It was a strange feeling when our youngest left home, a sense of loss and slight anxiety about the future. I joked with a friend that my husband might suddenly expect sex on the stairs …although the idea of spontaneous intimacy might exceed the reality of creaking backs and wildly fluctuating hormones!
We both found ourselves missing the children, especially at mealtimes, which were often the time for catching up with news as a family and when there was usually some drama and, or laughter. Meals started to feel awfully quiet.
There were positives: the house was so much tidier, and the fridge stayed fuller for longer. We’d done our jobs as parents, for this season anyway, launching both the children into independence, university and adult life. Another achievement — we were still married.
I found myself wondering, what next?
For many couples this stage of life can be a vulnerable one, with mixed feelings often referred to as ‘empty nest syndrome’. In addition to the emotions you may have suppressed concerns during the parenting years, which now rise to the surface: ‘I’m fed up with…’ or ‘I’m bored with…’ or ‘have we still got enough to keep us together?’
These kinds of thoughts are completely normal. Change isn’t easy, but it is an opportunity for growth and renewal.
It’s a good idea to make time to reflect and talk as a couple. Finding new direction and enjoyment in your relationship will be good for you and your children. We’ve put together some ideas to help you get creative.
Tips for finding “us” again
1. Talk about how you are thinking and feeling. What are you enjoying about your new season, what’s challenging, if anything? Comfort one another if there are painful feelings.
Your partner is not a mind reader, so it’s important to be open and honest, even if there are difficult things to share. If you’re struggling to communicate Toucan Together’s Communication Module helps open up deeper conversations about emotions.
2. Look back and celebrate the good things. What are you grateful for? What struggles have you overcome? Talk and list everything you can think of that’s good about your family life and relationship as a couple. They can be small everyday things as well as any specific achievements.
3. Look forward towards the future. What are your hopes and dreams? Is there anything you stopped doing when you became parents that you’d like to take up again? Given more freedom is there anything new you would like to try, a creative hobby, sport or course?
The Coronavirus pandemic will limit some ideas of world travel at the moment, but there are wonderful places to explore in the UK and you can save dreams of visiting exotic places for later on (make a note now though). There are also an enormous variety of online courses, many with free tasters to try. Learn to paint like an artist? Sushi making anyone? Build a kit car?
4. Consider your needs as a couple. In the years of parenting life was full of parenting responsibilities and you were more focused on the children’s needs than our own. What do you need from each other in this new season? Toucan Together is a free app and online series that empowers you to grow and strengthen your relationship together. Discover deeper ways to communicate, find positive approaches for resolving arguments, learn to speak each other’s Love Languages and renew your sex-life.
5. Build friendship and fun. Spending time together doing something enjoyable helps your grow more connected. Find something you can do together in this season. Try walking in the countryside, a new kind of cooking, get a dog or do something you used to do in the early days that you might like to go back to. Make a list of as many ideas as you can and don’t dismiss any as too silly or hard …then do some research and give things a go.