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Our Your Empty Nest Experts

Claudia Arp

Claudia Arp

Co-founder of Marriage Alive International

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Natalie Caine

Natalie Caine

Therapist, coach and author

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Dr. Ellen Neiley Ritter

Dr. Ellen Neiley Ritter

Founder of Family Transitions Coaching

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Filling Your Empty Nest

Rekindle Your Romance

Now that you have an empty nest, you may feel you hardly know the man or woman sleeping next to you. After years of discussing your children’s schedules and school experiences, you may have little to talk about with your partner or spouse.

For Netta Dickerson, a neonatal nurse practitioner in Philadelphia, sitting down to dinner one night made her realize that life with her husband, Brian, was about to change forever. “For so many, many years, four of us for dinner was the typical event,” she says. “Suddenly, I realized that four for dinner would never be typical again. Without the kids as a buffer, I wondered how we would get along.”

With many Americans living until 80 or beyond, an empty nest at 50 or even older probably means spending as much time as a couple as within a family unit. Spend the first 30 days of your empty nest improving this relationship. Imagine you’re dating again—talk, joke, go on dates and spend more time being intimate. Rediscover the spark that got you two together in the first place.

“At first,” Brian admits, “there were long periods of silence.”

“As we settled into our daily routine, we began reconnecting and making meals together without worrying whether our daughter, Sarah, would eat it or not,” Netta recalls. “We remade the house to be our own.”

Patty and her husband experienced this same reconnection. “It’s like turning back the clock,” she says. “Bill and I are back to the dating part of our relationship again.”

Single parents have a tougher challenge when their kids leave home. “The hardest thing for me was there was nobody to share the experience and the sadness with,” says Mary McNamara, an artist and single mother of two sons in Schenectady, NY. Single parents should strive to pull themselves out of isolation by reconnecting with family and friends or seeking out support groups to share their feelings.

Posted: 11/29/07

My last child left the nest, and is over 3000 miles away, about 3 days ago. I feel like nothing I do-making dinner, cleaning the house, etc. has any real purpose anymore. All three of my adult children are hours away. My family lives in Michigan, and we are in Windsor. I'm really in a funk right now. The silence is overwhelming. I turned to your website for some inspiration. I have a job still-five days a week, so that keeps me busy. My son & his girlfriend were my best friends. I feel like a big piece of me is gone. Nothing seems to make me feel happy right now. I really need to get up and get motivated. I'm hoping your website will help me to cope. We don't have a lot of money to go on trips right now. I have no desire to return to school again. My friends are great, but they are busy too. I have found just reading that this is a normal thing that alot of parents go through has been helpful. Thank-you.

  • By Denben
  • on 3/6/11 6:31 PM EST

My daughter, only child, left one month ago for college. It was really the anticipation that was the hard part; Is she going to be ok, how are we (my husband and I) going to be after 19 yrs with a child to back to just "us". Turned out she was fine and knowing that we are fine. We love the peace; love the visits...funny how it all just seems right...we are all good!

  • By Stella2
  • on 10/1/10 7:18 PM EST

I have the emptiness of "old age" never had 'empty nest" when the children left- i had a wonderful carreer, many friends, and
charity activities. Now i have had 2 surgeries, most friends are gone either by death or moving, and i the busy freak ,am just really undecided as to what to do-there is not one group that fits this. I may move to a "community" but that takes effort and stress. And the "family" is scattered. I cant be the only one because no one is ever the only one. and the 3rd surgery scares me. mclaire12


I hit the empty nestor syndrom big time 8 years ago when my only daughter left to College. It does get better... My daughter is a Jr. High School teacher...Those first few years were hard...being a single parent..but I had to learn that my identity was not my daughter.

  • By hzleyz
  • on 4/28/08 8:40 PM EST