You survived the sleepless nights, the terrible twos, and the tumultuous teenage years. Your children have finally flown the coop, off to college or careers of their own. For the first time in over 20 years, you have the house all to yourself. While the quiet may seem appealing at first, the silence can quickly become deafening.
An empty nest often means an empty marriage, with divorce rates spiking once children leave home. But it doesn’t have to be this way. You worked hard to raise your kids – now it’s time to rediscover the person you fell in love with so many years ago.
Reconnect, reignite the passion, and remember what brought you together before the chaos of children. An empty nest doesn’t have to mean the end. In fact, it could be just the beginning of your next great adventure together.
What is Empty Nest Syndrome
Empty nest syndrome refers to feelings of sadness, loss or grief experienced by parents whose children have left home. Whether your kids have gone off to university or have moved out to start their own lives, their absence can leave a huge void.
For many parents, the departure of children from the family home signifies the end of an era. The loss of their day-to-day presence and involvement in family life can be an adjustment. This is especially true for stay-at-home moms who have centered their lives around their children for 18+ years.
Common symptoms of empty nest syndrome include:
- Feelings of sadness, loneliness or loss
- Difficulty adjusting to new routines without kids in the home
- Marital strain or tension
- Questions about purpose or identity
- Health issues like changes in sleep, appetite or mood
The good news is empty nest syndrome is usually temporary. Over time, as you adjust to your new life phase, these feelings tend to fade. However, there are a few things you can do to ease the transition:
- Pursue new hobbies and interests to fill your time
- Make social plans to combat loneliness
- Travel and try new adventures together as a couple
- Offer your support to your kids as they navigate their independence
- Take care of yourself by exercising, eating healthy and reducing stress
Though bittersweet, this new chapter of life can be an opportunity for growth. With mutual understanding and effort, you can adjust well to an empty nest and even strengthen your relationship. The key is taking things day by day and supporting each other along the way.
How Empty Nest Syndrome Can Strain a Marriage
The empty nest can be a challenging adjustment for any couple, and unfortunately, divorce rates do tend to rise during this transitional time. However, ending your marriage doesn’t have to be inevitable if you’re willing to work to strengthen your connection.
Make time for real conversations.
With the kids gone, it’s easy to fall into a rut of superficial small talk and parallel living under the same roof. Set aside time each day to really talk – discuss your hopes, dreams, fears and memories. Share details of your day and listen to your partner do the same. These meaningful interactions can help rekindle intimacy and closeness.
Pursue shared interests.
Rediscover hobbies and activities you used to enjoy together before having kids. Try new things you’ve always wanted to do as a couple. Engaging in experiences together releases oxytocin, the “love hormone”, and gives you an opportunity to bond over mutual interests.
Don’t let your physical connection fade away. Sex and affection release endorphins that improve mood and reduce stress, strengthening the emotional and physical intimacy in your relationship. Even simple touches like holding hands, hugging and kissing can help you stay close.
Seek counseling if needed.
If you’re really struggling, consider seeing a marriage counselor. They can help identify communication issues, offer coping strategies, and give you tools to improve the health of your relationship. The empty nest years don’t have to end in divorce if you make the choice to reconnect, rediscover each other, and renew your commitment to the partnership you’ve built over the years. With time and effort, you can forge an even deeper bond and this new chapter of life together.
Communication Strategies for Empty Nest Couples
As empty nesters, communication is key to maintaining a strong connection with your partner. Gone are the days of quick chats in between child-rearing tasks – you now have the time to really talk to each other again. Take advantage of it!
Make time for meaningful conversations. Now that the kids have flown the coop, you have extra hours in the day that were once devoted to them. Use some of this time to sit down face to face with your spouse and talk – about anything and everything. Discuss your hopes, dreams, fears, memories, daily events…the possibilities are endless.
Be transparent about your feelings. Don’t bottle up emotions in an attempt to avoid arguments or hurt feelings. Speak openly and honestly about what’s on your mind and in your heart. Let your partner know if you’re feeling lonely, anxious or uncertain about this new stage of life. Chances are, they may be experiencing similar emotions.
Listen without judgment. Create an open environment where you both feel comfortable sharing vulnerable thoughts. Listen to understand rather than just reply – don’t interrupt or criticize. Make eye contact, give your full attention and reflect back what you hear to confirm the message is received.
