Although being married or in a long term relationship always has its challenges, many couples with kids find that one of the most challenging times to maintain a healthy relationship can be when their kids grow up and move out on their own. There are several reasons for this. One of the main reasons that empty nesters sometimes have relationship issues is because raising and taking care of kids can be all consuming, and generally takes up a great deal of a couples’ free time. Sometimes years can go by when a couple will talk about nothing but their kids, how they are doing in school or in sports, or any trouble their kids may be having socially or with their health. Without meaning to, parents sometimes put their own relationship on the back burner, or forget to take care of it entirely.
Although putting children’s needs first is part of what parenting is all about, over the course of time, many couples who are also parents tend lose touch of the reasons why they got into a relationship in the first place. They forget about the feelings they once had for each other. When they suddenly find themselves alone in the house, some couples may discover that they are virtually strangers and don’t have much in common or to talk about. Now that their kids are no longer taking up all of their free time, some couples may also find that they don’t know what to do, especially if they find themselves having to spend time together.
Known as “empty nest syndrome” relationship issues that stem from kids going away to college or moving out on their own can sometimes lead to divorce. If you find yourself in this situation and want to work on saving your relationship, here are four strategies you can use to work toward becoming a couple again.
Start Dating Again
When couples first get together and are getting to know each other they tend to go on a lot of dates. Couples experiencing empty nest syndrome can benefit from dating the same way that new couples can, even if they have been together for a couple of decades. Dating doesn’t always have to mean dressing up and going out to a nice restaurant, although that is a fun thing to do on occasion. Going on date with your spouse can be as simple as taking a walk in the park, going for an ice cream cone or visiting a favorite museum. Rediscovering things that you enjoy doing together will not only help renew your relationship in a child-free context, having fun together will give you something to talk about when you are at home going about your everyday routines.
Consider Couples’ Counseling
Sometimes an empty nest couple may need a little help from a trained professional to start talking to each other again and get their relationship back on the right track. Many therapists around the country, such as Alan Behrman & Associates PC in Alpharetta, GA, offer couples’ counseling. Depending on the type of health insurance you have, a number of couples’ counseling sessions may even be partially or even fully covered by your plan.
Create New Memories By Trying New Things Together
Maybe you and your spouse have always wanted to travel, but have never had the time or the budget. Or maybe you have always wanted to learn to play tennis or cross country ski, but doing so never made sense with a house full of kids to take care of. Your kids moving out on their own presents an ideal opportunity for you and your partner to spend some of your free time learning a new sport or visiting new places. You not only will have a lot of fun, you will make new memories as couple that will help strengthen your relationship.
Spend Time With Other Empty Nest Couples
If your kids have gone away to college or moved out on their own, there is a good chance that some of your friends are experiencing the same thing. Getting together with other empty nest couples you know to make dinner or go to the theater will give you all something fun and social to do — you don’t even have to talk about your kids.
If you don’t know any other couples who are in the same life stage as you and your spouse, there are ways your can meet new couples who are. Volunteering for your favorite charity, introducing yourself to new people at parties and events, or attending a formal empty nest couples retreat are all ways to meet other couples you could possibly form lifelong friendships with.