(This story accompanies The 25-year-itch: Empty nesters and the second half of marriage.)
One way to sustain a marriage through the second half is to keep generating life as a couple, says Mary Jo Pedersen. Have a mission, whether it’s neighborhood cleanup, political campaigning, or mentoring other couples. “Nurture life; protect life in some way together.”
Also, remember that marriage is a covenant that a couple makes together but also with God. “So God is in the marriage. It’s like electricity is coming into your home, but you don’t know it is unless you plug something in, turn on a light. You have to plug into it.”
Convert fighting into negotiating. “Don’t wait till he’s walking to the garage,” Pedersen says. “Say, ‘Could we take 15 minutes tonight to talk? Because there’s something that’s important to me, that I need your full attention for.’ I cannot overemphasize prayer and communication—they’re the same thing. Communicating with each other and with God is the same thing.”
Finally, it’s never too late to learn to yield. “Sacrifice is out of style culturally,” Pedersen says. “But the people who sacrifice in marriage have happier marriages.”
Need a booster shot for yours? Here are a few of many.
MarriageAlive.com David and Claudia Arp founded Marriage Alive International and created the Second Half of Marriage program.
Marriageteam.org A faith-based but non-denominational nonprofit program, based in Vancouver, Wash.
BetterMarriages.org Marriage improvement classes and education. Not faith-based.
WWME.org Worldwide Marriage Encounter, an enrichment program for Christian marriages.
Retrouvaille.org A program for struggling marriages, it’s based in the Catholic tradition. Open to all.
Counseling Some couples seek personal counseling to work on individual issues, then marriage-specific programs or retreats for the couple.
For Better, For Worse, For God (Loyola Press) by Mary Jo Pedersen
The Five Love Languages: The Secret to Love That Lasts (Northfield Publishing) by Gary Chapman
The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (Three Rivers Press) by John M. Gottman
Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce (Three Rivers Press) by Elizabeth Marquardt
Marriage-Moments.com An online handbook of thoughts, ideas, and resources to enrich marriage.
MoneyHabitudes.com Help with marital financial issues.
BeyondAffairs.com Assists in healing after infidelity.
Smartmarriages.com A directory of conferences, marriage classes, books, tapes, articles, and more.
This article appeared in the August 2012 issue of U.S. Catholic (Vol. 77, No. 8, page 30).
Image: Tim Foley