The last child has now left the nest. The house is quiet. You look at that person you’ve been married to for so many years and yet, he/she feels like a stranger. There isn’t much to talk about except to catch up on news of the kids.
You spend the night reading. He’s watching TV. You get up before him and are out the door. He sleeps in and misses you for breakfast. Suddenly you realize that your lives were all involved with the kids. As a couple, you’ve lost touch and no longer talk or do things together. You feel alone and begin to think about divorce.
This scenario speaks to the “Gray Divorce Revolution” we see that is on the rise by empty nesters. Many don’t see it coming because it isn’t prompted by some big fall out, explosive event or trauma. It creeps up in a couple’s relationship because they’ve become emotionally distant with one another. And emotional distance is a major predictor of divorce.
Through the years, raising children, it is easy to revolve your lives around the kids and ignore the warning signs of losing touch with one another. Family time and hobbies can fill the gap and child-rearing, friendships and elderly care can occupy time. When the kids are gone, the lack of connection stares you in the face. You’ve lost the romance and your relationship is built on roles of mother and father, not husband and wife.
So what can do–divorce? I hope not. Instead, it is time to reconnect and build that marital friendship once again.
One solution I read about was for a husband and wife to live apart and see each other often. Stay married, but create their own lives and see each other regularly. This is ridiculous. If you stay married, then work on the relationship and be all in and honor the covenant you made.
Talk about the sadness you may feel with the kids gone. Simply sharing your emotions can bring you closer together. Then learn about your partner’s inner world. What does he or she like to do? How can you do some of those things together? What kind of life would you like to build together? Share dreams, ideas about the future. Come up with new things to try–a cooking class, a new hobby or engage in things you used to find fun.
This is a time you can turn towards each other and build a satisfying relationship, but you have to approach it in a positive way. Instead of being empty without the kids, there is time for yourself, time to contribute in ministry and time to enjoy each other and be together. Something drew you to that person initially. See if you can find that again.
The key is to turn towards each other not away. To see your partner as a person to get to know on a more intimate basis now that you have the time and no distractions from daily parenting. This can be a good thing and doesn’t have to result in Gray Divorce and giving up on that person you once thought you loved.