Marriage Advice: New Rules for a Good Marriage
Myth: When the kids leave home, there will be nothing left to keep your marriage together.
Most parents have pangs of sadness when the kids are finally gone, moments
when the house seems impossibly quiet or they catch themselves having a lengthy
chat with the cat. And some couples really do struggle — but many renew their
commitment to each other. "With the kids out of the house, marriages can
bloom — when there is a sense of shared purpose," Gottman says. That
communion can sometimes get pushed aside in the daily round of raising a family
and making a living. "Some couples may have let that feeling of
togetherness die," he explains. "Then it's not the kids' leaving the
nest that somehow makes their marriages seem empty. They've already been empty
a long time, and when the children leave home, the couple finally
But for many husbands and wives, "marital satisfaction actually goes up
once the kids are gone," says James Bray, Ph.D., a psychologist at Baylor
College of Medicine in Houston. After an adjustment period of six to 12 months,
spouses often realize that they have more leisure time, more money, and more
freedom to reengage with each other. And without children in the house, there's
often less cause for conflicts.
New rule: Your marriage can flourish in that new freedom.
When your kids move out, keep your life full and your relationship central.
Compile lists of what you and your husband can do now that you couldn't before,
suggests Bray, whether it's traveling to Tahiti or having sex on the sofa.
"Celebrate! You've succeeded in raising independent adults," he says,
"and now you have the opportunity to decide what to do next. Will you get
more involved in town politics? Learn to tango? Go out to dinner more
often?" Whatever it is, make sure it's something you both enjoy as you
rediscover each other.
Myth: Every guy has a midlife crisis — any day, your spouse will drive off in a new red sports car.
It's true that men sometimes do crazy things when they reach a certain age.
You may feel like snickering at some of their attempts to regain their lost
youth, like the balding executive who gets a spanking-new Harley — or a much
younger girlfriend. Such drastic changes are fortunately far from commonplace
outside the soaps, but psychologists say that most of us will go through a
period of midlife reevaluation.