I’ve written many times about becoming an empty nester. Every single time I write an article that claims that my husband of 31 years and I are “officially” empty-nesters, the universe gives us another opportunity to live with one or two of our girls “one more time.”
If even for a short while, it keeps us in the lifestyle we’ve grown accustomed to since our eldest joined us 30 years ago. Which is nice. It’s familiar, it’s comforting and it gives us that little bit longer of not having to face the elephant in the room of a long-term relationship such as ours, which is — and you’ll know this to be true if you’re in a marriage/partnership that is heading into it being just “the two of us” — will we still have anything in common once we don’t have the raising/managing of the kids in common? Will there be anything to talk about when it’s not kids-centric? What will we do with all the extra hours that used to be filled with them?
Well, I’m about to find out where my relationship really stands, as we sold our family home and have downsized to a condo that fits only the two of us. It only has one guest room, making the option of moving back in, even for a short while, more challenging than it ever has been in the past. We officially have become empty downsizing nesters, and I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that the thought of it is more than just a little unsettling for so many reasons — the main one being that, from now on, it will be just him and I with very little to distract us from each other but each other.
So, what happens now?
As I head into the unknown next chapter of my relationship, I’m hoping that all the years of work we’ve put into ensuring that we kept each other a priority and made sure that our kids didn’t put a rift in our romantic relationship is about to be tested. We spent three decades following these three simple rules to make sure that we both felt special, important and that we were each other’s primary relationship.
1. We never let our kids share our bed.
We believed that our bedroom was our sacred space to catch up on our days, to be vulnerable with one another, to work out any issues that had come up between us during the day without our kids’ ears being privy to us working our sh*t out. And, of course, to make love. Obviously, we all know that a marriage will have one heck of a time surviving if there’s no sex happening. If you have a family bed, that’s pretty much gone out the window. And from where I sit, my husband is my partner, my kids are my kids. They will move out, launch into their own lives and their own romantic relationships, leaving me with my husband. So, in short, nurture your marriage and that intimate partnership or risk having no intimate connection once the kids have left to have their own.
2. We’ve both always been respectfully vocal and honest about what our needs are.
I firmly believe that in an intimate relationship, if you’re going to stay “in it,” then you ought to commit to continue to “give to it.” It’s not enough that your partner comes home for dinner or texts you that they love you. To have a thriving hot, exciting relationship go on and on and on, well, you need to put in the effort. Daily. Yup, you read it right. Being in love is one thing; loving a person is something else entirely. Making certain that your person knows that they are loved requires you put in the work every single day.
And you need to make sure that your love tank is being filled up every day as well; the best way to do this is to communicate clearly about what your needs are. Our partners aren’t mind readers … keep that in mind.
3. We had a weekly date night every week.
And when we couldn’t because one of us was out of town, we would make sure to have a sexy in-town staycation somewhere as soon as we could to reconnect and have some alone time. This is paramount to keeping a relationship thriving and exciting. If you’re not doing that, it’s never too late to add it to your partnership calendar. But the day may come where it is too late if you don’t. You get what I’m saying?
It doesn’t need to be dinner for two on a yacht, but date night must happen regularly even if it can’t take place on a weekend; pick another night, any night, but pick one.
Now, I’m about to learn firsthand if all that we did consistently for our entire relationship is enough to keep us together for the next three decades. I’m not a gambling girl, but if I were, I’d put my money on us.
Filling (And Even Enjoying) the Empty Nest