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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Take time to consider what season your marriage is in.

A week ago my wife and I dropped off our youngest daughter to begin her college career. That's right, we are officially empty nesters.

The significance of this new season still has not sunk in fully, but it's a big milestone. I realized a few months ago, the more my wife and I talked about it, that this change would have an especially hard emotional impact on my wife, Jenni.

I knew it would be really important for us to spend some time processing and praying into the coming season, so I found a deal on a rustic cabin a few hours from our home and booked it for the weekend immediately after taking our daughter. I wanted us to get away from our normal routine in a beautiful surrounding.  The photos in this post give you a glimpse of some of that beauty we got to enjoy.

Discerning the Seasons

All marriages face different seasons. Some new seasons are triggered by significant life events, like a child being born or leaving home, a move to a new city, or caring for an aging parent. Other seasonal changes might be more subtle, like increased work stress, minor illness, changing churches or jobs.

Whatever the cause, it is important to discern the seasons.

Start by keeping an eye on changing circumstances. Realize that changes can often impact one spouse more than another. My wife's reaction to empty nest, for example, is quite different than my own.

Even small changes might trigger a need to examine where you are and where you are going. Keep your eyes open.  Be watchful over your spouse and your marriage. Maintain intimacy and watch for signs:
  • Do you or your spouse withdraw emotionally for long periods?
  • Has the frequency of your sexual interactions dropped off?
  • Are there seemingly unprompted emotional episodes (crying, anger, fear or anxiety)?
  • Have sleep patterns changed (excessive or inability to sleep)?

Even if there haven't been any changes in a while, it is a good idea to periodically spend time together prayerfully examining your life and marriage and asking important questions.

Responding to the Season

It is critical to be proactive in communicating about, responding to and adapting to each new season.

During our weekend getaway, there were a number of things we considered as part of your reflections. Here are just s few suggestions:
  • Ask your spouse, "What do you need from me in the coming season?"
  • Identify how needs and priorities may have changed from the past. Don't assume.
  • Get specific. Ask, "What would that look like to you?"
  • Consider how you can stay connected and maintain emotional, spiritual and physical intimacy.
  • Talk about lifestyle changes that might need to accompany the new season. For example, my wife and I have decided that getting healthier through diet and fitness is something we want to focus on.
Importantly, spend time praying and especially listening to discern God's heart for you, your spouse and your marriage. He is eager to guide you lovingly into your future.

Attention Husbands!

I am going to say something now that will likely ruffle a few feathers. I believe it is the husband's responsibility to lead this effort. I believe it is part of the leadership mantle God places on husbands.

Every husband should be continually watching over his wife and marriage (and children) to discern and respond to seasonal changes. He isn't to control or dictate the response but to lead the conversation.

Yes, I know that conversation isn't a strong suit for a lot of husbands. Do it anyway. You won't get better at it until you put forth effort in that direction. If you aren't sure where to start, use the questions above as a starting point.

I'm not saying that wives shouldn't also be watchful and aware of seasons. I think most women are naturally more attuned to such things anyway. What I am saying is that a husband who steps forward in this effort will make his wife feel loved and taken care of in a significant way.

What new seasons has your marriage faced lately? What have you and your spouse done to keep your marriage strong in response? I'm sure some of you have some insights for the rest of us. 

photo credits: scott means

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Anonymous said...

Very thoughtful post.

So often we see the empty-nest season as, well, "empty". I've decided not to use this term, it seems negative. You know, too close to the glass being half empty rather than half full. I'm not quite sure what term to coin, but to us it is a season of complete freedom full with opportunities.

My hubby was at a men's brekky where they said some statistic about the most meaningful of life's accomplishments and contributions in a person's life are done AFTER retirement. Kind of makes sense.

Cassie from True Agape said...

I think this is a very good reminder and yes all stages of marriages go through different seasons. We are less than 2 years into our marriage, but a big season for us was when I started teaching kindergarten instead of 3rd grade and then when we were deciding if I would continue to teach. I think the most important thing you mentioned was asking, "What can I do for you during this season?" Sometimes we have to be willing to tell our husbands that even if he does not ask.
Thank you for such a great reminder!

Scott said...

Robyn - I agree with you about using a different phrase to describe this season that is more forward looking. Great idea! We are enjoying the extra time and privacy tremendously.

True Agape - Job changes, even small ones, can create big stresses. I know for a teacher (being married to one) that changing grades is like getting a whole new job. Praying for you and your husband as you navigate these changes.

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