Thursday, August 21, 2008

A hope and a prayer in this liminal time

Something's different in my life. It's requiring a little adjustment.

For the first time in my married life (all four years of it), we have no children at home. The house is just home to me and David. It feels sad, kind of empty.

When David and I married, Young Man with Integrity (YMI) was 19 and a sophomore in college. Several people told me that would be a problem for our marriage--okay, not a problem automatically, but they warned me that it could cause extra stress at a time when you're learning to live together as a couple.

But, no, it didn't cause a problem or extra stress. YMI is quiet and easy to get along with. I appreciated the chance to get to know him, and he was a HUGE help to me last year when I got so sick just as David had a bunch of important traveling scheduled.

YMI moved out in May, just as Lovely Passionate Feminist (LPF) moved in for the summer. She's back in her dorm at college now, and it was extremely sad to see her go. She had eased the adjustment in losing YMI, and she's just such a joy to have around--considerate and thoughtful and interesting. All three children are interesting to talk to. They are well read and have opinions on politics and religion and current events.

I found myself really tearing up as LPF left home (even though she'll be back for the Labor Day weekend!)

Beautiful Genuine Musician graduated from high school in May, but she decided to rent an apartment in City to the South and attend community college there before she moves up here in a year or two. We had to adjust to the disappointment of not seeing her as much as we had expected.

So, David and I have the house all to ourselves. For the first time. Of course it's not all bad. I've turned YMI's bedroom into a lovely office, holidays will be more special when the kids come home!, and we get to babysit YMI's girlfriend's little two-year-old daughter.

Still, there is a quiet, petite sadness pervading the house.

Part of it is probably connected to a growing awareness of age. You know you're not a kid anymore when there are no children left in the house! Part of it is missing the vitality these young adults bring when they are here. (Almost without fail these days, David and I both come home absolutely exhausted from work.) Part of it is probably an underlying concern for all three of them now that they are out on their own. Will they remember to turn off the oven? lock the doors? balance their checkbooks?

I'm also aware of a new phase in my marriage. It's not sad, but the transition is bringing a new question of who we will become as a couple. Will we grow closer? more distant? When I moved my desk and files from the little office David and I shared to my new office (formerly YMI's bedroom), David more than once remarked, half-jokingly, that he didn't like me moving. "Now we'll never see each other," he said in this plaintive tone (always a big clue that he's teasing). "You'll come home and go to your office, and I'll come home and go to my office. We'll grow apart." I think he was also expressing, in his own way, his sense of loneliness at the kids leaving home.

I've always said that I wanted my marriage to be a spiritual discipline. How do I become a better person--the person God is calling me to be--through this primary relationship? I'm finding that the answer is both easy and difficult. It's easy because David will give me feedback, he's a trustworthy mirror for me. It's difficult because I so often don't want to see what he is reflecting back to me--both the positive and the negative!

In that sense perhaps this new phase of marriage can really deepen and grow me--both of us, really--because there will be more time when it's just the two of us, more time to focus on us and who each of us is as an individual inside the relationship. More time to have a conscious marriage. That's my hope and my prayer in this liminal time.


mompriest said...

Ohhh, yes...that is the issue as children grow up and move husband and I have been married 23 years and raising kids for 20 years....and we aren't finished yet - our 16 year old still needs lots of guidance and encouragment and our 20 year old who lives on her own in Illinois is struggling to be a self-determined young woman (errs on the side of being strident and angry instead of assertive and wise....but hey, she'll be 20 in a week, so time to grow)....

Anyway, sounds like the young adults are all doing well, you and David will too, especially if you continue to view your marriage as a spiritual discipline....

Katherine E. said...

Thanks, mompriest!

Diane said...

yes, your young adults all sound so well adjusted and mature. Younger son is home for the summer and getting ready to go back to college soon.

We don't feel quite like empty nesters yet, but soon...

RJ said...

When our two daughters left home for the first time in the same week - one to college the other to a year abroad in Spain - we wept and put "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" on the answering machine tape (in the pre-digital days.) After about a month, we moved the girls' stuff out, painted their room and took it over. We missed and ached for them and began to find new ways of being together, too.

And now, even with our own separate offices and very different careers, we still sit with each other in the morning for tea and enjoy the quiet of being together in new ways. (They were both married this year!) Thanks for such a lovely and moving post.

Jan said...

Same questions with our empty house. MJ is gone. Over. At least you have your ministry. I wish CB and I viewed our marriage as a spiritual discipline. There'd be much more hope then. That's your hope and goal. I may have to call you soon and talk!!