How to Thrive in the Second Half of Your Marriage: Now is the Perfect Time to Reboot Your Marriage

How to Thrive in the Second Half of Your Marriage: Now is the Perfect Time to Reboot Your Marriage

No one has ever accused me of being a technology expert. True confession: our IT guy at HomeWord and my assistant mock me sometimes for my lack of understanding of technology. I use it every day, but I just don’t totally understand how it works. But I’ve learned a secret to success with technology. The most effective first thing to do with a malfunctioning gadget is to unplug it, wait ten seconds, and then plug it back in. I’ve learned that 50 percent of my tech problems just need a reboot.

Guess what? The empty nest is the perfect time to reboot your marriage. Most couples I know in this stage say that at midlife, they had to acknowledge the drift in their marriage and the need for a course correction. Sometimes the correction is drastic, and other times it is minor. Maybe a midlife crisis or two has caused a lack of connection or even boredom. We must look at rebooting as a good thing. Just as there was a transition toward parenthood with the marriage, there is a transition away from day-to-day parenting during this phase. The reboot includes new roles and adjustments.

Authorities suggest that once the final kid leaves home, or even is in the preparation phase, every couple should sit down and ask important questions. What’s next for our relationship? Do we have any dreams for us together as a couple? What makes us most sad about the kids being gone? What are we most looking forward to in our new relationship? Are there any roles we can share that we didn’t share before? What can we do to have more intimacy and connection in our relationship? What’s good about our relationship? What needs improvement? What is missing? What is confusing? Part of rebooting in marriage is adjusting to new roles and embracing new opportunities to draw closer to each other.

William and Cynthia heard me speak at a marriage conference where I shared this phrase that a woman had shared with me: “Untended fires soon become nothing but a pile of ashes.” After my talk, they approached me and asked, “What if the fire was untended for so long that the ashes are cold?”

I quoted something that I had read by a couple I respect greatly, David and Claudia Arp: “Logs don’t move on their own; if a fire is to keep going, someone has to stoke it. This is true in our love life—especially in the second half of marriage.”[1]

They asked, “What would you do?”

I said, “I would stoke the fire—whatever that means for you.”

They saw me the next year at the same marriage conference. They walked up to me holding hands. “We took your advice and we have had a ‘restart’ on our marriage.” They told me that their relationship had never been stronger.

When I asked how they stoked the fire, they said it wasn’t just one thing but taking several smaller steps toward each other. It was time well invested in weekly dates, more physical intimacy, walks, and coffees. It was spending more time talking and dreaming together, some minor adjustments that made all the difference. The love was there. It just needed a reboot. Now they’re calling the reboot their encore marriage.

[1] David Arp and Claudia Arp, The Second Half: Facing the Eight Challenges of the Empty-Nest Years (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996) 135.

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Jim Burns

Jim Burns is the president of HomeWord. He speaks to thousands of people around the world each year. He has close to 2 million resources in print in 20 languages. He primarily writes and speaks on the values of HomeWord, which are: Strong Marriages, Confident Parents, Empowered Kids, and Healthy Leaders. Some of his most popular books are: Confident Parenting, The Purity Code, Creating an Intimate Marriage, Closer, and Doing Life with Your Adult Children. Jim and his wife, Cathy, live in Southern California and have three grown daughters, Christy, Rebecca, and Heidi; three sons-in-law, Steve and Matt, and Andy; and three grandchildren, James, Charlotte and Huxley.

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