My husband and I were chatting about our kids and he said, “We need to start thinking about saving for college.” College? What in the world would we need to be thinking about college for? I thought to myself. Then he said, “You know our oldest will be out of the house in about five years.”
My entire body tensed up. Five years! And then it dawned on me, in eight years, assuming that all goes well and smoothly with our children’s schooling, my husband and I will be empty-nesters. Eight years is a blip on the radar of the years in a lifetime. Those eight years will fly by. We will blink and our children will be asking about whether it is acceptable to eat Ramen noodles seven days a week.
In another conversation with a friend who is in a similar life stage, she said, “When our kids leave, I just hope my husband and I have something to talk about!” I think her sentiment is one many in our middle years begin to wonder. What will happen to our marriage when the kids leave? Will my spouse be a stranger to me? Will we have anything to talk about now that we aren’t running errands for the kids?
Although the thought of my kids leaving in such a short period of time always throws me off, my husband and I have been preparing for that day from the moment we brought our firstborn home from the hospital. We don’t do this (or anything) perfectly but here are three ways we are preparing for that empty-nester stage of life.
1. Talk about Life, Not Just Kids.
Our kids are a major part of our lives. God has entrusted them to us. So to say that they aren’t part of the center of our lives would not only be a mistake, it would be a lie. They are our family and we love spending time with them and giving them our attention. We imagine that this won’t change when they are out of our home.
With that said, our kids aren’t the only people and subjects that are important to us. They take priority, but they do not take all of our attention. My husband and I have jobs, a church family, parents, sisters, cousins, and a community. We have a life outside of our kids and plenty to speak and share about and involve ourselves with that doesn’t include our little people as a central theme. When we go on dates or take walks, you bet we will likely talk about our kids, but that’s not all we talk about. I think this is important for maintaining a friendship with my spouse. I want to share everything with him, not only our children.
2. Find Your Thing.
Physical intimacy is “our thing.” That is something that makes our relationship unique and special. It sets apart us from every other relationship we have. Yet there are other things that we do consistently that we can share with others but is special for us. One thing is simply taking walks together. We do this almost every night. We rarely miss this time together. We will at times walk as a family but our kids are often ahead of us on bikes or skateboards. It is a special time for us to catch up on our day and enjoy one another. It’s also something we can do with each other, Lord willing, for the rest of our lives—and if not that, we can sit and talk. Find something that you can consider “your thing” whether like us it’s physical intimacy and walking or board games and date nights.
3. Remember the Lord.
One way that helps my husband and I rest as we think about our future home is to remember that only God is sovereign. Only God knows the future. We can make all the plans in the world but it is the Lord who enables plans (Proverbs 19:21). We don’t even know what this evening will look like, which helps us trust Him for tomorrow (Matthew 6:34).
When it comes to our kids, our marriages, and the future, I can confidently say that these Scriptures are easier, at times, for me to type here than they are to believe. Every day I have to ask the Lord to help me believe what His word says. And every day that gets a little closer to that time when we will have to send our kids off, I sense God helping me to believe. He really does have grace available to us. What a good God!
However you prepare, go ahead and get ready now. Your marriage and friendship with your spouse are worth preserving. God doesn’t promise to make our lives smooth and easy, but He does promise to give us the grace to endure and wisdom if we ask. Let’s lean on him for wisdom for our marriages as we enter every season.