Last week, we talked about how, as a parent, you may feel depressed or empty when your children are no longer at home. Years of driving here and there, following up on school work and attending sports events are over. The empty nest syndrome can leave you feeling useless - what do you do with yourself? For many couples, this is a time to rekindle their relationship - one that may have been neglected or put aside to raise the children.
If you are facing your last child heading off to college, getting married or simply moving out, you may be wondering what the rest of your life holds. You may wonder if you and your partner have anything in common anymore, especially if, during the last 18 years, most of your conversations centered around your children. Many couples, however, find this to be a time for renewing their relationship. Research shows that marital satisfaction actually increases after the children leave the home. And while couples may not increase the amount of time they spend together (both are often still working), the quality of the time they spend together is seen as better. 
Here are some tips to help you rekindle your relationship after your children leave the nest:
Spend time talking each day. Use the rule that the topics of children, work, the house or financial issues are not to be discussed at certain times of the day. Use this time to talk about your interests, your plans for the future (or this coming weekend) or whatever you want to talk about - just not the previous topics. Make sure you spend at least 15 minutes each day just talking to one another.
Do something you couldn’t do with the children home. Order Chinese food and eat it in bed. Have a picnic on the floor. Turn on the music and dance in your kitchen. Go skinny dipping in the pool. Enjoy how the house feels when it is just the two of you.
Do something you did together before you had children. Maybe you haven’t gone to an amusement park alone since your children were born. Or maybe you want to take off for the weekend. Make a list of the activities you enjoyed when first dating and plan to do at least one or two in the coming weeks.
Talk about what you are looking forward to. With the children out of the house you have lots to look forward to…going out to eat more often, having more freedom, picking up an old hobby, traveling. Share with your partner what you want out of your new life and ask him what he is most looking forward to. Make goals to help you reach those goals, separately and together.
Find a new hobby or activity to share. You might want to take ballroom dance lessons or learn to golf together. Find something that you can learn and share together, make it feel like you are dating again.
Talk about your sex life. You may feel that your sex life has become somewhat boring over the years or you may still become excited at the thought of making love. No matter which, you need to talk about your sex life…what you want, what you think is exciting, your fantasies. Sex lives improve when couples are willing to share what they want and what satisfies them.
Do something different. Take a trip, even a day trip, to someplace you have never been before or go to a new restaurant. Bringing in new activities helps you feel as if you are starting over, not just going along the same way as before. You want to create excitement, as you did when you were first together.
Do something unexpected. It is the little things that show you care. Bring your spouse coffee while he or she is getting ready for work. Have dinner ready and on the table, candles and all. You spent energy on doing things for your children everyday, use that same energy to do things for your spouse.
Make time for one another. Now that the children are gone, many people use that extra time spend more time at work. Make sure you set aside this time for each other.
Take care of your, and your spouse’s health. Taking care of yourself is the first step toward living a long life together. Eat healthy, start an exercise program together, take a daily walk together, ride bikes together. Change some of the unhealthy habits you have fallen into over the years. You will find you both have more energy and generally feel better.
Remember, this person you are with is the same person you fell in love with many years ago. It can be hard to remember that when your life is filled with your children’s activities and problems. For many couples, rekindling their love is easy. It just takes some time and effort to reconnect.
"Marriage and the Empty Nest: Five Strategies for Rediscovering Your Spouse," Date Unknown, Dr. Charles D. Schmitz and Dr. Elizabeth A. Schmitz, SelfGrowth.com
 "Your Nest is Empty? Enjoy Each Other," 2009, Jan 19, Tara Parker-Pope, The New York Times
Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.