The Empty Nest Webinar
Okay. So, very good. Welcome everyone. Thank you for your interest in this topic, the empty nest, and I’m anxious to get into the content here today with Kaleb Beyer. Kaleb is our marriage and family specialist. So, Kaleb, I would guess this impacts couples that you interact with almost on a daily basis. Is that a true statement?
Yeah, it is, Matt. And part of it is as we walk through here, we’re gonna talk about a little bit some of the terms. It feels a bit static. You say empty nest, but the reality is this is a process that really begins, even sometimes thinking about it and preparing for it before the first one even leaves, the first child even leaves the home. And then there’s a process depending on how many kids in the timeframe when the last one leaves. And so, it impacts a lot.
Let’s just talk a little bit about that. We’ll go back to that Ecclesiastes verse and touch on that. But you’re really unpacking what it means to have an empty nest or a level set here. But what I really liked what you said there is it’s not just static empty nest. It is a dynamic time of life as well, which really raises the importance of the topic.
So many probably know what the term empty nest means and you can see that picture there. And, it simply describes the transition from having kids in the home to no longer having kids in the home. And so if you think about a nest. You think the purpose of a nest is provide safety and protection and nurture an environment for nurturing of, in this case, chicks. And that’s what we do as parents for our kids, is provide that environment. Well, one day, or perhaps you’re at that day, those kids are no longer in the home.
And even as we say that, Matt, there is a wide range of, in some cases, maybe the nest never empties for whatever reason. Right? Or maybe there’s grandchildren that come in for certain circumstances. And so, when we use the term empty nest, we certainly use it loosely and understand that there are many realities to empty nest. But in general, a starting point is just saying that transition from having kids in the home to when they’re no longer in the home.
But even that second point there about second half of marriage, certainly if you were to average everybody’s experiences, we are seeing it would be approximately half your marriage maybe with an empty nest. And obviously that’s gonna vary, but yeah, for sure.
Yeah. Some term it, the first half of marriage is with kids, and then the second half is without kids, and certainly there’s changes when the kids are getting married. I say kids when individuals are getting married. Certainly the ages are climbing when they’re getting married. So that impacts certainly the second half or the lifespan of the second half of marriage. But, seeing it as it’s different. The first half is looks much different than the second half. And in between there’s sometimes this, what they call halftime that can be really difficult in challenging transitioning.
Well, if you think about a growing marriage and it forming. It forms in the first half a marriage and then it exists in the second half a marriage. And, in that forming has gotta be informative with the kids in the mix. And really, so what we’re gonna talk about here today is a little bit of that reality that this empty nest time of marriage is impactful and does cause us pause and thought just by the nature of the way it has come about. Let’s back up and look at that Ecclesiastes 3:1, pause on this verse here because it really speaks to the topic as well.
It does, Matt. So, to everything there is a season and a time to everything, every purpose under the heaven. So we see, first of all, there is God ordained laws to have seasons and times and structures. We see it in day and night. We see it in fall and moving into winter. We see it in relationships. And really that’s what we’re talking about today, that these are realities that they are God ordained and there’s purpose in them. Can you imagine how chaotic it would be, Matt, if we didn’t know what day was, or what night was that, there wasn’t a sense of structure in that. And so I think similarly in our marriage relationships, we go through seasons. And, God has a purpose in each of those seasons.
Yeah. And, I really like that coming together. One is a recognition that there is an era, a season of dispensation, I guess a time, through marriage that we enter into, but that God has purposes in each of those. And I think that’s important because the picture, that we just came from, it would appear that there’s no purpose there. And that’s part of where this terminology falls apart. While we call it empty nest. Empty nest is certainly insufficient to say all that needs to be said about this important time of life. Yep. Yeah, it’s right. It’s anything but empty in that sense.
So, let’s lay out a few objectives that we have here, Kaleb, for this particular webinar. So we want to talk through three different domains. There, you can see ’em on the screen. That really, when you look at the tension, the struggle, the conflict that happens within this phase or this season is we want to talk about three core areas that it really seems to flow out of.
So the first is identity, the second is hope, and then the next is connection. And we’ll unpack what those are, why they’re important, and really how to, things to think about as we make that transition from empty nest or rather from a full nest to an empty nest.
