Empty Nest syndrome is defined as sadness or emotional distress that will affect parents whose children have grown up and left home. This usually happens when children leave home to go to college, get married, and the very last one has left home and moved away.
Who can be vulnerable to this? Well, basically any parent facing an empty home when their children are growing up and leaving the “nest” – so to speak. If you have children, it’s inevitable and is something that couples will have to face sooner or later.
So what are the challenges and how do couples overcome these challenges?
Challenge #1 – Neglect
One of the bigger challenges is that couples have neglected their marriage for so many years that they no longer know how to act like a couple with no children in the home to care for. Their entire lives were spent catering to and caring for their children. So when the children leave home, they are left with essentially, a stranger. They don’t know their partner in this whole new light.
Activities have revolved around the children for so many years, their birthdays, sports, school plays, etc.
So when all that is done….what’s next??
You have to get to know your partner all over again! You have to re-learn likes, dislikes, quirks, and it can be a struggle.
Challenge #2 – Feeling Differently
Another challenge is that two people who are married may have different views on empty nest syndrome altogether. One may have a feeling of relief and joy, while the other will have a feeling of despair and loneliness.
If one partner is experiencing a different kind of empty nest syndrome and may be adjusting better or appreciating life without children in the home, then there might be feelings that are brought to the surface of the marriage, such as tension and bitterness.
Challenge #3 – Worrying About the Children
Anxiety and worry about the children being so far away is another challenge that couples face. The worry alone is a stressor that can put a dark cloud over any marriage. Peace is not really something that is experienced in a household full of worry and anxiety. One partner may worry more than the other, and again, feelings of bitterness and tension will arise.
So how do couples overcome this?
- Try to reconnect together as a couple! Find things that are enjoyable for both parties and do them together! Hobbies, date nights, dinners, movies, anything!
- Ease the worry and tension by understanding how both parties feel! Show empathy towards the partner that is feeling more worry, and more despair, and try your best to help them through this period so that they don’t feel alone.
- Create a plan for reconnecting and stick to it! Weekly date nights, daily phone calls, brunch on the weekends, the possibilities are endless
- Try not to worry so much about your children! It’s difficult to do, but the task at hand is to make your marriage stronger so that you both can be there to support your adult children when they need you.