All our children have left home and we don't seem to have anything to talk about
When the last child leaves home it sometimes feels as if you are waking up next to a stranger rather than your husband, wife or partner. This can be caused by years of concentrating on what the family has needed, leaving little space or time for the two of you as a couple. The problem can be especially acute if your family has been the chief focus of your attention so that their leaving creates a gap in your life.
Some new research has recently found that many couples feel the empty nest syndrome is not as bad as it is made out to be. After an initial bumpy year or so, many couples report rediscovering life after parenting as a time of creativity and renewed pleasure in each other's company.
But if you feel you've lost touch with your partner, here's some ideas to help you cope with this phase of your relationship:
First and foremost, tell your partner how you feel. Soldiering on when you are feeling miserable without the children around prevents your partner from offering the comfort you crave.
If you are not sure you know who your partner is anymore, try a light-hearted personal quiz to help break the ice. For example, ask them:
- What is your favourite meal? Why?
- What film have you most enjoyed in the last five years?
- What music would you take to a desert island? Why?
- What colour would you choose for a coat/scarf/hat etc?
- Name two favourite TV programmes.
- If you could learn a new talent, what would it be? Why?
- What was your favourite read in the last five years?
Think up your own questions based on your relationship. The object of this is not to demand answers but to get you chatting about what may have changed in the last few years. You may be surprised at the answers. Use the opportunity to share your own feelings and thoughts.
- Think of a leisure pursuit you enjoyed when you first got together. For example, did you like motorcycling, dancing or backpacking? Now think of a way you could relive this. OK, you may not want to hike around India anymore, but maybe you could enjoy walking together in your local area or watching motorcycle racing, for example.
- Do some things you have always wanted to but lacked the time or money for while the children were growing up. For instance, think about what kind of holidays you might have now or how you might spend an evening out. Consider doing something just for the fun of it. For example, ride a roller coaster or go bowling.
- With no children in the house, sex can be more spontaneous and interesting. Invest in a good, basic sex book and follow some of the ideas in it. Put whole evenings aside for love making and enjoy the journey as much as reaching the destination.
Congratulate yourselves on arriving at this stage of your lives together. Many couples don't get this far so be proud that you made it through babyhood, toddlers and the terrible teens in one piece. Take a little time to reconnect and your relationship will grow in strength.
How Relate can help:
Our services can take your specific circumstances into account as an older person, whichever one you choose. Find out more about how we can help you by going back to our ‘Older people who need support’ section or see the following services: