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The Nest Is Empty and So Are We: Returning to Life as a Couple Once the Children Move On (Part 1)

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Though the amount of time varies on how long couples wait to have children, it is safe to say that the minimum of 18 years a couple spends parenting greatly outweighs the time they initially spend as a couple, focused simply on the relationship between the two of them.

It is no wonder, then, that being “parents” becomes an identity. A lifestyle. And a tough routine to move on from, once the children have gone.

By the time parents send their children into the world, it is quite common to find the couple, now in their late 50’s or early 60’s , wondering: “Who are we? And why are we together?”

No matter how much a couple prepares, the transition will almost always be difficult. Most transitions are. We get very comfortable with routine, finding peace and reassurance in knowing what to expect and knowing what is expected of us.

All change in life comes with its own set of challenges. Changing from life as a family to living as a couple is no less challenging.

So How Do We Prepare?

Preparing for life after children can begin before the children are even born. Many don’t think about the changes that children will bring. The inclusion of children into a household reduces income, sleep, time alone, time together as a couple and overall focus on our individual selves and on the couple.

When deciding to have children, it is very important to make this commitment to yourself:

“I am not going to lose myself in my kids. I am going to keep my identity. We are going to keep our identity.”

Preparing As a Couple

Last week’s blog: “The Dynamic Duo: How to Stay a Loving Couple in the Midst of a Family”, focused on how to preserve the couple’s relationship. For important tips on how to keep the couple strong and healthy in the midst of family life, I invite you to check out that article.

Preparing As an Individual

You’re a pro at finding the children during Hide N Seek. But can you find yourself?

It is not uncommon, once in the “marriage and kids” phase of life, to lose sight of what we were and are as an individual. And reconnecting with yourself can be almost… scary. Many find that they feel empty, disconnected or overwhelmed by the idea of trying to find their own interests.

Begin by asking yourself the following questions:

– Are there hobbies and interests that defined you before you were part of a couple or family that have disappeared at this point?

– Are there things you have always wanted to learn or do that you haven’t?

– When is it you feel the most:

* Relaxed?
* Intrigued?
* Amused?
* Accomplished?
* Happy?
* Creative?
* Curious?

“Me-Time is Not Selfish or Unreasonable”

Just as I discussed setting aside date nights in last week’s entry, making time for yourself is equally important. Talk with your spouse about watching the children so that each of you can enjoy time with friends, exercise, a class, a hobby, pampering, travel or some uninterrupted time at home.

Prioritize “me-time” in that weekly calendar. It will likely start out feeling selfish or unreasonable, but remind yourself that you will be a more effective spouse and parent with a bit of rejuvenation.

We’ve Covered What I Should Have Done. Now what should I do?

In Part 1, I have discussed what should be done to prepare for life as a couple after-children. Everything I have described can help you if you’re just becoming parents, are parents of young children, or are beginning the process of letting go.

Next week I will discuss what to do when the children leave, as well as steps to take as a couple to reestablish your relationship, just the two of you. So stay tuned, as we continue to fill that empty nest.

Need help?

Should you and your partner need additional help with grief, conflict, separation, communication or anxiety issues, we at Stenzel Clinical Services are here and prepared to help. Contact Us today to learn more about our clinicians, inquire about our services or to schedule an appointment. We are willing and confident we can help, so contact us now.