It really helps to plan ahead for the time when your children leave, so that you can dilute the empty nest feelings of “What do I do now?” In the weeks before they go make a list of things you want to do and to see, and places you want to visit and start doing some before they leave. Get some dates in the diary with your girlfriends. If being an empty nester hits you hard you will be so glad you have some activities in the pipeline.
A good way of bridging the empty nest gap is to book a trip away with your husband or partner soon after your offspring have gone, even if only for a long weekend. It has the double benefit both of taking your mind off your empty nest, and getting you used to being a couple again. Book a few outings – even if its just a walk to the pub at the weekend. Or cook a romantic meal in – and with a bit of help from M&S your partner could cook one for you too!
Having focused for years on the children it can be a disconcerting prospect to be alone together again, and empty nest couples can find that they have to work at rekindling a relationship. It is an unsettling time when the children leave home, and even after 20 or so years of marriage, you won’t be the first person to wonder what you are going to talk about now that it is just the two of you. Partners will often have taken rather a back seat to the children. For years your partner may have come home whilst you are cooking, feeding, bathing, helping with homework, putting children to bed, and probably retired with the paper until supper is ready – even if you have been working too!
Now you have that time together, so prize him away from his chair and paper and get chatting like in the pre – children days. And yes it is very much a two way thing, so he needs to recognize how you are feeling too. It can be extremely irritating to now have spare time and freedom, only to find your other half spends all weekend on the golf course or fishing by a river bank. Its just that women generally need to take the initiative in these things, as men can be a bit slow on the uptake, or miss the vibes if they are too subtle.
So maybe you need to sit him down, and explain all this – talk about what you miss now the children have gone, but also about what the two of you have gained. Plan a few meals out – away from TV and paperwork, so you can both give full attention to nurturing a relationship that is entering a new stage, and even recreate a bit of the old romance. Talk about future plans and address changing roles, even changing finances, particularly if retirement looms.
Rekindle your sex life. You wont need to shut the bedroom door – in fact you can now make love any time you want, anywhere you want, and make a noise too! New underwear, new perfume – why not! Book a make over with a girlfriend at a cosmetic counter. Think “How To Look Good Naked” in the spirit of Gok Wan. Book a spa treatment. Luxuriating at night in relaxing baths with skin softening smellies and candles now beckons, rather than falling into bed in an exhausted heap.
Sadly, what seems like empty nest syndrome can also mask a sense of despair about your relationship. Its great if you can rediscover life as a couple, but conversely it may make you realise that your relationship is going nowhere, that you have little in common and that it was actually the children that kept you together.
Divorce initiated by wives is increasingly common in this phase of our lives, especially now that the law gives a fairer share of assets and pensions to the wife. As divorce rates continue to rise in the over 50’s age group we are sadly becoming known as the generation of ‘silver separators’. Some women feel that, once the children leave and the glue that held the marriage together is gone, they have ‘served their time’ and now feel empowered in a positive and calm way to plan for a future apart. If your relationship is rocky and you need help, services like Relate are reliably supportive and helpful.
If you are single, why not try a dating agency, if for no other reason than to find a friend to go out with, who shares your interests. You wont have any off putting teenagers around and if you go for a professional matchmaking agency you will know that your partner has been vetted, has a similar agenda, set of interests and values. A good agency will sift the serious clients from the not so sure, and will sniff out if unresolved past relationships may be a barrier to starting a new one. Don’t think it will seem odd to your friends – 85% of single people now use dating agencies, and don’t think you are paying for a date – you are actually paying for the service.
Be honest with the description of yourself, to help the agency match you, and look for the same interests, sense of humour and lifestyle – even religion and politics if these are important to you. Don’t compromise and kid yourself that you can mould them to your liking – with a more mature person you wont, and the principal works both ways!
Click here for more advice from experienced match making agency executive Margaret Hann, one of Top Match’s area directors.
Refocus your energies
As retirement looms, you need to create a life that ensures you have different interests. Getting in each others way, or on each others nerves, is not a great combination on top of an empty nest, so here are some ideas.
Plan trips with friends – even if it is just to a local event or exhibition. If you are lucky enough to have the money for foreign trips then go for it. How about a city break with other empty nesters too? Or a few days away on a cookery course or walking holiday? And your partner may even appreciate you more when you get back, so that’s an added bonus!
Relish the opportunity to change your diet. Cooking for one or two can be healthier, more interesting, more exotic and quicker! Years of cooking the boring old family favourites can be replaced by new recipes that you will have more time to experiment with, or a quick snack if you cant be bothered.
Reconnect with old friends that you haven’t been able to see as much of, or take up a sport such as tennis or golf that you can share with girlfriends or your partner.
Create a cake club or a bake club. Such clubs are gaining popularity, as more people than ever get baking. You can set a theme and then its down to everyone’s creative streak to produce a contribution. For ideas go to these two baking club sites: www.clandestinecakeclub.com or www.lilyvanilli.com
Resurrect an old hobby, or start a new one. Look at courses at your local Adult Education Centre, which generally start in September and learn something new. They are usually very unpressurised, and if you don’t like your course then its easy to stop.
Consider voluntary work or a return to part time work, the advantage of the former being that you can decide how much time to devote to it. See GOING BACK TO WORK