Entering the empty nest for us was a benchmark in our lives. Some things changed forever. For instance, from this time on we would catalogue our lives as BC (before children) and AC (after children).

Faced with so many life changes, we did what we often do – we made a list. For us, making our list was a reality check and was the first step in releasing and letting go of some unrealistic expectations – frankly, some weren’t that unrealistic, they just would not be fulfilled – not in this lifetime!

Letting go

Our list included things we would never do again, or things that would never change. For instance, we would never have a daughter. (Three daughters-in-law and three grand-daughters help to compensate but our nuclear family will always be four guys and a gal.)

We would never ride across the Swiss Alps on a motorcycle. We would never have completely healthy backs again. We would always struggle to keep our weight under control and our office neat and tidy.

Obviously, our list also included disappointments with each other – like Dave will always sneak ice cream at night, forget to call when he is running late and hum in his sleep. Claudia will always take on too many commitments, buy low-fat, no-taste snacks and leave the car gas indicator on empty.

While this may sound negative it was an important part of the process of accepting each other. At this stage of our marriage we realized we needed to view our little individual idiosyncratic behaviors as endearing traits instead of irritations. Making our list helped do just that.

You may also want to make your own list. Now is the time to let go and acknowledge things that are not going to change such as a partner’s personality traits that irritate; or that you or your partner are not going to make a lot of money; or your spouse is putting on some weight. Maybe you need to accept differing political or religious beliefs.

[tweetthis]Now is the time to let go and acknowledge things that are not going to change.[/tweetthis]

As the years go by, our list gets longer, but we continue to try to accept each other as the imperfect people that we are. One of the wonderful perks of this time of life is we do know each other so well.

A real key to a successful empty nest marriage is accepting each other as a package deal. The good comes with the bad. Realizing your spouse will never change those little irritating quirks in his or her personality is a step forward in building a long term successful marriage.

Moving on

And what did we do after we made our “we’ll never do” list? First we acknowledged that there were some things we just had to accept and let go of if we wanted to continue to grow together.

Then, we looked toward the future and made another list – this one was our “what we will do in the empty nest” list. It included those things we chose to do to make the rest of our marriage the best. We share our list with you in hopes that it will inspire you to make you own “what we will do” list for your empty nest.

Things we will do in our empty nest

  • We will release and let go of our missed dreams and disappointments with each other, with our children, with our parents and with ourselves.
  • We will accept each other as a package deal.
  • We will keep on forgiving and asking each other for forgiveness when we blow it.
  • We will renew our commitment to each other and to growing together in the second half of our marriage.

Let us encourage you to make a fresh commitment to yourself, to your spouse and to your marriage. It’s time to move on in your marriage. Trust us, the best is just up ahead.

Written by Claudia and David Arp, MSW

David and Claudia Arp, MSW, founders of Marriage Alive Seminars, are marriage educators, columnists and authors of numerous books and small group video curriculum including “The Second Half of Marriage and 10 Great Dates” (Zondervan). You can visit their website: www.marriagealive.com