Graduation Day : How To Guard Your Marriage From An Empty Nest Disaster

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It’s graduation time for kids across the country. All of their hard work (or lack thereof) to get through school and move one step closer to being out on their own. If you’re a parent of a student you know that there is a lot of hard work involved, along with a lot of sacrifice on the part of the parents to help our kids be prepared for life after school. As parents a lot of our time and energy is spent helping our kids to get through school the best they can, with the hope that they’ll be fully equipped for adulthood. While our kids may be as ready as they’ll ever be, it’s up to parents to be ready for an empty nest. But as graduation day approaches, many parents aren’t ready for a life without kids in the house.

There’s no denying that kids can and should take up a good amount of our attention. The problem couples face is giving so much attention that the world begins to revolve around our children. It gets to the point that the only thing a couple has in common is their children. When the kids grow up and move out, couples find themselves not knowing each other anymore or worse, seeing the only thing they truly care about move away.

The divorce rate for empty nest couples has grown considerably in recent years. A 2012 study “The Grey Divorce Revolution” by researchers at Bowling Green University showed some pretty sobering facts. Using census data from 1990 to 2009 they found that in 1990 the divorce rate for individuals over age 50 was less than 1 in 10. Twenty years later that number had jumped to more than 1 in 4. How in the world could the divorce rate climb so high in such a short time? The short answer is that while parenting became a higher priority, communication was at an all time low. So what can a couple do? First, we may need to reevaluate our priorities.

God first. There are many reasons for going this route. Contrary to popular belief, the divorce rate for Christian couples is far lower than 50%. Several new studies support the fact that the divorce rate among practicing Christian couples (not the Sunday Christian types) is 20% or even lower. Some studies claim as low as a ten percent divorce rate. It’s not about going to church, it’s about obeying, trusting and welcoming God into our homes on a daily basis and sharing our faith with our kids.

Second is our spouse. One of the best gifts we can give our children is to love our spouse. When we take care of our marriage, we provide a safe and happier home for our kids to grow up in. We teach them what to expect from a marriage, how to work as a team, how to respect authority and so much more. While couples meet each others needs, our children’s needs are met as a by-product. Security, respect, affection – see how it works? Loving our spouse not only makes our home a much happier place for the married couple but for the children who live under the same roof.

Last but not least, the kids. Be involved, just not overly involved. Sports and other activities are great for kids but over emphasis on activities outside the home sap too much time and energy from the things that really matter. Time that could be possibly better spent doing things as a family, rather than chauffeurs and spectators. Take your kids out on a “date night” or do a project with them. The time spent on focused activity with children produce real benefits that they can carry with them into adulthood.

Much like preparing for graduation where the years of hard work finally pay off, couples need to commit to work on their marriage before it’s too late. Ask yourself, if you’re not willing to put in the time and effort now how can you expect to start after the kids have moved away. Even with a busy schedule couples can start good habits. Turning off the TV, listening to each other, trying new things together or finding activities that both spouses enjoy doing together. These are small steps that pay huge returns later in life.

Never stop getting to know your spouse, never forget why you fell in love, never stop being one flesh. Putting forth the effort to strengthen your marriage today means you’ll both be ready for graduation day and beyond.

femaleIt is so sad to me to hear these statistics yet I see why it is climbing when I see how families are and where their emphasis is focused.  While I am all about spending time with our kids and providing them everything they need both physically, emotionally as well as spiritually, I understand there has to be a balance.  The problem is we feel bad “balancing” our priorities.  Pinterest, Facebook and media in general make us moms feel like we have to measure up to other moms.  We have this idea that we need to have all the different sensory activities for our toddler while doing the best science experiment with our older child then ending the day making the perfect dinner with the healthiest ingredients, making sure it is kid friendly. Not to mention feeling like the worlds worst mom because your latest Pinterest creation turned out nothing like the picture and you didn’t notice that your son wore the same pair of pants to school two days in a row. I could go on and on but I think you get the picture.

While all of those things are great, if we are not careful, we can be so focused on measuring up to the parent next door and making sure you are the “fun” mom to your kids that our husbands are left in the dust.  In all of that stuff, where does your husband fit in to the picture.  How concerned are you that your husbands needs are being met?  The world has things so twisted that no wonder couples are splitting up when their kids leave.  It is our job, ladies, to make sure we do not get so caught up in life that we forget to spend time focusing on the person you chose to spend the rest of your life with.  If you feel stressed and overwhelmed try spending time with the love of your life, focused completely on him and how much you love him and are crazy about him.  Do that and watch the stress level drop.  Make every effort to be the wife God created you to be.  Put at least the same amount of effort in that as your do trying to be everything else, but try to do more.  Balance is the word, when you put things in order it all just seems to fall in place. ~ Jenn

Male_symbolMy parents divorced after my youngest brother moved out of their house. By then I had been on my own for a few years, so their divorce didn’t affect me like it might have had I been a child living at home.  What did affect me was growing up in a house where there was a disconnect.  The older I got the more noticeable that distance was.  They got along and even had fun at times but they lived in totally different worlds.  And in the end my parents marriage wasn’t functioning well enough for long enough for them to see any reason to stay together.  The fact that they had waited for my brothers and I to grow up and move away is almost beside the point.  Growing up we watched them, we learned about marriage by the example they had set.  It wasn’t until I met Jenn’s family that I saw an example of what a marriage really could and should be.  That is what I wanted my marriage to look like, so I set out to do my part in making that type of marriage a reality.

Many people grow up like I did in what you would consider an average everyday home.  The problem is that the average home isn’t setting the right example.  If they were, divorce, infidelity and worse wouldn’t be at the levels we see today.  It takes a lot of discipline, honesty, forgiveness and the willingness to communicate effectively to start a marriage in the right direction.  But if both partners are willing to commit to the work involved, the end result will be more than worth the effort.  ~ Jake

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