I'm not sure what it is or the shape it may take, but entering the days of the empty nest can bring some unexpected dynamics to a mature relationship.
For sure, there is the elation of long awaited freedom; especially after 30 years of bringing up school aged children. But the absence of children can also reveal buried marital issues that never had space to surface. We are confronted by the hard reality of who we really are, individually and as a couple, as the occupation of child-rearing takes a back seat.
We are forced to address the challenges and conflicts once covered up by parental duties.
All of a sudden:
It's just us, now. And it's Pretty scary.Did you see the movie "Failure to Launch" about the grown son who never moved out of his parents' house? The mom was dealing with a similar trepidation. She enabled her son to stay because she worried her relationship with her husband had changed.
"What if he doesn't like me anymore?" A humorously exaggerated thought, but universal in both parties.
What if she doesn't like him anymore?
Fears bubble just below the surface about taking on issues that have been swept under the proverbial carpet. There is no pretense, masks or faking, or hiding behind problems of offspring anymore.
But that's when our true selves can be discovered. And if our marriage vows are true, there's a depth of knowing our spouse that is a fresh, new vista to explore.
At first it can feel like undressing in front of each other for the first time. Vulnerable, exciting and a bit terrifying all at the same time. Here we are, all the faults and warts and blemishes, vivid and clear. Truly, the deepest character defects that are the hardest to wrestle down are also the most rewarding to forgive.
Are we still going to love each other, without the glue of the children? Do we have a reason to create new ways to have fun, to surprise each other? To date and court again?
When the novelty of the firsts - career, houses, kids' milestones - turn into second, third, fourth and boringly fifth, what will hold us together?
Of all eras in a marriage, now is the time to compose a mission. A mission for a relationship with season appropriate projects and goals.
What inovative mission can you create for the next chapter?
It's your half-time show. Make it a good one! Without the kids.
You see, the fear is as real as the boogey man under the bed, or the monster in the closet.
It's not really as black as we think it is. It's there, but exaggerated in its power.
And God forbid, we look at the potential boredom or fear and plan an escape, thinking there's someone better elsewhere. That's a lie. Yes, the thought of trading your partner is a deadly illusion. There's nothing greener out there. And certainly, breaking up the home is no improvement for some fantasy person or situation. Just because the kids are grown, doesn't mean they wouldn't be profoundly affected by how we end up as a couple.
So turn the page, re-invent the relationship, revel in the adventure that lies ahead,
regardless of the perceived danger ahead.