For newlyweds, one of the most important decisions they can make is one that marriage counseling will refer to as, cocooning. Cocooning is when a new married couple comes home from their honeymoon and they intentionally choose to give and create for themselves privacy. To be so deliberate in their life-building together in their first several months to a year of marriage, so that a “cocoon” builds up around them. What is this cocoon? It is a very unique process of strengthening all that brought them together initially – the woven fibers of love, respect, mutual enjoyment, appreciation for each other, the awe, pleasure and passions that led them to holy matrimony – are given time and space and singled-out attention to become intricately tight.
Joanna and Chip Gaines were counseled to cocoon the 1st year after their marriage and part of their decision to fully focus on their new marriage and guard its privacy was to voluntarily have no TV anywhere in their home. For an entire year, no TV. They made other decisions in their 1st year of cocooning, but that was one that helped them to tune out some worldly noise in order to really focus on each other. That one decision went into their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th year of marriage and … up into their 12th year of their marriage – they did not own a TV in their home. To even watch the first episodes of Fixer Upper, they had to go to family and friends homes. The reward? Well, I believe everyone sees the reward of at least that one decision to cocoon – their friendship in their marriage. They have faced in the past 2-3 years some marital challenges, but with more counseling and decisions to go right back to cocooning, (“honoring and guarding the privacy needs of their marriage”), their relationship was strengthened and they are doing well.
You see, so many couples that see the value in cocooning as newlyweds even report a reigniting of certain passions between them and even deeper feelings of connection – that all encompassing crazy love with each other gets so rooted, too. Why? Because they are opening themselves up to find and feel what the long-term-commitment of marriage is for them. During cocooning, they may silence social media, turn down some invitations, not over-crowd their calendars, and just savor every moment with such intentionality. By tuning out the world as much as possible and focusing so intently on each other, they are getting to know themselves in their new roles as married partners.
But cocooning isn’t only for the newly weds.
Cocooning is one of the greatest joys for new empty nesters. I’ve watched a lot of couples go through this stage of life, and I urge you to make defining your identity as a couple a top priority.
Gary Thomas writes: “If you don’t choose to move toward each other right away, you may fill up the free time with independent pursuits instead of each other, or simply keep trying to live your life in and through your kids. Rather than asking, “What can I do with all this free time?” ask “What can we do?””
Moving toward each other instead of filling up the time with other things is making this one of the sweetest seasons of mine and Rip’s marriage. We’re enjoying not only the fun friendship we have in our marriage, but the freedom to do as we both simply want to do. Cocooning has a precious question as it’s foundation, “What can we do together?”
Gary also says: “Empty nesters should consider our Lord’s call that tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). Here’s the marriage miracle I’ve seen when couples embrace joint ministry in the empty-nest years: new respect and appreciation for each other.
You think you know all about a person. You’ve been together for so long and it’s easy to assume you’ve figured everything out; there’s nothing more to share, nothing more to discover, nothing more to talk about. Ministry of any significant kind presents new challenges and brings out previously unseen abilities and passions. You see a side of yourself and each other that you never knew existed.
The empty-nest years provide a wonderful opportunity to recalibrate and strengthen your marriage through shared mission because using together time for a divine purpose can revolutionize a marriage.
Because God’s work is paramount, I hope that every empty-nest couple will eventually find their way to investing their time in a new or more focused mutual ministry.
The danger of using the term empty-nester is that it defines this season of our lives as devoid of something (i.e., “empty”). But once our kids are grown, our marriage isn’t just empty of kids living in our home; it’s full of promise for a new future of ministry … …
if you let the cocooning cycle come right back around.
You may have started your marriage with the good and godly principle of choosing intentionally to ‘cocoon’ – to give yourselves as a couple privacy. But now as empty nesters, be sure to not let that term “empty” speak a word over you that now your life is “empty” or “void” of something. Quite the opposite! Cocoon as a couple!! Let those woven fibers of love, respect, passion, appreciation, enjoyment, joy, and sacredness strengthen your marriage as you, too, guard your privacy.
Cocooning also means to enjoy the freedom you now have to be all about the two of you. Just the two of you. At least for the initial beginning into this new season of being empty nesters, give yourselves heightened privacy by silencing social media, don’t over-crowd your calendars, turn down some invitations, and focus completely on each other as well as your individual and your together callings in life,
Now that it is back full circle to just you two, take each other by the hands, and look each other in the eye.
Find total comfort and calm in doing that.
Smile and kiss and let it all sink in that you two get to be you two all over again.
Celebrate not only the love you share, but the season you both are now free and asked by God to walk right into together. And be intentional about it. I am off social media for a season to give my Rip my full attention and our life together my full attention. We know God is preparing our life together with a purpose – a purpose that He has planned and planted us for that is so missional!
I am totally enjoying this fun and exciting season of cocooning with Rip, to protect our privacy and to enjoy the ‘us’ that we are, while also drawing in closer to the Lord even more.
Rip and I fully embrace this amazing time in our life together. We are both feeling so grateful for God’s mercy and grace that brought us this far … to be able to do life together as we do, and to move into this new place of living with Him! Instead of calling it the “Empty Nester” phase, we are calling it the, “Freedom Nester” phase. In this season of our life, we are free to step into and take hold of everything God has for US, as strongly believe …