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Research shows empty nesters are more satisfied with marriage

By Paul Nelson   |  Posted Dec 17th, 2008 @ 5:40am



 

New research says married couples generally are more satisfied with their marriage after the kids leave, but not everyone sees it that way.

A lot of people can relate to Valerie in Midvale. "My children are both very successful college graduates, and I devoted myself to them. Now, I'm a single empty-nester," she said.

Valerie is trying to set up a social network for people in her situation, because being an empty-nester can get rough sometimes. "Yeah, it does get lonely. I look for things to keep myself busy. I belong to the gym. I like to play tennis. I did put some ads in papers. The response was not to my favor," she said.

Meaning, a lot of men thought she wanted to find romance, which wasn't the case. Valerie has been divorced for a long time, and she thinks things might be different if she wasn't single. "I think that people whose children have grown possibly, most probably, do better when they have a partner," she said.

A recent study from UC Berkley says Valerie is right. USA Today says researchers there say marriage satisfaction generally increases because couples spend more quality time together.

But, some analysts say living in an empty nest isn't all wine and roses, even for married couples. For example, parents may miss their children at different levels.

"One parent may be grieving the loss of this relationship differently than the other parent, so it takes time to get through a grieving journey," Empty Nest Support Services founder Natalie Caine said.

Caine says some couples have unrealistic expectations of what it's like to live without their children because there are so many myths about an empty nest.

"A couple will say, ‘Is it normal that we're not very energetic or we're not dancing around in our Hanes T-shirt [saying] ‘Yippee! They're gone!?' They want to know their behavior is normal," Caine said.

She says a good exercise for these couples is to have them draw a pie chart on how much time they focus on certain things. "Each person just takes a few minutes in each pie to say how much time they're spending on creativity, how much time are they spending on business [or] on the marriage," Caine explained.

She says this can point out if couples are not focused on the same thing, which could be a sign of a potential problem.

E-mail: pnelson@ksl.com

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