How to give your marriage a kick before your nest empties.

If your last not-so-little one is getting ready to fly the coop, listen up.

You’re about to undergo a transition of major proportions. On the bright side, your newfound freedom offers endless opportunities to revitalize your relationship with your spouse – but the dark reality is that among long-married couples, divorce rates are higher after the children leave home.

Experts agree that while divorce is rising for couples over 50, you don’t have to be a statistic.

Just as you plan carefully for financial security in retirement, you can take action now to ensure your marriage thrives when the house empties out.

Image: iStock.

Retool your relationship with your child. Put some effort into becoming more a mentor, less a caregiver. Encourage decision-making and self-sufficiency to help your child become less dependent on you. “If you’re a so-called helicopter parent who micromanages your child’s life, now’s the time to land,” say Karen Soren, MD, Director of Adolescent Health Services at New York-Presbyterian/Morgan Stanley Children’s Hospital. “Even before they go away, give your child more freedom, while your direct oversight is still possible.”

Stock up on Kleenex.

Recognize that you’ll have to ride out a deeply felt emotional response - sadness, grief, even guilt. It’s important to honor these feelings (but not wallow in them) and acknowledge that while one stage of life has ended, a new, equally fulfilling one is about to begin.

Image: iStock.

Explore your future.

Talk with your spouse in advance about what your new kid-free life will offer. More time to travel? Freedom to take up new hobbies? Some healthy, agreed-upon time apart? Why not plan a vacation now as a commitment to spending more meaningful time together? Do something you’ve never done before, where you can explore fresh territory and re-bond in the process.

Take stock of your feelings, and your mate’s.

You may be eager to gut your daughter’s bedroom for a walk-in closet, but your spouse may have decided to gild everything and declare it a shrine. You don’t have to be on the same page, but you should at least understand the other’s point of view and agree to compromise…or to wait a little while (but not forever)

Quit ignoring old issues.

Are there unresolved issues in your marriage that got tucked away while you tended to the business of raising kids? Don’t wait for these to surface during your first empty nest year, when you’ll be facing other stressors. Start communicating, or meeting with a counsellor, now to get the healing underway.

Image: tumblr.

Promise to be there for each other. Empty nest is often thought to affect women more than men but research reported in Psychology Today says that men can react just as strongly to the departure of children from the home. Promising to be supportive of each other during times of sadness can bring you closer together. Remember too that on the emotional roller coaster, you may be at a high while your spouse is on a low. Be patient.

No matter how empty nesting affects you, remember that it is transitory. Planning will prepare you to navigate its foggy landscape so that while your child is off discovering a new independence and sense of freedom, you’ll be ready to discover yours too.

This post originally appeared on lifereimagined and was republished here with full permission. 

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