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It’s just the two of you again and it’s time to renew your relationship. You can reconnect and reclaim that same spark, excitement, and creativity you experienced before you had kids through ten innovative, fun dates guaranteed to spice up your marriage. Specially ...
It’s just the two of you again and it’s time to renew your relationship. You can reconnect and reclaim that same spark, excitement, and creativity you experienced before you had kids through ten innovative, fun dates guaranteed to spice up your marriage. Specially crafted for empty-nesters, these dates are based on marriage-enriching themes, such as
• Becoming a couple again
• Rediscovering intimate talk
• Revitalizing your love life
• Growing together spiritually
• Relating to adult children
• Becoming best friends
10 Great Dates for Empty Nesters will fill your empty nest with fun, friendship, and romance. It is refreshing to read a book about marriage written by people who don’t just believe in marriage but actually understand how it works.
—John Gray, Author, Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
A few weeks into our empty nest, Domino's Pizza called to see if we were okay-we hadn't ordered pizza for several weeks, and they were concerned. We assured them we were just fine. As new empty nesters we were overdosing on lima beans, brussels sprouts, and broccoli-all the vegetables our youngest son hated. Now that he was gone, our menu choices were ours again, and for the immediate future, pizza wasn't one of them.
A change in menus wasn't the only change in our lives that fall. No longer was the Arp house rocketed by the latest adolescent crisis. We resigned our jobs as air traffic controllers coordinating a hundred different teenage schedules. SATs and ACTs were things of the past. No more praying our teens safely home late at night. The kids and all their friends who frequented our home were gone. It was quiet. But at times it seemed a bit too quiet.
When the kids leave home, they take with them their energy, vitality, and enthusiasm for life. Homes that were previously a five-ring circus are suddenly quiet and empty. Many new empty nesters don't know how to handle all the silence. One friend told us that the scariest thing about the empty nest was that they not only had time to start an argument, but they also had time to finish it. No wonder many feel disoriented when the kids leave home. It's almost as though you are starting a new marriage.
On the positive side, some new empty nesters tell us they love being just two again. It's like a second honeymoon. We believe the empty nest stage of marriage can keep getting better and better-if you work at it.
EMPTY NEST FIRST AID TIPS
The empty nest is one of those transitional times in life that offers an opportunity to make changes in your relationship that can improve your future together. At first we stumbled, but we learned. So here's our advice on how to get off to a good start in the empty nest.
Get Some Rest
Face it, you're exhausted, so our first suggestion is to slow down and get some rest. It's okay to go to bed tonight at 8 p.m. Give yourself permission to not be so productive for a few days. It's time to regroup, and to do that, you need to be rested. Now is not the time to decide to remodel the kitchen or shop for a new house. Take some time to settle in and renew your stamina.
Resist Filling Up Your Time
Kids do leave a void when they fly the coop. Avoid immediately filling up the time and space they vacated. Trust us. You'll be first on everyone's list for volunteers, from heading up the community garage sale to working in the newborn nursery at your place of worship. Unfortunately, we immediately filled our schedule with new book deadlines, and we accepted too many out-of-town speaking engagements. Before we knew it, we were irritable and just as emotionally drained as when we had three teenagers in our home. So our best and now sage advice is to be slow in accepting new responsibilities.
Make No Immediate Changes
Until you gain perspective, don't make any major changes. We often observe that those who reach the empty nest and are dissatisfied with their marriage relationship begin to look around for other options. Because change can be stressful and because they are unsure about the future, some spouses bolt out of the marriage at Mach speed only to regret their hasty departure. Others decide to immediately change jobs, relocate, put their house on the market, or make other major changes. While things are changing, you can and will change with them, but take it slowly. First, get perspective.
Acknowledge That This Is a Time of Transition
Say to each other, "This is a big time of transition for us right now and that's okay." Transitional times can bring out insecurities that fester just below the surface. He may be wondering if she will stay in the marriage now that the kids are grown. She may be wondering if he will find someone younger, cuter, and more sexy. She may be thinking, Just who am I now that my kids are grown? Who do I want to be when I grow up? Do I want to go back to school? Start a business? He might be considering, Have I gone as far up the ladder in my career as I want to or can go? What do I want to do with the rest of my life? Acknowledging that this is a major transition doesn't mean you have to figure everything out right now, but by talking about it, you will be better able to manage the changes up ahead.
