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Improving Intimacy Deepens Quality Relationships During Empty Nesting

By Christina Pay, USU Extension Assistant ProfessorOlder Couple

Empty nest relationships are sometimes viewed as a time when couples grow apart with intimacy waning. Research tells a different story. Intimacy can be defined as the sharing of trust, emotional closeness, and open and honest communication (Timmerman, 1991).  Intimacy in marriage has a significant effect on the quality of the marriage for both husbands and wives (Harper, et al., 2000). Research tells us that committed relationships improve in middle age with partners experiencing more enjoyment together once their children leave home. Most would think the additional time spent together would be the reason for higher marital satisfaction. But, in fact, marital satisfaction increases due to greater[SC3]  quality in the relationship, not the quantity of time spent together (Gorchoff, et al., 2008). This suggests that efforts to improve intimacy significantly benefit the relationship. [SC4] Empty nest couples looking to enhance intimacy and strengthen the quality of their relationship can try the 5 “R”’s of improving intimacy listed below. 

  1. Reinvest in your relationship by taking the time and focus previously centered on your children and career and turning it towards focusing on each other. If you find each other dull, try adding some thrills into your life and your relationship by switching things up. Get a new hobby, volunteer, do the things on your bucket list.  Making things exciting outside of the bedroom will also make things exciting inside of it.
  2. Reconnect. Go on a date and pretend you don’t know each other; meet at a restaurant, arriving separately, then make a game out of getting reacquainted. Don’t forget to laugh together! Whether it’s over shared jokes, new adventures or private memories, laughing together is a flirty and bonding experience.
  3. Rediscover each other. Take a visit down memory lane and explore those things that originally attracted you to one another. Share the things that drew you together; was it his smile? her sense of adventure? the way you felt when you were together? Recalling shared history makes life together more enjoyable and rekindles those romantic feelings you once had for one another. 
  4. Rekindle the romance by increasing intimate conversations and doing simple things like holding hands, keeping eye contact, holding each other in a lingering hug or kissing a bit longer and deeper. As you do, acts like this will become more spontaneous and increase loving intimacy.    
  5. Recharge your love life.  Sex is different than it was when you started out together. Studies show that it can be thriving and rewarding. Empty nesting can initiate a second honeymoon phase of life which can ramp up your sex life. Change your sexual mindset to think of what you can do instead of what you can’t. Many things get better with age, including familiarity with each other’s bodies, decreased inhibitions and bedtime moves and techniques that have been perfected over time. So, celebrate those differences.

By improving intimacy in the empty nest relationship, couples can insure more quality and enjoyment in their marriage for years to come.