By Fran Caffey Sandin –
The empty nest becomes a test. How strong is our marriage? What have we done so far to keep the spark alive?Complacency will send our love boat floundering on the rocks. So what can we do to keep the passion in our relationship?
Several years ago my husband, Jim, wanted to take up sailing and, although reluctant at first, I hung in there and learned to crew. We’ve continued the sport together; so I’ve selected sailing terms to describe ways to strengthen our marriages.
Drop the Anchor
Staying spiritually in tune is one of the most important elements in a strong marriage. All couples encounter some rough waters—some prior to the midlife years and some later. Jim and I have experienced the death of our youngest child, we’ve both had surgeries, and have dealt with painful issues in our extended family; but we can honestly say that God has been faithful in every situation. We begin our day with a devotional from Our Daily Bread then hold hands and pray. Throughout the day, knowing we stand together strengthens us. Our life in Christ does not protect us from the storms, but it anchors us and provides peace within as we weather them.
Trim the Sheets
Some folks think physical intimacy is no longer interesting in mid-life, but that simply is not true. The sex drive is altered some with age and our bodies do shift, but in a Christ-centered marriage the sexual expression of love can remain active and strong. In their book, Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, authors Dr. William Cutrer and Sandra Glahn wrote: “Physical intimacy need not end following surgical procedures such as hysterectomy or after the normal ‘change of life’—menopause. It may require some change and creativity, but a satisfying relationship can result for most.”
Plus, help is now available for men who have erectile dysfunction and other problems associated with sexual performance. Yes, romance can flourish in midlife.
Set your Compass
It has been said that a rut is a grave that is open at both ends. Instead of becoming stuck set goals for your midlife years. As our children grow up, we can share interests with them, attend and support their activities, take vacations together, and eventually spend time with grandchildren.
We can serve our churches and communities. Couples can work together, stay useful and active. Don’t give up. Last year Jim and I were the oldest of our group on a short-term mission trip to China, but we found the Chinese college students eager to hear the gospel. One of our goals is to be a good role model for the younger couples we teach in a Sunday class.
Choose the Right Tack
The medical benefits of humor are well known and will add life to our years. Jim and I laugh together about cartoons in the newspaper and we laugh at ourselves. We now laugh about things we used to fuss over. We realize that many of our earlier frictions were due to stress, selfishness, and unrealistic expectations. Instead of holding grudges about irritations or past offenses, we have adopted Ephesians 4: 32 “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just in Christ God forgave you.”
Clean off the Barnacles
Barnacles slow a boat’s progress. Maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, and getting proper nutrition will keep the midlife years from bogging us down. Jim and I walk together every evening.
Beginning a new hobby or sport together or working toward a common goal will require some effort but will probably result in a new adventure. Give and take may be required, but the work will be rewarded as we find ourselves sailing toward greater friendship and joy together.
Dr. William Cutrer and Sandra Glahn, Sexual Intimacy in Marriage, (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Kregel Publications, Inc., 1998), page 95.
Sailing into Midlife Marriage appeared in Focus on the Family magazine Feb./March 2009.
Fran Caffey Sandin, mother of two, grandmother of three, lives in Greenville, Texas, with her physician-husband. She enjoys hiking, sailing, snow-shoeing, baking, traveling, reading, and playing the organ at her church. Visit her website at http://www.fransandin.com/.
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