One great thing about transitional times in life is that they offer us the opportunity to redefine ourselves and our marriage. So look at the transition into the empty nest as a great opportunity to take back your marriage and together decide where you want it to go in the future.
Don't Fear the Silence
Your newly acquired peace and quiet may be awkward at first. One wife told us, "It's weird. We're sitting in our kitchen at a table meant for four and there are only two of us. So much of our conversations were focused on the kids. I look at my husband and wonder who he is. What are his passions? I don't have a clue."
If you find the silence awkward, realize it's typical for this transition and that it's okay. Remember the times when you longed for some peace and quiet? Dig out that book you've been intending to read. Sit down in your favorite chair, put your feet up and read. In the weeks ahead you can reinforce your marriage and you can rediscover intimate talk. As you experience your 10 Great Dates you'll discover fun things to do together and interesting topics to talk about. And you will have the opportunity to upgrade your communication skills. So if it's a little quiet at your home right now, don't worry, just enjoy it.
Congratulations! You've made it to the empty nest, and it's time to celebrate. Have you seen the television commercial where Mom and Dad are saying good-bye to their son who is leaving for college? "Don't you worry about us," they say. "We'll survive." The son drives off, and the parents begin to celebrate by immediately starting to redecorate their son's room. In the midst of their celebration their son returns to pick up something he forgot and finds his parents more than "surviving"!
Maybe you don't share this couple's exuberance. It could be that you feel mildly depressed, unsettled, and restless. Instead of celebrating, you are grieving or mourning the loss of your parenting role. Let us assure you that it's not uncommon to feel a sense of loss and/or regret at this time, but you can counter those feelings by recognizing and accepting them. Even in the midst of relinquishing the parenting role, you can acknowledge where you have come from and where you want your relationship to go in the future. That's your first dating assignment.
TAKING BACK OUR MARRIAGE
As we said earlier, instead of celebrating our empty nest and taking time to regroup, we jumped into our fall schedule with all the gusto we could muster. For years we had waited until our kids left home to begin to travel and lead our Marriage Alive seminars nationally. So after dropping our last son off at college, we immediately hit the airport gates as if we were in a horse race! We were out there week after week helping other couples while our own relationship was suffering from stress and overload. Our empty nest wasn't getting off to a very good start.
One morning at breakfast, looking at each other with bloodshot eyes over two cups of coffee, I (Dave) confronted Claudia. "This isn't working. Look at us. We're exhausted. We're snapping at each other. We're just trying to do too much. Here we are new empty nesters and we're just as tired and exhausted as when we had three teenagers in the house!"
"Hey, don't blame me." Claudia said. "You're the one who agreed to this next seminar."
When we stopped blaming each other for our overload, we agreed that something had to give-and we didn't want it to be our marriage. We knew we needed some time away to sort things out.
For years we had talked about taking an empty nest trip to New England. That morning we decided to just do it. The seminar we were leading the next weekend was in the Washington, D.C., area.
After the seminar, we headed north to Camden, Maine. Getting away as a couple was not a new experience for us. Over the years, we had taken little getaways, telling our sons it was for their own good. After all, we were so much nicer when we returned. But this was different. We didn't have to worry about things at home. We were free to concentrate on us, and it felt very good.
For the first couple of days, we slept. Then we took long walks together along the coast. The cool, brisk wind and misty spray from the waves energized us as we walked along the rocky paths.
Away from all responsibilities and with no one else around, we began to enjoy being together. We talked about our relationship. We knew we needed to reconnect as a couple, redefine our relationship, and let go of some of our unrealistic dreams. We simply couldn't do all the things we had planned to do when the children grew up-to be honest, we didn't have the energy.
As we walked and talked, Dave pulled out a card and pen and gave his typical suggestion, "Let's make a list." We're great list makers. It helps us to focus. And on that day as we took a hard look at our marriage, we made two lists. One we labeled "The Best"; the other, "The Worst."
