How to overcome empty nest syndrome — without it affecting your relationship with your partner

Anya Meyerowitz
·4-min read
Photo credit: Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman - Getty Images
Photo credit: Photographer, Basak Gurbuz Derman - Getty Images

From Red Online

You spend around 20 years focusing on the needs of your youngsters. It’s an incredibly important job and so much of your identity becomes tied up in your role as carer.

So, it's little wonder that when our children are ready to leave home, we feel a sense of grief and emptiness at their departure.

'It's not just a loss of the focus on them, it's the loss of your identity as somebody in charge and at the centre of everybody's world,' explains top psychotherapist, Heather Garbutt.

'That is a huge bereavement. It will bring with it freedoms as well as the feeling of a yawning absence. The contradictory qualities of those two feelings and flowing between them can create confusion. It’s important not to judge these feelings. They are natural and will take their time to resolve.'

Heather also explains that the loss of influence, or control, over our children can stir up intense anxiety.

'You’ve been keeping them safe and facilitating their growth for so long and now they are out of your sight and you cannot keep a check on them. It’s a deep bond of love that is being stretched across time and distance that is bound to have an effect on your mood and peace of mind.'

And Heather notes that empty nest syndrome might also cause tension with a partner.

'It may be that you don’t really know who you are as a person anymore, now you are not a full time mother. Your relationship with your partner may have become centred around being co-parents. It can be very hard to make the adjustment back to being together as life partners again in a more romantic, connected way. You may have become fixed in particular roles and behaviours in parenting that are outmoded now it’s just the two of you. You may even be re-evaluating if you want to spend the next half of your life together.'

This time when your children leave home is a powerful time of re-evaluation. It’s the time to take stock, to see what you want in your life now and what you don’t, who you want to be, what parts of yourself you want to express now and what contribution you might want to make in the wider world. You will likely need a rest and some time to reflect and process.

With that in mind, Heather has shared six things we can all do to help us take stock of where we're at, come to terms with our new situation and overcome empty nest syndrome.

6 things you can do to help overcome empty nest syndrome

1.If you are in distress find someone to talk to. Sharing and receiving warmth and understanding in return can make such a difference and free you from depressive and anxious thinking.

2.Keep a journal. At the end of every day write down the things you enjoyed, what you can pat yourself on the back for and what you appreciated about another person. It’s an uplifting practice that will help you see things from other perspectives.

3.List all of the ways that you enjoy yourself and all of the things you used to enjoy before you had children that may have fallen by the wayside. What really brings you joy?

4.Make plans to express yourself in those ways again.

5.If you are on your own, consider if you would like to have someone to share your life with, do those things you love and see who else is there. That’s way you can make a connection with a man or woman who shares your interests.

6.List all the ways you and your partner enjoy yourselves together. Make plans to fulfil your wishes and play together.

This may be a good thing to ask your partner to do as well and then share your findings together. Look at what you dream of and write that down too, whether or not it feels within reach. It’s a time to start a whole new era and you have the choice at this point to shape it as you want it to be. Writing down your dreams gets them on the radar of your mind and naturally opens you up to new possibilities.

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