Family, Self

The (Very Sexy) Benefits Of An Empty Nest

couple in bed

Each year couples across the country experience intense, irreversible heartbreak. The culprits? Their children. In the 1970s, psychologists clinically identified and popularized the term "empty-nest syndrome" to refer to the depression, anxiety and loneliness that can overcome parents when children leave home to begin their adult lives.

And certainly their pain is understandable. After devoting years to ensure that their children will be capable of taking care of themselves, parents are suddenly faced with the reality that they've succeeded—for many, it's a kind of Catch-22. Once the independence sets in, mothers and fathers surrender their roles as parents—at least partially—and shift back to their roles as husband and wife.

However, as reported in the New York Times last year, researchers have found that the empty nest is not only endurable, but also incredibly beneficial. According to the article, empty-nest syndrome has been misunderstood for years. Parents miss their children, but this sense of loss isn't insufferable. And while parents do find themselves in a period of transition, it's one that they embrace.

The period known as the empty nest is, in reality, synonymous with renewal, abandon and... the best sex of your life. As you've probably realized, great sex is something you never grow out of—and something that can continue to reward you with surprises, tenderness and heat.

The following are some common mental barriers that may prevent couples from reveling in this third chapter of their lives, and methods for overcoming them.

Mental barrier: "Our roles have changed and we feel useless."
Overcoming it: For years, you've devoted yourselves to your children, and now, the focus is finally back on you and your marriage. For many, this may seem daunting; this period of your lives should not be overshadowed by a sense of loss, however. Instead, look at this empty space as an opportunity to fill your nest with something else—a happy, fulfilling and healthy marriage that is reinforced most strongly by a history of living, loving and raising children together.

Your roles have shifted back not only to husband and wife, but also to man and woman. When you're parents, it's easy for your sexuality to become an afterthought. Plan a date night, refrain from speaking about your children the entire night, and afterward, revisit that pre-parenting period when you were still each other's priority. Our guess is, it won't take you too long to rediscover your relationship as man and woman. 7 Ways To Make Your Love Life More Sensual

Mental barrier: "Sex at this age is routine, boring and unsatisfying."
Overcoming it: This may be the most flawed of all of empty nest misconceptions. While certain physical changes are unavoidable, this doesn't mean that your sex life has to take a turn for the worse. According to Harvard's Sexuality in Midlife and Beyond, older can actually be better.

For example, a 25-year-old male may be more virile, but it's his 55-year-old counterpart who has better control in bed. The older man will have more fulfilling sex, as his age and experience result in improved sexual technique and a better understanding of what pleases his partner. As for the ladies, many women find that their sexual confidence blossoms with maturity. Furthermore, female orgasms, according to some research, are most intense and frequent at age 40.

And if you feel that you might struggle with issues of familiarity and routine in your sexual relationship, try to recognize this as an opportunity for experimentation and playfulness. With your children gone, you can play again. Fantasy sex and sex play are much, much easier to explore in an empty house. You can shower together, indulge in a midday romp after lunch, and sure, do your dishes in the nude if you feel like it. So, what are you doing still reading this article? Go ahead and turn that home into a love nest. Improve Your Love Making With Sexual Role Play

Mental barrier: "We miss the kids."
Overcoming it: While it's certainly understandable to miss your children as they leave home, your sadness should also be matched with pride and joy in watching them make this transition independently—years of parenting and love have been realized. This is a success that you should share in and celebrate together.

Furthermore, the advance of communication technology such as cellphone and video chatting makes it simple to remain in contact with your children no matter the distance or even time zones that separate you. Let your children know that you miss them, but be careful to avoid making them feel guilty for having left you. Instead, relive all of the moments and milestones with your spouse—share any memories you may have of your children, and when you're finally ready, break out those old home videos.

Mental barrier: "The house feels empty."
Overcoming it: And the problem is. . .? No, no, we'll be sensitive here. With the children gone, the house can understandably feel large and lonely; however, an empty house also means increased privacy and time alone together.

Sara Gorchoff, PhD, along with colleagues at UC Berkeley tracked marital changes in 123 women from their 40s to early 60s and found that those referred to as "empty nesters" reported greater satisfaction: "A fall Sunday with the kids can now become a chance to go hiking together; racous family meals turn into intimate dinners for two. And sex can regain some of that old abandon of the pre-children days." Poll: Are You Satisfied With Your Libido?

An empty house means you can run around your house in your underwear like a couple of reckless college kids. Except this time around, you know exactly what the other person likes, and the issue of pregnancy is pretty much null. And heck, you can do it whenever and wherever you want. Nothing lonely 'bout that.

Mental barrier: "We have too much free time on our hands."
Overcoming it: Free time means more time for your partner as well as for yourself. Take advantage of this time to discuss what will bring you both happiness and fulfillment, and then take action. The Female Libido: 5 Ways To Turn Yourself On

A few ideas to get your started: Make a list of things you've never done but would like to, and do them; travel; host a dinner party with friends; take any number of classes together (cooking, dancing, pottery—you name it); schedule dates with each other; exercise. And don't forget to relax. You've earned it.

We realize the term "empty nest" is probably here to stay, but hopefully you've realized that your nest won't stay empty for long. Trust us—a little bird told us so.