Changes and Choices: 3 Ways the Empty Nest Syndrome Can Break Your Marriage

Divorce Discussion

Despite being together for years, a lot of older couples still choose to end their marriage. If you look at the statistics, divorce rates are going up fast for people who are in their 50s. Sometimes, it’s a case of money problems, failing to handle retirement well. Other times, it’s the lack of sexual intimacy due to age, affecting the relationship altogether. But, the most common reason comes from a significant milestone in a couple’s life: being empty nesters.

When kids leave the family house, go to college or get married, you soon realize that your marriage isn’t the same. While women are usually the ones to suffer, it’s not uncommon for men to struggle through myriad emotions.

Some entertain the possibility of getting divorced. With the help of a men’s support group, men can express their emotions without being judged.

Here are the specific ways the empty nest syndrome can trigger a split:

You feel like you don’t know your spouse.

Raising children is a 24/7 job. For decades, it has been the very thing you were doing. But now that the kids are out of the house, it feels strange not to be parents anymore. It seems weirder even that you have to will yourselves to act like a couple. In some instances, people are hit with the reality that they know little about their spouse. Some are surprised that their partner has these quirks that remain unnoticed in the flurry of kids’ soccer practices, ballet recitals, and math homework.

The trouble is, one partner’s quirks are another’s pet peeves. Couples are then prone to petty fights. At some point, one would say, “Who is this person I married?” and make them rethink staying in the relationship.

If you’re contemplating about splitting up with your spouse, it’s wise to consult a relationship therapist and an attorney from a reputable divorce law firm, let’s say, in Kent. You should know at least the emotional and legal implications of your decision before you go through it.

You’re unsure of what to do next.

Your obligations to your kids, even though tough at the time, were sort of the glue that held you as a couple together. One takes care of the physical needs of the children, preparing meals, dressing them up, and taking them to school, while the other tries to meet the financial needs by working, say, in the corporate arena. When the kids leave home, the obligations stop as well. Some would ask, “So, what now?” On the flip side, with no glue anymore, in the absence of shared duties, one may muse, “So, can I have freedom now?”

If you’re feeling uncertain how to live your life without the kids, then explore hobbies that would let you reconnect with your spouse. Perhaps pick up an interest you’ve abandoned in the past when the kids arrived. Or, rediscover a new one. But if you really think that the only way you can move forward is to leave the marriage, discuss with your spouse how you can make the split as amicable as possible.

Couple Signing Papers

You’re not on the same page on the empty nest.

One partner may be enjoying the time without the kids, while the other may be grieving. You may think that your spouse doesn’t care about your sad situation. Or they may feel like you’re overreacting or being a debbie downer. This can put a strain on your marriage, as it leads to other evils in the relationship. One spouse, relishing the freedom, may misuse funds, get into addictions, or pursue extramarital affairs. The other, suffering the loss of kids, may not be in the mood for sex or other forms of intimacy, depriving the other of satisfaction in the relationship.

To avoid this, get into the source of the problem. Talk about what you each think of this next phase in your relationship. Don’t judge. Empathize.

The empty nest syndrome can have profound effects on your marriage. Primarily, it would force you to reflect on it. Take that opportunity. Evaluate where your relationship is heading. Whether it’s to stay or leave, consider it very carefully.

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