Valentine’s day is here. Sometimes we assume that if you’ve celebrated one or twenty Valentine’s days with your honey, the preparation will be the same, and you’ll know exactly what your spouse expects. The reality is we may find ourselves year to year still wondering if what we’re doing for our spouse is actually fulfilling or satisfying their needs. You may do and get things for your spouse based on what advertisers say you should do, or what you think you would like if you were in the other’s shoes. But do we really know? Have you asked for clarification? Do you tell your spouse what makes you fulfilled?
If we are feeling the symptoms of an empty nest AND one or more empty love tanks (we have ten) at Valentine’s, then it may take all of our energy just to summon up the effort to recognize the value our spouse brings to our marriage. Forget a card or flowers or even the thought of a romantic evening. This may have all stopped long ago. Some of us may merely be throwing money or words at our relationship, and think it is still working, but our heart hardened a few years back. And now in addition to the kids leaving home, we are faced with the dilemma of staying in the same car with our spouse or looking elsewhere for a new car to make us feel young or in control.
However, if you think back on all of the Valentine’s you’ve celebrated with your partner, you may discover it is like looking at a scrapbook of snap shots depicting the state of your marriage as you celebrated this day each year that screams “be romantic or else!” Trying to remember where and what you and your spouse did for each of the past Valentine’s may be a fun way of re-connecting, laughing, and returning value to the time you’ve spent together raising yourselves.
If you have been like every other busy family in past years slogging through work and a myriad of after-school activities, sports practice, work related social functions, chores, fitting in workouts, running errands, and paying bills—when your kids get ready to or have just left home to pursue their interests and make their way in the world, the house can feel empty all of a sudden. You wake up looking at your partner, and you don’t know who you are let alone who the other person is anymore. Sometimes this wake-up call even occurs before your kids graduate from high school! Realization dawns that all of the time you spent lavishing unconditional love and support on your kids as you grew them into the young adults they are today—all that time is about to become available again.
This free time can be unsettling, exhilarating, terrifying or all three, because now you have a chance to re-focus on yourself and your needs. This also means getting re-acquainted with your spouse if in year’s past you were busy raising your child(ren). An easy way to re-focus on how you and your spouse will continue to grow together on Valentine’s is a romantic candle-lit dinner. Sometimes a special dinner at home—get take out if possible so no one has to cook—with the lights down low is cheaper, but more intimate than driving, making it on time to the reservation, and conversing in a crowded restaurant. Now is the perfect time over a candlelit dinner to ramble on about those unfulfilled dreams and wishes, and re-evaluate how you and your partner can make action plans by chunking your dream into bite-sized goals to help make each other’s dreams a reality.
How we decide to cope with this new-found freedom can either make our marriages stronger or break them apart. Using Valentine’s day to your advantage, by rekindling romance and talking about how to make both of your dreams a reality is the initial solution to becoming comfortable with the kids being away from home. The second part is checking-in with ages and stages, to see if you’ve been hitting the milestones. If you have an empty love tank, then chances are you’ll need to figure out what the needs are that were not met in previous stages of development, so you can start filling those love tanks and get back on track. Attending a Mars Venus workshop or reading one of Dr. John Gray’s books (author of Men are From Mars, Women Are From Venus) that explains ages and stages in an easy to understand format with The Ten Time periods are efficient ways to begin work on the long-term solution of living a fulfilled life.