After the kids are grown and gone from the house, do you dread being an empty nester? Instead of looking at this next stage in your marriage as a time of uncertainty about being alone with your spouse, I encourage couples to look for ways to rekindle their connection. Successfully transitioning first requires a renewal of your friendship and rediscovering the reasons for falling in love before kids.
What are the relationship advantages of being an empty nester?
Renew and deepen marital friendship. The best part of deepening your friendship is the years of familiarity you already have established in the relationship. Instead of relating only on the single topic of children, you can expand the connection to include personal goals you now have time to pursue.
Increase in meaningful conversations. The sum of your dialogue does not need to be centered on who is going to take which child to what sporting event, piano lesson or dance rehearsal. With more time to hear yourselves think, you can also listen to each other and engage in deeper, adult conversations.
More spontaneity and flexibility. Deciding on a weekend trip Thursday night is not a hassle after the kids are gone. It will be enjoyable not to worry about the condition of the house when you return and being preoccupied with whose doing what where.
What will daily life be like without kids at home?
Less noise and drama. It will be quiet without kids and the drama teenagers tend to bring into the house. Many couples tell me they will definitely miss the chaos and noise. My advice is to embrace each stage because there is joy and tranquility with the right attitude toward this change.
More time to pursue shared activities. Find time to pursue not only individual dreams and passions, but also brainstorm on things you can do together, perhaps activities neither has tried.
Major decrease in housework, cooking and groceries. Rushing around getting the kids to all their activities, making sure all the homework is really completed, buying out the grocery store every other day will be something of the past once the last child has left. Make ample use of these extra hours by signing up for that exercise class you always wanted to attend, rekindle friendships that have lost their connection or even go back to school, because you can.
How can couples transition into this new life phase?
Take time for personal rest and restoration.
I encourage couples to not replace the hub of activity with another form of intensity immediately after the kids leave home as a way to keep the feeling the same. It is important to pamper yourselves, relax and revitalize from the daily grind of parenting.
Redefine yourself. Self-reflection includes who you are other than Mom or Dad. Couples who start big remodeling projects or take back to back vacations without personal reflection tend to use those activities as an excuse for getting to know each other again. Make sure the foundation of your friendship is solid and secure, mutually deciding how to spend this next phase of life as a couple and individually.
Empty nesting is not something to be dreaded because you will be alone with your spouse. Even if you have neglected your relationship and placed the needs of the children first, it is important for the health of your marriage to reconnect and remind each other why you fell in love in the beginning.