Q: Our youngest child is heading off to college this year, and my wife and I will be empty nesters. We know of other couples in our position that even divorced. How can we handle this transition?
A: You’re wise to think about a life-altering transition of this magnitude before it happens. Your marriage can thrive after the children leave home if you and your spouse are willing to make it happen. Among other things, this means constantly working on your communication skills, and committing that both of you have a voice in decisions. It’s also a matter of putting forth an intentional effort to date one another on a regular basis.
Start by sitting down (or getting away) with your spouse. Acknowledge that the “empty nest” is coming, and discuss your expectations for the post-parenting years. Conduct a thorough inventory of your marriage. Take stock of the methods and strategies you use to confront interpersonal conflicts and challenges. Look for patterns that might become problematic when there’s no one else around to act as a buffer between you. Strip away the layers of busy-ness and outward activity that go along with raising children and let your marriage stand on its own merits.
You should also be aware of, and honest about, your temperaments and personality types. Talk about how each of you interacts with the rest of the family. If there’s some baggage in those areas, professional counselling is a must if you want to preserve and revitalise your relationship during the empty nest years.
The goal is to rediscover what attracted you to each other in the first place and find new ways to fan the flames of romance. It’s a tougher assignment for some couples than for others, but it can definitely be done — and you’re on the right track.
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