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Drifting Away in Love & Relationships
The divorce rate tells you the story. Not happy, for whatever reason, toss it, move on and try again. There use to be a stigma attached to divorce long ago, maybe it has become too easy now. But, that is the end of the issue. The start of the issue begins many years before maybe maybe when the kids have all left or maybe they are in their teens. There is a sense of everyone is doing their own thing and as a family unit it seems more of a label.
Of course, some do find eternal love or their soul mate. In 2009, 600,000 people over age 50 got a divorce. That speaks to the empty nest when the kids are grown and gone or nearly so and the parents now search as to what is next. The previous 20 years were devoted to the kids and everything around them, it made mom and dad feel needed and vital with purpose. Now, they are gone or nearly so, the two talk about how great it is to have the kids gone but there are many lonely nights in the big house of memories where silence reigns or just the two again. In that 20 years, the couple so deeply in love have become strangers in some ways between them. Actually, not strangers, just have drifted apart over the years and it is a subtle thing that happens because the kids grab your attention. Both partners withdraw into their own little worlds and hobbies to occupy the now vacant time once ruled by kids. The house rings hollow. It is too big. It may breed loneliness.
Some warning may have gone unnoticed in the chaos of raising kids or hints like one spouse asking to spend more time together. Unless acted upon, it quickly falls into the dust of those less important things because you feel the other spouse will always be there. This is the same mental state you had as kid about your parents, they will always be there to help. Well, shock to find out that is not the case at all. Other things also take priority over your own relationship, maybe taking care of one's elderly parent, financial issues, aging issues, adult kid issues.
But, the worse thing is that after 20 years of being a parent, many forget how to be lovers again and forget what romance is. Well, maybe not forget but think, they are no longer that great looking and that romance stuff is for when you are in your 20's or 30's. Each partner may view the other differently than they once did because a lot of water has gone under the bridge- that is, issues between them, both big and small, that over time have corroded their feelings for one another. If the emotional charge is gone, so has the sex, which is like the glue to relationships.
After focusing so many years on raising the kids, having sex has dropped low on the priority list when compared before any of that happened. What use to be a several times a week event has become once every two weeks or worse. Even the sex has changed, more of the usual. Maybe some think it is a duty after so many years or maybe there are sexual problems that make it embarrassing. Maybe, after so many years with the same person, sex becomes a burden.
The problem is that once the nest is empty, the two parents are face to face for the first time in long time without kids. Now, both feel awkward about reigniting the romantic feelings. Maybe they feel like they have outgrown such nonsense. Even having dinner is hollow. The chatter of kids and their stories or problems are history. Still, the main topic even after they have left is usually about them. The sound of eating and TV replace them in a sense. The whole thing is sad because neither could shut up when they were dating 20 years earlier. That electric charge has long gone and rekindling it is a mammoth task.
For many couples, what does become obvious after the kids have left is how many differences and incompatibilities appear. Why? The kids were like a sponge in their relationship, soaking most of the attention away from each parent and now that they are gone, it stands out. Also, in the course of time, people develop new habits that were overlooked and tolerated for the sake of the kids. With them gone, that is not the case. The kids for many couples is also the glue to keep the family together because both parents focused on doing things with them, which just happened to include the other spouse.
It is not uncommon for some couples to feel like, "ships passing in the night" when both are home. Unless they have identical interests, one will do what they enjoy as will the other. If the something is not together, the alienation sets in and it is very subtle. At first, you might accept it but the longer it happens, it begins to eat away at you until you might not think there is any love left. Then, you might think, "is this what the rest of my life will be like it"? Maybe because of eroding beauty you resign yourself to just "live with it".
Some couples separate after the kid have left because of all or some of the reasons. Some want to "sow more wild oats" or try to reinvent their marriage before divorce ends it. So, they live apart and have "dates" a few times a week just like in the old days. This is a good way to see if the "spark" is still retrievable. They live apart and spend a few nights together to recharge. All this now makes their time together intentional like in the early years before kids. It is deliberate not mandated because of the parental role.
While it may not work, it may help revive a love that has drifted far off course.