Couple sitting in a nest hanging from a tree.

3 Empty-Nest Marriage Issues & How To Resolve Them

Navigating the quiet hallways of an empty nest can feel like a journey into uncharted territory for many couples. As children grow up and venture out to build their own lives, parents are left with a profound sense of change, often questioning what comes next for their marriage. This transition period, known as the “empty nest syndrome,” can unearth a mix of emotions and marriage issues that were previously overshadowed by the bustling demands of parenthood.

Understanding the journey ahead involves recognizing the shifts not just in your home, but within yourself.

The following 3 marital issues are fairly common to empty-nesters. These issues can be resolved, but too many get stuck in the “empty nest syndrome” and fail to move on with their lives and marriages. However, with a bit of focus and determination, you can overcome whatever “empty-nest marriage issues” you face. 

  1. Loss of Individuality

    After years of prioritizing the needs and schedules of children, many couples find themselves at a loss when trying to recall what their own passions and interests were before parenthood. This rediscovery of individuality is beneficial in and of itself. However, it’s also necessary for personal growth and happiness.

    The place to begin is by acknowledging the space and freedom you each now have available to explore personal interests that you set aside. Whether it’s picking up old hobbies, finding new ones, or dedicating time to self-improvement and learning, these activities are vital in reclaiming a sense of self.

    Although it may at first sound self-serving to rediscover your individuality, taking the time to explore who you are today goes a long way toward creating a more multi-dimensional relationship. By encouraging one another to pursue your individual interests, you will each have new experiences that can spark new conversations and new ways to connect with each other.

    This phase of life offers a unique opportunity to reshape not only your marriage but also how you view and engage with the world individually.
  2. Emotional Distance

    With the children gone, many couples face the stark realization that their relationship has, over the years, subtly shifted to revolve almost entirely around their children’s lives. This can leave a void, making it apparent that the emotional and romantic connections have dwindled. It’s a delicate time, but also a golden opportunity to rediscover each other and rekindle the romance that may have been put on the back burner.

    To bridge this gap, it’s essential to actively seek out and engage in activities that you can both enjoy together. This could mean instituting regular date nights, exploring new hobbies as a couple, or simply dedicating time each day to talk and genuinely connect without distractions.

    Communication is key in this phase. It’s important to express desires, expectations, and fears about this new chapter. This open dialogue can lay the groundwork for a renewed partnership that thrives on understanding, respect, and love.

    Rekindling a relationship requires patience, effort, and a willingness to step out of comfort zones. Now is the time to begin creating new memories and finding joy in each other’s company once again, ensuring that the best years of your marriage are still ahead of you.
  3. Unfamiliar Family Dynamics

    As couples transition into the empty nest phase, they often encounter changes in their daily routines and interactions, leading to a sense of unfamiliarity within their own homes. This adjustment to new dynamics is one of the most confusing of the marriage issues resulting from an empty nest. It can also challenge the stability and satisfaction within the relationship.

    Adapting to these changes requires a conscious effort to redefine your roles both within the marriage and in your broader lives. It’s an opportunity to embark on joint adventures that were previously impossible due to parenting commitments. This could include traveling, volunteering, or participating in community activities that reflect shared values and aspirations.

    Furthermore, maintaining a healthy balance between staying connected with adult children and fostering independence is crucial. It’s important to support each other in establishing boundaries that encourage adult children to thrive while also nurturing the marital relationship.

    By actively choosing to navigate these changes together, you may discover a renewed sense of purpose and joy in your partnership.

Although the solutions to these common empty-nest marital issues are straightforward, that does not mean they are easy to implement.

Sometimes it’s necessary to look beyond the confines of your own efforts and consider the guidance of a professional. Seeking guidance like this does not signify failure but rather a commitment to nurturing and deepening your marital bond.

A relationship expert can offer new perspectives, tools for communication, and strategies for reconnecting that couples might not discover on their own. Whether it’s through counseling, relationship coaching, or engaging in private workshop retreats designed for couples, these resources can provide a roadmap and a safe place for navigating the complexities of this new chapter.

When you reflect on the issues and strategies above, the underlying message is clear: transformation and renewal are not only possible but within reach. When you embrace this chapter with openness, curiosity, and a willingness to seek help when needed you can turn the empty hallways and challenges of an empty nest into opportunities for a deeper, more fulfilling partnership.

Mary Ellen Goggin offers relationship coaching for individuals and collaborates with her partner Dr. Jerry Duberstein to offer private couples retreats. To learn more about working with Mary Ellen, contact her here.

Posted in

Mary Ellen Goggin

Mary Ellen is a highly skilled and intuitive relationship guide. She brings over 35 years’ experience with individuals and businesses as a lawyer, mediator, personal coach and educator. She received her J.D. at University of New Hampshire Law School and a Master’s Degree at Harvard University. Mary Ellen co-authored Relationship Transformation: How to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Jerry Duberstein — and they were married by chapter 3. Mary Ellen brings a unique blend of problem-solving, practicality, and warmth to her work. She’s a highly analytic person, with geeky and monkish tendencies. She’s a daredevil skydiver, a voracious seeker of knowledge, and an indulgent grandmother. Her revolution: helping people become the unapologetic rulers of their inner + outer realms. Read more about the retreats