You’ve just celebrated 20 years together. You wonder how in the world you’ve made it this far–wasn’t it yesterday when we were starting out on this adventure called marriage? Time has proven to fly, and it’s possible to feel lost in its passing.
Communication has never been as important as it is now.
You may feel you’re the only one who has ever felt disjointed or lacking joy like this. Let me assure you you are not; these feelings are quite normal. Talk to your spouse about how you’re feeling, even if you’re not sure what it all means. Let them be a part of the process. If you don’t, you’ll both end up changing so much that neither of you recognizes the other. A very dangerous place to be and the reason many marriages fail during this decade.
Pressures to look for that are common:
I. Children And Empty-Nesting
Your children are most likely all in the teenage years–the time when they’re testing their wings so to speak–and you’re afraid they won’t be ready to fly on their own. There’s so much more to talk about, issues to address and problems to help solve. Yet, you realize you may not be the answer to all they’re facing.
As they approach adulthood, God will include many others to help your children be who He’s called them to be. It could be a guidance counselor at school, friends or mentors at church, employers or even a future spouse they’ve just met. Realizing this shift is coming will help keep you from holding too tightly to your perceived control. Why is it so difficult, especially for mothers, to let go? It helps to remember why we had children in the first place–to raise them up to be responsible adults by training them in the way they should go.
When we get to the end of this “training” season, it’s hard for moms to remember they have another very important role in life–to be the very best wife to her children’s father.
Of course, there are other things you can and should seek out in this new phase of life–hobbies you didn’t have time for when the kids were little, maybe starting a new career or picking up an old one, maybe to be involved in a ministry of which you’re passionate? Your options are wide open. Talk to your husband. Pray asking God to lead you. He will provide the wisdom and direction needed to know exactly where it is He wants you to walk.
Purpose to enjoy being together as husband and wife now, and you’ll do fine in the empty-nest years when they come.
II. Becoming In-Laws
This is also the decade when many of your children will get married, which means welcoming someone brand new into your family for the rest of your life. It sounds romantic until it happens.
Suddenly you have to share holidays and traditions. You are no longer your grown child’s only priority–someone else has captured their heart–and that’s a good thing, but it may not feel that way. Mothers tend to grieve more when their sons marry, and fathers tend to grieve more when their daughters marry. That’s due in large part to the fact that you’re being replaced as the only member of the opposite sex with significant influence on your son/daughter. Once they said “I do” you were replaced forever. It stings.
Realizing this will help you both talk through the feelings you’re experiencing. Lean into each other when the pain and disappointments come and you’ll both be stronger for it.
III. Becoming Grandparents
This is the best thing that happens after our children get married. It is your reward for raising children to adulthood. But it can also have its own sort of trouble. Like…your children decide to move away from you where you can’t be involved in the day to day life of your grandchildren. You have expectations as to how they’ll be raised and you end up being disappointed. It’s hard to let them be the parents without you giving your opinion when it hasn’t been solicited. This, I might add, is how in-laws have gotten such a bad reputation. Don’t do it! Talk it over with each other, pray about it and only say something if you believe this is what God would have you do. Our primary job during this season is to be faithful prayer warriors. God sees, He knows, and He will be as faithful to your children and grandchildren as He was to you when you were first starting out. Sometimes we forget this truth!
IV. Menopause or “Men On Pause” 🙂
I refused to think about this when I was younger believing if I ignored it it wouldn’t effect me. Was I ever wrong! My advice is to talk to older women about their experience. Find out as much as you can to help you be ready for whatever your transition will be like. And talk to your husband. He needs to know your fears, your insecurities and your physical challenges. You are a team, and this is part of doing life together in all its various stages.
I used to think the saying, “Come grow old with me, the best is yet to be” was quite romantic. But when I hit this stage it became my dartboard. It didn’t feel like the best at.all. But Tom loved me through all my mood swings. Sometimes all he could do was hold me, and it brought such comfort knowing that he would be there with me and “love me in an understanding way” even if he didn’t understand me.
V. Unmet Expectations
This is the decade when you begin to realize some dreams you’ve had may never come to pass. It can be quite devastating if you don’t see it coming. Talk about your dreams, and if some have come true then spend time thanking God for His kindness. But even if your’s haven’t come true don’t stop dreaming!
When we’ve been disappointed our knee jerk reaction is to quit dreaming altogether. The Bible says “without a vision the people perish.” We all need dreams of what God wants us to do with our time and talents in the years ahead. Ask Him to restore your dreams and pray according to His Will. It may not be what you expected, but it will be good.
Plan regular date nights where having time to share heart-to-heart is provided. It will serve you well with all the challenges to come. And enjoy the process!