A recent article in the Wall Street Journal “The Nest is Empty So Why Aren’t We Having Fun Yet”? highlighted the importance of what I call “Marriage Maintenance”. With patients who report having difficulty in their marriage, about the importance of maintaining their relationship, I often ask, “Do you maintain your house, paint it, or fix it when there are any problems such as plumbing or roofing?” “Of course”, says the patient sitting across from me, “It’s important to maintain my house”. Well, a marriage is the same. Often, once the honeymoon period is over and kids come into the picture, the time and energy and effort spent keeping the marriage fresh, happy, and maintained decreases exponentially. Date nights no longer occur. Instead, they are replaced by childcare, work or other activities that leave the couple stressed or exhausted or both. The WSJ article quoted a sobering statistic that 1 in 4 people ages 50 and over get divorced and most of this is caused by withdrawal of at least one member of the couple.
One patient a few years ago told me that he takes his wife out on a date rain or shine, “every Friday night”. He explained that this is a standing date and nothing gets in the way. Not surprising, he had no issues or complaints about his wife or their relationship.
Balance is the key to a good relationship. It is important to make time for activities on your own as individuals with your friends and also time together as a couple. Communication is also important. When your partner turns to you and says they want more time with you, don’t ignore this request or take it lightly. Connecting emotionally is important for the lifetime of the relationship and allows for healthy sex life and life after the kids have moved out. The nest will be happy as well as its inhabitants.