need to be intentional with your marriage, or you run the risk of losing it to your parenting.