Healthy Relationships

Navigating the Empty Nest as a Couple

July 29, 2022

You’ve reached the parental finish line. Your children are now venturing on their own journeys that leave their parents behind. The house that was filled with toys, noise, and school supplies for the last couple of decades is now tidy and quiet. The calendar is no longer dotted with extracurricular activities and carpools. It’s just the two of you now. How do you reinvent your life as a couple of empty nesters?

What’s next?

Despite the best intentions, many couples put their relationships on the back burner as they focus their attention on their offspring. Your identities have evolved from sweethearts to spouses to co-parents, and now it’s time to come full circle back to the sweetheart phase. For some couples, this happens naturally. Others may need to shift their mindsets and make a few changes, and that’s okay. The empty nest may feel different, but change is natural, and different may mean something better than you expected.

Address your issues now

Couples who were too busy to address marital issues while their children were young may notice those issues re-emerging now that the children are grown. Talk it out. Let your spouse know what’s bothering you. Be ready for some hard conversations. You don’t have to do this alone. Consider a marriage counselor to help you navigate the road back to being a twosome.

Look for your common threads 

The empty nest period is a great time to refocus on your passions. Finding passions that you both share can inject new life into your marriage and your mindset. If your partner likes to play golf, consider investing in some lessons so you can hit the links together. If fitness is a concern, join one of the Hancock Wellness Centers and check out the classes and training equipment. Or buy some hiking boots and purchase an Indiana State Park Pass so you can unwrap our Hoosier state treasures together.

Take the trip 

Admit it. So many family vacations were planned with the kids in mind. Maybe you avoided a trip to Las Vegas because the children weren’t old enough to play the slot machines. Perhaps you were paying for college and couldn’t afford a cruise. Now is the time to let the wandering foot roam free. Don’t feel guilty about having a good time without your children. You’ve raised them to be wonderful adults. Now it’s time for you and your spouse to reconnect on your own.

Redefine your role as a parent

Your children no longer need you to book their dentist appointments, but they may want you to reassure them that they’ll be just fine after a root canal. Stay in touch, but resist the urge to micromanage them, even when you see them going in a direction you may not have chosen.

Keep putting your relationship first

It’s fun to use your newfound freedom to reconnect with old friends and try new adventures. Remember to keep your spouse at the top of your priority list. Carve out special date nights or short weekend trips that bring you together. You’re going to naturally find new activities to fill the empty spaces in your schedules. Start by doing activities together, so you find yourself continuing to grow in the same direction.

Watching your children move into adulthood is bittersweet and wonderful. For many couples, it’s a chance to rediscover each other and reconnect as adults. Use your newfound freedom to spend time together, knowing that an empty nest can lead to a full life for couples.