Relationships After the Children Leave Home

Posted by on Aug 31, 2018 in Couples Counseling | Comments Off on Relationships After the Children Leave Home

This time of year, grown children leave home for the next chapter in their lives. Oftentimes, this means heading off to college, but it can also mean joining the military, attending trade school or community college, or beginning to work full-time.

After 18+ years of raising children, some couples may feel alone after so many years of childrearing. This is often called the “empty nest” effect. Parents will have mixed emotions: on the one hand, they are excited for their children, but also don’t want to just say, “Have a nice life,” or “Call you later.”

It’s Normal to Have Mixed Feeling When Children Leave Home

It’s normal to have some feelings loss or even depression after children leave the home. Even a good transition can be stressful for a couple. There are several things couples can do to make this process go more smoothly. For example:

  • Get some rest!  Most couples are exhausted after the children leave home. Feel free to have some downtime. It might be tempting to jump right into something else, but take some time to rest and recover before making that change.
  • Next, get out of the house.  When the children leave, you may want to just sit at home, but that would be a mistake.  Getting out and about will help counteract some of those sad feelings that come with being an empty-nester.
  • Acknowledge that this is a time of adjustment and talk about it together.
  • Resist making major life changes right away. You both need time to refocus and readjust.
  • Plan a getaway.  Do something to treat yourselves as a couple.  It’s good to have something to look forward to and to do it together.

Find Connection with Each Other

Once couples work through the initial transition period, there are some things they can do to not only survive after the children leave home but to thrive.

It’s important to have a connection with your partner. In fact, the greatest predictor of how well a relationship survives after children leave home is the connection couples have between each other. Otherwise, they will have already started to drift apart while raising children. People need to do the work to reconnect with each other.

How to Reconnect

Some ideas for reconnecting with one another include:

  1. Work through old hurts or disappointments and put them to rest. Find peace and forgiveness with each other.  
  2. Create a relationship-focused marriage.  Before, the focus was on the children, work, etc.  Meanwhile, the relationship slid to the back-burner. Now the marriage should be a priority in your life. This is the time to reinvest in your marriage.
  3. The values of each partner can shift after children leave home. Men will often become more reclusive while often women will actually widen the scope of their lives. Women may go back to school or return to work.
  4. For a lot of couples, they will find that this is a time when they will be moving towards the middle of their relationship.
  5. Re-energize your love life to stay connected. It’s a misnomer that the older you get the less interested you are in sex. For many, sexual satisfaction increases the more time they are together in a relationship. Also, sex becomes more satisfying now that the kids are gone and there more opportunities for intimacy.
  6. Set good boundaries with your adult children. A lot of parents tend to be helicopter parents when the kids were younger. Now those children need to be able to make their own mistakes. Let them have the opportunity to make their own decisions and be responsible for themselves.

As your children leave home this is an exciting time for both you and them. However, if you are struggling with this transition period, consider getting help by talking to a therapist.

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