Life Transitions: Empty Nest

Welcome to Part 3 of our Life Transitions series. This week’s installment is geared towards couples who are facing an empty nest. Kids are growing up, you may have one still at home, or all of them out of the house. It was a huge transition from being a couple, to rearing a family and now you’re going to see your life and relationship change again. 

For parents who’ve devoted themselves to raising their children, these changes can be daunting. For moms and dads who have forged much of their identity in the past 15-20 years as a parent, their changing role can be emotionally difficult. Letting go of young adult and adult children; relinquishing control over their lives as they become independent will vary by degrees. So who are you if you’re not actively parenting? The answer is to find yourself again in the context of your relationship with your partner and to develop the aspects of yourself that may have been pushed to the side or overshadowed by your role as parent. 

Your empty nest doesn’t have to be a desolate and lonely place where you and your partner rattle around aimlessly wondering what to do now. Instead it’s a golden opportunity to adjust to a new phase in life with your partner and to renew and reaffirm your loving relationship, looking forward to the next chapter together. The future is wide open, and the two of you can make the most of it, enjoying being in that empty nest. 

If you’re one of the couples who’s been able to stay connected through the difficult teen years of raising kids, I commend you. This transition will be easier for you. You’ve probably made plans to do all kinds of things together once the kids are out of the house and are ready to turn your empty nest back into the love nest it once was before the kids were born. This transition means you and your partner can spend even more time together traveling, working on projects, remodeling your home, taking classes together or just enjoying the quiet moments together at home.

If you feel like you and your partner just don’t know each other anymore, I have some advice. Bring out the old photo albums, souvenirs from trips you’ve taken and any memorabilia from when you were dating or newlywed. Take a stroll down memory lane. Visit some of your old haunts if possible. Spend some time talking about how your life has been up to now, and how proud you are that you’ve made it this far. You’ve got a lot to be grateful for. Talk about what you would like to see happen next and how you see your future together. These conversations are a way to reconnect in a loving way, acknowledging what you’ve shared.  Remembering how you felt in the beginning can help you to realize the deep and abiding love you’ve shared over the years. 

Make a plan for the next 6 months, or 2 years. Set some goals, line up some strategies for how you see your life unfolding in the near future.  If your house is big and lonely, it might be time to downsize. Sell your home and move into something smaller and more manageable. Each couple will have certain wants and desires. Listen openly to what your partner is saying and give them the room to be vulnerable and authentic about how they feel. It’s okay if you don’t feel the same, but you won’t know until you hear them out.

Get together and reaffirm your love for each other. Spend more physical time together. Do some small trips and fall back in love all over again with the person who’s been there with you all along.  Turn your empty nest into a love nest that you can share.

Please join us for part 4 of the Life Transitions series where I will discuss aging in love with your partner and joy of the retirement years


About the Author:

Stuart Fensterheim, LCSW helps couples to overcome the disconnection in their relationships. As an author, blogger and podcaster, Stuart has helped couples around the world to experience a unique relationship in which they can feel special and important, confident in knowing they are loved deeply and that their presence matters. The Couples Expert Podcast consists of weekly provocative conversations offering the perspectives and insight of experts from a variety of relationship related fields. Stuart also offers daily relationship video tips on The Couples Expert YouTube channel and by subscription in Stuart's Daily Notes. Stuart is happily married and a devoted father of 2 daughters. His office practice serves the greater Phoenix, Arizona area including the cities of Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe, and Mesa.