How do you feel about the kids leaving home?
Since the 1970s, relationship experts have popularized the notion of “empty nest syndrome,” as a time of depression and loss of purpose that plagues parents, especially mothers, when their children leave home.
But new research, published in the journal Psychological Science, shows that marital satisfaction actually improves when the children finally take their exits.
Researchers at Berkeley tracked marital happiness for 50 years in a group of Mills College alumnae.
They compared the women in their 40s, when many still had children at home; in their early 50s; and in their 60s, when virtually all had empty nests. At every point, the empty nesters scored higher on marital happiness than women with children still at home.
Researchers hypothesized that the improvement came from couples’ spending more time together, but the women reported the same amount of time with their partners after the children left. But they said the quality of that time improved because of fewer interruptions and distractions. The bottom line it’s important for couples to carve out stress-free time together whether they have kids at home or not.