Creating A Fulfilling Marriage In An Empty Nest

While empty-nesters may have had fun and positive interactions with each other during activities like high school dance recitals and football games, the connection revolved around the kids. In overly child-centered marriages, “You pull the kid out and now there’s nothing,” Cole says. “You can’t wish away the downward spiral by force of will. That would be like saying you are going to be in shape physically without doing what the in-shape people do,” such as exercising and changing diet.

You Have To Work For It

“If you want to have a positive marriage or relationship, you have to do the things that successful people do in this regard,” Cole says. “You can’t wait until you feel close, that’s an illusion.” Many empty nesters need to actively repair their relationships, especially if they haven’t taken time to maintain them, he says.

Cole recommends finding “hundreds of little ways to connect,” such as talking about your day in positive ways or scheduling a weekly date. Cole and his wife Carrie, also a therapist, created a Friday ritual they call lupper. They meet at 2 p.m. for the lunch/ supper combo, starting the weekend together before the children get home. And each morning, Cole gets up first to feed the kids. Then he takes scrambled eggs or yogurt and fruit to Carrie in the bedroom, cracking the same joke each day. She answers daily with the same response and they watch the news and eat breakfast together.

One morning when he entered the room, she skipped her usual line and said “thanks” instead, disrupting the ritual. Cole asked if she was upset and learned that he had inadvertently blown her off earlier, coming across as dismissive. Cole realized there was a problem and apologized. The willingness to use such corrective behavior is the biggest predictor of relationship success, he says.



Excerpt from the book Happinest: Finding Fulfillment When Your Kids Leave Home by Judy Holland – Foreword by Linda Wertheimer. Used by permission of the publisher Rowman & Littlefield. All rights reserved.

Judy Holland
Judy Holland
Author Judy Holland has been a journalist for more than 30 years, including in the Washington Bureau of Hearst Newspapers as national editor and Capitol Hill correspondent, where she prepared stories for 600 newspapers over The New York Times wire. In HappiNest: Finding Fulfillment When Your Kids Leave Home, Holland (also host of the HappiNest podcast) shares wisdom from more than 300 interviews and the latest research to help empty nesters live with greater purpose, meaning, and joy, in what can be the most fulfilling life phase.

Related Posts


Recent Stories