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The Other Side To The Empty Nest Syndrome

Q. I am a retired person, my children have settled in different parts of the country and my wife and myself are left alone. We do not have much activity to do, also at times feeling of helplessness sets in and we both shut ourselves in the house for days together. How can we feel more empowered?

KU. You seem to be having a successful life and have achieved all that you wanted. Your children are settled and doing well, of course to do well in their life your babies have grown to move out of the nest that you build. One should feel proud that your children are well placed.

There are stages of married life, the Empty nest syndromes is seen during the final stage of the Family Life Cycle Development stage.

Empty nest stage starts with the launching of adult children in their own world of work and family. Most parents adjust to their new roles as empty nesters within two months, some may experience the symptoms for a longer period, even years, if they have challenges of finance or health. An analysis of the developmental aspects of marital relationship suggests that marriage relationship, changes its complexion to accommodate the needs and demands of the changes occurring in the family over the course of time. Marital interaction dimensions or styles may vary from stage to stage; hence the empty nest stage requires certain changes in the life patterns and family role reorganization is necessitated. As this stage is accompanied with depletion of physical energy, modification of interest and attitudes, changes in the philosophy of life along with the more obvious changes in the family structure (absence of children, introduction of grand children) and occupational career (promotion, retirement). Successful transition through the stage requires changes in priorities, role salience and marital interaction styles.

If in the beginning of marital relation physical appearance, sociability, relation with in-laws and satisfaction with sex seem important, during child rearing years satisfaction with parenting, affection, role-sharing, etc. could assume greater importance.

In the Empty Nest stage there could once again be a greater concern among couples regarding companionship, understanding, conflict.

In an unpublished research by the author it was found prediction of marital quality among wives depended on intellectual intimacy, relation with in laws, understanding between spouses, role sharing, economic sufficiency and affectionate expressions, whereas for husbands absence of conflict, role sharing, economic sufficiency are seen important.

Empty nest is often characterized by feelings of sadness and loss. Parents become vulnerable to depression, identity crisis and marital dissatisfaction. But if couples can build a strong foundation and friendship, with different hobbies and interests, then one can find it easier to cope while enjoying new time together and having some freedom to relish a new phase of life.

Create shared meaning, watching movies together, going for a walk, watching television, sharing old memories, flipping over the album photos, travelling to place once both dreamt off. Role sharing, helping in the kitchen, doing the laundry, going to the bank, going for a long drive.

Each one trying to avoid conflicting situation and working through amicably, will bring solace, peace and contentment in one’s Empty Nest.

*Disclaimer: The views expressed by the writer are in their personal capacity only and aren’t to be replaced with medical advise.

Kavita Upadhyay

Kavita is a counsellor with expertise in  Family Counselling, Marital Counselling, Child Counselling, Adolescence and Career Counselling, Gender issues and Stress management. Kavita has 25+ years of experience in these areas and also trains for life skills and special needs.

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