If you’ve gone through the process of packing your last kid off to college or elsewhere, you are certainly familiar with the joys and perils of the proverbial empty nest.
We are all too familiar with tales (or movies) that feature couples struggling to find purpose in their lives after the kids move out. And unfortunately, we are also familiar with stories of couples divorcing in mid-life once they realize they have absolutely nothing in common with each other once the children and pets have exited the family home.
In actuality, learning to live with an empty nest is an opportunity for huge personal growth. It is also chance for a couple to rediscover the joys and passions of their earlier days B.C. (before children).
Couples entering this next phase in their lives have such a great chance to connect and get reacquainted with each other. You simply have to have an open mind and try to embrace this new stage with open arms.
For example, my husband and I are brand new empty nesters this year. We had an ongoing dialogue throughout our daughter's senior year of high school about what we wanted the next chapter of our lives to be about; what we wanted to do individually and what we wanted to do together. But getting your relationship to a point where you're eager to embrace the next phase (or the current one, for that matter) can take some doing.
Here are five tips to help you prepare for your empty nest:
- Communication is key. Start a dialogue with your spouse at least one year prior to your last child’s departure from home. Ask him or her, “What will this new chapter in our lives be like? What are our joint goals, hopes and dreams? What would we like to accomplish together?” Map out a plan along with a promise to stick with it.
- Resurrect date night. Get out the calendar and do plan some interesting, romantic dates.
- Get sex back into your life. Now that privacy is no longer an issue, get creative and have some fun.
- Create some personal goals. The empty nest is also great opportunity to accomplish things you’ve always wanted to do, but haven’t had time for in the past. Plus, when you do something you really enjoy, like a hobby, it stimulates your brain’s “feel-good” zone and actually makes you happy!
- Experience your emotions. For most of us, change is certainly hard. You may feel many emotions while adjusting to a quieter home. Many report that although they are so proud of their children’s accomplishments, the empty nest is bittersweet. Remember that it’s perfectly OK to feel sadness and loss. Be patient with yourself. With time, the difficulties should pass.