KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Healing Hearts Counseling assists couples in strengthening their relationships to build and repair their attachment bonds utilizing an evidenced based approach called emotionally focused couples therapy. Being in an “empty nester” season can be difficult, but the professionals have some advice.

What are some obstacles couples might experience during empty nesting season?  

Learning new roles with each other

Past Troubles can no longer stay easily under the rug

Unexpected Grief

What are some ways couples can work towards thriving together even amidst these obstacles?  

Be open 

Adventure Together

Ask for Support

Be Intentional

What are some obstacles couples preparing for empty nesting might face when trying to prepare for this season of life together?  

Spending time together without the kids feels selfish: Many couples understandably want to soak in as much time with their kids before they fly the coop, and it can even feel selfish for parents to carve out time for just the two of them without the kids; maybe holding fears that they would not feel prioritized or loved. However, couples investing time together to maintain a strong healthy relationship together actually promotes higher quality of life and health in the kid ‘sub unit’ within the family. When couples invest in each other, they are also investing in their kid’s well-being too.   

There is no time: Many times with life, work, school, activites, etc. Life just feels too busy to carve out any time together. It can feel nearly impossible.   

Burying Grievances: As a result of not having much time together, grievances with each other can be buried and begin to fester and morph into resentment overtime.   

What are some ways couples can successfully prepare for empty nesting before their kids leave the home despite these obstacles?   

Make time together a priority: Many times we can view this time together as a something that is negotiable in light of everything else that needs to get done. However, the quality of this relationship in the family unit impacts the quality of life for everyone in the family unit, so it would be valuable to view the time for couples to connect as a ‘non-negotiable.’ There is room of course for flexibility, however, the pay-off of maintaining the health of this relational unit in the family is worth investing the time into.   

Make time together simple: Often we might feel discouraged that if we can’t carve out a decent chunk of time and an elaborate plan for the relationship that it’s just not possible. This is far from the truth. We don’t have to make the time overwhelming, it could be as simple as a 10 minute conversation to check in on the other and how they are doing personally.  A minute of connection is better than zero. Moments where deeper connection occurs can be in a very brief interaction.  

Start Healthy Habits Early: Many times we think of preparing for this season as the time gets closer to the kids actually leaving the home, however, couples can start preparing for this as early as when their kids are in infancy. Starting early can help make these practices more habitual and regular rhythms for the family. Some like the time to be more routine, and others appreciate the spontaneity. Whatever, feels good for the couple then run with it.   

Address grievances: Be open about hurts and grievances, try not to let them get buried under the rug for too long. Sometimes we can’t always address them right away, but the goal to address them is to give opportunity for repair so that resentments don’t begin to breed. It’s like wet cement-if wet cement is poured and walked through it is easier to reset it while it is fresh and wet, as compared to letting the cement set before addressing. It’s not impossible to repair later, it just takes more work. Emotionally focused therapy can come in when we just don’t know how to reset the wet cement or the dried cement. And that’s okay if you find yourself in a spot like this. Everyone hits a season in life where they don’t know what to do next and it’s okay to reach out for help to get back on track and thriving again.   

How can emotionally focused therapy help couples prepare for and thrive in the empty nesting season?   

-Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy is evidenced-based and research has shown that after 10-12 sessions 90% of couples treated reported significant improvements. EFT addresses the roots of our experiences in relationship with others, it helps us to make sense of and understand the blocks that can occur in the relationship, impacting our ability to hear and share with the person who matters most to us by utilizing our emotional experiences. This helps to not only gain insight, but to also experience positive change and repair in how we experience one another in the moments in the relationship when it feels the most painful and disconnected. EFT is like the emotional surgery of therapy, and in sessions couples get to have a different experience with one another that over time will improve how they interact with each other in their day to day living.   

To learn more, just visit their website.