Our son is getting married in a few weeks. He’s the baby of the family. He’s an adult and a great and responsible guy. But as his mom, I’m having a hard time letting go. However, I know I need to do that. I think as parents we need to do more work in this regard than the children. I’ve got to accept the fact he is forming his new family. I’ve got to understand his wife comes first – not his parents. I need to begin to see he and his wife as friends. I need to see him as he is now, and no longer see him as a child. I need to back off some. He is no longer my unfinished project and I don’t need to bring up flaws I perceive. I want to focus more on the positives. That doesn’t mean we will always approve of everything they do, but they are adults and they no longer need our approval. We may sometimes just need to agree to disagree and continue to love each other. Welcome to a new chapter in both of our lives.
One of the counselors we often refer couples to posted something on face book that really got my attention. It was from the famous John Gottman. I’ve read his books, but this particular issue hit me. It’s kinda that ‘light bulb’ moment. Oh my, “I do this a lot and I need to stop!” The situation is where your spouse requests connection, or as Gottman puts it, “bids.” He then went on and gave this example:
“. . .say that the husband is a bird enthusiast and notices a goldfinch fly across the yard. He might say to his wife, ‘Look at that beautiful bird outside!’ He’s not just commenting on the bird here: he’s requesting a response from his wife — a sign of interest or support – hoping they’ll connect, however momentarily, over the bird.
“The wife has a choice. She can respond by either ‘turning toward’ or ‘turning away’ from her husband, as Gottman explains. Though the bird-bid might seem minor and silly, it can actually reveal a lot about the health of the relationship. The husband thought the bird was important enough to bring it up in conversation and the question is whether his wife recognizes and respects that.”
Unknowingly, I’m afraid I just let a lot of my husband’s comments lay there and I don’t respond or just respond minimally. I hadn’t quite seen it in the same light before. So I want to do better.
In fact the other day, my husband said something and I responded and he went on to share additional thoughts on the subject. I want him to talk, share his feelings, but I now see where not responding was doing the opposite of what I want in our relationship. I now realize not responding can come across as rude and uncaring. So I appreciate the face book posting. It certainly opened my eyes and helped me see things from a different perspective.
P.S. I just went over this with my husband and he said he thought I was responsive to his comments. I’m glad he sees it like this, but I want to be more intentional in this regard.
Grace and peace,
Our Coupletime Group (a small group of couples who meet once a month to work on our marriages) is reading a book on the retirement marriage. After all, many of us in the group are at this stage in our relationship. Others are getting near. Everyone wants to be prepared to make these years some of the best.
David and I have been retired almost five years now so following is some advice we’d give to couples approaching this time in their relationship:
Work on your marriage long before you reach this juncture in your marriage. We’d suggest, right after your honeymoon. You may think we are kidding. We’re not! One of the best ways is to get into a marriage enrichment group. This is one of the best things we have ever done for our relationship. And now, our children have formed their own groups.
- Discuss your expectations, talk about your feeling, your dreams and your fears.
- Be careful of invading the other’s territory. Talk about how you can help one another without the other feeling like you are trying to take over something that has been sacred space to the other.
- Discuss how much alone time and how much togetherness you need as individuals and as a couple.
- Talk about finances and what adjustments you need to make.
- Find new things to do as a couple.
These are just a few ideas. If you have more, we’d love to hear from you.
Grace and peace,
Penny and David