After one has spent years loving, raising and teaching one’s children, the empty nest when the little birds fly away can feel a little lonely. Parents spend at least 20 years or so catering to their children’s needs. From deciding what to eat for dinner to school projects to their weddings – a good chunk of your life is spent in a loud and bustling nest.
But once the children are gone, you have time for yourself, to focus on your pursuits and to rekindle a marriage and its happiness that somewhere might have gotten lost amidst the chaos. The empty nest is typically a time when after a long period you have the house to yourself and your partner because your children have now embarked on their own lives. That can be immensely beneficial to a marriage.
How To Deal With Being An Empty Nester?
Having been married for 45 years, Roger Neeman (75) and Emma Neeman (68) tell us how they converted the empty nest they were left with into a love nest that reignited their passions. To rekindle a marriage, these two used their time together falling in love all over again.
Roger Neeman: After our three children got married and settled overseas, we found ourselves with too much time and too little to do but it was also the time when we started rediscovering each other. Call it compulsion or desire but we have begun enjoying each other’s company immensely! The empty nest might be empty but it is indeed very happy!
Emma Neeman: We are together all the time but when I see too much of him, I tell him this very simply, “Why don’t you go meet your friend, Mr Hanks, over by the river? Plan an outing, smoke a few cigars. Go enjoy an afternoon!” He nods in agreement because gets the message that I need my ME time.
Related Reading: Parenting issues as a couple
Empty nest issues
While missing kids is one thing, Roger’s empty nest issues were something else. He suffered from having to actually pick up the vacuum or load the dishes into the dishwasher – things he had never done before. He tells us how the empty nest changed him:
Roger Neeman: I’d never done chores before. There was no need to when our children were around. One of them would either volunteer or be forced to do it. The kids had to be taught some discipline and independence. I never bothered who did it, I just wanted a clean house, which I got.
A few years ago, my wife couldn’t manage chores alone, so she asked me to pitch in. I had to, though reluctantly. For the rest of the week, every day I washed the vessels whereas Emma swept and mopped the house and cooked. After four days, I was like a dead man.
For the first time, I wondered how she had been running the house for so many years. The most I could do was a grocery run! Cleaning, washing, cooking, running errands, managing kids, their tantrums included, she managed it all so perfectly. Now I help her whenever it’s needed. Who knew, vacuuming the floor could be the key to rekindling love?
Time to rekindle a marriage
How to rekindle lost love in a marriage is something most couples are asking already even in their 40s and 50s. Learn from Roger and Emma. Even in their 70s and 60s, the two have found a way to find love again.
Emma Neeman: A couple of years ago, when I was suffering from severe back pain and was almost bedridden for a few months, Roger looked after me very well.
Not only did he show affection and concern but also took care of everything – cooking, supervising the gardener, loading the washing machine, running errands, taking me to the physiotherapist, helping me sit up, making me take small walks in the house, bringing my food to the bed but the most important was keeping me positive and cheerful.
When I was up, I told him, “You took care of me very nicely, I wish I get you as my husband in seven lives.” He chuckled, “I hope this is the seventh.” I can never have enough of his sense of humor. I suppose the empty nest has made him a little more fun-loving!
Related Reading: My relationship with my husband got better after my kids left….
Making memories in the empty nest
Emma Neeman: Even though we do so many things together we are very different from each other. I like to watch movies in the theatre whereas for him it is a punishment to sit still. Once when I insisted, we went to watch the new Tom Cruise thriller in the theatre. He sat through the movie, bought us Coke and a tub of popcorn. It felt like a first date with my husband of at least 25 years.
When I look at youngsters around us busy on their mobiles texting with everybody else except the person sitting by their side, I feel we oldies are fortunate that we belong to an era where there were no smartphones and no laptops distracting us from true love.
A couple of years ago, we had a major fight, we didn’t talk to each other for two days but then he planned a dinner date to sort it out. When we are outside, we are obviously restricted from shouting at each other, we keep the volume low and maintain decorum.