So these are gonna be three domains that are going to impact us. And whether we have kids at home or don’t have kids at home, they take on different nuances. And they are major themes that need to be reckoned. Yes, identity, hope, and connection. So, the first objective is just simply knowing what those are. And then number two is how do I facilitate that transition?
What does it look like from identity to go from being with kids to being with an empty nest, so on and so forth. Now you had mentioned here that there are a variety of issues that confront empty nest marriages. Research has bore these 10 out. What do you have to say about these here?
Well, first, Matt, I think if, I don’t know if any are on this webinar that still have kids in the home, but I think for most couples, as we look down, at least the first part of that list, it’s not a surprise to us. No. Often conflict and communication are a struggle in marital relationships or there are issues around that. And sex is obviously a high one. Also, money is one that tends to be up there for all couples. So I think the first thing, Matt, is just to acknowledge that for most of these, with the exception of retirement planning, aging, parents for the most part, health, sometimes, some cases they’re really not that out of the ordinary for all couples, regardless of what stage you’re in.
So I think that’s the first piece is, which I think, it’s helpful to realize as couples, it’s not so much what the issues are as much as how do we have handle them, how do we navigate them? And what is a healthy way to navigate them? So it’s not so much, yes, we’re not going to lay to rest any of these issues. Having an issue with any of these 10 items is completely normal. It’s a matter of how do we, how do we handle that issue? How do we manage it? That’s really where the learning and the gain takes place. Is that what I understand.
That’s fair. And I think one of the things that we also want to acknowledge in this, Matt, is while these are similar, whether you have kids in the home or you don’t have kids in the home, there are some complexities in both of those that impact how you walk through conflict, communication, these issues here?
I can completely see that. Let me broad brush one, with money, this is gonna be a complete broad brush. It doesn’t apply everywhere, but money being scarce maybe early and money being abundant in the second part, right? So you can see that just poses itself with difficulty. Same source, it just looks different. So we’re also saying, remember, we have three domains that we’re gonna touch on today, identity, hopes, and connection, and all 10 of these also play on all three of those.
So as we learn about these three domains, see them in our marriages. They will also be helpful because they address one or more of these 10 items. And hopefully that will make sense as we progress. Now you did say that there is some unique circumstances, yes, the empty nest marriages have. So even though those 10 things are pretty common, whether we have children at home or not, empty nest marriages have those 10 things with the complications of financial concerns, mortality, reflection, health concerns, multiple role transitions, major decisions, for children. Fill anything else that you wanna say about that reality.
Well, oftentimes Matt, the empty nest coincides with, you’ve probably heard the term, midlife crisis. Okay, so which they say is again moving older, but they would say anywhere from 45 to 65 years old. And so not only are you walking through the transition of having kids in the home and the multiple role transitions as mother or father and what that looks like when kids are in the home versus when they’re out. You also think about the roles as far as career or maybe in the church because, at midlife you’re starting to begin to realize one, for example, we are not living forever, right? Which we know that to be true, but I think early on in our life we are really filled with cultivating family life, maybe career, maybe getting connected in the church.
And all of these are about growth. They’re about pursuing this. And then in the midlife there’s this point at which it seems like things taper off, which really pushes on identity, right? It pushes on, we think about retirement. Do we have the finances? Or have some things come in here? We think about health concerns, menopause, right? Or other issues that can impact our bodies, our minds. And so there’s significant, I think it’s just healthy to acknowledge when we talk about empty nest, there are other factors going on that impact and can make it more challenging and difficult than just empty nest.
And there would be a list, a corollary list to these for early marriages with kids in tow or with the full nest, right? And so that’s really a part of what we’re talking about here today in this webinar is there is a bit of a transition happening here on many, many different levels, not just kids present or not? Yes, and so you’re saying that these items here certainly provide complications. Yes, they do. Or extra challenged nuances, right. Well, let’s get right into this concept of transition. So if you remember, Kaleb said that we have really two objectives, and the two objectives are to identify these three domains, identity, hopes, and connection, and then to see how they transition.
So, identity doesn’t go away, with and without kids. Hopes don’t go away. Connection doesn’t go away, but they all change and they all are impactful. Kaleb, I really appreciated some of the questions that were placed in here and I just wanna highlight a few of ’em right now.
