Articles for Married Couples

Everything listed under: empty nest

  • Post Featured Image

    5 Ways to Help Prevent Gray Divorce

    If you are 50 or older and have been married for 30 years or more, the latest headlines might have you wondering if your marriage is in trouble and you don’t even know it.

    Articles from Pew Research Center, the Wall Street Journal and other publications with titles like, Led by Baby Boomers, Divorce Rates Climb for America’s 50+ Population, and The Divorce Rate is at a 40-Year-Low, Unless You’re 55 or Older, seem to be painting a grim picture. Should people be worried?

    Professors Naomi Cahn at the George Washington University Law School and June Carbone at the University of Minnesota Law School, looked at the latest research on this topic. They say the divorce rate is still not all that high for those over the age of 50. 

    In 1990, five out of every 1,000 married people divorced. In 2010, 10 out of every 1,000 married people divorced. Although the rate has risen more dramatically for those over the age of 50, Cahn and Carbone say it is still half the rate of those younger than 50.

    One might older couples are divorcing because children have finally left the nest or that people are living longer and just getting bored in marriage. That doesn’t appear to be the case, however.

    According to research from the National Center for Family and Marriage at Bowling Green State University:

    • Couples who own property together and couples with over $250,000 in assets were less likely to divorce.
    • Couples married 40 years or more were the least likely to end up divorced.
    • Gray divorce was almost three times higher for remarried couples compared to first-time married couples.

    While property, wealth and the absence of previous marriage may be protective factors, couples can do other things to help their marriage last.

    • Friendship matters. No matter how many years you have been married, continue to grow the friendship between the two of you.
    • Be nice. People often are nicer to those on the outside than the ones they say they care about most. Pay attention to how you treat the one you love.
    • Seek to navigate the tough times together. A job loss, death of a parent or some other transition can be really hard. Instead of trying to navigate it on your own, talking about what you need during a rough patch can help your spouse know the most helpful ways to offer support.
    • Be adventurous. When you’ve been together a long time, it’s easy to find yourselves in a comfortable, yet unfulfilling rut. Look for opportunities to do something out of the ordinary.
    • Keep the conversations going. Some people who have been married for decades complete each other’s sentences and know what the other needs without having to ask. Plenty of research indicates that long-term, happily-married couples know that part of the “happily-married” secret is to keep talking about a variety of topics that interest them.

    It is true that more people are throwing in the towel on marriage later in life. However, those who understand that just because you have traveled the road for a long time doesn’t mean you can put it on cruise control or take your hands off the wheel are much more likely to reach the end of their journey together.

    This article was originally published in the Chattanooga Times Free Press on July 5, 2019.


  • Post Featured Image

    A Practical Guide for Empty-Nesters

    You walk through the door after dropping your baby off at college. The silence is deafening. Who knew that one more person could add so much noise to the house?

    Trying to hold back the tears, you wonder what they are up to. Will they miss you? How long will it take them to call? Will they pay attention to a thing you taught them?

    Even if the past few months have been challenging, there is something about an empty nest that jolts you into a new reality. Life will never be the same. Ready or not, the next season of life has arrived.

    Experts say that couples who find themselves “alone again” often find it hard to adjust. For years - schedules, meals, activities - everything - revolved around the kids. This moment in time can feel like an identity crisis, but you never really stop being a parent. You just parent in a different way when they head off to college. Instead of directing, you now move into a supporting role.

    Right now, you may feel like you will never be the parents on television who sadly said goodbye to their college-bound child and then joyfully headed to Disney World.

    Take a deep breath and try some of these suggestions. They might make the transition a bit easier:

    • Acknowledge the change. This time offers you a great opportunity to redefine yourselves and your marriage.

    • Get some rest. Since you aren’t coordinating meals, after-school activities and other things, you can actually go to bed at 8PM if you want. Allow yourself to slow down, settle in and rejuvenate!

    • Allow yourself to grieve. It's common to feel a sense of loss or regret during this time. And, FYI: The empty nest hits men just as hard as women.

    • Resist the temptation to fill up your schedule. While you may feel a huge void in your life, instead of filling up the time and space with new commitments, enjoy your newfound freedom.

