The day our children finally leave home for a life on their own, it’s what we worked toward and dream of as a couple for many years. Or is it? In recent years statistics have shown an alarming increase in divorces of couples over the age of 50. According to experts, the trigger that is most often responsible for failed marriages at this point in life, is the children leaving home for a life on their own, leaving their parents with only each other for company.
At this point, many couples discover that they have drifted apart and have little in common with each other except their children, who are now gone, they were both focusing all their attention on raising. As a result, they often failed to deal with issues that were effecting the marriage, frequently sweeping them under the rug in an effort to “keep the peace.” Many simply worked to keep the family together for the sake of the children. Solely focusing on raising their children and ignoring the health of their marriage, many couples soon discover they have nothing in common, and that their children were the glue that was holding them together. They find that they have come to see each other as mom and dad, and not as husband and wife, and romantic partners.
What are the signs to look for?
The biggest sign that your marriage is headed for trouble once the children leave, is the withdrawal of one or both spouses from the relationship. Instead of doing things together and having friends in common, you develop separate interests, hobbies, and friends, and only come together for the benefit of the children. Examine your daily routine and look for activities you do with your spouse that do not include your children, or benefit them. The less one on one time you and your spouse spend together, the more your marriage may be in danger when your children eventually leave home.
If the signs are there, what now?
One word, RECONNECT…. You drifted apart because you shifted the focus on your marriage to your children. It time to shift it back to your marriage. Doing this will require you to become selfish about getting quality time with your spouse. I say selfish, because children will take all your time and attention if you let them. Stopping this will mean setting aside one on one time with your spouse on a daily basis and not allowing your children to take it from you. Though they may not like it initially, your marriage will benefit and you will be setting a good example by putting your marriage first. Below are several steps to take to strengthen your marriage so that when your children leave home, you’ll be looking for forward to all the extra time you have available to spend with your spouse.
Be intentional about your marriage. Good marriages don’t happen accidently, they take work and a daily investment of your time. See my post on An Intentional Marriage.
Date your spouse. Your marriage with your spouse was born from a dating relationship with them. It was through that relationship that you became close and learned to love them, and learned all about them. To maintain your relationship after marriage, and grow even closer, continuing to date your spouse and daily one on one quality time is a must.
God, Spouse, Children, Everything else. Like it or not, and many women won’t like it, your spouse, and your marriage, come before your children.
Be the spouse you would want to be married to. If many of us were totally honest with ourselves, we’d have to admit that we would not want to be our spouse, due to the way we act or the bad habits we have. Examine yourself, and work on changing things about yourself that you know are contributing to, or causing issues in your marriage. See my post Being the spouse you’d want to be married to.
Communicate about everything. Bad communication is almost always found at the center of most broken marriages. Make it a point to talk to your spouse daily about your feelings, goals, desires, fears, etc. The more you talk and feel comfortable talking to each other, the closer you will grow to each other.
For more marriage builders, read Five tips to a better marriage.