If you’ve raised children, becoming an “empty nester” is a big change. It’s a new phase in life, and one that some may celebrate, while others may have a hard time adjusting to. If you’re married, there may be anxieties over how your marriage may change. It’s a time when married couples have the opportunity to rediscover their relationship with one another and perhaps redefine their roles in their marriage. With some work and commitment, the empty nest years can be very fulfilling and be filled with love and adventure!
Author Joanne Miller shares 7 helpful tips on how to make the best of “empty nest” season:
1. Make Time
Having a serious talk about your relationship is never easy. But it is essential to moving forward. If you can’t lay the cards on the table and talk like adults, get a counselor to mediate. This should not be a time to fight. Discussing why you feel a disconnect should not be accusatory or hateful. A good counselor can help tremendously if you have trouble communicating or articulating.
2. Work to Regain the Romance
Schedule some trips together. Quit using work or the kids or your important meetings as an excuse. Your relationship should take precedent. Life-after-kids can be the most amazing season ever. Begin date nights. Watch the movies, Date Night, Hope Springs and The Mirror Has Two Faces. No doubt you will see some similarities in relationships-gone-stale. Take a cruise. Take weekend road trips. You will find excitement in planning together, a rekindled connection in the anticipation.
3. Focus on the Positive
It’s there. You might have to reboot your brain a bit but if you start listing the positives in your marriage, family and spouse, you might begin to look at the overall picture with new eyes. It is easy to fall into the habit of seeing the worst in a person, letting those little irritations undermine your love and respect. I have actually asked myself, “Do I really think Dan would purposely set out to make me angry or to be hateful?” I know the answer is no. Why would he deliberately try to undermine our relationship?
4. Find Common Interests
Take a class together. Don’t settle for “We have nothing in common!” Dan and I are polar opposites in many ways. We have spent years working to find things we can do together. Gardening, dancing, home projects, rides in the country, discussing a book we are both reading. The list is endless when you don’t have to worry about anyone but the two of you.
5. Find New Friends
If you don’t have any good couples you like to hang out with, find marriages you would like to emulate. Organize game nights or a dinner club with couples who have strong, healthy marriages and watch what they do. Do NOT spend all your spare time with your grown children and their families. They need to work on their own issues without your hovering and “hiding out”. You need to make time for the two of you.
6. Reach Out and Touch
It thrills me, even after over four decades of marriage, to have Dan put his arm around me or hold my hand. When we walk, when we are in a group or alone in the car….Dan and I touch a lot. It may sound hokey but that small gesture of “I care” does a lot to create intimacy in a relationship. And the more you touch, the more easily you close the gap that occurs when you have disconnect. You’d be surprised how holding hands can open up a floodgate of conversation.
7. Remember Your History
Take time to look through family photo albums and videos and reminisce about the events you have experienced together. Remember why you fell in love and talk about what you still admire in one another. Any good relationship takes work. It never just happens. But the result is so worth it. Those years after the children are gone should be some of the happiest of your life.