Dr. Jess on Sex: How one T.O. couple chose to reconnect and fill the void when their kids left for college
Lorena and Sergio pinpointed their shared interests and had intimate conversations with each other before their daughters left home
You knew the day would come when your young ones would leave the nest. You mourned their departure but also prepared to celebrate your new-found freedom.
But what you may not have anticipated, as you grappled with the many shades of so-called empty nest syndrome, is that this new life chapter inevitably coincides with a significant milestone in your marriage — your return to living as a couple.
For some couples, this can be a difficult transition, as breaking old habits — like using child rearing as an excuse to neglect your intimate relationship — can be a challenge. Some couples buy into the popular belief that depression, loneliness and marital strife are inevitable side effects of empty nest syndrome, but new research suggests that these outcomes have been overstated. The reality is that couples are, in fact, happier once their kiddies leave the nest, as they have more time alone, less housework, lower stress levels, greater financial freedom and, often, better sex.
Midtowners Sergio and Lorena acknowledge that the empty nest transition was a considerable adjustment but note that their marriage has improved.
“It seemed really quiet when they left. But since the kids left, we have more time for us and more time to build a close relationship. We spend less time arguing and more time enjoying one another,” says Sergio.
With time alone, they’ve rediscovered that they simply like being together.
For couples whose kids have just left or are about to, Sergio suggests carving out shared interests and having intimate conversations before the kids move out. You don’t want to be left alone with nothing in common but parenting.
“Play tennis, practise yoga or take a course,” he says. “You’ll be surprised how much you’ll enjoy it. In our case, we took some cooking classes and pottery courses together, and we still laugh about who is the better cook and who makes the most interesting pottery pieces.”
You may feel pressure to come together as a couple once the kids leave, but don’t force it. Take time to reconnect with friends and family as well. Re-establishing your sense of self is also essential to a happy empty nest transition.
When you’re alone in the home, be playful: plan a vacation, redecorate a room, play music from your teenage years, buy new bedsheets and pillows (as sex props), build a cocktail bar, subscribe to an adult channel, start a casual book club, eat cheese for dinner, tan nude in the yard and do all of the things you avoided when the kids were home.