Roger Neeman: One day we weren’t in a mood to eat regular food at home. I was getting sick of the mashed potatoes and pork chops. The world series was being telecast on that day, so going out was out of the question. Just before the game began, I quickly fetched a pizza base from the bakery close by.
During the break, Emma chopped the vegetables – capsicum, tomato and onions – in the perfect size while I spread the grated cheese on the base, then tomato ketchup and vegetables with more cheese. In 20 minutes, a nice homemade pizza was ready. Who knew, such a delectable thing could be the way to reconnect and relive?
The oregano left from the last pizza delivery came in handy. We savored the pizzas with chilled root beer, our glasses brimming with crushed ice. We had never made pizzas at home before but it tasted better than any we had tasted outside. The flip side is that now she knows that I don’t mind dabbling in cooking once in a while, she wants me to cook more often.
Related Reading: Cooking some love together
Understanding each other’s hobbies
Ever wondered what are some new hobbies for empty nesters to indulge in when they are alone and their kids have flown away? Take it from Roger. His wife Emma had a thing for plants and he didn’t even know all these years!
Roger Neeman: I have always been a bad listener. When I was working, there were always so many important things on my mind with hardly any time left for casual chit chat with my crazy wife. Once we were watching TV, and she was talking to me. As usual, I was half-listening. She asked, “Did you hear what I said?”
I nodded uncertainly, my eyes on the screen.
“Then, tell me, what did I say just now?” she said, taking away the remote.
When I shook my head, she told me about one of the plants in our yard. This was the third time she had planted the sapling and it had survived, whereas the earlier two had withered. Until then, I didn’t know that she was into gardening at all.
I went over to the corner of our yard to take a close look. Now after waking up, the first thing I do is go over to the balcony to see if the plants are thriving. I know how much they mean to Emma.
Related Reading: The 8 Types Of Love And What They Mean For You
Correcting Our Empty Relationship
Roger and Emma talked about the other little things that they did not understand about each other before. But now in the empty nest, things began to make a lot of sense.
Emma Neeman: I can’t understand his weird habit of distributing small gifts to random people. When I pointed it out a few times, he stopped but I observed that every time there was an opportunity his hands would be itching to hand over a small gift – to the neighbor’s child who had come to collect his ball from our backyard, a friend or a relative.
I let go. Now I don’t bother about it. Come to think of it, gifting is a harmless hobby, it can only spread goodwill so why not if it makes him happy. For you, a thousand times over honey!
Related Reading: When your spouse drives you nuts
Roger Neeman: Everything is not hunky-dory in our relationship. There are so many things we don’t like about each other. Earlier she had a very irritating habit of asking me too many questions, many of them which have obvious answers.
It was like a police interrogation that would just lead to relationship arguments. Why are you late? Whom were you meeting? Why did it take so long? Why didn’t you call me? Her questions were unending. Once after such an interrogation, I was grumpy.
When my grumpiness didn’t go away for the whole day, she asked me what was bothering me. I decided to take the bull by the horn but with a different strategy. I sat her down, told her how I detested her habit of asking me too many questions, making me feel like a culprit.
“Okay, I will try not to ask,” she replied. The point was brought home. She couldn’t totally do away with the old habit but her interrogations have reduced substantially. I wondered why we didn’t talk about it earlier.
To rekindle a marriage in the empty nest has been their greatest blessing. Isn’t it beautiful to find love again in the same person?
(As told to Sujata Rajpal)
Absolutely. It will take some time to adjust, but over time you will learn to enjoy it. Once you rediscover your spouse and find constructive ways to spend your time, the empty nest will become a happy nest!
Use this time to really get to know your partner. Give them affection and time. Create a bucket list of all that you want to do together and travel as much as you can. Visit your kids, shop away, cook together and make tons of memories.