You love your children, but raising them has been a major project. You’ve poured in all of your time, energy, money, and most significantly, your love. Now the kids have moved out, and, while parenting never really ends, most of the heavy lifting is over. With the end of this chapter in your life, it is time to begin rediscovering yourself as an individual and reconnecting with your spouse.
In putting your family and your children first over the years, you may have put aside your interests and hobbies, and you may have stopped exploring new enticing possibilities that the world has to offer. Now is the time to return to all of these. Return to previous pursuits or explore the unknown. You might learn to play an instrument, take up cycling or hiking, or join a book club. Whatever you try, the goal is to explore activities that might be enjoyable, fulfilling, or meaningful.
As you explore personal growth, it is equally important to reinvigorate your marriage with your attention. A few great ways to do this are:
Appreciate your spouse: Think about what attracted you to your spouse and the traits that you value today. Be sure to share these thoughts and feelings with your spouse. For instance, you might reminisce about when he’s brought you to tears with his ridiculous sense of humor. Also thank them for acts of kindness or caring, such as making your favorite dinner or offering to give you a back massage.
Encourage each other to pursue new or former interests: One of the best ways to “come alive” is to connect with something from the heart. This can also be incredibly attractive. So, infuse your relationship with this energy as you expand what the two of you have to talk about.
Talk: Feeling emotionally close with a longtime spouse doesn’t just continue to happen on its own. It is an experience must be nurtured. You must listen to – and really care about – each other, sharing your inner experiences, such as your thoughts, feelings, dreams, and disappointments.
Inject curiosity and renewed interest into old topics. What makes for an engaging conversation is often less what you are talking about than how you talk about it. Wonder what an experience is really like for them. For instance, if your spouse is talking about their day at work, you might ask about their understanding of something that happened and what they think others in the situation thought. You can also ask about how the situation is affecting them and how they would want things to work out. Or, you might ask more about their co-workers, trying to gain an appreciation for these people, much as you would get to know the inner workings of characters in a book. If you feel you are missing something or don’t really understand your spouse’s experience, ask more questions. Showing such interest in your partner can help you feel more connected with your spouse and can help your spouse feel more cared about by you.
Enjoy romance, physical affection, and sex: Raising children can put a real damper on this aspect of your marriage – and has been known to sometimes all but eliminate it. With more time and energy to devote to each other, you can really enjoy reigniting the physical connection and passion between you.
As you invest in your personal growth and in your marriage, these two areas will feed each other. As it all comes together, you and your spouse will feel stronger as individuals and enjoy a loving, vibrant relationship.