Renowned therapist, Mary Jo Rapini answers some of your top relationship questions! In this segment, she answers questions about abstinence and how to thrive being a fresh empty nester.
Hi Mary Jo,
I’m 34, single, and practicing abstinence until I get married. How do I navigate the dating world?
It’s fantastic that you recognize that abstinence is an important value for you. You should not expect or demand someone else to value this for themselves, but you can expect to date someone who respects you for your decision and doesn’t push you. These are things I would consider:
- Take time to consider your reasons for practicing abstinence and exactly what that means to you. Knowing your limits is important, and they may change with life events. Since you made the decision, it is entirely your responsibility to be aware of the situations you put yourself into.
- If you’re dating someone, it’s best to tell them in advance what you’re not willing to participate in. It may mean more rejections, but those you do date will be aware of your decision and be expected to respect it. Being honest and upfront builds a relationship based on honesty and trust.
- Set your boundaries to reflect your values. If you want an emotionally intimate but abstinent relationship prior to marriage, it’s important that your behaviors reflect your words. How you appear on your dating profile (if you’re dating online) matters. Be aware of what signals you’re sending out on dates.
- Explore ways of making your date feel loved and desired without sex. Relationships are alive, and they change – as do the people involved in them. Most relationships built on friendship outlast relationships built on sex. There are many ways to show love, compassion, and attraction without sex. Talk about what makes both of you feel loved to feel more secure in the dating experience.
Hi Mary Jo,
I am an empty nester. My husband and I love our son, and he just went off to college. We invested so much time and energy into him; what do we do now that he’s gone? Please help.
Congratulations on launching your child off to college. Although this is a time of transition for you and your husband, it’s also an opportunity for you to restore your intimacy with each other and get to know yourself better. These suggestions can help you take advantage of your new freedom.
- Give yourself time. Just as your child needs to adjust and transition, you need to take time to look around and write down neglected areas in your life.
- Reassess your needs. Moms give so much time and attention to their children that when they’re gone, an empty void is instantaneous. Fill that void with healthy behaviors; for example, start a fitness plan with your husband, eat out at a new restaurant, or try a new hobby. This will add excitement to your routine and relationship.
- Re-think your relationship. Many couples split during the empty-nest transition. They realize they gave so much to their children that they lost each other. Don’t let that happen to you. Touch more, hug more, and talk it out, especially areas of resentment. Work on restoring the level of intimacy you shared before you had children.
- Try something new. The research is clear – couples who get out of their comfort zone by sharing new adventures revitalize their marriage. Falling in love with your partner again is possible when partners are willing to plan date nights and prioritize their marriage.
Fulfill your dreams. Are you doing what you want to be doing? If not, now is the time. Sometimes we make excuses for why we didn’t finish our degree or open that shop we wanted to. Don’t let that become your life story. Children who see parents complete their goals feel inspired that they can fulfill their own.
--Mary Jo Rapini