We dated for five months, were engaged for nearly 18 months, and were married for nine months when learned that baby number one was on the way. We were 22 years old. That same baby turned 21 this month, and son number two turns 20 this year. Jess and I have spent half of our lives raising these boys. Over the past couple of years as they have become more independent, even though they still live with us, Jess and I have been getting reacquainted in the best ways. We are not the same people we married and that’s as it should be. It’s been fun as well as challenging. Here is how we got here, and what we are doing now as nearly empty nesters.
End of Homeschooling
- Son #1 had enough credits to graduate high school at 16. At his choice we graduated him and he then went to community college and had his Associates degree by 18. Now married and they are living with us.
- Son #2 graduated at age level and preferred the interaction at public school. Still going to community college and living at home.
- Our empty nesting has been more transitional. It’s not done because they still need to live wit us, but they are all pretty independent.
- There hasn’t been an abrupt change, but it has allowed us a gradual transition which has been great.
- Discovering new interests together.
- Date nights are important, but the date night should serve you as a couple, but you don’t serve the date night. It can become another legalistic expectation.
- Ours vary because Jess is a pumpkin, meaning she goes to bed early for various reasons.
- Currently one of them is to be on the couch to watch This Is Us.
- Some days start off with an energetic plan to go to a movie in the evening, but by the time it comes we can both be too tired.
- Don’t put your hope in the magic of date night. The answer isn’t eternal, its internal.
- Sometimes we do have magical date nights, we just have to accommodate for them.
Working with life, not against it
- Jess has some chronic health issues that make what many people would expect to be a night on the town out late, more of a challenge.
- If you aren’t on the same page when it comes to going out and filling your love tank, you need to put the other person first and seek to fill the other person’s tank with no expectations. Each person needs to do that. Love selflessly.
Rediscovering and creating new common interests
- Over the time of raising kids and having jobs, you can lose track of common interests, or even lose interest in what you used to be interested in.
- You have to want to find these things, not just do it out of obligation. You’re lives are changing, you have to change with it.
- It was frustrating at first putting the expectation on ourselves of having to find things to do together. Don’t let those moments define your relationship. Keep things in perspective. Sometimes you are on the same rhythm, sometimes not.
- Tried to be artisan bread bakers, needed something to do that wasn’t church because church had taken care of our lives.
- The pattern that evolved was, “Let’s try this! Oh, it’s just too much work. Next!”
- Sometimes you have to chose to like things you wouldn’t ordinarily like. It’s called, “loving generously.”
- Tip for guys for liking things that are not inherently manly; find an element in them you do like and hang on to that. For me, I like good stories, and Jane Austen writes good stores and they make good movies based on her books with good actors which I also like.
- Sometimes you have to call something bigger than what it is to make it more fun. We go on “adventures.”
- We did what we call “coffee walks” which are going to locally owned and run coffee shops, get a coffee, and go for a walk on a close-by trail or cool place.
Having the right mindset
- More than deciding what form it’s going to take, it’s more about having an attitude of rediscovering your spouse in this time period. It’s a positive thing as opposed to thinking, “Oh my goodness, who is this person? I don’t think I actually like them anymore.” It’s along the lines of the “think on these things” from Philippians 4.
- You can pour your whole lives into something good, like your kids or your work to provide for your family, and then turn to your spouse and think, “I don’t know who you are, and I don’t think I like who you are.”
- If you have invested in something that has been your own apart from work and family, and now you are in this phase, that thing now needs to take a back seat so that you can invest more in your marriage. Remember, you, your spouse, and God are all one together. It’s time to rebuild that in this new phase of life.
- It would be very interesting to go through a “getting ready for marriage” resources (see below) at this stage of life to see where you are at now.
- On a recent date we learned some new things about each other because we are now at a place where we can process old experiences through new lenses of life. It’s like watching a movie as an adult that you knew as a child and seeing things you never saw before.
- Think of you as yourself. You know yourself. You know how much there is to you that no one else really knows. Why would you short change someone else and assume that you’ve discovered everything there is to discover about them, when they are as multifaceted and varied as you?
- “Whose kingdom are you building?”
- Try and take adventures.
- Work within your limitations but don’t see them as limitations.
- Actively look for ways to come together, instead of ways to just build yourself. Be creative, or get help being creative.
- “I don’t know if I’ll like it.” Try it anyway!
- It’s not about you, individual, it’s about you two being one.