Empty nesters do go through a transition. It’s weird. No kid down the hall in his/her room lying on their bed staring at their laptop. Well, at-least they were home for a bit before running out with friends. You could see their face as they passed you on the way out or in!
As you can see, kids growing up and leaving is inevitable and wonderful in many ways. Your child prepares you by slowly breaking away. However, after your child leaves for college or to their own apartment; when you look over at the kitchen table, the only face that you’re going to see is your partners. You better hope that face still looks pretty good to you!
Here are 5 things you can do to ensure that face still looks good to you: (and that your face still looks good to your partner)
1. Start when your kids are born! This is the time that many couples begin to separate. Of course, some separation is necessary to accommodate a new little wonderful person. But your roles have changed.
2. Create date time, in or out of your home. Basically, what you’re doing is keeping an eye on your relationship through the change and keeping it a priority while tending to your babies needs as well as your own. Remember the family trickles down from the parents, so you better be happy if you want your kids to be.
3. Learn how to communicate “mindfully”, respectfully, lovingly to one another before your children grow up and leave. Learning this early in your relationship is a gift to your children as well, because they will learn to speak to others just like you do!
4. While you still live with your young child or teen, find interests, hobbies, and outings that you and your partner enjoy doing together. It might be something you did together before you had kids or it might be opening up a door to something new. Fresh air and newness is always good for a relationship. It makes it more interesting and alive.
The task of maintaining your relationship while raising kids is not for the weak of heart. You have to work at your relationship, emotionally and physically. If you don’t, the person sitting across the table from you when your children leave may turn out to be a stranger and someone who you’re not too sure you like anymore.
Resentments build over years from not truly sharing yourself and staying more in a protective stance, not having your needs met, little physical intimacy, disappointment and confusion about how to fix it. Years like this create distance between people.
5. Don’t give up hope if this sounds like you! Couples can revitalize their relationship even after the kids are gone. I recommend working with a couple’s therapist. You can pick up the skills you need to rebuild the friendship, fun and passion you had or even create it for the first time.
*So much of what you tell yourself about your partner and your perception of the events that have occurred sometimes need to be revisited and clarified by you and your partner.
We hold on to things sometimes for years that are misunderstandings. When you have the tools to be open and communicate in a way that both your needs are being met you will become a “mindful couple” with years to fill with loving good times.
I don’t mean to make it sound magical. It takes hard work, time and two committed people; people who are at least open to the possibility that they can be happy with their partner.
“You can still work on your relationship after your kids leave and you become an empty nester. However, the way to make the transition into empty nester easier is to never lose sight of your relationship from the beginning; through all the tough and joyful times in your family.”
It’s really awesome to have a best friend at home in this busy, sometimes crazy world we live in. Many people live alone or can’t find the right person to spend their life with. You are very lucky to have someone who can be there for you. Do you want to throw that away?
You have a choice. You have always had the power to make your relationship better but perhaps you didn’t know and you had no idea how to use it.
6. Fight for your relationship. Create time for authentic conversation. See if you can find your way back to one another. If not, you can always try couple’s counseling. Learning “Mindful Communication” and resolving old wounds, hurts, and disappointments if necessary is the road back to a satisfying relationship. There are parts of you may that come alive; parts that you thought were buried or perhaps never even existed. You can both grow to be the best you can be!
If you have a mostly happy and satisfying relationship, being an empty nester might even hold some appeal for you. Of course, you may always wish that your kid was in their room sometimes or that you could see their face as they quickly brush past you on their way out the door. But- if you have or create a great relationship with your partner; it will make the transition so much easier. Thank goodness for texting and skyping. When I was in college, many years ago, we only called our parents once a week on Sunday because it was so expensive! Now adays, you don’t have to feel like your child is so very far away.
What I’ve learned as a parent with 3 kids who have left for college; is that if they’re okay, I’m okay. The rest of my life, my personal life and my relationship is where I now place my focus. My children need less from me so that they can grow up. I watch myself as I can easily slip back into mothering them as if they are young.
Being an empty nester can be a very exciting time for you and your partner. You can go anywhere you want, do whatever you want. You’re home is now your own and you’ll probably will feel more relaxed. Not bad! Besides, your kids will be back before you know it whether it’s for dinner, to share a problem or some wonderful news.
You’ll be a parent for the rest of your life! If you have a good relationship with your partner, I guess you made it. You have it all. So go enjoy your free time because it won’t last!