You’ve spent several hundred thousand dollars on your kids the last 20-30 years, consumed decades of time invested with your kids and now the house is empty, the car has a full tank of gas, the checkbook is starting to grow again, the house remains clean, and the refrigerator full. So what do you do, now that your precious children have left the nest? CELEBRATE! Mourn? Mope! Wander aimlessly? Rejoice! Renew your vision?
BUILD UP YOUR MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP
Read 10 Great Dates for Empty Nesters by David and Claudia Arp. This book provides 10 different date experiences that will help you re-connect with your spouse and prepare for the last half or your marriage. You can’t just read it though, you actually have to go on the dates and discuss the topics with your spouse.
Complete a Couple Checkup. Go to www.couplecheckup.com where you and your spouse will separately complete an online inventory that will provide you with a report and feedback which will give you some direction about the areas in your relationship that you need to work on.
Pray together. Prayer is an awesome privilege and a wonderful way for couples to connect with God and each other.
Read the Bible together. I called my parents one morning a few years ago and asked them what they were doing only to discover that they were reading the Bible together. I don’t remember seeing them do that when I was at home but it is a blessing to see them putting this discipline into practice.
Get away on a weekend trip. Spend time reflecting on the first half of your marriage and then spend some time discussing and dreaming about how you will finish the second half of your marriage. It’s important to re-dream the dream so that you continue to grow closer to your spouse and nurture a marriage that will continue to stand the test of time.
Establish a weekly date experience. Remember the days where you went to the ends of the earth to woo your spouse. It’s a worthwhile venture to do the things you did at first and rekindle that first love.
Discover a hobby or activity that you can enjoy together. Whether it’s walking together, fishing together, traveling together, or something else, it’s important to find some things that you both enjoy doing together. Go buy a Wii gaming system and learn how to be a kid all over again.
Turn off the TV and talk. Learn to talk again if it’s been a while since you have had some meaningful conversation. Although it may be nice that the TV relaxes you and it doesn’t talk back or hound you. A relationship with the TV or your favorite show pales in comparison to nurturing a relationship with your spouse.
NURTURE OTHER RELATIONSHIPS INSIDE THE CHURCH
Nurture couple relationships. My parents have for years played cards with other couples and it’s still something they do with other couples their age. My in-laws eat out once a week with other couples from their Sunday school class.
Nurture same gender relationships. It’s important to develop some relationships with peers that will foster deep friendships. My father-in-law was a part of the ROMEO club for awhile (Retired Old Men Eating Out). Don’t just meet to eat. Use it as an opportunity to sharpen one another (Proverbs 27:17).
Start a marriage mentoring ministry in your church. You’ve weathered many storms in life and you have a lot to offer younger couples. If you need help, then check out Marriage Mentoring by Les and Leslie Parrott.
Serve together at your church. You have the potential to continue making a great impact for the kingdom by serving through the ministries in your local church. Don’t give up helping some areas just because your kids are not there. Look for ways to use your gifts that will build up the body of Christ. Get plugged into a couple’s Sunday school class at your church where you can grow and have fellowship with other couples in this same stage of life.
INVEST IN ADDITIONAL RELATIONSHIPS OUTSIDE THE CHURCH
Be on Mission. Look for opportunities to regularly be involved in missions in your community, state, nation, and world. This can entail helping an elderly widow in your church, working in a local mission’s center, or it can even involve taking a mission trip with your church. Utilize your gifts and passions to help fulfill the Great Commission.
Read From Success to Significance by Lloyd Reeb. God’s not finished with you yet just because you have raised your children and they are out of the house. He wants to continue using you to make an impact with the second half of your life. Don’t check out. Check in and look for opportunities to influence the next generation.
Memorize Psalm 71:17-18 and ask God how He wants you to put these verses into practice during your second half of life.
Share your faith. It’s been fun watching my dad joyfully share his faith in his second half of life. Some have even said he was too evangelistic. I hope and pray that people make comments about me like that in later years. What do you want people to say about you in your second half?
I lead marriage enrichment experiences all around Arkansas but one particular retreat stands out. I led a marriage retreat for one particular church and had a wonderful time Friday evening and Saturday morning. I asked couples to complete an evaluation and shortly one table motioned me over. They commented that they enjoyed everything I had to say, BUT. What did I do wrong? What had I said? Many thoughts flooded my mind in five seconds. Here was their answer, “We’ve been married so long that if we were to change anything right now, then we might really mess things up.” While it may be true regarding some things, the empty nest forces some changes upon you that you must adapt to or you will struggle. Whether you’ve reached the empty nest on marriage fumes or a blazing fire it’s important to Build, Nurture, and Invest in a variety of relationships that will change you, encourage you, and challenge you to finish well.
Ben has about another 15 years to go before reaching the empty nest and is always interested in learning from couples who are a little further down the road in the marriage journey. He serves on the Evangelism and Church Health Team and leads a variety of marriage enrichment experiences in churches around the state. Ben can be reached at 501.376.4791 ext. 5222 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.