Do You Have an Empty Nest?

Tips for the newly liberated couple.

Peter Bernard


November 20, 2009


When a couple decides to raise children, thy have to adapt to some radical life-changes. This happens again when the kids grow up and leave home, creating a phenomenon that mental health professionals call the "empty nest syndrome".

The condition can be recognized a variety of ways, including depression and anxiety, but after an adjustment period, a couple accustomed to functioning in the role of parents can wind up rediscovering themselves and each other. Here are some tips to ease the stress of the transition:

Be Patient

Major life changes can take time. Grief, anger and sadness are common emotions in this process. Be patient with yourself and your partner as the process continues.

Achieve a New Focus

After years of nonstop parenting, suddenly it's just you and your partner. You may find some differences have developed between the two of you over the years. Take this opportunity to get to know each other all over again, and make a commitment to shift your relationship back to being about each other instead of about your kids.

Let Go

May times empty nesters, with nothing else left to focus on, rediscover old conflicts or resentments with their partners. This can include long-simmering relationship issues, disappointments and fights. Do the best you can to let go of these old resentments so you can move forward in your relationship. Remember that counseling is always an option, if needed.

Make Time for Your Partner

Make sure you and your partner don't settle into a new rut of predictable and complacent behavior where you barely notice each other. Start dating again. Put a priority on romance and friendship and paying attention to each other's wants and needs.

Always Communicate

Rediscover the long lost art of spontaneous conversation with your partner. For so long, conversations were mostly with and about your children. Now that they are out of the house, it's time for you and your partner to start talking again.

Take a Trip

Money may be tight, especially if your kids are off at college, but try to get away together. Even if it's a weekend to a nearby destination, try to spark off on a new adventure together.

Volunteer Your Time

And volunteer together, if possible. Working together for a common purpose can draw you closer together in a way you never realized before.