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How to Keep Romance Alive When the Kids Return to the Nest

Updated: Apr 30, 2020

By Marijo Kober

Many couples find that the years raising their kids puts a strain on their marriage. As you co- parent, you also manage competing careers, inflated budgets, jam packed schedules and sometimes this takes a toll on the relationship. When the children go off to college or leave to start their own lives, some couples are fortunate enough to renew the romance and relationship that drifted away while raising the family. What if these adult children need to return to the nest either because of career changes, they are returning to college or grad school, financial burdens or more recently, due to COVID-19? What can a couple do to ensure they provide a landing place for their child or children while still maintaining the relationship they have worked to re-build?

Tracey Ashcraft, MA, LPC, a Licensed Professional Counselor specializing in relationships, recommends these tips:

1. Commit to quality couple time: It can be easy to slip back into our former roles of parenting and care-taking when our grown kids return to the nest. Instead, it is more important to set the intention to put your marriage/romantic partnership first. Remember your kids can take care of themselves. 2. Schedule it: Studies show that people who write down their goals are far more likely to achieve them. Why not put the same effort into your relationship? Whether you write it on a calendar in the kitchen or enter it into a shared digital calendar, you are taking your romance more seriously by putting on the schedule. 

3. Set boundaries: Do you normally cuddle in the evenings watching Netflix, but now the kids have commandeered the couch? Setting ground rules with your grown kids is healthy behavior. Let them know when you will be using a space in the home and when it is free for their use. Share your expectations with them up front.  4. Get creative: Coming up with new ways to connect with your spouse/partner can spark new excitement in your relationship. Remember what it was like sneaking around when you were a teen? Be ready to seize the moments when the kids are not home. When they are home, try packing a picnic for just the two of you and bike to a nearby park. Mail a love-note to your partner as an unexpected surprise. Take a weekly class together as a couple. Keep showing affection at home; adult kids can handle PG hugging and kissing even if they act disgusted. 

5. Be patient: It can be a challenging adjustment when kids move back home. It may feel like a loss of privacy and a loss of romantic connection as the dynamics shift in the family. Be patient with your kids as they get settled into a new routine. Be patient with your spouse/partner as he or she adjusts to the fuller nest. Be patient with yourself as you process the changes in your home. You can enjoy fun times together as a family; and by enjoying time alone together as a couple, you are sending the message to your kids that it is important to nurture your marriage. 

Following Tracey’s recommendations can help you maintain focus on your relationship and continue to build on the strides made between you and your partner or husband if your children return to the empty nest.

To learn more about how Tracey Ashcraft, MA, LPC, has been helping people have more fulfilling relationships and live happier lives since 2004, check out:

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