One chimed in and said, what are the common unanticipated consequences of becoming empty nesters, both negative and positive? And I think they’re gonna hear both negative and positive. But the insightful intuition that they had said that I would imagine there’s some unanticipated consequences and perhaps some of the unanticipated consequences are knit into these three domains, hopes, identities, and connections.
Because these aren’t things that we typically are thoughtful about, you know what I’m saying? They’re not naturally a part of the framework of my thinking. They just eek into my existence and they can be unanticipated. Another participant wrote this, said, from my experience as a mother of an empty nester, it crept on me unawares. And so she is verifying just exactly what the other person suspected might be the case. And that is, yes, you are thrusted upon this new reality, sometimes unexpectedly and trying to find your way. So, I think those comments really speak to some of our objectives here.
I think those are great questions and I think when we go through transitions, that’s one of the things, whether it’s here with empty nest or in premarital couples, a lot of things we talk about is realistic expectations and, what does this phase of life look like when I’ve never been there? I’ve experienced it through other’s eyes, but myself, I haven’t experienced it. And so these three areas, Matt, are day-to-day we don’t think about them, but they surface generally when there’s difficult, painful emotions up here that are signals or indicators of something going on and oftentimes, these aren’t everything, but these are some core areas that they flow out of.
Sure. And that’s important. This isn’t going to cover everything that this topic deserves, but we want to hit on a few core things. So should we get right into identity then, Kaleb? I think so. I’m gonna maybe preface this one or maybe introduce this one with this particular question which I thought was really insightful and I think I have heard this from other people too. So this is, I think, speaks for many who says, I feel lazy, guilty, slightly depressed about my new spare time. It makes my mind go to self-worth. What are some of your thoughts and ideas on this? I feel a little discontented in my role. This concept of role, I think has something to do with identity. Does it not, Kaleb? Yes. Would you flush out what we mean by identity and why that’s important.
So identity is really about answering the question who I am and who I am not. And so it encompasses a number of different things. It can encompass our values. It can encompass, as you mentioned there, our roles. It can encompass our likes or dislikes, where we live. All of these are factors that make up. Who is Matt? Who is Kaleb? And who am I not, right? They’re identifying pieces. And so that’s what identity is. Why it’s important is it really guides our decisions. It also influences how we see meaning and purpose in life.
Certainly at the fundamental core, our identity is in Christ, right? We are His. We would also say as we walk through life, these other responsibilities we have impact how we see ourselves. And so for that reason, we think about meaning and purpose. That is something that we care deeply about.
It is important to us. And when there’s conflict between who I think I am and who I would like to be. That’s painful. That gap in this transition is really where the conflict, tension, painful emotions, like the participant talked about feeling alone and questioning self-worth and that is a crisis, right? Yeah. I mean, we would term it a type of a crisis.
Can you say would you agree with this statement that there is some closure, some very cognitive closure that a person has when they are settled in their identity? If that person is not settled in their identity, there is perhaps anxious or there is turmoil, or there is an unsettled reality for that person. Is that a fair blanket statement? Yes. Yeah, it is correct. So given that statement, given that truth that if our identity is thrown off in this transition, then we can experience, I think, what this individual really said very well to some of that turmoil.
And I think, Matt, maybe I’m jumping too far ahead, but I think what’s so challenging about this transition is as that first bullet point, I’m still a mother. Like, at this piece that I’m still at a place that there are certain kind of aspects of who I am, but it shifts as far as the responsibilities and the roles that that place has. And so I think what’s difficult is that in some aspects, being a mother or father, you’re always gonna be a mother and a father. Right. But it’s what that looks like.
So that mother role needs to change and grow. And certainly it’s gonna look differently in the empty nest stage. Take another one of these bullets and bring us from one side to the other.
So if you look at the next bullet point, I am a provider for needs. So when we think, children in the home, whether it’s young children, teenagers, there is a sense of provision, whether it be financially, physically, spiritually, and it’s very evident that that is true because we see them every day, we’re impacted by it. And so we feel it. There is actually a sense of responsibility that we wear at some level and so that idea of providing and really nurturing them up in the way of the Lord is something that as kids are there, is present.
