Empty Nests Often Mean More Excitement and Lust

Quiet momentWhen the honeymoon ends, many newlyweds experience a bit of an emotional letdown. According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, a professor of psychology at the University of California Riverside and author of a recent article, the feeling of passion that new lovers experience tends to shift to one of compassion after about two years of marriage. When you’re with your partner even longer, he or she can become more like a sibling or good friend than a sexy, attractive object of lust and love. But there is hope. Lyubomirsky notes that research has shown that people who can make it past the first two years, and even the first few decades, have a better chance of staying together than those who begin to lose interest early in the marriage.

Researchers have shown that even though the initial burst of excitement wears off after a couple of years of marital bliss, relationships usually get another big charge after 20 years or so. It’s no coincidence that this is about the same time that children leave home and couples become empty-nesters. But Lyubomirsky says you don’t have to wait that long. Adding a little variety and the element of surprise can go a long way toward stirring up those smoldering feelings.

Lyubomirsky points out that studies have shown couples who engaged in exciting and novel nonsexual activities together over a period of several months were more satisfied with their marriages than couples who did monotonous and familiar activities with each other. This means that you don’t have to break out the toys and costumes to add a little spice to your marriage, although that isn’t necessarily a bad idea. But doing simple things, like engaging in a new activity or hobby, and doing them together as a couple, can rekindle that spark of excitement and rev up the romance in an idle relationship. “A marriage is likely to change shape multiple times over the course of its lifetime; it must be continually rebuilt if it is to thrive,” Lyubomirsky says.

She also believes that couples of all ages can benefit from the empty-nest theory. Even if your children are still at home, injecting some unpredictability into your routine can help protect your marriage from becoming stale. Lyubomirsky adds that even though research shows that happiness is most robust early and late in marriage, there’s no reason to have to wait that long to reap the rewards that await you.

Lyubomirsky, Sonja. New love: A short shelf life. (n.d.): n. pag. The New York Times Sunday Review. 1 Dec. 2012. Web. 4 Dec. 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/02/opinion/sunday/new-love-a-short-shelf-life.html?pagewanted=1&partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

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  • Jaime

    December 14th, 2012 at 11:31 AM

    While having the kids away at college certainly seems like a good time to get the spark back in the future,we have been able to keep the excitement levels up with shared hobbies like gardening and trekking.Hobbies and shared activities certainly do work.

    Its a lot like group dynamics and team building.You work together and coordinate you know and like the person better.The point that its your spouse only allows you to see new sides to them and that can really bring back the excitement.

  • Edwina

    December 15th, 2012 at 11:58 AM

    While the empty nest could send some people into depression or feeling lonely,I think it presents a great opportunity for a couple to do everything that they held back from,that they couldn’t do with children living with them.It could be a second honeymoon,an engrossing activity or even a crazy costume night ;)

    Its like freedom found a second time.Don’t look at the negatives,look on the positives and also put the fire back into your relationship.Its a win win situation up for grabs!

  • Ned.L

    December 16th, 2012 at 8:32 AM

    student’s life means youhave the energy, somewhat have the time but have no money.young age you have the money and energy but no time because of a job.old age and you have both money and time but no energy.middle age is a time when all things can be well balanced and it can turn out to be a good phase imo.so for empty nesters,it sure present itself as a good opportunity to get your marriage and spousal things back on track and maybe even take them up by a notch or two!

  • Vic

    December 16th, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    Love my kids more than anything but having them move out has been the best thing that has happened to my marriage in a very long time! No complaints here

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