For years your lives have revolved around your kids, and now, in the blink of an eye, they seem to have grown up. They have lives of their own, friends they prefer to spend time with, maybe jobs which they enjoy. This change doesn’t necessarily happen overnight, it may take place in stages, it starts sometime in secondary school and usually culminates when they start working seriously, perhaps move to another country, go overseas to study or get married. And suddenly, you wake up one morning and realise that it’s just you and your spouse and that you still have another half of your lives together ahead of you, but only this time round, you’re not sure what you want from each other anymore.
Recognise that You’ve Grown Together
Life is a journey and just like the seasons, it moves in cycles. Depending on how you look at it, you can view this stage of your life as the winter of your dreams, or as the new spring of your life together. However, this journey has been a shared one. Your spouse has been with you each step of the way and you have both grown and experienced the entire cycle of your lives together. Recognise that whilst both of you have changed over the years; you have changed in response to the same life events, and that in facing your future together, you have more in common with each other today, than you did on your wedding day.
Rediscover Who You Are as a Couple Again
Don’t take anything for granted. Who you think you are, what your spouse likes, whether or not your dreams are still the same. Chances are that it’s been 20 years since you last connected on this level and a lot has happened since then.
You’ve discovered yourselves in your careers, become parents, worked through your financial goals, found a way to unite two sets of in-laws, cared for aging parents and navigated your children through childhood and into early adulthood. It shouldn’t be a surprise that you have changed and that your hopes and dreams may have changed too.
So approach each other as though you are starting a new relationship. Only this time, you know that your relationship has already withstood the test of time and that it’s one which is really worth investing in.
Assume that Everything is New Again
Even though you’ve been together for many years, act as though your relationship is new again. Don’t assume you know everything about each other. Ask each other the kinds of questions you would ask at the beginning of a new relationship. You will likely surprise each other and learn new aspects of your personalities.
Pay Attention to Each Other
Too many couples spend time together but don’t pay attention to each other. In the past this was masked by all the activity which your kids probably generated. It was acceptable to eat a meal together but to have 80% of your attention on what your children were or were not doing and perhaps just nod in agreement to whatever your spouse might be saying. But that excuse has evaporated and now you need to re-engage and learn how to pay attention to each other again.
Share New Experiences
Your relationship grows when you share new experiences together. In the past, those new experiences might have been tied up with watching your children grow. Each stage of their lives was also a new stage in your lives. Now that your kids have grown into young adults, it’s time for you to find new experiences on your own. Take up a new hobby together, go on a trip, make some new friends; all these experiences will help you to continue to grow your marriage in new and positive ways.
Be Kind and Affectionate
Nobody is perfect and everyone makes mistakes. If you treat each other with kindness and affection you will build up a store of love and forgiveness for the times when you will inevitably falter in your relationship.