    • Ask for help if you need it. If your empty nest marriage is showing signs of withdrawal, alienation or negativity, seek professional counseling. It can help you process all that is going on.

    • Keep your sense of humor. It will definitely help you get through the tough times.

    • Stay connected. Care packages, real cards in the mail, emails and the occasional phone call are great ways to stay connected to your teen without coming across as overbearing, miserable or desperate.

    • Enjoy the silence. Remember the times you would have killed for just five minutes of complete quiet? Instead of fearing the silence, embrace it.

    • Reconnect with your spouse. You can now plan romantic dates, schedule gatherings with friends, take up something new like skydiving; AND, you can even walk around the house naked if you want!

    • Finally, CELEBRATE! 

    Parenting takes a tremendous amount of time and energy. Launching your child into the next phase of life is quite an accomplishment. It is important to acknowledge where you have come from and where you want your relationship to go in the future. This is your time…enjoy!


    Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!


  • Post Featured Image

    10 Resolutions for a Healthy Marriage

    The top 10 resolutions for each new year are often to: lose weight, get organized, spend less/save more, enjoy life to the fullest, stay fit and healthy, learn something exciting, quit smoking, help others in their dreams, fall in love, and spend more time with family.

    These are great goals, but studies show that without accountability, your goals will be out the window in a month. But what if you and your spouse made some fun resolutions to build up your relationship?

    Here are some examples to help you out:

    • Don’t come in and want to “talk” during the Super Bowl unless you want to pick a fight. Instead, schedule time for uninterrupted conversation on a regular basis. Just five minutes a day can make a huge difference in your relationship.

    • If you want to know what's going on in his head, don’t ask your man to share his feelings. Simply ask, “What do you think?” Chances are good you will actually end up knowing how he feels.

    • Eat dinner together. Seriously, taking time away from the television and other technology to eat together enhances communication and connectedness, and that's crucial to a healthy marriage. If you have children, feed them early and plan a late dinner for yourselves.

    • Help your spouse with organization, but remember it’s OK to be spontaneous.

    • Help your spouse be spontaneous, but remember it’s OK to plan. The key to both of these goals is clearly balance. Too much planning or spontaneity can make marriage miserable.

    • If your goal is good health, pay attention to what you eat, get enough rest and exercise regularly. Moderation in eating is important. Take walks together holding hands. Studies show that holding your mate's hand can decrease your blood pressure. Who knows? This exercise could lead to more “fun exercise.”

    • Set goals together no matter what. Decide on one thing you want to accomplish together this year and make plans to see it happen. Doing things as a team throughout the years will help you prepare for becoming empty-nesters.

    • Find ways to encourage your spouse. The truth is, most people know deep down what their weaknesses are, but often have trouble knowing and acknowledging their strengths.

    • Figure out how to live within your means. At the end of life, relationships trump material things.

    • Don’t forget, if you want to have a little fun, you can still embarrass your teenagers by just showing up.

    • Compete with your spouse by learning to out-serve each other. Selfishness comes naturally, but selflessness takes intentional effort.

    If you do the above, you'll probably lose weight, get organized, spend less/save more, enjoy life to the fullest, get healthy, learn something exciting, quit smoking, help others fulfill dreams, fall more in love with your spouse, and spend more time with family. Who knew?

  • Post Featured Image

    Keys to Avoiding Empty Nest Divorce

    Why do some couples embrace the empty nest while others end up in divorce court?

    “There are lots of sides to the empty nest that are complicated,” says psychologist, Dr. Susan Hickman. “Many experience depression, feelings of sadness, anxiety, identity crisis and significant grief. I remember when our daughter loaded up the van and headed to Oregon. I sat on the curb and sobbed - I was inconsolable for several days.”

    There are various responses to the empty nest varies from couple to couple. Women and couples with an only child, however, seem to experience the loss more intensely.

    “A huge part of dealing with the transition to the empty nest comes down to how strongly a person identifies with their parenting role to the exclusion of their own self-identity,” Hickman shares. “When things come to an abrupt end, if all you have done for 18 years is focus on your child’s needs, many parents struggle to remember the kinds of things they enjoyed before children came into the picture.”

