I have to admit, I was not really sure what our marriage would look like when we became empty nesters. We had talked about it, we had dreamed about the day but what would really happen when our kids were no longer at home? Would we remember what it was like, just the two of us? Twenty years of hands on parenting and here we were.
The truth is, we didn’t miss a beat! Why? We set up our family around our marriage. Our family started with us and we always knew it would go back to just us, one day. If you know us personally, you know how much we adore our children. They are the sweetest young adults we could have ever imagined. But our lives did not revolve around them.
Date nights have always been important to us. We were fortunate to have lots of family around when our kids were young. They were kind enough to step in and babysit so Rob and I could go out and have some time to ourselves. We took walks almost every night (still do) and just talk about us and what we wanted to do in life. We planned and strategized but we also examined our marriage during this time. We have always aimed to improve our marriage each year, outdoing ourselves from the previous year. Did we fail? Yes, we failed some years but it didn’t stop us from trying!
I’ve heard so many people say, “marriage is 50/50”. I can’t help but laugh. I can’t imagine what that must be like!! You must each give 100% to make it work, not half the effort. Each of you must be invested 100%. You need to set healthy boundaries, create open spaces for judgement free communication. Marriage is about not focusing on how to satisfy yourself but how to satisfy those around you with unconditional, compassionate love. It is difficult. So many relationships begin with an unhealthy pattern of wanting self-satisfaction. This is a challenging road, we need to keep our ego in check. We have situations come up that can easily become very harmful. Listening is the key. Truly listening to what the other has to say. Understand that your partners truth is just as valid as yours. Find a middle ground and move forward in peace.
There is a lot of work to be done in a marriage when you are a parent. Both partners should be contributing to the care of YOUR children. One the most annoying things I hear is women saying is that their spouse is “babysitting” their own child!! It’s not babysitting, it’s called parenting. It doesn’t matter if one of you works or you both work, there is lots to do to get the parenting job done. I was a stay at home mom to a newborn and Rob was working two jobs so I could stay home. He would get up in the middle of the night to feed our babies so I could sleep through the night and be fresh for the next day of caring for our little one. It was the greatest gift he could give me. We discovered early in our marriage that I require more sleep than he does to function. He knew this and offered to do this for us so I could get the rest my body needed.
Meet your partner where they are. You are not their parent you are their lover and partner. Do not make the huge mistake of marrying someone and thinking that you can change something about them. History has shown us over and over again that this will lead to destruction. You will both be miserable. Do not bring your box of expectations into a marriage and expect it to work. It is the number one killer of marriages. Do not expect perfection from your spouse. Your spouse is not a character in a book or movie. He is a real person with feelings and emotions just like you and he has needs too. Your spouse will not just get you. It takes time and work to get there. Expect your spouse to love you, to challenge you and to champion you. Offer them the same in return.
Marriage is not a fairytale but it can be pretty amazing if you put in the work. The couples who make it aren’t the ones never had a reason to fall apart, they are the ones who made the decision early in their relationship that committing to each other would be bigger than any difference or flaw that came their way. We are 23 years into committing to each other and overcoming the differences and flaws. Here’s to many more for us and for you.