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Newly Empty Nest? Optimize This Time to Reprioritize Your Marriage

Here is the most obvious nugget of knowledge ever: Having kids drastically changes your life. Priorities change. Your focus changes. And how you spend a large amount of your time changes.

Often, couples who have children put their relationship on the backburner by necessity. They have to make sure their kids’ needs are met. That they are successful in their jobs so they can continue to provide for their now-larger family. That they at least marginally maintain their own health so they can actually do all of those things.

Only after all that is their relationship a real consideration. As backburners go, that’s an incredibly deep cooktop.

This is why, when children finally grow up and move out, so many couples find themselves at a loss – particularly with their partner. Where once their spouse was the center of their world, now in many ways they’re something of a stranger.

On top of this, they don’t know what to do with that large chunk of their time that was devoted to the kids. So empty nest syndrome sets in. Boredom. Sadness. A loss of purpose and connection.

Want to kill two birds with one stone? Use your newly acquired free time to reprioritize your marriage. 

How do you do that?

Re-institute Date Night

Be honest. Your regular date night hasn’t been so regular for a while. That’s okay. It happens to the best of us. Life gets in the way.

But now that you have a bit more free time, get it back on the schedule and treat it like you would any other real meeting. In other words: Stick to it.

You may find date night awkward or silly at first – do you really need to “date” your life partner? – but eventually you’ll fall into the rhythm of it.

And you do need to, because it can be tempting to use this part of your life to individually explore a lot of things. You absolutely should do that – to a degree – which is why you need to preserve date night as your “touchpoint” with your partner.

Speaking of exploring things…

Explore New Interests Together

Maybe you’ve always wanted to take up golf. Or painting. What about that novel you’ve been meaning to write?

Some of those are going to be individual pursuits. And that’s okay. As long as you do two things.

  1. Pick at least some new interests to explore together.
  2. Come together to share your individual interests with each other.

The beauty of this is that not only will you become happier, more well-rounded individuals by trying new things – you’ll be more interesting for each other to talk to, and you’ll be creating new memories when you do things together!

Enjoy Not Having to Lock the Bedroom Door

While it is true that we tend to lose interest in sex as we get older, you can make up for this by enjoying the extra freedom you now have.

No kids means not having to wait until they’re away or asleep. It means not having to lock the bedroom door or trying to keep quiet. Heck, who says you’re limited to the bedroom!

You can really, truly just focus on each other when those moments do happen.

Make Big Plans

This one is two-fold.

Part of the reason you likely fell for each other in the first place is that you appreciated and supported each other’s dreams. Maybe those dreams came true. Maybe life threw a curveball.

Whatever the situation, it’s never too late to rekindle old dreams or find new ones. And when you do, share them with your spouse – and work together to make them a reality.

Slightly smaller but no less important plans include things like getaways and vacations. At least once a year, but more if you can do it, work together to plan some kind of trip for the two of you. Brainstorm ideas. Research what you want to do. Look up restaurants you want to try and sights you want to see.

Having a big event like this to look forward to together can be an amazing way to connect.


There’s a reason why you want to be doing all of these things with this person. You fell in love with them. You chose them. And having gone through a life together means there’s an incredible amount of history. Don’t underestimate the power of setting aside time to relive some of that history.

This can happen in all kinds of ways. Maybe you spend an evening looking through old photo albums or watching old videos – physical or digital! Perhaps you revisit old haunts together to remind yourselves of those times. Some people like to renew their vows by recreating the original ceremony.

However you do it – reminding yourself of the life that you’ve shared with your partner can’t help but draw you closer together.



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Copyright @2020 Dana Cole, LMFT