Have you heard of ENS? No? If you’re journeying through mid-life, and it’s just your partner and you at home, you’re likely going to encounter this ‘condition’ at some point.
I speak of the Empty Nest Syndrome – thus labelled because it is a real thing! When social scientists labelled these feelings as a real thing, they were not just making it up. Or likening humankind to the avian world.
When our young ones go out into the world, and there is just the partner and you at home, suddenly a different dimension opens up in your relationship. All those years of nappy-and-potty, teething troubles, school fights, homework, staying up late, returning late from parties, not getting good enough grades – all those are now history. The kids have moved into new digs, perhaps a university dorm room, or a tiny apartment in the city. Now there’s lots of time, which can feel like a new commodity in the relationship between your partner and you.
At first it can seem like those long-ago honeymoon days where you and your partner existed only to please each other. Sitting at your desk at work, you view those looming quiet evenings after work as a possible romantic encounter.
But day after day, and the silence gets to you. Suddenly it’s like you aren’t sure what to do with each other. After dinner is done, there’s this great bit of time sloshing around between the two of you. Sink or swim?
I say, swim! There are ways to not sink. Here’s how I swim:
- Find a Common Denominator – there must be something both of you enjoy. It could be gardening. Find your old gardening gloves, hand him a weeder, and get out into your little plot. Work in tandem by pulling out the weeds, and pushing in the seeds.
- Game for victory – the kids must have left their Scrabble, cards, or chess set at home. Dust it carefully and set a table with the game in the middle, and two glasses of wine. The evening will not seem everlasting.
- Walk? If the weather’s fine, go for a walk with your partner. Your neighbourhood may not be such a bad place to start. Notice small changes in the neighbouring yards, breathe in the fresh air. If your neighbourhood is decidedly unappealing, go to the nearby park and walk among the trees.
- Remember? Both of you used to be fond of music. Spend some time recalling the kinds of music you both liked. Then prepare a playlist. Decide which day of the week you will designate as your musical soiree. Dim the lights, and “If music be the food of love/play on”!
- Come with me – with time on your hands, why not plan for a trip? Spend some time thinking about which places both of you want to see. Draw up lists and bring out an atlas or map. When you’ve decided, it’s time to get serious. Begin the planning.
- Helping others is helping yourself – going out into the community and helping out as a volunteer will enhance your experience of this stage of your life. The senior home just across the street, or the homeless shelter could always use extra hands. This way, both of you feel a sense of achievement, and you can reward yourselves with ice cream after.
- ‘Why not’ time – all the years you spent catering to your busy, kid-heavy days are now in the past. So it’s time to play a little, with your other half. On weekends, sleep in a bit more that you used to. Snuggle up with a good book or the ipad.
The ENS need not be something you dread. If the thought of silences, and possible boredom frighten you, give these tips a try. The mid-life is a time to re-connect with your partner. Adopt a lifestyle which will bring you closer together and enjoy the special time.