February is Valentine’s Month – a time to focus on the wonders of love, romance, and marriage. For obvious reasons, these themes usually conjure up images of young, vibrant, fresh-faced couples who seem ready to conquer the world together. But what about the rest of us? Does Valentine’s Day have any meaning for folks who have been married for several decades, raised a crop of kids, and retired from the rat-race? Is there romance in the era of the “empty nest?”
It’s not unusual for couples at this stage of life to find themselves drifting apart or experiencing confusion about the meaning and purpose of their marriage. If that describes you, we’d like to offer a few suggestions. Here are some things you can do to make the second half of the romantic journey even happier and more fulfilling than the first:
- Develop individual interests. To have a healthy marriage, start with a healthy you. This means finding ways to strengthen your sense of personal identity by cultivating hobbies, volunteering, or getting involved in ministry.
- Forgive and forget. Move beyond past hurts and get on with rest of your life. Let go of the emotions surrounding things that happened a long time ago. It’s simply a matter of choosing to be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1).
- Bring excitement into your relationship by discovering new things together. Healthy husbands and wives know how to spend enjoyable time together. That’s true at any stage of life.
- Stay in good physical and mental condition. You can’t relate to your spouse in an uplifting and positive way if physical and mental issues are dragging you down. So eat well, get plenty of sleep, and keep up a steady regimen of exercise.
- Keep listening to each other. Communication is the heart and soul of a vibrant marriage relationship. Successful husbands and wives place a high priority on openness, empathy, and a deep heart-connection.
- Accept your spouse as he or she is. It isn’t your responsibility to change your spouse in any way. Only God can do that. Your job is to pray, love, and support.
- Show physical affection. Research has demonstrated that touch is extremely important to married couples. This includes affection, tenderness, hugs, kisses, and hand-holding as well as sexual intimacy.
- Be happy. Remember that happiness is a choice. In practice, it flows directly out of attitudes such as gratitude, mindfulness, awareness of others, and delight in giving rather than receiving.
For more information, visit Focus on the Family’s website and check out our Resource List of materials on Marriage in the Second Half of Life. We’d especially recommend David and Claudia Arp’s The Second Half of Marriage. This book is available via Focus on the Family’s Online Store.
Focus on the Family’s Counseling Staff is a group of highly experienced , state-licensed clinicians and pastoral counselors who specialize in addressing personal and family issues from a biblical perspective. Integrating faith into daily life, a high regard for the Word of God, and a commitment to serve others with compassion are deep passions for this team as they conduct up to 1,500 phone consults each month. Focus on the Family offers free consultation through 1-855-771-HELP and referrals for more in-depth care through Focus on the Family’s Christian Counselors Network. Focus has enjoyed a long and valued referral relationship with Meier Clinics and other like-minded agencies who serve the cause of Christ in their clinical work.