When we shift to having empty nest, now I’m a provider, but it looks different. No longer do we have individuals that are not adults that need us in very specific and real ways. In fact, at some points it feels like they don’t need us at all because they are adults pursuing, right? Whether it be their family, not that they’re rejecting us, but it can certainly feel like that. And so the transition moves from very needs based to now in the empty nest. What does it look like for me to bless my kids or my grandkids that there aren’t overt needs per se? There’s certainly some needs, but the level of needs dramatically drops when you look at shifting into empty nest.
Yeah, and I really like even that small nuance of going from a need to a blessing, I think is something that we can taste. And so can we safely say, I think this concept of need really does drive us towards identity? So I’m looking at your last bullet there. I am needed for fill in the blank. If we can fill in the blank there on our need, that’s gonna circle very closely to an identity type of issue. And so is part of the exercise then in the empty nest to still fill in the blank but just being aware that service might look a little different?
Yeah. Right. There are absolutely still needs even, I look at that as a parent and my parents and the need that they fill both in my life, which looks much different, but also my kids, which I can’t. There’s a certain need there that they bless them, they affirm them, they see something in them that speaks, I think on a just as a broad level as me as a parent. And so there is definitely a need. But here’s the thing, I think Matt, that it’s difficult is you are in the empty nest. There’s that loss of identity, of active need. I mean, they’re coming to you. Right? Can I do this? Can we go here? Can, to it’s silent. Yeah. And so like you’re saying, sitting down and walking through that exercise of certainly there are needs, but it looks different.
Well, let’s move to that. What does that transition look like? So, coach, the transition of identity, I think we have a pretty good understanding of what it looks like and why it’s important. So as we look at transitioning the identity part of this, what should we be thinking about? So I see here on your slide we’re looking both to the past and to the future. I like those two buckets. So, help us with this transition.
So I think the first piece, Matt, is just to acknowledge and expect painful, difficult emotions. We don’t want or like that. But again, we’re talking about identity, which is the core of who I am and how I see myself. And so at some level, when you think about a crisis there is some emotions that flow out of that, that are difficult and that are painful. So I think first when we looked at the past, and by the way, the more value we place on a certain role of identity, the more difficult it is to transition.
So if you think about it outside of our marriage relationship, certainly God first our marriage is our kids. That’s important. We value that. And so the more we value it, the more challenging the shift. And so first is to provide closure in some ways. And what we mean by that is really a shift from, this is who I was as I’m transitioning to who I am now in the empty nest.
And so some things that can go ahead and there are some moments in life where I think those, I would imagine we do this in stages, in a number of different moments in our kids’ life. Certainly, the graduation is even a time set up for that a type of sendoff or transfer of responsibilities and roles. I think of a wedding certainly is an event that serves itself well and, I even think of a baptism as an important moment where responsibility is being shifted and taken and so, certainly seizing on these moments, but I would imagine more expansive in other ways as well.
Yeah, so I think seizing on those moments and being intentional about even with the sendoff of letter communicating that shift very overtly, whether it’s to the kids as they’re leaving that they are now adults and I wanna communicate, send them, walk through a letter or actually having a celebration, but a particular, like, they are an adult now. And so I wanna convey what I see in them and how I wanna bless them and releasing them.
Would you, so give us some stems, some things to say. So what could it possibly be? Listen, son, you were an adult. I would’ve addressed this differently four years ago, but now and onward, this is the arrangement. When you say overtly, that’s what I hear.
Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s a great sentence stem. You are overtly calling out the change in identity that you see in them, and by doing so, you’re also starting to process through the change of your role and identity in their life. And so by communicating, I see you as an adult. I’m releasing you to the world and obviously with believers, with the Holy Spirit and blessing Scripture are wonderful ways to call out what you see in them and how you see God working in them and the confidence that you have in them based on what you’ve experienced while they’re under your roof. And so you really are affirming them as well, Matt, at the gifts and the talents that you feel like God has really manifested in their life.
And, I heard you insert a few times there, this concept of written. So, this could powerfully be done in written form.
Yes. And I think the idea is having a tangible way that you’re going about this can be helpful. That’s true when we work with individuals of just through grief and loss, is having this clarity and sometimes having a letter or having a certain celebration that represents that. And so we have an experience with it can be a helpful way to help with that shift.
