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Are you destined for an empty-nest divorce?


Eugenio Marongiu - Shutterstock

Luz Ivonne Ream - published on 02/23/18

Children shouldn't be the only glue keeping your marriage together.

Intimacy is defined as a close friendship, the intimate and reserved spiritual zone of a person or a group, especially the family.

When I ask couples what is the strongest and most indestructible bond that keeps them together, I usually get the same answer: the children. And of course, this makes sense. But … if it were truly strong and indestructible, why is there still so much divorce?

So it’s not the children that keeps us united, but our capacity for mutual love and commitment, of self-giving, and of staying a priority for each other. The children are the fruit of our love, and an enormous blessing. But unfortunately, for many couples, that love — the purest of loves — is not enough to combat selfishness and avoid divorce.

Let me explain. Children are the most beautiful gift life can give us, and of course we have to love them unconditionally and dedicate our time, effort, and everything else to them. But we can’t neglect the person who should be our top priority, even above our children: our spouse.


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Intimacy in married life goes far beyond a mere sexual encounter. It means allowing ourselves to truly know each other as we are, from the soul. It means communicating our spirits without fear of being judged because there is only love between us, and we feel that we can open up completely. It means letting our hearts dialogue, often without words. The idea is for our relationship as husband and wife to be the most intimate of all human relationships.

So I am going to ask you to go back in time to those years in school, in your math class when you learned about addition. They asked you to put two circles together, slightly overlapping. There was an intersection, a field that both circles had in common, and that could be as big or as little as their proximity allowed. The further away, the smaller the bond. The closer, the bigger the bond.

But that intersection is precisely where our married life is lived: it’s everything we have in common. If we have tried to do everything we can to stay united in love, respect, compassion, mutual service, forgiveness, faith, sharing joys and sadnesses, successes and failures, then our bond will be well nourished, which means we will have a solid and impenetrable walled city.

But if each one of us does what we please with our own life, separating ourselves from our common purpose, which is to make each other happy and be the path toward fulfillment for each other, then we have fallen into selfishness and our life priorities are different or don’t coincide. And we all know how that ends.

Read more:
3 Steps to Divorce-Proofing Your Marriage

And we can see this in the epidemic of divorces in empty-nest marriages. These are couples who have lost their way, who have forgotten that before they became parents, they were a couple. They became parents and then forgot to be spouses, friends, lovers, confidants, partners, companions on the journey.

The years go by, and little by little they have less and less in common because they stopped nourishing their bonds as a couple. The children, the only bond that keeps them together, are no longer in the home. Now they are two perfect strangers — emotionally speaking — living under the same roof, eating at the same table, and sleeping in the same bed. And of course, since that feeling of “two solitudes together” is not enjoyable, they separate. Or worse yet, they divorce, believing that’s the solution.

I insist, for our intimacy to grow, and for our bond to become ever stronger, we need to feed it every day through details, sharing activities and likes, speaking words of affirmation, and so on. Believe me, it’s a lot simpler than it seems. Here are some points to consider:

  • To nourish our marital bond, think more about your spouse and less about your own likes and preferences.
  • Get to know your emotional needs and what you can do to mutually meet them.
  • Get to know the areas of intimacy that exist and work to nourish each one of them. I will share a few that Dr. Chapman mentions in his book Covenant Marriage: Building Communication & Intimacy, and I encourage you to read more as it can even be a fun exercise to do as a couple:

    • Intellectual intimacy: Sharing thoughts, experiences, desires, or ideas that have stimulated you. For example, sharing a good book that I just read and that fabulous movie that impressed me.
    • Emotional intimacy: This means sharing ourselves, our feelings and emotions. It’s when we open ourselves and participate in what we feel, and invite the other to do the same.
    • Spiritual intimacy: It’s what an individual can share about his or her relationship with God and how that invites us to reflect on life’s meaning. For example, sharing and reflecting on the Sunday Mass readings.

It’s important to take care of our intimacy as a couple, because it will be the vehicle that nourishes our bond. If it’s well fed, nothing will be able to destroy it, no matter how strong the storm, or how many crises hit our home. And it also becomes so strong that no third party will ever be able to enter. Let’s remember a third person can only enter when there is enough space between the two.


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Should I end my marriage because I don’t feel love anymore?

This article was originally published in the Spanish edition of Aleteia and has been translated and/or adapted here for English speaking readers.

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