Image: Flickr/Lynn Holland
Your last kiddo is gone out into the world, and suddenly, it’s you, your spouse, and crickets. Now before you let your heart strings start playing a sad violin melody, you should embrace the fact that this isn’t the end—it’s the beginning of an exciting new chapter in your life—and in your married life. As a couple with children, you probably had a pretty scheduled routine that revolved chiefly around your kids. First thing after the last child has departed, you and your spouse should stop, take a moment, and give each other an emphatic high five. Do it. You birthed, raised, and launched a person into the world, and first order of business is to celebrate the moment together. Pop some champagne, turn up some music, raise the roof or engage in your own skilled cabbage-patch celebratory dance, because not only have you earned it, but more importantly—your kids aren’t there to make fun of your dance moves! (Wow, what ELSE can you do without your kids around? More on that in a moment.) I think by choosing to celebrate the moment your nest is empty, you’re setting the tone for the next chapter on a great note.
So…now what? Once the nest is emptied, it’s a huge rupture in the routine you’ve become accustomed to. It’s a time to redefine your roles and redistribute your freed up time, which presents a huge opportunity for you and your spouse to begin growing with your relationship in new ways. I say “growing your relationship” in a new way, rather than “rediscovering your love,” because that latter phrase implies your love is a fixed and unchanging “thing” that has been lost or hidden somewhere–and what’s required is for you to start at square one. There is no “lost love” here, and there is no going backwards to find it. What you have is a lifelong union, forged with the strength of shared joys, hardships, and hopes. And it is a union now afforded the opportunity to capitalize on your newfound free time and spice things up! Here are just a few ways:
Savor the Silence
Appreciate the quiet and the calm. Your house will inevitably have plenty of noise in it down the road. This is the moment to enjoy the peace and quiet together. Turn off the TV, and read a book together with the windows open. Save up some freed up cash from the lessened grocery list and splurge on an at-home couples massage. Put on some music—old tunes you love, or discover new music together. Light some candles, and dance in the living room. Start practicing yoga in the mornings together.
Travel, travel, travel. Whether you can afford trips around the world, or trips around the county, it’s all good. You’ll learn new things about the world, yourselves, and each other. Nothing will shake things up better than foreign territory: it’s an invitation for the unexpected, and sets the stage for new memories and adventures which are what give dimension, color and flavor to your love. Your marriage will benefit if you allow yourselves to try new things and embrace the amazing possibilities that come from stepping out of your comfort zone.
Your home is different now—it’s you and your spouse’s space now, and your sanctuary as a couple. You may still wish to keep your kids’ rooms for when they return to visit, but open your mind to streamlining things rather than keeping them as living shrines. Keep token keepsakes and mementos, but think about upgrading the room with new décor to make it more guest-room friendly, or convert a room to working space for new hobbies. Add unexpected spice: think about upgrading your bed, or even your bed spreads and sheets—who knows what new things new linens could invite? Get your DIY on and work on projects as a couple.
Do Those Things You Couldn’t Do With The Kids
Some may be seemingly trivial, and others are bold ways to get intimate with your new space. But here’s a running list of some things you should try—they’ll undoubtedly invite some major fun, excitement, and spice into your marriage.
- Turn up your own music as loud as you want for a change.
- Have a wine tasting, either at home, or out on the town with a driver.
- Bust out the twister board…but this time, make things interesting. Shed some clothing. Kiss…and whatever else…on the living room floor without the threat of someone walking in!
- In fact, experiment with turning all previously PG-rated fun into a game of clothing-stakes.
- Pick up hobbies together: try golfing with your husband here and there; go treasure hunting at the flea market with your wife.
- Throw parties, game nights, or low-key group gatherings with friends. You’ll find you have more quality time to spend with them, and fun time spent with close friends will grow your friendship with your spouse too.
- Stay in bed longer than usual in the morning: read the paper, watch a documentary, enjoy the solitude of being together in bed with early daylight flooding in and not being needed elsewhere.
- On the same note, try having breakfast in bed.
- Make a bucket list, check it off at your leisure. You only have to worry about each others’ schedules.
- Watch the sunrise; watch the sunset—either way, relish the blessing that life has brought you far enough to this point that you can stop and be still enough to behold and share those little miracles together.