As we approach the end of the school year, I can understand how bittersweet it must be to realize that your middle schooler will be graduating from high school in only five short years.
As a parent myself, I know how fast time flies, and it can be overwhelming to think about all the changes that will happen in the coming years.
This is also a time when you and your partner may start to feel the strain of everyday life affecting your relationship. It’s so common, so widespread, that it’s known as the Slow Fade.
Unfortunately, every year around graduation season, you will hear whispers of divorce. It’s a heartbreaking secret that is hidden in plain sight.
As parents, we are often so focused on taking care of our kids that we forget to take care of our relationships. It is so much easier to avoid issues and pretend everything is okay than to face them head-on. But I urge you not to wait until your kids leave the house to address any challenges that may be affecting your marriage.
I understand that some of you have tried everything, and it may feel like there’s no hope for your marriage. It’s heartbreaking to hear from readers that despite an investment in time, resources, and emotional energy, the results were not what they had hoped for.
However, there is another group of parents out there, those like my husband and me, who never think it will be “us” getting divorced. We get so busy with carpools, work, and maintaining a household that we can forget to make time for each other.
Is to you that I hope this message serves as a wake-up call.
These “we waited till the kids are out of the house divorces” pain me beyond measure because I know if my husband and I had not sought help fifteen or so years ago for our own marriage, it could have just as easily been us. In fact, we acknowledge that it could still be us, so we continue to make each other a priority.
If any of this resonates with you, I encourage you to find ways to reconnect with your partner today. It’s never too late to change the trajectory of your marriage. You may not know how, and you may not even be sure if your spouse will be on board, but you do have the added benefit of time and the awareness that these tough conversations can’t wait any longer.
I understand that it’s challenging to work on your marriage, especially when you’re also busy taking care of your kids. However, I want you to know that it’s possible. There are many examples of couples who have done the hard work, and their marriages are stronger today because of it.
We often think we should have all the relationship stuff figured out by now, but the truth is, most of us didn’t grow up witnessing empathic and effective communication. So it’s okay to give yourself and your partner some grace while you seek help.
If you and your spouse haven’t been on a date in a while, or your intimacy has started to wane, don’t wait any longer to have a conversation. Sometimes all it takes is for one of you to say, “I’ve really missed you,” to start an amazing conversation.
My sincere hope for you is to enjoy more friendship, love, and intimacy with your most important person. You and your partner deserve to have a happy and fulfilling relationship, and it’s never too late to start working on it.
There is never a perfect time to have a difficult conversation, but here are some things to consider that have worked for my husband and me over the years. We learned all of these suggestions through counseling with a licensed marriage therapist, as well as reading and listening to relationships books and podcasts by leading experts:
1. Timing, Tone & Intention are everything:
- Find a time when emotions are not running high, and neither of you is stressed out.
- Use the tone you would be most open to when receiving this type of information. Your tone will significantly affect how well your message is received.
- Check your intentions. If your desire is to find ways for you both to improve your relationship, then you are off to a great start.
2. Work together with a licensed marriage/relationship counselor.
- If your partner doesn’t want to go, you go first. The therapist should be able to help you understand why you each react the way you do and help resolve conflicts.
- I realize it is hard to find one; keep trying. I know it’s expensive, but getting divorced is a lot more. Idea: If you are buying a gourmet coffee drink a day—STOP—and most likely, you can divert that expense toward counseling.
- Ideally, you would each have an individual counselor to work with as well.
- If the first counselor isn’t a good fit, try another. It can take a while to find a good match—we’ve had at least five over the years. *Remember, we are all individuals, and none of us absorb information or grow at the same rate—have lots of patience.
3. Three books to consider:
- How We Love—Book & Workbook— by Milan & Kay Yerkovich. If you are tired of arguing with your spouse over the same old issues, this one is for you. https://howwelove.com/
- The Seven Principles of Making a Marriage Work by John Gottman, Ph.D., is very comprehensive. I highly recommend going through this as a couple or with a group. https://www.gottman.com/
- The 80/80 Marriage by Nate and Kaley Klemp—This book offers a new, refreshing way to embrace your relationship. It is the “lightest” read of the three. https://www.8080marriage.com/
4. Three Podcasts to consider:
- The Save the Marriage Podcast with Dr. Lee Baucom
- Small Things Often: The Gottman Institute offers relationship tips in 5-minutes or less. Also, search podcasts and Youtube videos with “John Gottman.”
- Tied for 3rd Place: One Extraordinary Marriage and The Stronger Marriage Podcast and search podcasts with “Esther Perel”: She is a Belgian-born licensed therapist with a wealth of knowledge on preserving relationships.
These recommendations come from my personal experience from my 30-year marriage to my best friend and are intended for educational purposes only. Please do not hesitate to reach out at email@example.com if you have any questions about how my husband and I approached a particular challenge.
Lisa hopes to share life’s stories through the ever-changing platform she founded, called The Evolving Nest. She writes and shares insights about her own triumphs and struggles during her 30-year marriage to her husband and best friend. Together they have 3 growing children, two of which live 1,500 miles away most of the year, and an adult son with autism who has the run of the upstairs to himself. Lisa also contributes to Her View From Home, various podcasts, and of course, her own website, The Evolving Nest.
Please consider following The Evolving Nest on Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin or receive the latest post via email, or writing for The Evolving Nest. Lisa is motivated by the quote, “What will the world miss if you don’t tell your story?”-Donald Miller