Welcoming a child to the world redefines the relationship between a couple in all its aspects, whether emotionally, physically, or financially, at tiem the entire relationship altogether. From children forward, your whole relationship for the most part exclusively revolves around raising your child/ren and attending to their needs. But between going to parent-teacher meetings on Thursday nights, taking the kid to soccer training on Saturday morning, cheering for them as a proud parent at the school play, and simply talking to them at night over dinner about their day and their plans, many parents lose touch with each other as the time goes by. So when the time comes for that child to fly the nest to pursue their dreams and build their own life, that same relationship that was once redefined eighteen years ago by one of the sweetest joys of life starts taking a more bitter path. Suddenly, there are no more plans on Thursday nights, no more plays and events to attend over the weekends, and simply nothing to talk about over dinner, and parents are left struggling with the Empty Nest Syndrome.
Although it is not a clinical diagnosis, the Empty Nest Syndrome is a reality that concerns many couples. It is commonly defined as a feeling of great sadness or emotional distress that affects parents whose children have left home. This can lead to other issues such as depression, marital conflicts and, eventually, divorce.
Over the past years, the divorce rate for people who go through a divorce at midlife and beyond, also known as “grey divorce”, has been generally on the rise. Canada’s national statistical agency indicates that divorce among people aged 50 years and older rose by 26% over the past three decades. Likewise, in the USA, studies have shown that the divorce rate for people who are over 50 years old doubled since the nineties and almost tripled for people who are aged 65 and older.
While several couples find in the empty nest an opportunity for them to refocus on themselves and reconnect with each other, others come to the realisation that they have drifted too far apart and have nothing left in common. In many situations, parents would be so focused on their child’s life over the years that they seem to neglect their own life together and stop paying any attention to their marriage. They grow different interests, have different perspectives on life, and want different things, or even wish to enjoy the freedom of being all by themselves after so many years devoting themselves exclusively to the family. In other cases, a parent may feel too lonely now that the nest is empty, have a hard time to get over the sadness they felt when the child left home, or be too occupied with worrying about how their kid is doing, that they neglect their spouse and their spouse’s needs, desires, and plans for the future, which may eventually lead to a divorce.
This said, it is important for a couple to always remember the reason why they decided to be together in the first place. It is recommended that you open up to each other and talk about how you are feeling now that there are no more children running around the house, engage in new activities together and start dating again, and embark on this new phase of your relationship with excitement about what the future holds for them instead of grieving about the past, so that their empty nest remains a healthy happy nest. We strongly encourage marriage counselling, as a professional may be able to help you get back on the right track.