Divorce has gone down, except in one category. That category is empty-nesters. It’s common for couples to experience anxiety prior to their children leaving. In fact, many couples go through a transition period, similar to what their child goes through, three to six months prior to them moving out. They don’t sleep well, feel more stressed, and worry about their future. There are uncertainties about what your life will look life when the kids move out; will you be one of those couples that drift apart or will you grow stronger together and live a marriage that shares adventure and purpose?
Studies find that marital happiness increases after the kids leave home, especially for couples who have been married more than thirty-fine years. However, if you gave so much attention to the children you had little left to nurture yourself or your partner, you may find yourself feeling lost and disoriented. Couples who struggle most have been couples who put their marital dreams on hold until after the children were grown.
The good news is no matter where you find yourself in your marriage, there is hope. The sooner you begin moving toward your partner instead of further away, the more likely to relearn how to love your marriage. Below are suggestions to start today:
Reset your attitude. Whenever you’re going to begin something new, you need to set goals that will help you measure success. This is the exciting part. Anything you’ve made excuses for because of the kids you can engage in now. Sit down with your partner and write a list of things you’ve wanted to do. It’s important you identify fun things you’ve put off. You’ll have more free times after the kids are gone. Do you want to try new restaurants? Take a class or learn a new hobby? Is there a house project that is something you both want to enjoy?
Chat it up. When’s the last time the two of you talked about your own dreams or goals? Couples get busy, and kids take up most of the conversation. But now the two of you are alone, and it’s time to reinvest in your talk time. Couples who invest at least 10 minutes each day talking feel closer and more excited about their marriage.
Do the unpredictable for increased excitement. Marriage research has found that when couples switch roles and do the unexpected to help share the load with their spouse, it leads to more marital excitement. If your partner is the one who usually cooks, take over a meal or two. Whoever typically goes to the grocery store should take a break and let their partner take over. This helps the couple understand one another better and appreciate each other more.
Begin a new activity. Whether it’s going on a bike ride for date night or taking up tennis makes no difference. What does make a difference is the effort and willingness to try new things together. Couples who have fun together are much happier and argue less over time. Kids of every age love seeing their parents play together.
Talk about and engage in quality intimacy. What makes you feel more intimate with your partner? What desires do you feel toward your partner? Begin this conversation and remind them what you felt when you first met them. Focus on what use to be a great date for you both. What you found erotic back then may have changed so share that, and brainstorm ideas of what would be exciting for both of you. You’ll be surprised how quickly this part of your marriage will grow. If you still have issues with intimacy you put on hold while the kids were home, make a doctor’s appointment. Love your marriage enough to explore it; intimacy is an important part of marriage and personal health.
There is a sweet sadness for many couples when their children leave home, but there is also an opportunity for growth in your marriage. Remind yourself that your marriage never needed children to be happy, but children need your healthy marriage for their success and security. Instead of looking at your child walking out the door as the end, look to each other as a new beginning.