Try new activities together. Exploring new hobbies and interests as a couple will give you shared experiences to bond over through conversation. You may discover new common interests that bring you closer together. Join a local club, take a recreational class, travel to places you’ve never been before. New adventures create new memories and more to talk about.
Make intimacy a priority. Don’t let your sex life and physical intimacy fall by the wayside. Hug, kiss, hold hands and engage in regular intercourse. Physical closeness leads to emotional closeness and keeps the chemistry alive in your relationship.
With open communication and quality time together, you can avoid the ’empty nest divorce’ trap and build an even stronger marriage after the kids have left home. Make the effort to really talk to your partner – you’ll be glad you did.
Reigniting Intimacy and Romance After the Kids Leave
Once the kids have flown the coop, it’s easy for couples to fall into a rut. You’ve spent so many years focusing on the needs of your children that you’ve forgotten how to focus on each other. Reigniting intimacy and romance is key to avoiding the ‘empty nest divorce trap’.
Make Time for Dates
Now that you have the house to yourself again, take advantage of it! Plan regular date nights where it’s just the two of you. Do things you enjoyed as a couple before having kids like going out for a romantic dinner, seeing a movie, dancing, or just cooking a meal together at home. Making the time to connect and communicate without distractions can help rekindle your spark.
Explore New Interests Together
Trying new hobbies or activities together is a great way to bond over fresh shared interests and experiences. Take a class on something you’ve always wanted to learn, pick up a new sport or fitness activity, join a local club, start a new DIY project, travel to new places. Exploring the world together will give you new things to talk about and create memories that will last long after the kids have left home.
It’s easy to get out of the habit of regular physical intimacy once you become parents. But sex and physical affection release oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’, which helps foster feelings of closeness and connection in relationships. Make an effort to hug, kiss, hold hands and make love more often. Even just giving a quick kiss when you or your partner walks in the door can go a long way.
Strong communication is the foundation of a healthy relationship. Talk openly about your hopes, fears, desires and any relationship issues. Discuss how you’re feeling now that the kids have moved out and what you both want and need to feel happy and fulfilled. Be honest but kind, and really listen to what your partner is saying. Strong communication, along with reigniting intimacy and romance, will ensure your relationship survives and thrives long after the kids are gone.
Seeking Professional Help to Avoid Divorce
As empty nesters, it’s normal to feel a sense of loss and grief over your children leaving home. However, if these feelings intensify or persist for long periods, it could put strain on your marriage. Seeking counseling or therapy may help avoid resentment and conflict that leads to divorce.
Professional Help Provides a Lifeline
Speaking with a marriage counselor or therapist can help you work through challenging emotions, rediscover your connection as a couple, and find purpose and meaning again. Counseling provides a lifeline when you feel you’re drifting apart or unable to communicate effectively. A therapist can facilitate honest discussions about each other’s needs, desires and expectations for this new chapter of life.
Through counseling, you can:
- Address feelings of sadness, anxiety or depression over your children leaving.
- Discuss how to fill the void and establish new routines.
- Learn conflict resolution and improve communication skills.
- Set new shared goals and plan meaningful activities together.
- Rekindle physical and emotional intimacy.
A Stronger Bond Emerges
With support, many couples are able to weather the empty nest transition and build an even stronger bond. Counseling often brings repressed issues to the surface so you can work through them, gain a new appreciation for each other, and find purpose and meaning.
Rather than drift apart, make the choice to grow together. Speaking to a professional therapist or counselor, even for a short time, can help ensure your relationship comes out the other side of this transition happier, healthier and more closely connected than before.
There are many resources available for empty nesters, so don’t hesitate to reach out – your marriage is worth fighting for.
So there you have it. You’ve raised your kids, guided them through the ups and downs of life, and now the nest is empty.
This transition can be difficult, but that doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed. Make the effort to reconnect with your spouse, try new hobbies together, travel and experience life’s adventures side by side once again. Talk openly about your feelings, be honest about your needs, and compromise when you disagree. An empty nest doesn’t signal the end, it’s the start of a new chapter.
Approach it with an open heart and mind, nurture your relationship, and you’ll find the spark is still there. Your marriage and love for each other can thrive, even after the kids have flown the coop.
The empty nest years can be some of the most rewarding – if you make the choice to reconnect and rediscover the joy of being two.