Many of my Houston marriage counselor clients tell me that the day their children finally leave the house for good is a momentous one. They’ve spent the better part of two decades – at least! – shaping their lives around their kids, and with them finally out on their own, a vast hole opens up in their lives.
For some people, this can feel devastating. They become lost and depressed, disconnected from everything. For others, this time can feel exhilarating and freeing – with the kids gone, they can do whatever they want now!
But whether you’re both depressed or just feel like you’re on completely different emotional wavelengths, it can cause huge relationship problems.
The Houston Marriage Counselor: Respect Each Others’ Feelings
If you’re crying every day because your kids left but your spouse is happily spending time with her girlfriends, it might feel like she doesn’t care about the kids. Alternatively, if you’re excited to move on to the next part of your life with your spouse but all they do is walk around depressed, you might be hurt thinking they’re not interested in a life with just you anymore. Obviously, either of these situations can lead to bigger relationship problems if you don’t deal with them.
As the Houston marriage counselor, I tell my clients that this is a time for them to get to know each other again, and part of that means understanding where their feelings – and those of their spouse – are coming from. Being sad about the kids’ absence doesn’t mean your partner is depressed about being alone with you. And just because someone is excited to move on to the next phase of life, it isn’t a sign they don’t love the kids. But the only way you’re going to know that is by sitting down and talking to each other about how you feel and being understanding. Make several appointments as appropriate to dialogue about this issue. Dialogue, taking turns talking and really listening to one another, helps each person to say their truth within a safe place. Deeper connecting, even with separate realities, is the gift of acceptance and feeling heard within dialogue.
No matter how it feels to you, the kids moving out on their own is a natural and healthy part of life, and one that you have to come to accept. This goes for those feeling sad over the loss as well as those ready to move on – this isn’t a vacation where you need to move, move, move before it’s over. This is your life, and you don’t have to do everything at once.
Allow yourself and your spouse the time you need to recover from the change and settle into this new life together. Don’t go overboard planning long and intensive excursions before both of you are ready, but do get out of the house to see friends, take classes, or just go on dates together.
Also, don’t be afraid to set times to call or visit with your kids – they may seem annoyed, but I can tell you from experience that they will miss you, too, even if they won’t tell you. Just be sure to set a limit on the contact you have. Too much isn’t a good way for you to move on to the next stage of your life, and it can allow them to have an unhealthy dependency that prevents them from becoming responsible adults.
If you’ve tried all of this and are still experiencing relationship problems related to empty nest syndrome, seek out the Houston marriage counselor for more help.