Life in the Empty Nest: Doing Things Together is Sexy

Life in the Empty Nest: Doing Things Together is Sexy

Be purposeful about connection with your spouse. I love what Mary Jenson writes about her empty-nest marriage: “The kids are gone, the dogs are dead, and Ron and I are dating again.”[1] Obviously, it’s sad about the dogs, and I’m sure she had to work through the kids being gone, but what she is saying is, “We are going to celebrate this second half of our lives by being proactive in our relationship with regular dates.” The couples who do well in the second half put renewed energy into doing things together. Rob and Judy share a love for cool, funky coffee shops. They made a list of twenty-seven coffee shops in, of all places, the state of Iowa. They try to visit one a week. I’m sure they enjoy the coffee, but it’s really about the experience. The last time I checked, Rob said they had already been to fourteen coffee shops, and the farthest one was four hours away from their home. They call their visits adventure coffee outings. I have a feeling those coffee times are more about the journey than the destination. Yes, it can be sexy just to do things together.

One of my favorite books on the empty nest was written by Melissa Shultz, From Mom to Me Again. Melissa writes on health and parenting for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Reader’s Digest, and more. This book is about her surviving the first year of her empty nest and reinventing the rest of her life. I love how she writes about her reconnection with her husband.

“I know my husband well. I can tell you what shoes he’ll pick out to buy, the TV shows he watches, the toothpaste he uses, and that breakfast will always be a bowl of Rice Chex mixed with Corn Flakes. But I also know there’s more to him than that. I know this because there’s more to me than my breakfast choices, the side on which I part my hair, and the color of my shirts (coral). After years of living in the family-focused world we created—the roles we’ve played thus far as parents, and the way we’ve interacted—well, that world is no longer.

“So how do I know all this? It’s not therapy. It’s the Corner Bakery. We’ve been learning about one another again over Saturday lunch at our neighborhood Corner Bakery. I order the same thing, and he likes to shake it up. We always share a dessert, whatever is new on the menu. And we take our time. Sometimes two hours or more. In the history of being us, this never happened until we started to transition to the empty nest. At first, we didn’t have much to talk about other than our kids. Now we talk about everything and nothing at all.”[2]

She goes on to say, “We’re still here together because we want to be. And though we are married to each other, neither of us is married to the way we’ve always done things.”

[1] Mary Jenson, Taking Flight from the Empty Nest (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2001), 152.

[2] Melissa T. Shultz, From Mom to Me Again: How I Survived My First Empty-Nest Year and Reinvented the Rest of My Life (Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, 2016), 133.



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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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