As we grow older are we growing closer to our spouse and those we love or we drifting apart?
Rod Jeppsen a Clinical Mental Health Counselor Shared His experiences
“As I counsel with couples who no longer have children living in their home, they often describe the ‘empty nest’ experience this way: ‘It sneaked up on us so fast! It seems like we were just waiting for the first child to arrive, and all of a sudden the children are grown and gone. The years flew by! Now we look at each other and say, ‘What do we have in common?’
Whether we live in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, or São Paulo, Brazil, we all are sons and daughters of God. We are human and have emotions. We may express emotions differently based on our culture and upbringing, but we all have them—loneliness, rejection, fear, sadness, happiness, and joy. Even in cultures where families live in intergenerational homes, as children grow into adulthood, their parents often grow apart. Empty-nester couples often say to me, ‘We don’t have anything in common anymore.’ And if they are only looking at what one individual likes to do versus what the other individual wants to do, that’s usually right. Without an emotional connection, we can be in the same room with our spouse and still feel lonely.
So what can a couple do so they’re facing together rather than facing apart? Let’s start by discussing backgrounds.
We all come from different backgrounds. We have experiences with parents, siblings, extended family, friends, and associates that shape and mold what we do and expect in marriage. For example, during our growing-up years, were our caregivers emotionally close or distant? Based on our backgrounds, we can ask two essential questions:
- How close are we willing to emotionally connect with our spouse?
- Are we willing to let our spouse into our emotional space?
When we’re focusing on our spouse’s behavior rather than seeing the history of why that behavior may have developed, we will often generate rigidity and keep softness away. Having insight and compassion for difficult times our spouse experienced during his or her growing-up years will usually instill a desire to be more supportive. Compassion, softness, and gentleness provide fertile ground to share emotions. Learning to talk about our feelings with our spouse is a catalyst in producing emotional safety and connection.
Spouses of any age strengthen their relationship as they learn to identify, recognize, understand, and talk about their emotions together. It may be helpful to apply two inspired principles: (1) ‘Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other,’ and (2) husband and wife are ‘to help one another as equal partners.’
(The Family a Proclamation to the World, September, 1995)”
Remain Strong Spiritually
One of the challenges all of us will face as we get older is to remain strong spiritually until the end of our lives. The Savior said, “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” (Matthew 24:13 in the Bible)
“Behold, I am the law, and the light. Look unto me, and endure to the end, and ye shall live; for unto him that endureth to the end will I give eternal life.” (3 Nephi 15:9 in the Book of Mormon) “And, if you keep my commandments and endure to the end you shall have eternal life, which gift is the greatest of all the gifts of God.” (Doctrine & Covenants 14: 7 p. 25).
Keep On the Covenant Path
One blessing my wife and I share is trying to grow old together on the “Covenant Path”.
The covenant path refers to our taking the name of Jesus Christ in our lives and keeping His commandments.
“If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14: 15 in the Bible)
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all the ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.” (Proverbs 3: 5-6 in the Bible)
“For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the inticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love,..”
(Mosiah 3: 19 p. 153 in the Book of Mormon). If couples are both trying to keep the commandments of God, they share a lot in common both emotionally and spiritually.
I quoted part of an article by Rod Jeppsen entitled “Together or Apart” Liahona Magazine June, 2021.