The Joys of an “Empty Nest”

Author: Jack Tatar |

A recent study revealed that the “big happiness boost” for newlyweds lasts only about two years. Those brave souls who last with their partner over two decades can be rewarded with the ability to rediscover their earlier bliss when they reach the freedom of having an empty nest.

The transition from passionate love into something called “companionate love” is a reality and joy for many retirees. My parents were an example of this.

To say that my parents were old school would be an understatement. My dad was a New York City sanitation worker and my mom was a nurse. After my sister and I were born, they decided that it was important for one parent to always be at home for us, so they spent the twenty five years following their newlywed two-year period of bliss, working at different times of the day.

My dad worked days picking up garbage on the bowery in New York City and my mom worked nights as a nurse in a busy city hospital’s emergency room. Obviously for them it became difficult to rekindle that honeymoon passion on a regular basis.

This reality was the same for so many others, and is the same for so many others still today; after all, life happens. Kids need to be raised. Bills need to be paid. College and retirement funds need to be build up.

Although our family thrived and we always felt loved growing up through all of this, I need to be honest. My parents spent much of their “quality” time bickering; no, actually it was more like arguing. One of their main points of contention was the nightly Yankee game that my dad watched.

Because my dad was very hard of hearing, the volume on the television would regularly disturb my mom’s ability to stay asleep before she had to tend to the late night sick at the emergency room. I learned many new and colorful words during those times that my parents “discussed” this issue.

The years went by and both my sister and I found our ways to create our own families and pursue careers. My parents retired and I remember asking friends at my mom’s retirement dinner to make sure that they checked in with my mom because I feared that with all the time that they would be spending together, something could happen.

The reality was that something did happen. My mom became the biggest Yankee fan you’d ever meet. Her love for Derek Jeter rivaled the love she had for her children and the love she had for her beloved Rags (her dog named after a Yankee pitcher). But it didn’t rival the love she had for her husband.

As the retirement years went along, they seemed to be falling back in love. Sure the arguments were there. But they usually ended with a smile and a shrug that indicated that whatever they were arguing about really didn’t matter.

recent article by Sonja Lyubomirsky discusses how many retirees find that their newfound empty nest can often lead to a rediscovery of the “happiness boost” that they had in the early years of their marriage: “The nest may be empty, but it’s also full of possibility for partners to rediscover and surprise each other … an empty nest offers the possibility of novelty and unpredictability.”

It’s amazing that I still am learning life lessons from my parents that can be employed in my later years as well.

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