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Growing old together



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Many people face relationship problems when going through later life.


We know that changes in your family and your body can have an impact on you and your partner. But you’re not alone.


It might be that some couples can’t wait for the kids to move out, and to retire so they can get back to romantic strolls on the beach, amazing holidays and indulgent weekends. But for a lot of couples, the transitions they go through as they approach their retirement age can put a real strain on their relationships.


It’s hard to be ‘just a couple’ again when you are used to being parents, and many find the concentrated time at home after retirement is difficult, rather than romantic.


You’ve probably done a lot in the last few decades, and it’s easy for life to get in the way of your relationships.


But don’t despair – remember there is a reason why you fell in love in the first place, and finding it again can be one of the best things about this stage of life.


When the last child leaves home it sometimes feels as if you are waking up next to a stranger rather than your husband, wife or partner. This can be caused by years of concentrating on what the family has needed, leaving little space or time for the two of you as a couple.


Empty nest syndrome


One of the more vulnerable relationship times is when children leave home either to go to University or permanently move out. This can bring about a mixture of emotions, as it signifies the end of a particular life stage. This phase can sometimes bring about feelings of loss commonly known as empty nest syndrome.


Parents experience empty nest syndrome in different ways but feelings of loss or lack of purpose are common and can affect your relationship with your partner.


If your children are planning to go to University in a year, or move out to live on their own, then start preparing now. Focus on the positive steps that they are taking in their life. Acknowledge that you will miss them. Be honest that although it will be a challenge for the whole family at first, it will also be a great opportunity for growth and adventure. This will help your children feel able to grow and move on.


Reconnecting with your partner


The empty nest syndrome is not as bad as it is made out to be. After an initial bumpy year or so, many couples report rediscovering life after parenting as a time of creativity and renewed pleasure in each other’s company.


But if you feel you have lost touch with your partner, here is some ideas to help you cope with this phase of your relationship:


First, tell your partner how you feel. Carrying on when you are feeling miserable without the children around prevents your partner from offering the comfort you crave. If you are not sure you know who your partner is anymore, try a light-hearted ‘personal quiz’ to help break the ice. For example, you can ask them:


  • What has been your most memorable meal? Why?
  • What film have you most enjoyed in the last five years?
  • What would you take along with you, other than “me” if you were to go to a nice deserted island?
  • Can you remember which TV programmes we enjoyed the most?
  • Have you considered learning something together?
  • Shall we go for some dance lessons?


Think up your own questions based on your relationship. The object of this is not to demand answers but to get you chatting about what may have changed in the last few years. You may be surprised at the answers. Use the opportunity to share your own feelings and thoughts.


Think of a leisure pursuit you enjoyed when you first got together. For example, did you like motorcycling, dancing or just going on a spontaneously planned holiday? Now think of a way you could relive this. OK, you may not want to hike around the same paths you did when you were younger, but maybe you could enjoy walking together in your local area or watching some art performances or whatever that you fancy. Do some things you have always wanted to but lacked the time or money for while the children were growing up. For instance, think about what kind of holidays you might have now or how you might spend an evening out. Consider doing something just for the fun of it. For example, going bowling or for a drink at your neighbourhood pub if you don’t fancy a loud club at Clarke Quay!


Finally, congratulate yourselves on arriving at this stage of your lives together. Many couples don’t get this far so be proud that you made it through together. Take a little time to reconnect and your relationship will grow in strength.


Credit: PRIME Magazine Dec 2014 – Jan 2015 Issue. Reproduced with permission.

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