Many couples worry that once the kids have grown and gone, they’ll be left alone with each other, with nothing in common and nothing to talk about anymore. Other couples look forward to those years, imagining more time alone together as a couple and more freedom to enjoy it. But what can couples realistically expect for their marriages once the nest is empty?
A new article from Discovery Health discusses that very thing.
According to the article and the research on which it was based, the initial transition from active parents to empty nesters can find couples on opposing pages, when
one person is ready to pack the RV and travel the country and the other person wants to spend time in a shrine set up in the child’s bedroom.”
Different people arrive at the empty nest stage with different needs and different expectations, but both spouses find themselves with a seriously rearranged lifestyle to which they’ll each have to adjust.
A family’s stable schedule, detailing when work, household chores and maybe even sex occur, is thrown off track. It’s (also) a time when midlife crises and menopause occur.” With all of this change and turmoil (both good and bad) what will happen to your marriage?
Well, while couples who were only staying together “for the kids” may well be headed for separation or divorce, new research from UC Berkely says that the empty nest period can actually be a great time for your marriage. In fact, an 8-year study that followed 200 couples found that a better marriage was the most common “side effect” of the empty nest.
Women who participated in the study reported “that their marital satisfaction increased during the empty nest years; the empty nest moms were far happier than women with children still at home. Interestingly, the women’s overall life satisfaction didn’t improve, just satisfaction related to marriage.”
According to the researchers who conducted the study, it seems that the reason having an empty nest actually improved these women’s marriages wasn’t that they had more couple time, but that they had BETTER couple time. This is really encouraging news for couples who may fill the time you used to spend on the kids with more community involvement, going back to school or other postponed activities. Apparently, even if your newly acquired “free time” gets sucked up by other activities, the time you do spend with your spouse may improve in quality if not quantity.
This is great news for those who are nearing this stage of marriage and worried about what it will bring!