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Empty nesting is something that eventually happens to all married couples — and even for the happiest couples, this can be an adjustment. If you find yourself feeling a little awkward at home as it's just you and your spouse, there's no need to call off the marriage. A seismic change takes a while to settle into!
How can you re-connect with your spouse as an empty nester, and make it even better than before? Here are five easy ways to do that — and make your relationship even better than it was before!
1. Talk with each other.
Having the kids leave is a huge change, and feeling sad or even depressed is normal. It's easy to turn those sad feelings into accusations and fights. Instead, vow to turn inward toward each other and talk about your feelings — and support each other. It may take one spouse months to adjust. Be patient.
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So much of our relationships while we have kids is spent taking care of the kids, talking about the kids, and so on. It's hard to break out of that cycle and it requires conscious work! Spend 15-20 minutes every day talking about topics that DON'T include work, chores or the kids. Each of you can come to dinner with an interesting article you've read — or just pick a random topic and go! Reconnect with the fun, intellectually stimulating person you married.
3. Get physical—and not just in bed.
Reincorporating everyday physical gestures here and there can help stir up those loving feelings again. Start small with a gentle brush of the arm, a pat on the back, holding hands or just putting your hand on top of his. Cuddle up with each other on the couch as you watch TV, instead of sitting in separate chairs looking at your phones.
Every gesture counts. The skin is the largest organ on our body, and physical touch is an important human need. Thirty-second hugs are my favorite. It really brings you closer together. Before you know it, those little touches will translate to a deepened emotional connection.
4. Focus on the positive.
The longer you're married, the more likely you are to pay attention to the negative aspects of your spouse, rather than the traits you found adorable when you first met. It's part of human nature.
To counteract this tendency toward criticism, you have to change your mindset and look for what is good. It's not always easy, and requires work. Look back at old wedding photos together, reminisce about your first dates, play songs from back in that time — and start bringing those old positive feelings back. And, commit to saying at least two nice things to each other per day.
5. Do something new!
Create new experiences together with all that extra time on your hands! Take dance lessons, pasta making lessons, golf lessons or go wine tasting. Start doing things that are new for both of you, and you'll get some adrenaline flowing (which is shown to build attraction).
It's possible to have a relationship that's better than ever when the kids are gone. Like anything, it takes commitment, time and energy, and is so worth it. Start easy: have the conversation tonight at dinner about, "How are you feeling after _______ has been gone for a month?" Be honest, gentle and a great listener — and you will be on step one of the re-kindling process.