Last post I talked about the stress on a relationship when the baby(s) comes along. At some point that baby is officially grown and moving out. There will never come a time when you stop caring for that “baby” but you will reach a point where you don’t spend much time or energy, at least on a consistent basis, focusing on their needs and their care. (Shhh! Don’t tell my daughters (26 and 24) I said that!) To the extent that your lives have been centered around your children, their coming of age can represent a big speed bump for your relationship.
Ideally, you are preparing for this speed bump way before you hit it. Just like you slow down before you hit the speed bump on the road, you need to slow down the attention you’re putting on your kids, giving them the opportunity to try their wings out before they fly the coop. And you need to begin putting your focus on your own desires and your relationship. Again, ideally, that is happening from the start, but as the kids’ departure gets closer, you want to increase your attention on each other and on developing personal goals.
The danger of this time is that, if you have not made this course correction in advance, when it happens you may be blind sided by the grief and emptiness that you feel. You may be looking across the table at a stranger. You may find yourself cranky with your partner because you’re not conscious of, or sure how to deal with, your feelings of loss of purpose and direction.
This can be an energizing and liberating time in your lives as a couple. The trick is being prepared and having a positive attitude.