The statistics are frightening: so many parents divorce right after their youngest goes off to college. Here are a few ways to prevent that from happening.
Each year, people are choosing not to marry. And for those who do decide to tie the knot, divorce rates are still around 50 percent. Although it is doubtful that anyone gets married and has children thinking it will end in divorce, the fact of the matter is there is an influx of couples who file for divorce soon after their children have graduated and moved out. But the good news is that there are many ways to prevent divorce before your kids go off to college.
Why So Many Couples Divorce After Their Kids Have Graduated
Having your child(ren) graduate from high school or college is a major milestone for any family. But it is also a time when many couples decide to finally split. Often, the topic of divorce has been brought up several times in the months or years prior, but they wait until the youngest kids have graduated to make their move.
Research shows that couples choose to wait until after graduation thinking (and hoping) that it will be easier on the kids. Women, in particular, initiate these actions because they finally feel free from the everyday “mom duties” they had for the past 18+ years. They think that it is finally their time to live their own life and pursue the dreams that they put on the backburner while raising the kids (assuming they are the primary caregivers. This could be the same for those dads who assumed more of the stay-at-home role).
Parents whose youngest child graduates are also about to go through a whole new, often sad and lonely time in their life: the role of empty nesters. By the time couples become empty nesters, they have spent over a decade living, eating, and breathing their childrens’ lives, school schedules, practice and game schedules, and everything else that their kids were a part of. Dinner dates during those years often consisted of nonstop talk about the kids: what they were doing, who they were dating, and how they were faring in school. Once those kids throw up their caps on graduation day, all of a sudden there is nothing left to talk about. At that point, you are now living alone in a home with someone who—at best—might have been more like a roommate and carpool buddy for the last 12 years of school. It’s at that time that many couples look at each other and wonder, “Now what?”
The “now what?” can lead to all sorts of roads, including divorce.
The 5 Best Ways to Beat the Odds and Stay Married Even After the Kids Are Gone
There are several ways to prevent the “D” word from going from discussion to reality. But they start well before the kids enter into their senior year of high school. It starts, well, at the beginning:
1. Get your priorities straight
Mamas, do you know who your most important relationship is with (besides God, at least in our household)? So many moms make their kiddos numero uno but frankly, that’s not the right order of importance. It’s your spouse. You see, if your marriage is not solid, then the trickle-down effect is that nothing else in life is solid. Moms and dads need to be the united front: the co-creators of their family dynamics and the cohesiveness in the home.
So it is essentially important to nurture the relationship you have with your spouse. Take time out of your day to spend quality time together. My husband and I get up every morning at 5:15 a.m. This is some of the quietest and most connective time we have during our entire day and we treasure it. There are no interruptions from little ones wanting food. There are no work calls, no to-do lists that need attending to, and nothing but quality time for us to connect, talk about our day, read our devotions, and continue keeping our priorities straight.
Carve out time every single day to connect; not watching TV together or simply sitting together in the same room scrolling social media, but really connecting! Talk to each other about your day. Ask about goals, dreams, desires. Schedule dinner dates, dream of your next vacation together, and make each other feel important. To me, this is the most important aspect of keeping couples together for the long haul.
2. Make time for a no-kid-talk dinner date
Once you get those dates on the calendar, do anything and everything—aside from taping each others’ mouths shut—to not talk about the kids! We parents can become so enmeshed and obsessed with our kids that it’s all we can talk about. Find other topics to talk about when you and your spouse are out just the two of you. It doesn’t matter if you talk about sports, your finances, or your new favorite vacuum, keep the kids out of dinner time together. Don’t worry, they will bombard your physical and mental space as soon as you get home, so take a little time-out and remember what it was like before kids. What did you talk about then? If talking about your kids is truly all you have to talk about, then read my next point.
3. Get a life
I am about to blow your mind with some humble pie, but let me just say it, in case no one has told you yet: Don’t make your life all about your kids! I know you want to be the most amazing mom. I know you want to get the A+ in the soccer mom, room mom, and carpooling mom departments, and you should! Mamas want to make sure their kids know and feel how much they are loved. But here’s a side effect of putting all of your eggs in your kiddo’s baskets: you can lose sight of you, which in the long run, is a lot more hazardous to the family’s health than missing out on a soccer game once in a while.
I spent many years making the sun, the moon, and the stars revolve around my kids. That was great and my kids definitely felt the love. But the flipside of this was that I completely neglected loving myself and nurturing those things that made me who I am. Those aspirations, dreams, and passions got swallowed up by my deep desire to be the best mom on the planet. Now I recognize that I’m actually a way better mom—and a much healthier role model—by taking care of me, nurturing my passions, going after my dreams, and then showing my kids that no matter how young or old, you should never stop believing that you can be and achieve what you know is possible.
4. Find common interests
My husband loves ice hockey, but you better believe there is no way in God’s green earth that I am going to suit up and hit the ice. I prefer keeping all of my teeth, thank you very much. But we do have other activities that we love to do. We both love tennis, hiking, and racquetball (so much so that our competitive game seven days after our wedding landed me in the ER with a completely torn ACL). We love doing DIY house projects and we get a kick out of playing with our farm animals. We cook together, we clean the dishes together, and sometimes, you’ll even find us playing cards together. Couples need several ways to connect when the huge umbilical cord of connection—the children—are suddenly grown up and gone. So nurture those hobbies and interests now, so that when the house gets quiet, you have ways to fill in the gaps.
5. Get connected
I am pretty darn lucky that my husband is my absolute best friend. We tell each other everything, laugh together, cry together, and really have a special bond. But even though we have all of that, it’s still important for me to nurture my other relationships. And it’s important for you too! Keep the girls’ nights out going. Take weekend trips with your bestie. Meet your mom for mani/pedis every once in a while. Because just as you don’t want your kids to be your whole world, you also want to make sure that your world consists of more than the people within the walls of your home.
You married your honey for a reason—hopefully several! Remember what those reasons are and nurture them. Be the most powerful role model for your children and show them what a healthy relationship is like. I guarantee you that modeling a positive marriage will get you way more gratifying results in your kids than being the most killer snack parent on the soccer field.