August is the season of sending young adults off to college and little kids off to kindergarten. It is also a delicate time when empty-nesters look at each other and wonder, “who the hell are you?” Research has shown that there is a high spike in divorce rates around the 20-25 year mark, which correlates to when the children are done being “actively” raised. Either empty-nesters call it quits because the whole point of marriage was to raise kids OR they relish in the free time to deepen their relationship.
The “Happy Wife for Life” series is based on the findings from Fawn Weaver’s book, Happy Wives Club, where she travels around the world to find the threads that weave amazing marriages together. Secret #5 is “Nurture Marriage.” Sadly, there are many marriages that are on life-support from years of neglect. Some try to hang on until the kids are out of the house so the marriage can get the desperate attention it needs to survive. Other marriages don’t make it that long. Weaver found in her interviews that, “Every couple put their marriage as the number one in their lives. Even those who temporarily made their children and spouse number one at the same time agreed that the elevation was temporary. Once the kids were in high school, they’d want to be left alone anyhow, but the marital relationship would need to continue to grow.”
Spouses manage the heavy responsibility of co-parenting children for years, nurturing their growth and development. The foundation in which families are created is through marriage (typically). Neglect of growth and development in marriage can fracture the stability of the family. Whenever I hear a wife say, “my kids are my number one” it makes me tense up. I wonder, “where is your husband on that priority list?” I’m look in from an outside perspective. I see the fractured results when marriage is not a priority. I was a child of divorce. I know I would have given up gymnastic classes Saturday mornings if that meant my parents could have nurtured their marriage more so they would stay together. Habitual neglect of marriage comes at a high-cost of a child’s family life.
I’ve been committed to finding couples who have strong families BECAUSE they have strong marriages. I need to have hopeful evidence that it is possible to have a long-lasting thriving marriage while still being good parents. The best answer I have heard is from Alison Armstrong, whose trainings have revolutionized my relationship to men and marriage. The point: Take care of your partner first so the partnership can take care of the kids. This means that when I meet my husband’s needs to make our marriage stronger, he is a better teammate to meet the needs that “we” are responsible for.
Sending kids off to school (kindergarten to college) can create some breathing room to create deeper connections to our spouses. My hope is that you will relish having more time and energy to deepen your relationship with the person you committed your life to. May nurturing your marriage through all the phases of co-parenting and beyond help you be a “Happy Wife for Life.”
Reflect & Share: What can couples do to “nurture” their marriage? What is the biggest challenge in keeping marriage first?
Alison Armstrong Training & Free Stuff (website)
“How to celebrate being an empty nester” (website)
“10 Things to Look Forward to as an Empty Nester” (article)
“The 25 year itch: Empty Nesters and the second half of marriage (blog)
“Can empty nesters still have a happy marriage?” (article)