QUICK HIT: How does one handle marriage once the kids are grown and gone? In Married and Still Loving It, Gary Chapman and Harold Myra discuss the transition from the first half of marriage to the second and how rekindle the flame of romance, deal with changing identities, and preparing for old age.
My grandmother has been married to her husband for 73 years now. Recently, I sat down with her to talk about her marriage and what she had learned through it all. She glanced over at my grandfather, staring out the window, listening to the radio, currently lost in a haze of dementia, “You don’t think about the last years being the hardest years.”
That phrase, said with resilience and more than a touch of sadness, has stuck with me. The second half of marriage brings with it a whole new set of challenges: children are grown and gone, careers have progressed and may be ending soon, independence is at its height but also maybe just a few years from a steep drop, and much more. A number of marriages end in divorce once the kids are gone because it seems like the only thing in common the couple had was their children.
What’s the secret to surviving and thriving in the second half? Gary Chapman and Harold Myra attempt an answer in their latest book Married and Still Loving It. The first part of the book deals with what might be considered as the first part of the second half: the empty (or emptying nest). Some of the most drastic joys or struggles of that time might include finding an identity as a childfree couple again, or grown children making poor decisions.
The second part gets into the touchy (see what I did there?) area of sexuality and keeping the romantic flame kindled. It also discusses the “retirement era” move that often happens to empty nesters. Part three discusses grief and resilience.
The whole book is very vignette focused and, between the book’s parts, it includes interview transcripts from Jerry Jenkins, Joni Eareckson Tada, and John Trent. That’s both the book’s standout point and its downfall. Simply put, the vignette is overused, as readers hear specific situations of other people that are rarely put into generic form for general consumption. Rather than illustrating a point to enhance it, the vignettes overwhelm the point. In short: there’s too much about other people.
My other criticism is that it fails to address any of the truly devastating end of life issues and the affect it has on a marriage and on a spouse. How do you deal with a spouse no longer having the independence he once had? How do you deal with an increased reliance on your spouse to do the things you used to do? How do you handle watching the person you’ve loved for seventy years fade into a shell of his former self? How do you handle the knowledge that one of you is going to die and leave the other alone…and not just someday but someday soon?
That’s the book I would have liked to have read, and maybe that’s not a valid criticism, because I shouldn’t criticize a book for what it doesn’t say…but it does seem to be a huge part of the latter half of marriage.
I feel like I read this book at an interesting place in life. I, myself, am a fairly newlywed (2 years 1 month, at time of review). My parents have been married over thirty; my grandparents an astounding seventy. The book accounts for many of the issues my parents are dealing with but few of the problems by grandparents are facing. One more section, dedicated to the elderly, would have been an excellent addition.
But back to what Chapman and Myra do write: while I wish they’d gone deeper, they surely hit on every topic well, which should incite further discussion amongst couples. The primary purpose of this book seems to be to make the statement You’re Not Alone. And it accomplishes that much needed message very well.