If someone had told your younger self, the one drowning in packed lunches and playdates with a mysterious brown substance smeared across their shirt that could be chocolate - but could be something else, that one day they would live again in a quiet, adult house, you would have begged them to take you to that alternate universe. So why does this transition often prove problematic for couples?
Think of it as what it is. A second honeymoon.
Firstly, it took everything from you and your partner just to get here. Your kids and their various stages required different things from you, so inevitably, your relationship got put on the back burner. Second, of course you’re going to be sad! Your kids are growing up! It’s okay to both grieve their absence and celebrate your freedom. Psychologist Jeffrey Arnett found that although 84% of parents missed their kids once they moved out, 60% were happy to have more time for their relationship and 90% were happy that their kids were blossoming as independent adults. But instead of approaching your empty nest as an awkward, uncertain next phase with just your partner and only your partner and absolutely, positively no one else – think of it as what it is. A second honeymoon.
Experts and authors of The Second Half of Marriage have some advice for making this a smooth, fun transition:
- Slowwwww it down: You probably haven’t gotten a decent night of sleep since the late 80’s. Take it easy! Daily naps, 8pm bedtimes, whatever it takes to bring your life back into focus.
- Resist making major decisions for a while: This is a time of transition, which means one day you might feel completely adjusted and one day you might be an emotional basketcase. Totally normal, roll with it. Just don’t buy that beach house until you get some perspective.
- Plan a getaway: Escape to the mountains or waterfront. Be spontaneous and shake it up. If you can’t remember the last time you went for a nighttime swim, now is the time. What about the last time you slept in past 9? Do that too.
- Reinvest in each other: Talk to each other about your relationship honestly and openly. Look at the areas that have fallen off in the last few years and discuss how you can both work towards making every aspect of your relationship more exciting.
- Lastly… CELEBRATE! Keep a bottle of Champagne in the fridge for absolutely no occasion. Boil lobster at home on a weeknight. Walk around naked (but not while handling the lobster). Do all the things you couldn’t do with kids around, and do them with a smile.