Me: My oldest just left for college and it’s killing me. I don’t know what I’m going to do when my youngest leaves.
Her: Oh honey, you’ll do just fine. I’ll never forget the day my youngest moved out.
Me: What did you do?
Her: I came home from work, parked my car in the garage, took off my clothes, opened a beer and sat on the couch buck naked, because I could.
Me: What did your husband do?
Her: Grabbed himself a beer and helped me break in the couch.
I sat there and stared at this women who is ten years my senior, in utter shock and frankly envious admiration.
I hear about marriages going south after the kids leave more than I do about getting to know each other again.
“According to data from the National Center for Health Statistics, the overall divorce rate declined by 1.4 percent between 1981 and 1991, the Arps said in their book, The Second Half of Marriage: Facing the Eight Challenges of the Empty-Nest Years. However, during those same years, the divorce rate grew 16% for couples married 30 years or more.” – citation Marriage Missions International
I’ll be honest you guys, I don’t want to be a statistic. I don’t have all of the answers. I may very well wake up single one day and if I do it won’t be without a fight. I believe some things are worth fighting for, marriage especially.
Our youngest has chosen to live at home and attend Jr College rather than move away so unless I want to pay for therapy on top of college tuition, breaking in the couch might not be an option just yet. I do, however, think it’s possible to learn how to date again.
I know all marriage seminars and books tell you to date while you still have kids. Seriously? Who has the time? Or the energy. My husband traveled almost constantly through out our marriage. He could have pursued music and chose to keep his corporate job instead. That was a huge sacrifice. He did so in order to provide a living and a home for us. I’m immensely grateful for that. While I regret greatly that we didn’t date like they tell you to in those marriage advice things, it is possible to re-learn how to connect. While we were raising kids, because he traveled, I made sure I took time out for myself when I could and I focused on exclusively female friendships.
I say exclusively and I mean it. No men. My reason for that was simple. Being home alone with children all day for days at a time can be lonely. So lonely in fact that the smelly homeless guy who smiles at me can start to look attractive. Every parenting book I ever read warned about that and they were right.
Can I be totally honest with you? I cannot begin to tell you the number of creepy guys who went out of their way to make sure I knew they were there for me if I needed them. Not nice guys, I’m talking the sidled up alongside me, give me a sideways hug so they could cop a feel rejects. Jeff used to like watching me untangle from these guys and run straight to him. Sorry if I seem blunt, but that happens to both men and women.
I will openly admit, refusing to allow men into my life while I was raising our kids might not have been the best tactic. I may have missed out on more than just learning how to set appropriate boundaries with them. (Something I do struggle with at 46.) and I may have missed out on some great growth opportunities so please don’t send me letters about how y’all had male and female friends and it never interfered with your marriage – if you did that’s great. I personally chose not to that’s all. For better or for worse, I can’t change that. The male friends I do have are friends we have together and they are great friends.
There you have it, two confessions, I don’t know how to be friends with men and I didn’t do a great job dating my husband while we were raising kids. We were busy and we were tired. We also knew that the day was coming when we’d wake up and think, “Who are you and what are you doing in my bed?” and so we started planning.
My plan was to sell our house in the suburbs, move to mid-town and go to concerts and such in River Parks like we did when we were dating in Chicago and I wanted to travel the world.
His plan was to buy a bigger boat and fish more.
We neither live in midtown nor own a big boat.
We needed to learn how to compromise.
Sometimes we do things he likes, like fishing or golf, and sometimes we do things I like such as concerts, or plays. One of the things I love best about our marriage is we make each other laugh and we put each other first.
Most of the time it works out. In June we saw Barry Manilow and he didn’t die and in July we saw James Taylor which was amazingly awesome. I’ve even started watching him play again on Saturday nights, something I gave up when the boys were in high school because I was just too busy. And he comes to watch me when I perform comedy. We support each others dreams.
Which brings me to a crucial point, developing myself as a woman so that I have something more substantial to lean upon than just his arm if you know what I mean is very important during this season of my life otherwise I run the risk of running away to find myself. Well that and boring him to tears. So I took up banjo, started riding a bike, and started comedy and acting. I’m becoming informed about politics, and music and world affairs. I became a Democrat which didn’t thrill him, but it does interest him. It’s a lot easier to date a man – or a woman for that matter – when you know who you are and can bring something to the table, otherwise the burden in on one person and nobody likes that.
Jeff and I will be celebrating 22 years of marriage this Saturday. Parts of it have been wonderful and parts of it have been hard. I come from a divorced family, full of fear and baggage as do a lot of people. We’ve had to work through our stuff together. I love hearing the compliments of how people perceive us, and yet I’m afraid we do at times give the wrong impression. Yes, we are happily married. Is it always happy? No. Sometimes it’s work. I need you to understand that – behind every happy marriage is a ton of work.
Don’t get me wrong, I adore this man however staying married is the hardest thing either of us have ever done in our lives. I don’t want to mislead anybody. In today’s age when people bail at the first sign of trouble we didn’t. We have a very real marriage. There are days where we drive each other to absolute distraction and there are days when we click on all six cylinders and we stick it out and we fight for each other. We think it’s worth it. While we do not have the money for a big celebration this month due to college bills, we’ll find something. And it will be fun.
So married readers: Do you date your spouse? Would you like to share your dating secrets with us?