A question from an empty nester

Let me take on your problem this weekend. What's going on with your relationship life right now? Send your own questions or problem to [email protected] or fill out this form, please. 

My husband and I have been married a really long time. We are approaching a new phase in life where our kids are moving out. I mean, they may move back in because we can’t predict anything in life anymore, but we are experiencing a new kind of freedom.

I love my husband and we have a great relationship. One of the most important things to me is the feeling that he really knows and understands me. That security is my rock. I love how he thinks of me and will send me texts during the day or pick up dinner on the way home when he knows we’re both too tired to cook. Or a million other things that we’ve built over the past few decades of being together. But. We went into the pandemic with teenagers who still relied on us for everything. As we came out of COVID, they are independent adults about to leave for college.

It was such a drastic change that I feel the empty nest phase almost snuck up on me and I'm not prepared. Being a mom was everything and that is changing. I want to go out and try new things. Meet new people and make some non-parent friends. Find a new hobby. My husband does not. The thought exhausts him. I want to do this together, but he isn't willing. I don’t want to change who he is but feel like a little compromise would go a long way. Do you have any suggestions of how I can approach this with him so he understands how much this means to me? I want to grow closer together and if I do all this without him I fear we will just grow apart.

– Empty Nesting

Accept that your timelines don't have to be the same. You and your husband are partners, but you're independent people.

There's some grief that comes with moving from one phase of life to the next. There can also be elation – the ability to take a deep breath – when less people depend on you all of the time. Regardless of how you both feel about it, having an empty nest is a shift, and not everyone deals with it in the same way. Your husband might not want to join a book club right this second, but it could happen in a few months. In a year. Please don't ask him to push himself yet.

Also remember that after 2020, many people are exhausted, even if they had the privilege of financial security, safety, etc. You say the phrase "as we came out of COVID," but ... we're not there yet. I can understand why a person would be exhausted by the thought of making new friends right now.

You're not growing apart at the moment. Do not assume that doing different things will put you on paths that push you away from each other. It doesn't sound like he’s asking you not to pursue your own hobbies and friendships. Do what feels right for yourself, and remember that part of this freedom takes you back to when you met, when you both had your own interests and learned how to make them work together.

It can be fun to do a new thing and tell your partner all about it when you get home.

– Meredith

Readers? Any fear of taking different paths after kids leave home?