So looking to the future, you’ve got a few questions or a few bullets there to think about. So looking to the past, we’re talking about closure, but we’re also opening up something here as well with our transition shift.
Yes. So now we’re looking at, again, we’ve been talking about just the new roles and responsibilities both within our kids’ lives, but also I think about opportunities that now arise, whether it be in the church, whether it be other relationships outside of the family. So now we’re thinking about the second half. That’s the future. And as we look at us as a couple, what do we want the couple identity to be? Oftentimes, when kids are there, we see this family unit, which is wonderful and we’re still a family here, and that’s important, but it’s also important that now the two of you, your spouse and you are under the same roof. And so as we think about our identity as a couple and what we pursue, this is a great opportunity to look to the future and say, Lord, what would you have for us? And in what direction and what is it that we want to pursue and fill and mentor or, all of these different kind of opportunities.
I really like that. And it’s really gonna call husbands and wives to really come together and I think in a really powerful way to build that identity. Let’s move on to the next one, which is hopes. Okay. Go ahead and tell us, Kaleb, a little bit about what is it that we mean by this domain of hopes and we’ve got written up their expectations, hopes, dreams. So what is this and why is it important.
Yeah, so hopes, that is something that we are longing for, we are looking forward to. In Romans, it talks about, Matt, that we are saved by hope, but hope seen is not hope. So it’s something that’s out here. We can’t see it, but we’re longing for it, right? It’s an expectation we have. And, so hopes are motivations, if you think about it, right? They motivate us to pursue something. When hopes are unmet or they’re unrealistic, it can lead to frustration. It can lead to disappointment. It can lead to sometimes bitterness. When we are maybe pursuing a hope that isn’t realistic, that isn’t reality and so therefore, unpacking and understanding, what are hopes, what is realistic and what is important for us to pursue as a couple?
So looking at the bullets there on the left hand side of the screen, you’re really reflecting the exercises, and we say, we all had hopes and expectations in dreams, right? For example, the first bullet, my kids are going to be fill in the blank. We all had that hope. I think every parent at their kids’ first piano recital think maybe they’re gonna be a pianist, right? Maybe this is going to, and then after a little while we realize that’s not gonna be the case. But anyway, so as parents we understand how to get our hopes up. We get that. But that’s not all bad and we have to reckon with that. I want my family to be this. As a father, I will be, and we fill in the blank with whatever, but these bullets there at the bottom, experience, achievements, and relationships are all ways to process all of those bullets above, right? So the experience my kids are gonna have, the achievements they’re gonna have, the relationships they’re gonna have. Is that right?
Yeah. So it’s really a time. As you have kids, there are hopes of vacations or hopes that, you know what, they’ll have these healthy relationships in life or they’ll achieve this. And so we are constantly in that kind of process. And at the point it feels like, you know what out here, whether it’s the wedding or the graduation, it’s like that’s that marker that says, wow, you know what? There’s some there that hopes that I had for my child or I had for us as a family. The reality is, that didn’t quite meet where I thought we would be, where I thought he or she would be.
And let me just say, I mean this really hits on a lot of the questions that we got. Out of the dozen questions that we got, I would say four or five of them hit very nearly to this. Let me read one, how to stay connected to kids not serving Christ yet, maybe making choices you don’t agree with. Now, that’s very expansive, but I want to narrow in on this concept. I don’t like the choices my kids have made and that finds its place in this idea of hopes and expectations. I had an expectation that’s not being. And I have to, we have to work through that.
We do. And, Matt, I this area, domain of Hope. And you’ll notice the identity also overlaps some here. It does, yeah. Very much. And so as you’re talking through this, even staying connected to kids and is that now not empty nest with kids here I have certain hopes that aren’t met. Which is very difficult and painful. Right? That’s a loss. Now as we move into empty nest, what we have to be careful of is that we try to fix what didn’t happen in the not empty nest. Does that make sense? Yes. That, we move into a place because now our role has shifted. And so, our responsibility to our children has shifted. It doesn’t mean that we can’t speak into their lives, but I do think it goes from a place of, it goes to a place of receipt, an empty nest it’s one of receipt, it’s one of the kids receiving. Rather I got that backwards. Let me, it’s the one of us as parents that we need to receive what they give to us. When we’re not, when the kids are at home, we’re very actively pouring in. Yes. And we are really responsible for that. Right. Yeah. And now it shifts when we go into empty nest. And so we take an approach of more receiving when they are ready and at what time they’re ready.