"Okay, what do we have going for us?" Claudia asked. The following is a summary of what made our lists.
We survived three teenage sons.
We like each other.
We laugh together.
We're best friends.
We trust each other.
We share a common faith and values.
We communicate well-most of the time.
We're committed to our marriage.
We work through our problems and forgive each other.
Next we talked about what were our liabilities. As we faced the empty nest, what were the negatives in our relationship that would definitely make our "the worst" list? The first thing we both thought of was "time pressures." We simply didn't have enough hours in each day to do all the things we wanted to do. But then we realized that lack of time was just a symptom. The real liability was our tendency to overcommit ourselves, to procrastinate, and to say "yes" when we should say "no."
Another liability was the emotional drain of parenting three adolescents and letting them go. We had worked hard at preparing our sons for adulthood, but now we needed to release them emotionally and invest some of that emotional energy back into our marriage.
Other liabilities were lack of planning, health issues (like our backs that were telling us to slow down and treat them with more respect), unrealistic expectations, misplaced priorities, and lack of focus. So, our "The Worst" list looked like this:
We can't say no.
We are emotionally drained.
We don't pay enough attention to our health.
We have some unrealistic expectations.
We misplace our priorities.
We don't focus.
Up to this point, our marriage had been good but not perfect. Like most marriages ours had daily challenges and struggles. Still, we classified our marriage as a growing marriage-that is, we were both committed to making our marriage better day by day. But we knew that if we wanted to experience positive growth in the upcoming empty nest years, we couldn't coast.
That evening we ate dinner on the pier. The warmth of the open fireplace took the chill off the night air, and the candle on our table burned low as we continued to talk about us and our marriage. We renewed our commitment to each other and officially celebrated our empty nest. From that point on, our New England getaway became a "great date" as we dreamed together about our future.
DREAM, DREAM, DREAM
Dreams are our roadmap for life. That night out on the pier we initiated our "dreaming together" process by talking about our early years, our past dreams and expectations. Which ones had been fulfilled? We were living out one of those dreams-our empty nest trip to celebrate launching our three sons into adulthood. When we were first married we dreamed of working together someday and now we do. We lead seminars together; we write together, we even have an office together with desks that face each other. We had dreamed of having children, and we have three sons. We had dreamed of spending the rest of our lives together and we were definitely on track. We had dreamed of traveling together, and after living in Germany and Austria for several years plus taking lots of family vacations, we had done more than our share of traveling and seeing the world together!
But we also had dreams that were unrealistic. We had to admit that some things we had hoped to do by now were not going to happen. Ever. And that realistically we couldn't do all those things we put off to do when the children grew up. We actually made a list of dreams we would never fulfill, or things we would never do or do again, as well as things that just would not change. For us making this list was an important step in letting go of unrealistic dreams and expectations and in getting on with our future. On our list were:
Things We'll Never Do or Do Again or That Will Not Change
We will never have a daughter. Our nuclear family will always be four guys and a gal. (However, we think our three granddaughters more than compensate for this!)
We'll never move back to Austria. We had planned to move back once our sons were in college, but probably never will.
We will never launch a marriage education magazine, an old dream of Claudia's.
We will forever have to work to stay in good health. If we ignore our backs, they will let us know it.
We cannot skip exercise for long periods without experiencing pain (it hurts to even think about it!).
We'll never be competitive in tennis or ski down another black-diamond ski slope.
Claudia probably will always have vertical stacks on the top of her desk and Dave will continue to be the obsessive neatnik.
We can't change our basic personalities. While we can modify our behavior, we really aren't going to turn into different people. Dave will always be laid-back and easygoing; Claudia will always want to be "on the go."
Some of our individual dreams we also had to let go. Claudia will never be a "fashion designer" or the "interior decorator" that she dreamed of being in her youth, and Dave will never be a "financial planner"-a dream he had for a number of years.
Excerpted from 10 Great Dates for Empty Nesters by David Arp Claudia Arp Copyright © 2004 by David and Claudia Arp. Excerpted by permission.
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Posted June 22, 2014