Coming home to an empty nest can be an awkward transition for you and your spouse. It may seem too quiet, lonely, or just altogether strange. For the first time in years, it’s just you two for dinners, weekends, and nights in at home.

And if retirement is on the horizon, the two of you may have to prepare for an even bigger change. So how do you transition into this new living situation while growing and strengthening your relationship?

An easy way to focus your energy away from the strangeness of this new time in your life is to focus on a new project or opportunity for you and your spouse to share. Rather than running to pick up your kids or spending time making a big dinner to feed the family, you and your spouse can spend your downtime learning and planning something new to benefit your home, your personal growth, or your relationship.

Below are just a few ideas; it is up to you and your spouse to find a project (or projects!) that will suit your interests, capabilities, and budget. 

Plan a Romantic Getaway. Remember the bliss of your honeymoon? Maybe you went on an exotic vacation, or enjoyed a relaxing time near home. Well, as a new empty nester, you have the chance to get away together again! And if the needs of children, finances, and busy schedules prevented you from ever having a honeymoon the first time, now’s your chance!

Make this trip a project for the two of you. Rather than letting travel agents or tour bus trips handle each step of the process, plan your route, transportation, accommodations, and activities with your spouse. You can truly make this trip your own, and when you arrive at your destination, you can celebrate all of your hard work and planning with romance and relaxation.

Take Classes with Your Spouse. You’ve spent years driving your kids to and from school…why not take a class yourself? This doesn’t have to be a class where you sit behind a desk and take boring notes, either. Find something that is exciting and fun for the both of you.

A cooking class will help you set up a stay-in date night. Ballroom dance classes will impress all of your friends and family at the next wedding or big family party. Art classes will give you the tools and ideas you need to create unique holiday gifts or spruce up the décor around your home. Most importantly, though, when you learn something with your spouse, you create lasting memories and have the opportunity to grow together.

Renovations. The nest is finally all yours…so why not make it truly yours? Renovating or changing the interior design of your home is a great project to work on with your spouse in this new chapter of your life. Here are some potential ideas for empty nesters with different levels of renovation experience:

  • Convert your children’s bedrooms into the types of spaces that you’ll actually use – an office space, a den, or an area for your hobbies.
  • Add a patio or deck to entertain and host parties for your friends.
  • Add shelving to your garage for extra storage.
  • Give the interior or exterior a fresh coat of paint!
  • Install hardwood or laminate flooring in place of carpet for easier maintenance and an updated look.
  • Add a tile backsplash or tile floor in your kitchen or bathroom.

After living in your home and caring for your children for such a long time, it is time to give your house the fresh revamping that it needs. Haven’t tiled a floor or added an addition before? You and your spouse have the opportunity to learn something new.

If you find that you and your spouse have a knack for renovating, you can even turn your project into a profitable enterprise! Invest in a fixer-upper nearby or in a vacation destination. You can continue to renovate and sell the house, or get a new vacation home for a bargain of a price.

Collecting Your Memories. Often, couples find that an empty nest brings some sadness. It is perfectly normal to miss your children and the days when everyone lived under the same roof. Your family created many wonderful memories in your home.

Now, you can collect and relive them with a fun project! Scan old family photos into a fun slideshow. Arrange trophies, awards, and other memorabilia onto a memory wall to display in your home. Collect old t-shirts and make them into a quilt. Organize these memories so when your family gets together for holidays and special dinners, you will have a wonderful piece of artwork or centerpiece to enjoy.

Volunteer Work. Some new hobbies and projects can really put a dent in your budget. A vacation or new home is not always possible when your children are heading off to college. If you want to seek a project or activity that doesn’t take away from your piggy bank, look for volunteer opportunities with charitable organizations.

Take on projects that local organizations need assistance with, like a charity 5K or fundraising drive for your town’s radio station. If you want a big project that benefits others, put on a charity dinner or hold a fundraiser for a cause that you are passionate about. You can focus your energy on helping others while growing your own relationship with your spouse.

Relationship Education. Hobbies, traveling, and projects are wonderful ways to grow your relationship through other tasks. But you can also focus specifically on the growth and connection of your marriage. How? By investing in relationship education for you and your spouse.

There are many classes, workshops, and sessions that are out there to choose from, based on your availability, comfort levels, and specific relationship goals. From group work to long-distance coaching to educational pamphlets and lessons, you and your spouse can make relationship education and marriage coaching a top priority now that you have more time with each other at home.

The Center for Marriage & Family Relationships is open to couples and families of any size, gender, or age. Sign up for a workshop or contact us today.