The day finally arrives when you become “empty nesters.” Your kid or kids have “flown the coop” and are off on their next chapter. They may be off to college, travel or other adventures. The thing you know for sure is that they are gone; at least for now.
Having them out of the house can bring sadness, grief and a sense of a void that needs to be filled. Indeed, if you two are like most couples you have spent tremendous time and energy focused on raising your children. It may seem like a shock, even though you knew it was coming, with no idea of what comes next.
It is easy to stand back and together recount the stories, like a slideshow narrating their lives from their birth, birthday parties, school events, summer camps, struggles in the teen years, driver’s licenses and finally graduations. And now what?
Indeed, that is the question: Now what? So much time and energy has been focused on them that your own relationship has taken a back seat. It may be uncomfortable to look at the person you married all those years ago and wonder who are they? And for that matter who are you now?
This is the time to check in on the state of your relationship. It is inevitable that neglect has taken it’s toll so it is time to come back together with new eyes. Hopefully there is enough love and good will between you to rebuild your partnership and start the next chapter. Some couples find that they have stayed together to raise their family and now that that is done they are done with the marriage. If that is the case for you or your partner it is time to be honest and discuss what is next. Working with a couple’s counselor can help you make a good ending: By expressing appreciations, hurt feelings and the sadness saying “goodbye” brings. As the saying goes, “ Good endings beget good beginnings.”
This time can also be about renewal. It can be a time to come back and revisit your unlived lives, individually and together. A time to perhaps go back to school and complete a degree, travel or start a new business.
Also look at finding and creating a deeper love. You two have been through so much together and met the challenges and joys raising a family brings. Take in and share the gratitude you have for your partner in that process. Then discuss what other goals you want to undertake together. This time it is about the two of you growing and prospering as a couple.
Now that you have more time you can find ways to deepen your connection. This may take the help of a couple’s counselor to help you repair any damage that has occurred and find your way back to the loving relationship you started with.
Another way to move forward it to use a “vision board” employing a variety of tools to put on paper what you two are envisioning as a couple now. Get a large piece of paper and use felt pens, water colors, magazine photos or downloaded ones to create your separate and collection vision. Nothing is off limits as you search out who you are and what you want to have in your life now.
Or create your own vision boards separately and come together and share with each other. After reviewing them you can make a joint one with the ideas that can be done together.
So, like the Chinese character for “crisis” can also be the character that means, “opportunity” you can choose to see this time as an opportunity to grow yourself and your relationship.