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Monday, July 18, 2011

Empty Nest Spouse Work 101

Husband talk has always been one of those tricky topics for me on this blog.  The topic is not completely left can such an important part of my life be left out?  But, let's just say, it's one area that I try to tread lightly.  Except for maybe here and here and oops, here.....I've been a good little blogging wife!  Still, the spouse topic is one of the most important areas for the empty nest parent.  So, I pull out the carton of eggs and tiptoe through this delicate topic.....for my readers, of course.

I can safely say that 100% of my friends and acquaintances who are in the empty nest phase of their life, would say that life with the spouse has changed; 85% would say that these changes are dramatic. The types of changes range from reigniting the most passionate feelings for one another to convictions of murder and all places in between.  And, there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason why some couples change one way or another! It is safe to say that most of us did not read up "how to best cope with the changes that WILL occur once the children leave the nest".  I know I was too busy being Mom and coping with the feelings of loss and excitement as my babies started flying the coop. The husband would have to wait....

  Which brings me to a thought and a story set back in 1990.  I was married to my first husband (a topic I rarely touch on this blog!) and had just had my 3rd and final child.  I was in the throws of breastfeeding, potty-training and the first year of t-ball with the kids.  I was doing the best I could.....I think you could call it 'managing' the chaos!  It was wonderful and awful at the same time.  If you had interviewed me at the time, I would have said I was happy.  The days and many of the nights were filled with activity, only the activity with my husband was limited.  Looking back, I now know that my old stand of "the husband would have to wait" was detrimental to our relationship.  Who knows if devoting quality time for the spouse would have kept us as a married unit, but let's just say for the fun of wouldn't have hurt the relationship!  All parties in the family should be given equal attention and love.  Easier said than done, though, at least for me it WAS and IS..........

So, why is it that history keeps repeating itself and we humans have a difficult learning from our past mistakes?  Do we really have to keep trying out Keynesian economic practices before we understand they rarely work?!!  I digress..... Okay, so I know that not placing the significant amount of time and effort towards my spousal relationship during the empty nest years could result in negative changes in my relationship, which may or not be a good thing in the end.  That's step one....learning from history.  I acknowledge this to be true but DOING the right thing here, isn't coming naturally.  Why?

  • The parent-child pull is stronger than the spousal pull.  I believe this to be true.  Responsibility is partly to blame, but also the nature of the relationship is different.

  • One relationship is voluntary, one is not.  

  • One is conditional love and one is unconditional love.  There, I said it. What do you expect from a divorced person?  Marriages are so 'easy-come-easy-go' these days.  I know many of you want us to believe that marriage is a sacred relationship.....the sanctity of marriage and all....but when one day you arrive home from a vacation with your children and are told, I don't think I love you anymore, so I am doesn't feel that way!  Perhaps if we would all except the fact that marriage has conditions that must be met (and then maybe even state them in writing) maybe there would be less than 50% divorces in this country.  Children on the other hand will always be your children.  Only in a few way-out-there cases do children and their parents 'divorce' each other. Our children will always be our children and we can strengthen or weaken this bond through our actions towards one another. But the love is unconditional.       
Step Two: Take Actions Necessary to Avoid the Same Lifetime Mistakes:

  1. Balance: It's really all about balance for me.  Sometimes, my husband and his priorities need to come ahead of my children';s priorities. (Why are so many situations an 'either or' scenario?)  My relationship with my husband is worth trying to create this very delicate balance.   
  2. Communication: Ughhhhh! This will be my husband's thoughts on #2!  Talking about the subject will help me, even if he dreads it terribly.  We have two very distinct and difference personalities, so without talking through topics, I have no idea where he's coming from....and he has no ideas where I am coming from! 
  3. Practice: Because none of this program happens naturally, I believe you must make considerable effort to try to practice # 1 and # 2 if you really want to be successful. Think of it like you are just an okay person on the soccer field and soccer moves don't come second nature to you.  Practicing a maneuver over and over will help you improve your skills and you might even master them one day. 
There is the other side of the coin.....what if drastic changes with your partner during this empty nest period result in an even better quality of life (maybe even for both of you)?  Well, that topic deserves a whole post to itself!  For now,  I am sticking with improving on my life as it stands.  Good luck to all of you in the same boat! 
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