How can you make the second half of your marriage better than the first?
That question looms large in my mind as Anita and I celebrated our 30th anniversary on December 8. Loosely defined, the second half of marriage comes when your kids have left (or almost left) home; it may also be marked by decisions a couple is making about their parent's health and lifestyle.
We've got both.
I found a great resource to help begin charting this journey: David and Claudia Arp's wonderful book "The Second Half of Marriage". In their own words, here are the first four (of eight) strategies that will help every long-term couple make the most of their marriage:
- Let go of past marital disappointments, forgive each other and commit to making the rest of your marriage the best. Are you willing to let go of unmet expectations and unrealistic dreams? Or your mate's little irritating habits that don't seem to be disappearing? Giving up lost dreams and overlooking each other's imperfections are positive steps toward forgiving past hurts and moving on in your marriage.
- Create a marriage that is partner-focused rather than child-focused. The tendency, once the kids leave, is to focus on new activities rather than on each other, but these activities can keep you from crafting a more intimate relationship. Try to focus more time and attention on your spouse.
- Maintain effective communication that allows you to express your deepest feelings, joys and concerns. Sometimes what worked when the kids were home doesn't work as well now that the kids are gone. After all, you always had the children to talk about. Now that it's just the two of you, you might need to upgrade your communication skills.
- Use anger and conflict creatively to build your relationship. With the kids gone, many couples find that issues they assumed were resolved resurface. Certain negative patterns of interaction that developed over the years can be deadly for an empty-nest marriage. Learn how to deal with issues and process anger in ways that build your relationship.
Tomorrow, the other four strategies from "The Second Half of Marriage", as well as some other resources and ideas.