Empty Nest or Honeymoon? You choose.


When your entire married life has consisted of a family and you reach the cusp of the empty nest years, you wonder if your husband married you because of the family factor. Did he really see you as an individual when you were dating? On the day you said your vows, was it to only provide his kid and yours with a well-rounded family, complete with two parents in the same house? I wondered those things and over the course of the last 18 years, I wondered and worried a lot. Not because of anything he said or did, but because those are things I’m good at.

That last year before our youngest turned 18 and headed off to college, I was nervous about being part of the empty nest crowd. How could I not be? I’d heard enough horror stories about couples who spent many magical years together only to end up divorced or divorcing when the last chick left the nest. It was as if some switch had been turned off and all the love and life building that had taken place up to that point was over—ready to be packed up and hauled off. In two separate vehicles ready for two very separate lives.

Over the course of my life, especially as a mother, I’d learned some tricks to navigate the uncharted territories of our kids growing up. A few months before their birthdays, I’d mentally evaluate what they might be able to handle in regard to chores and activities. I’d use those precursor months to prepare myself for the inevitable of them growing up a little bit more. I refrained from calling them “babies” long after they’d outgrown the term. After all, if they were always babies, wouldn’t I be that much more stressed out to launch them into their own lives, letting them make their own decisions and life pursuits?

I also made sure to invest in myself and my own independence over the years. I went to school, had friends, and found hobbies of my own. When I felt guilty for choosing a little “me time” I reminded myself that my kids were engaged in their own “me time” and would someday move up and out. It was imperative that I have my own life outside of them, not just so that I wouldn’t be lonely when they became independent, but also so they didn’t feel guilty for being independent. It’s not their fault they grow up.

My husband and I also invested in our marriage throughout the kids’ growing up years. We were aware of the statistics—half of married couples end in divorce and those second marriage folks (hands raised over here) are even less likely to make it as a couple. Since we had no intention of becoming a statistic (again), we worked that much harder to keep the relationship going. We took date nights, spent once a month alone in a hotel while the kids were at the sitter. We talked, we laughed, and we kissed. We did all the right things.

And then one by one, our kids left the nest.

It didn’t take long either. Since some of our kids overlap in age, there were a couple years when two left in a twelve month period. It was rapid fire quick. The proverbial “we blinked and they grew” kind of exodus.

On that final weekend, we both set out to take our youngest to college. We made sure to give her some time with her friends and staying at her dorm even though we were right there in town. We engaged in other activities and even left the college orientation early because we were bored. (Trust me, it’s boring.) I cried when we dropped her off—even though I’d sworn I wouldn’t.

And then, it was just the two of us.

We’re a few months into this couple-hood way of living and truth be told…I can’t believe I was ever scared about this. We’re having a great time together. We:

  • took a two week vacation to our favorite beach spot

  • renewed our vows on the beach

  • added in date nights at the shooting range

  • road-tripped from Gulf Shores, AL to Kansas City, MO

  • started working out together

  • decided to remodel the master bathroom and do all the work ourselves

Are there occasional niggles of worry (on my part at least) that he’ll get bored with our weekday evening routine of lounging in front of (and sometimes falling asleep in front of) the television? Sure, but those worries are few and far between.

So, what are you doing at this stage in your marriage? If you’re struggling with ideas, try one (or more) of these:

  1. Stop calling it an empty nest. How depressing is that phrase anyway? Consider it your second honeymoon (or first if you never got one to begin with). Your nest isn’t empty; it’s full with you and your spouse.

  2. Take a trip

  3. Remodel something in your house—together

  4. Take a class—together or separate. Talk about what you learn, do the homework together, skip class together occasionally.

  5. Learn a new hobby

  6. Learn a language

  7. Volunteer

  8. Join a book club

  9. Take a cooking class

  10. Start a workout regime

Most importantly, support each other and love each other. Engage with each other on a daily basis and focus on all the reasons you were drawn to your spouse in the first place. This is the person you trusted to have children with and raise children with…trust that person with your heart even after the kids are grown.

Most importantly, support each other and love each other. Engage with each other on a daily basis and focus on all the reasons you were drawn to your spouse in the first place. This is the person you trusted to have children with and raise children with…trust that person with your heart even after the kids are grown.

#honeymoon #marriage #love #family #parenting

10 views