Okay. So I like to simplify things. And I might do it to a detriment and oversimplify, but the nuance that I hear out of that is in a non empty nest, they are mine, this ownership. And in an empty nest, I am theirs. There’s a shift there that happens that, again, identity and now hopes and expectations and all of those things. They take a little different slant, a healthy slant when that shifts. Is that a fair statement?
It is. And let’s use the example of, for example, Christmas. When the kids are in our home, we have certain. That we do, and this is how we do it. Now. You go to, okay, there’s in-laws, there’s now all of a sudden that shifts to more of a receiving when they can come. Does that make sense? It doesn’t mean we can’t do things, wonder things that in our home when they’re there. Yeah. But there is a difference in ownership.
And, when those things happen, and I would, and we’re gonna get to how this, how to make this transition, but I would imagine flexibility and letting loose, letting go, some of that is going to color it. Is that true?
Yeah. Yes, that’s true. I think this is a hard, I think just acknowledge this is hard. Okay, Matt, this is painful. But it also can be beautiful because at the same time, we are releasing responsibility, which on one hand can be freeing. It also is terrifying because we’re saying now some of the unmet hopes that we had, I don’t know if they’re gonna be met. That’s the thing. I don’t know, and that’s a really difficult place to be. So I think just acknowledging that. But what we have to be careful of is that in our pursuit to engage them right back to the Christmas is if we have expectations of this is how it needs to be. And rather than we’ll receive you when you come and we’ll love and bless you when you’re here, it may turn into a dynamic that can easily lead to the kids feeling like that it’s never enough.
And, let’s move here to the next slide, which really helps, gives us some pointers on how to make this transition. But just to be clear with these points on the right hand side of the screen here, it looks like the first two points is some sort of acceptance of that was then. That was the experience of our family culture. That was the achievements. That was the relationships. But then there’s a hope there in the third bullet that says, this will be the culture of my house, again, as the spouses come together now. That is your home. And we have the ability to form that with hopes and expectations and dreams together. My wife and I will. Right. And so we see couples with a very, I’ve got a dear brother in my home church who, I don’t know, guess his age in the seventies. And he tells me often and he says, Matt, you have to believe that your best days are yet coming. Okay. And that’s the way he lives his life, believing that his best days are yet coming.
And with that, it just breathes life and hope. And I think in a beautiful way. I feel like some of those later bullets really speak to that. But let’s now go to, so let’s transition this hope here. How do we transition it? You’ve got a couple of pointers here. Grieve your past losses with patience, reframe your future expectations and practice gratitude. Why don’t you take these one at a time here.
So, the first one, grieve your past losses with patience. A number of authors in this area really encourage a pause between once the nest is empty to jumping into something too quickly. For the reason, the first reason is a time when there is an acknowledgement, because that is the halftime, you’re reflecting on things from the past. And, be patient and be compassionate with yourself. There is no perfect parent, and the enemy wants us to reflect back in hindsight and pull out all the things that we did wrong. And so for some of us that’s more difficult than others, right? But just acknowledge with compassion as you are at this point in time and you’re looking back, that can be a reality. And so the measurement can’t be one of perfection, right? But did we do what God, were we faithful to what God called us to do?
And some of those we need to grieve and we need to let go of. And, and do it with patience and compassion because if not, what happens is some of those painful emotions can feed future engagement. It’s out of this loss that I’m feeding, trying to fix it. Now in the future. Does that make sense? So I think it’s healthy to grieve and then I’m reframing future expectations.
Well, let me capture that though. It’s healthy to grieve. It actually puts you in the best place to be useful to best. It’s gonna put you in the best frame of mind to make a difference even in that area if we’ve grieved it. And, we’ve grieved that loss. Now, I don’t want to be talking too abstract with it people don’t understand, but let’s pick something really, really hard, right? Unconverted children, that is something that we grieve, right? That, maybe we have regrets. Maybe we have, I should have done this. I a lot of shoulda wouldas, but, you’re saying, take the time to grieve that because that’s gonna put you in the best healthy place to be healthy in the future and impact them in the best way for Christ anyway.
