Empty Nesters

Dear Dr. Diana

My husband doesn’t understand my feelings at all. I’m beginning to wonder if he ever did. Our youngest son just graduated from high school and leaves for college in a couple of months. With the kids gone, I don’t know if we have anything in common anymore. We still love each other but we are not friends anymore. How do people know if there is enough left in a relationship to fight for it? And when to let it go? Over the years, we’ve tried couples therapy several times…trying to keep it together for the kids. I’m afraid that now that the kids are gone, our marriage is just going to fall apart.

- Lonely Wife
Dear Lonely Wife,

It’s not unusual for couples to have these kinds of concerns when their children grow up and leave home. For so many years, the focus and the glue has been on the kids; couples may need to revitalize their friendship as well as rediscovering themselves. It’s also natural to feel a bit of a void once the kids are gone and most of us look first to our partner to satisfy our craving for a deeper and more meaningful relationship.

I want to encourage you to not give up too soon. The inner workings of romantic love and friendship have always been a bit of a mystery; but as of late, we have much more understanding about what makes relationships work. The latest research offers us a clear scientific view of love and how to make it last. We are taught that healthy adults are self-sufficient. Only messed up people depend on others. The research on creating lasting love tells us that romantic love is all about attachment and emotional bonding. We all need someone who can offer reliable emotional connection and comfort. Couples often get stuck in negative cycles that they don’t understand and can’t seem to change; this can make it hard to listen to each other, support one another, or have fun together. But once you figure out what the negative patterns are, you can uncover the key negative and positive emotional moments that define your relationship.

It seems worth the effort to try and rekindle your friendship with each other. Getting to know each other again and learning what you both need from each other and from your relationship is a good place to start. This could be an ideal time in your lives together to create a new dance defined by your own rhythms apart from the children.

Recommended reading, “Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for A Lifetime of Love” by Sue Johnson.

Sign up for the: Keeping Love Alive: A Couples Workshop at The Cottage Clinic in Rancho Santa Fe, California, August 18, 19, 20, 2011. CEU’s available for some health professionals. Based on the book, “Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love” by Sue Johnson and Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy. Register at http://trieft.org/re/sandiego or (858)

Author's Bio: 

Licensed Psychologist psy#12476 in private practice in Rancho Santa Fe, California.. She specializes in relationships, couples and marriage counseling, premarital counseling, and stepfamilies. www.cottageclinic.net (858) 259-0146