When your kids leave home your life changes, and many people develop what is called empty nest syndrome. The really bad part, however, is that many long-term married couples divorce one another after the kids leave home and they have an empty nest. The good news is that if you learn how to prepare for and cope with an empty nest, instead of your marriage falling apart, it can become greater than it has ever been, and you may find this stage of your life to be extremely enjoyable and fun!
The first part of coping is to recognize before the kids leave home what a difference it will be and prepare for it. Of course there will be some good changes like you may actually be able to use your computer now and again, and you will find you shop for groceries a lot less. But, there are some difficult changes. For example, you probably spent the better part of your marriage with conversations that revolve solely around your children. Once they are gone, you may not know what to talk to your spouse about. So start developing interests and hobbies so that at the very least you have something to discuss when you sit down to dinner.
Second thing you want to do when coping is to recognize when you need professional help. If you see that your empty nest marriage is showing signs of withdrawal, alienation, and negativity, then it is time to go to counseling. A mother who has spent her life devoted to her children may find it hard to cope when she is no longer needed as much, and she might be resentful to her spouse for not needing her as much as he should in her mind. A husband may not know how to handle the extra attention he is getting, or the extra time he has, or may feel regret for not spending more time with his children when he had the chance. There are many things that can lead to negativity, etc. so if you feel it getting out of hand, get some professional help.
Third, many empty nesters feel like they have no involvement or connection to the outside world anymore. Their children were how they socialized, by going to sporting events, recitals, etc. So, to keep this from putting a strain on your marriage, plan a regular date night and go out once a week. Also plan a monthly game night with friends so that you have a chance to see your friends and interact. It is also good to join some clubs, or go to plays or anything that is regular and can be looked forward to so that the days when you are feeling particularly lonely or detached you do not take it out on your spouse, but rather look at your calendar and get excited about an upcoming event.
Fourth, take the time to strengthen your marriage. One of the best ways to cope with the feelings of loss and emptiness when your children leave home is to fill the void by changing the focus that was once on your children to your spouse. Get reacquainted with your spouse’s likes, dislikes, hobbies, etc. Take time to renew the intimacy you shared as newly weds and really enjoy one another’s personalities. You do not have to rush into traveling, or move to a smaller home. Those things may come, and have a natural tendency to come at the right time. So, instead of worrying about those things, focus on getting to know your spouse again and enjoying having so much time to spend together.