Right. Is that a true statement? Yes, it is a true statement. And Matt, I think part of the reason is if we think about the purpose of grieving it is so that the present becomes the present. Otherwise, what happens is if I don’t grieve this back here, I can easily begin to live out of this back here. The past. And so grieving, it doesn’t mean I let go of the hope that my son or daughter will be converted. Absolutely not. It does mean that I need to grieve what things the should haves, the could haves, all of these things and also balance it with, you know what the reality is, there’s some things you did well.
Right. Balance the fact that it isn’t all one sided here, but I think that grieving is shifts then now to the future. Expectation is I can still pray for and pursue actively in appropriate ways my unconverted son or daughter now, but it’s not from a place that they’re under my roof. So there’s a release, otherwise if I don’t grieve this back here, I’m gonna be pursuing them as if they were under my roof. And they’re still my child in the sense of they’re responsible to me. And at some point I need to release that. It doesn’t mean I give up hope. Absolutely not.
Yeah. I like that. So go on to the next one. So the next one, let’s see, are we at three? Practice gratitude. So, I think here is when we think about hopes that aren’t met and meeting hopes in the present is when we’re looking back, sometimes we can miss God’s blessings here in the present.
And so what gratitude helps us do is not to minimize or normalize the loss, but it does help see God and his promises and blessings in the present. And so gratitude is putting us in that place and remembering that as a couple, we’re cultivating that through this difficult and challenging transition.
I really like that. And, they really do make sense now as you’ve explained them, that I think, cuz you mentioned that grieving really allows us a healthy present. And a healthy present allows us to reframe the future. And it also helps us to see blessings in the present as you have mentioned.
Let’s move along now to connections. So connections is the third and final domain that we want to talk about, connections. What we mean by connections is to access our spouse, having openness, responsiveness. It’s this connection part with our spouses. It obviously looks different with kids underfoot and with an empty nest.
So connection, when we think about connection, it is just that those three were access, openness, and responsiveness. It is that piece of how engaged and accessible and responsive is my spouse to me, to my presence. And so when we think about that, why it’s important is it’s deeply painful when there’s disconnection. When there’s not engagement, or I can’t feel like I can access them emotionally, right. That they see me. That part of intimacy as we know is into me see that I feel like they are seeing in me and knowing me deeply and loving me. And so when that isn’t there, it’s painful for us as individuals, cuz we are relational beings, and so as you said, Matt, when kids are there, our lives are just connected through the kids, right?
Whether it’s activities, whether it’s appointments, whether it’s school things, whether it’s their spiritual life, it is on our mind and our schedules and so it’s constantly there. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but in a stage, what can happen? The second point there, sacrifice, special spousal connection for kids is the lack of connection may have gone unnoticed. So with kids, there’s distractions that happen, right? That can take us away even sometimes from walking through conflict. And I tell you, as a conflict avoidant individual, I’ll take the opportunity for, you know, a kid comes up in the middle of a conversation to walk away and avoid conflict. So sometimes that goes unaddressed. And so in this stage, we need to be active about pursuing a couple identity outside of our family identity.
It’s interesting how they intertwine identity, hopes, and now connection, very much. So, address maybe the right hand side of this too, then. There are some advantages that can be seized upon when it comes to this connection.
Yes. It goes from a place of more reactivity, I would say, in the left column, to proactivity in the right column. Which requires us to be proactive then. Yes, correct. Which is I think an important, it’s connection is gonna be thrust upon us for survival in the left column, in the right column, connection will only happen with proactivity and it will not happen if we are not. Yes, we have to be proactive in the empty nest to pursue shared interests, shared activities, shared challenges. And that is what creates connection, if you think about it, which is why it’s so important, Matt, I think for us, is we make that transition that we are investing in a relationship. Because it can be a difficult thing. I’m sure you’ve heard, when we transition to not having kids, you’ve probably heard you look across the room and who is that individual that I am living with? And so that can be difficult.
