By Michelle S. Lazurek, Crosswalk.com
Let's face it: life can be busy when we have kids in the house. Our schedules center around sports games, school events, and other extracurricular activities, which find us collapsing in bed when the day is over. But once the kids from high school, they're off to start their own lives, leaving us with plenty of time (and in some cases) not really knowing our spouses. This can put extra strain on a marriage because not only do parents need to know what to do with their time, but they also need to rediscover each other again.
Scripture says, "…and the two will become one flesh…" this means their lives are no longer independent but interdependent with God and on one another. When couples feel distant from one another, it's easy to bury themselves in their work or other things so they can ignore their biggest problem: they haven't prioritized their marriage. But this doesn't have to be the case. Couples can rediscover themselves and, in doing so, rediscover each other during this new chapter in their lives. Here are six ways couples can prioritize their marriage once the kids are out of the house:
1. Make Regular Date Nights
one of the ways couples neglect each other the most is they don't have enough fun together. When couples first start dating, they have fun learning about each other. They learn about their likes and dislikes, their hopes and dreams. But once kids come, couples can become so focused on raising their children that they often don't engage in the process of discovering each other. No matter how long a couple has been married, there are still new things you can discover about each other. Make it a point to have regular date nights. Date nights don't have to be expensive to be fun. You can engage in simple activities both parties like, like a simple dinner and a movie. You can also try some new things. Prioritize date nights by doing some simple research on the Internet. Find out what's in your area—or if you like to travel, find a place you both can go to-- that you'd like to discover together. Try a new hiking trail or discover a new type of food. If your budget is tight, try to find inexpensive things to do. Whatever choice you make, make sure to do it on a regular basis. Avoid looking at a screen if possible. That way, you discover the lost art of communication. Make a point to put away all phones and devices and discover each other again through intimate conversation.
2. Pray Together
I know this sounds simplistic but praying together regularly is probably the best way to prioritize your marriage. Not only will you share your prayer requests with each other, but you'll also be able to uphold each other in prayer. You'll discover burdens your spouse has that you didn't know existed. Take turns in prayer talking to God out loud. Make some room to sit in silence together. Hold hands and be in each other's presence and in God's presence. Ask the Lord to share His words with you. At the end of the time together, share what the Lord put on each of your hearts. Ask God to share a word for the spouse to say to you to encourage you.
3. Find a Hobby
now that life is not centered around your children, couples may find they have more time to do things that interest them. It's great to have hobbies independent from one another, but a great bonding experience can be finding a hobby that couples enjoy. A couple who are the opposites in their likes and dislikes may find this difficult at first.
Write down on a piece of paper things that interest you on one side. On the other side, write down the things that interest your spouse. Couples may have no matches at first. Figure out what is the common thread between the interests. For example, do they both like to help people? Do they have a common goal for the future-- making more money, improving their health, learning a new skill? When they break down the reason why it makes them happy, they may find they have more in common than they think.
4. Talk to Each Other
One of the basic issues couples have is that they don't talk to each other. They often talk at each other, but they don't talk to each other, sharing the intimate parts of their lives. This can make a marriage feel like a roommate situation. This is not what God intended.
When intimacy is lost, it can lead to sinful practices that can do damage to a marriage. If beginning a conversation is difficult, recall some of the first conversations when you were dating. What made them good conversations? Start by reminiscing about some of those conversations you once had. A deep conversation does not necessarily mean pouring your heart out emotionally. You can simply start off by being a fun conversation about likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc. The critical thing is rediscovering what made them fall in love in the first place.
5. Forgive Each Other
Forgiveness lies at the heart of a strong marriage. 1 John 1:9 says, "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." If some hurts and wounds have gone unforgiven, it can cause them to see their spouse in a negative light. Because of this, they'll be less likely to want to spend time together or even continue to put in the effort to build a good relationship. Take time with the Lord and ask Him if any areas of the marriage need forgiveness. God ordained marriage and wants couples to build the strongest bond possible between them. God will reveal any covert—or overt—issues in your marriage. Although forgiveness may be difficult, choose to forgive your spouse, even if you don't feel like it. The cross of Christ covers all transgressions, even those in our humanity we have difficulty letting go of. God honors our hearts and will be glorified when we choose to forgive, even if our feelings aren't quite there yet.
6. Love Unconditionally
One of the key ingredients to a good marriage is to love each other without any strings attached. This means learning to accept the other's idiosyncrasies, flaws, and weaknesses. Christ loves us, warts and all, and we should do the same with our spouses. Although we are human and place conditions on our love, God's will is to love each other with no conditions. As we love each other in this way, we not only show the world a better example of Christ, but it is also an act of worship. We honor God when we love each other the way God loves us.
A good marriage is one of the best ways to achieve fulfillment. When your children leave the nest, fulfillment may be more important than ever. By following these steps, you may not only be able to live your life with purpose and meaning, but you may also develop a loving bond that will last a lifetime.
Stock footage: Soundstripe.com
Michelle S. Lazurek is a multi-genre award-winning author, speaker, pastor's wife, and mother. She is a literary agent for Wordwise Media Services and a certified writing coach. Her new children’s book Who God Wants Me to Be encourages girls to discover God’s plan for their careers. When not working, she enjoys sipping a Starbucks latte, collecting 80s memorabilia, and spending time with her family and her crazy dog, Cookie. For more info, please visit her website www.michellelazurek.com.