3. The empty nest phase. Couples are at a new crossroads: their twenty-year anniversary mark. The responsibilities for raising children have shifted. They're transitioning out of the home. The excuse that the couple is together because of the children no longer holds water. They are now face to face with figuring out how they want to spend the rest of their life together.
In my counseling practice, I receive more phone calls from husbands requesting couples' counseling, stating that their wives have threatened to leave if they didn't find someone to help them work on their marriage. This stage presents a great opportunity for couples to redefine and reprioritize their relationships. Love is no longer experienced as the passionate one-night stand but has developed into the mature stage based on the decision to love. They're in this relationship because they value, cherish, accept and want to be with their partners. They've weathered the stormiest of storms together.
An old joke: A priest, a minister, and a rabbi are debating the question, "When does life begin?" The priest says, "At conception, of course!" The minister says, "At birth!" The rabbi says, "When the last kid goes to college, and the dog dies!"