Posted by: Amy Spencer
Topic: Why do you think so many couples split up once they are “empty nesters” – once the kids are independent?
Once again, some wise words on the topic fulfill most thoughts I had on it: Mostly that I feel raising kids can often become either the only shared goal, or a distraction from the fact that a couple's personality doesn't mesh like it did 25 years earlier. And when the kids go, a couple who no longer has much in common says, "Huh. Now what?"
But here's another interesting thought I had. (Well, I guess you be the judge of whether or not it's interesting!) In my grandmother's generation, lots of couples didn't split up after the kids left, even if they lived two separate lives at home. They'd have separate beds, take separate vacations, participate in separate hobbies, and—without kids to look after—do very little together other than watch the same television show at night.
But then, that was the "stick around" era. It was a time when people stuck around in the same corporations for 40 years. When couples wouldn't hear of divorce. Parents then, watched their kids leave the nest to take on the same kinds of long-term jobs and long-term relationships they did.
Now? Well, now we're in the "me" era. Now, parents watch their kids putting off college to travel. Living at home for a many years after college to save money, or to put off taking on responsibilities and rent. Waiting to marry until they find the perfect soul mate. Putting off kids until their late 30s so they can live it up as solo adults for as long as possible before being tied down. Since this is what empty nesters are watching now, it's no wonder to me that when their kids leave the nest, some of them ask, "Why not me, too? Why can't I take advantage of the 'me' era?"
Some couples, like Vix's parents, choose to take on another focus as a couple, using the "two feet" Helen was talking about. But not every couple wants to. Some might be relieved they don't have to spend as much time together raising the kids. And they might just think, "Hey, I never got to live it up as a solo adult, and it's about time I did."
So maybe that's part of it, too: Maybe the "me" era the GenXers have mastered is really rubbing off?