The 25-year itch: Empty nesters and the second half of marriage
Divorce has doubled for couples over 50. Empty nesters share tales from the brink.
Even before Dick and Irene Reimbold’s younger daughter left for college, they were living what they call “the married single lifestyle” in Macomb, Michigan.
They owned a tax preparation business together. They attended Mass together. They slept separately and scarcely spoke, even at work.
“We went for over seven years without physical, sexual relations,” Dick says.
“There was nothing dramatic or traumatic,” Irene says about the deep disconnect. “It was a slow bleed.”
Empty nest? Now what? Tips for maintaining a marriage after the kids have gone
This story accompanies The 25-year-itch: Empty nesters and the second half of marriage.)
David and Claudia Arp, founders of Marriage Alive and authors of The Second Half of Marriage (Zondervan), don’t fault couples for feeling drained when the last child leaves home.
“You’ve just survived the adolescent years,” Claudia says. Plus, says David, “The tendency is to get busy and avoid facing the challenges of this new stage of marriage.”
First aid for the second half of marriage
(This story accompanies The 25-year-itch: Empty nesters and the second half of marriage.)
One way to sustain a marriage through the second half is to keep generating life as a couple, says Mary Jo Pedersen. Have a mission, whether it’s neighborhood cleanup, political campaigning, or mentoring other couples. “Nurture life; protect life in some way together.”
Go ahead, be a burden to your adult children
Parents put a great deal of effort into caring for their kids. When the time comes, it’s OK to let them return the favor.
My father came home from his service in the Marines in the South Pacific to marry the redheaded girl of his dreams, whom he’d met at St. Francis De Sales in the fifth grade. She’d written to him daily and he’d written her back, making plans for the future they hoped for together. They moved into an apartment over a funeral home in Detroit and he went to mortuary school, working evenings while she began to raise the inevitable family.
Put in a good word
If a eulogy sounds to good to be true, it probably is. Putting on rose-colored glasses to look at a loved one’s life, however, might be just what we need for resolution.
Recently I attended the wake and funeral for the father of a friend. At the wake, the children—now all middle-aged—took turns talking about their dad. They spoke with affection about his love for their mother and his devout faith.
Internal medicine: End of life ethics with Dr. Daniel Sulmasy, O.F.M.
The debate about death with dignity needs the wisdom of the Catholic spiritual tradition, says this physician and bioethicist.
Sometimes I feel like a motherless child: Dealing with death years later
Absence makes the heart yearn for a father's ear and a mother's lap.
It is in the natural order of things: Parents die and their children live on after them. If it happens and those parents are themselves young, it feels especially heartbreaking for the newly fractured family. Where will the father be to walk his daughter down the aisle? Where will the mother be when her first grandchild is born?
Deathbed confusion: Struggling with decisions at the end of life
When it comes to caring for the terminally ill, Catholics sometimes struggle to decide when enough is enough.
Love is patient
When I bought her the valentine, she smiled, but I knew the card was more for me than her. She didn't really know what it said. I read the message aloud, and she smiled again. I had to be satisfied with that.
My wife is one of America's 4 million Alzheimer's victims. She has had the disease more than nine years and, until a few months ago, I've been her inept caregiver. But you should know her first as a person, not merely a statistic.
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