Nurturing Marriage in the 2nd-Half of Life

Nurturing Marriage in the 2nd-Half of Life

By Vicki Hollon

Several years ago, a friend and fellow church member told me that marriage in the later years of life was hard work. Until that conversation, I had not given much thought to the unique challenges of marriage at this life stage. I had really only thought about the older marriages that I saw grow deeper and richer with time.


Those deeper and fuller marriages are a reality. However, the challenges of an older marriage are also real. According to a March 2017 article by Renee Stepler reporting from recent Pew Research, since the 1990’s divorce in the United States has roughly doubled for adults age 50 and older.


Divorce rates are still higher for 2nd and 3rd marriages than for 1st marriages (at any age). However, reasons for the increased divorce rates for older adults include the fact that adults are living longer and therefore their health and caregiving challenges can be extended. The “in sickness and in health” part of the marriage vow is being tested.


This trend represents a challenge we can meet and exceed. These statistics are a reality of our times and we need to be aware. However, becoming aware of something does not make it happen, it simply brings it into the light; and I choose to think of that light as God’s presence. When we know what we are dealing with we can then ask for help – from others and from God.


There are things we can intentionally do to nurture our marriage in this “second half of life.”  In fact, David and Claudia Arp wrote a book I have previously used called, The Second Half of Marriage: Facing the Eight Challenges of the Empty-Nest Years. The eight important challenges they put to the reader are:


  1. Let go of past marital disappointments, forgive each other, and commit to making the rest of your marriage the best.
  2. Create a marriage that is partner-focused rather than child-focused.
  3. Maintain an effective communication system that allows you to express your deepest feelings, joys, and concerns.
  4. Use anger and conflict in a creative way to build your relationship.
  5. Build a deeper friendship and enjoy your spouse.
  6. Renew romance and restore a pleasurable sexual relationship.
  7. Adjust to changing roles with aging parents and adult children.
  8. Evaluate where you are on your spiritual pilgrimage, grow closer to each other and to God, and together serve others.


For any of us who are married and over 60 years of age, this is a good time to stop and ask ourselves – and our spouse – what do we need to do to finish well and what adjustments, if any, do we need to make to get there?