    Additionally, it's normal for each person to experience the empty nest with differing emotions within the couple relationship. One person may openly grieve the loss. Others may throw themselves more into work or a project as a distraction. This has created significant conflict in many marriages.

    So what is the key to transitioning to the empty nest with your marriage strong and ready for the next phase of life?

    “First and foremost, avoid focusing on your children’s needs to the exclusion of your own needs and the needs of your marriage,” Hickman says. “Having children does not mean you give up your friends and the best interests of your marriage. When parents put children at the center of their world, they send the message that their children's needs trump everybody else’s needs in this community.”

    When your children are older, you may want to prepare for launching a new career when they launch. There's nothing wrong with taking a class or two, which in turn requires the kids to step up and help with chores and dinner preparation.

    Remember, you are modeling how to do marriage well. If it is always about the children and never about the relationship, what message are you sending your children?

    Anything you don’t cultivate will die. Children demand a lot, but you don’t want to ignore your marriage relationship. It is the foundation for a stable home which research shows children need to thrive. Many parents complain they can’t go anywhere because their children just keep calling them and driving them crazy. Hickman contends that parents train their children how to treat them. Setting clear boundaries and expectations is essential.

    “Preparing for the empty nest starts when your child is born,” Hickman asserts. “Your well-being and the well-being of your marriage are as important as the well-being of your child. Recognizing from the moment you find out you are pregnant that you have 18 years with this child, but you have the rest of your life with your spouse can help you cast a vision for keeping your marriage a priority.”


    Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!


  • Post Featured Image

    The Second Half of Marriage

    When the kids leave the nest and are almost off the payroll, that second half of marriage is within sight. You finally have time to breathe. But suddenly you have questions...

    • What in the heck will we do with the second half of our marriage?
    • How will we handle the challenges of aging parents, crises with the children or unexpected medical issues?
    • What about retirement, finances and the like?

    While some couples look forward to the years ahead, others feel trapped. They're unhappy in a marriage that is less than fulfilling, and they wonder if this is all there is. For them, the idea of the second half is quite scary.

    So... what does a thriving marriage look like in the later years? 

    Gary Chapman and Harold Myra interviewed “second half” couples for their book, Married and Still Loving It: The Joys and Challenges of the Second Half. They found few couples who had escaped the unexpected challenges of life. However, some traits appeared to be significant between marriages that flourish in the second half and those that don’t. Laughter and acceptance, resilience and faith seemed to make the difference.

    Whether the second half is just around the corner or you find yourself dreaming about it, you can prepare for it now. Chapman and Myra quote Swiss psychiatrist Paul Tournier’s book, The Adventure of Living:

    “To make a success of one’s marriage, one must treat it as an adventure, with all the riches and difficulties that are involved in an adventure shared with another person.”

    Even if your marriage is stuck in a rut, you can intentionally turn it into an adventure.

    After years of marriage, it's easy to focus on the differences between you and your spouse. But these differences aren’t necessarily a bad thing. The key is to figure out how to make your differences an asset instead of a liability.

    Chapman writes, “While differences can be deadly, they can also be delightful.” Thriving couples learned to accept their spouse and were even able to laugh about their differences. This goes a long way in finding fulfillment in your marriage.

    What about the kids?

    While many couples have terrific relationships with their adult children, others encounter one crisis after another. Chapman and Myra encourage these parents to maintain a balance between self-preservation and self-sacrifice. Many marriages suffer when they become so focused on helping the children that they lose themselves. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help to overcome these challenges together.

    Despite encountering unexpected job loss, illness, family crises and difficulty adjusting to retirement, thriving second half couples kept putting one foot in front of the other. Their commitment to marriage enabled them to stand together through life’s ups and downs.

    And finally, these thriving couples said their faith was central to it all. That includes working through personality differences and all of the other challenges they have faced.

    Although you might be anxious about what the future holds in the second half of marriage, Chapman and Myra encourage couples to embrace the challenge and to enter this season with great anticipation.


    Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!