Article The empty nest stage should be a delight...but can become a fight! Learn how to bring back the passion! 0 2017 Life coaching Keeping the Passion Alive Relationship Coach Finder Relationship Coach Finder Relationship Coach Finder
Coach Tim Higdon

Entering the Empty Nest Stage? Re-establish Romance and Fall in Love Again

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When your kids leave the home, it marks the start of a transition period for parents.

You may both experience feelings of sadness and loss. You may struggle to redefine your identity and purpose. And you may wonder about the direction of your relationship with your spouse.

Shifting your role as a parent and a spouse can be surprisingly difficult. That may be the reason that, though divorce rates are stabilizing or even declining (a little) for most demographics, the divorce rate for people over 50 has actually doubled since 1990.

Once your kids leave the nest, you’re left wondering, “What now?”

Over the past two (or more!) decades, you have lived a shared experience with your spouse. You have gone through highs and lows. You have experiences, memories, and jokes only the two of you can really understand.

These are things you simply cannot find with another person. But it is possible that, if you’ve neglected your connection, you may no longer feel that strong “in love” feeling you once did.

Here’s the thing, though: it is possible to regain that feeling.

Research backs this up. This is true even if you are experiencing conflict and a loss of romance in your relationship.

I’ve had the honor of coaching couples for several decades now. Over and over, I’ve seen the transformation happen. And I’ve seen how beautiful, fulfilling, and strong renewed love can be.

Here are a few tips for reestablishing romance and falling in love again.


Love is a verb. Don’t just say it. Do it.

To maintain or grow your love, you have to practice actions of love. And you should do so several times a day.

Loving actions come in different sizes. They can be small – like a kiss before work or a loving text message in the middle of the day. They can be medium – like a date night or a surprise gift. Or they can be large – a weekend away at the beach together or learning a language together.

And there are also many, many ways you can act with love:

  • Accepting your partner       
  • Tenderness and affection
  • Affirmation, appreciations, and encouragement
  • Acts of responsibility
  • Acts of giving
  • Couple time
  • Keeping romance alive
  • Sex

In the book I co-authored with Norene Gonsiewski, Rock Solid Relationship, we go into detail about each category. We devote an entire chapter to sex, because it is such an important way that couples connect.

Most of us appreciate actions in each of these categories. But your partner likely prefers certain types of love actions over others. It is important to know that what makes you feel happy or loved won’t necessarily make your partner feel the same.

So, how do you know the best way to show your love to your partner? Ask!

If your partner struggles to find an answer, revisit positive memories. What were times in your relationship that he or she truly felt loved? What have you done in the past that made your partner feel happy? Then come up with your own list and share it.


Even with the kids out of the house, there are dozens of things competing for your attention: work, friends, family, chores, hobbies, the TV, your mobile device… The idea of adding another “to do” item to your list may sound exhausting.

But if you want to strengthen your connection, you have to make your partner and those actions of love a priority. When you do, you can “trick” your brain into experiencing those new love hormones you felt when you first got together.

Putting your partner first is also putting yourself first. A stronger, deeper connection with your partner will make you happier, too.

Consider the things in your life that pull you away from your relationship. What can you change or stop doing to change your priorities? Maybe you turn off the TV a few nights a week. Or come home earlier from work.

Even small changes can make a big difference in the quality time you spend together and the connection you feel as a result.


Negativity kills love. It’s that simple.

Love requires a feeling of safety. You cannot feel safe when confronted by blame, shame, criticism, or insults. Instead, it triggers defensiveness. We respond by getting angry, withdrawing, or shutting down.

And it doesn’t just hurt the partner on the receiving end. If you are the one dishing out the blame, shame, criticism, or insults, your brain will respond by increasing your stress hormone.

Even the happiest couples experience conflict. And couples in the empty nest stage may be confronting more challenges than usual as you define what you’d like this period of your life to look like. The key is to try to manage that conflict in a healthy way and to balance it out with the positive.

Marriage researcher Dr. John Gottman discovered a “golden ratio” that keeps relationships happy. It takes five positive actions to balance out one negative one.

No one is perfect, so if you lose your cool, take these steps to reestablish safety in your relationships.

  1. Take ownership over your negative behavior. Acknowledge it.
  2. Listen to your partner's feelings. Try to understand where they are coming from.
  3. Restate the situation as an "I" statement. Avoid "you" statements. For example, say "I feel frustrated because..." instead of "You frustrate me when..."


Handing conflict and rebuilding your connection isn’t always an easy process. You can get help and learn more communication tools and techniques in relationship coaching.

The empty nest stage can be daunting, but you also have a newfound freedom. A type of freedom you haven’t had in at least 18 years! And you can use that freedom to put the focus on your spouse and rediscover your love for one another.

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