A 50-something couple sits at a table for two in a nice restaurant. Even the most casual observer can tell they aren't communicating with one another. Oh, she may ask him to pass the salt. Or, without looking up, he'll inquire, "How's your steak?" But there's no real conversation going on, no eye contact and no sign of the spark that once animated their marriage.
Watching this couple is sad. Becoming this couple is tragic. How did their relationship devolve to a point of coexistence rather than co-partnering? Is their monosyllabic interaction a sign they no longer love each other?
More likely, they've simply neglected the regular "checkups" necessary to keep their marriage running optimally in "all weather" conditions.
Marriage experts identify certain transition points in the life of even the healthiest marriage — transitions that, if ignored, can leave couples out-of-sync and emotionally disconnected from one another.
Typical transition points are the birth of a child, when children leave home and after during the retirement of one or both partners. If those life transitions aren't consciously noted and addressed (Who are we now that we're no longer devoted to parenting and our careers?), it can result in couples who gradually drift apart and take up separate lives, barely noticing that they've become total strangers.
"We have concluded that first-half strategies practiced in the second half of life are a sure formula for failure," says Terry Taylor, who, with his wife Carol, founded Second Half Ministries in 1998. The Taylors encourage couples to take a deliberate approach to finishing well in all aspects of life, but especially in their marriages.
So, where do you begin? A review of expert advice and conversations with some who have been happily, productively married for 30 years or more reveals practical steps you can take to make sure you and your spouse don't wind up silently idling your engines. So check under the hood — it may be time to:
All in all, the key to not winding up like the mechanical couple in the restaurant is to realize that your life together is God's gift to you. Like all His gifts, it's meant to be nurtured and cherished each and every day.
Remember when you were dating and you could be together all evening, then talk on the phone until the wee hours of the morning because there was so much more to say? With a little effort, a similar sort of excitement can be a part of your revitalized marriage. May you close down every restaurant you visit.
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