And so in the midst of that processing through loss, right? And so in emptiness what’s important is that we pursue things together, as a couple, that we’re building this us, we connection around activities, pursuits, spending time, but also acknowledging that, you know what a conflict in the non empty nest. We may talk about it over a period of time and in the quietness of an empty nest, it’s like, wow, we really need to address this. Right. There aren’t those distractions and so it gets more intention, so to speak.
You had mentioned in the Ecclesiastes verse that this all things for a season and purpose under heaven, that God has his purposes and I really see purposes here. In Genesis, when God instituted marriage, he has a couple of purposes. One is to be fruitful and multiply. That’s column number on the left. And that’s very, very purposeful and with it comes its connections and all kinds of identity and hopes. He also calls us to be help meets for one another and to connect with one another. That’s the very genesis of it all, which is really done in the second column here. Right. And so it’s almost a rediscovery of purpose in a way. Let’s look at that transition.
So here you can see on the first point there consider taking a new class or engaging a new activity together. The point is back to proactivity is actively engaging ways that you can spend meaningful time together as a couple, that you are creating, again, back to the identity piece, and hopes, is that you’re doing something that you enjoy together with the more freedom. And I use that loosely because I understand that there’s busyness in every stage. And so it’s more about decisions aren’t necessarily made around the kids, although there’s grandkids and kids’ activities, but the point is, be proactive about doing something together that you enjoy or that challenges you.
Actively find ways to increase fun and laughter. And so both we need to grieve. We also need to, sometimes we take ourselves in life too seriously. And we need to laugh. Laugh is one of the best medicines that we can give ourselves. And so finding ways, whether it’s talking about things in the past that really brought you laughter and joy and couples can do this together, intentionally pursue missions or ministry opportunities.
Now, as you think about it, I really appreciate in older brothers and sisters in our church who have had life experiences, who have wisdom that are at a place that they are pouring in to others. And there are wonderful opportunities and blessings as couples or individuals to get involved in that. Be curious about experiences of your spouse.
So here’s, Matt, I think when you talk about that right column, discovering our spouse, is not knowing facts about her spouse. That’s one thing, right? But it’s knowing how those facts impact them, their experiences. So empty nest related to even how they’re walking through the loss of not having the children there.
The fact is the children are no longer there. What’s their experience of that? And can I be curious, interested about that experience in my spouse, actively repairing disconnects, meaning disconnections when we have conflict or when we have things that are disrupted. The importance of coming back and acknowledging, asking forgiveness as needed and then reaffirming your commitment.
There’s some interesting things, Matt, that people do, which I think is wonderful about, maybe you can commemorate it around a certain event. That you say your wedding vows, you repeat them, or you can, there’s creative ways to say, you know what, I’m committed to you for this second half, and this is what we plan to do together. These are expectations and it can be meaningful and it can be a blessing to you as a couple and your family really, because when you pour into your marriage relationship, you are pouring into your family.
Your family is going to get the residual of that. I think this is really excellent. And, we are at just nearly at the top of the hour here, and I wanted to call out some of the blessings that are in store for the empty nest in each of these, right? Each of these domains that are so pertinent to us whether you are still in the kids stage or out. But we’ve touched on a lot of these here today. So thank you, Kaleb, for that. But I think, you’ve provided a great deal of level set and I know that there’s more content out there if people would wanna know more, certainly on connections. You have got a lot of activities and you work with couples on making those connections.
So I want to acknowledge that here. Kaleb, thanks for sharing on this topic. This presentation will be uploaded to our website and so you can peruse it there and review it there with the slide deck if you like. So thanks each one. Thanks, Kaleb. Yep. Thank you. Good to be with you.
At some point, the home will empty and our children will be gone. This new environment can be exciting, yet also intimidating for couples. In this webinar, Kaleb Beyer walks through three aspects of our marriage relationship that can be challenged at this time: our identity, our hopes, and our connection. He gives practical tips on how to turn these potential challenges into opportunities for growth together. Learn more on how to navigate this transition personally and as a couple in this webinar recording. A copy of the PowerPoint handout is below.
For Further Information:
The “Empty Nest” [ACCFS]
This article provides additional information and resources.
Transitioning to the Empty Nest Podcast
In this episode of Breaking Bread, Roger Gasser and Kaleb Beyer speak into the care needed to thrive in this transition.