Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Empty Nests Make for Happy Marriage

LLOOLL. To everyone’s great surprise, the results found the empty-nest marriages are HAPPIER than families with children. I think the message is HANG IN THERE! The study found that marital happiness plunged with the first child, and went further south with each addition. Children take time and attention, the more, the more chaotic. The study doesn’t say don’t have children, it just says there is a great satisfaction to having children who successfuly transition to adulthood.

This compilation of studies is reported in today’s New York Times. Clicking on the blue type will take you to the entire article.

The study is important because it tracks the first generation of women to juggle traditional family responsibilities with jobs in the work force. In the empty-nest study, researchers compared the women’s marital happiness in their 40s, when many still had children at home; in their early 50s, when some had older children who had left home; 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. The finding mirrors that of a report presented last year at the American Psychological Association, tracking a dozen parents who were interviewed at the time of a child’s high school graduation and 10 years later. That small study also showed that a majority of parents scored higher on marital satisfaction after children had left home.

While the Berkeley researchers had hypothesized that the improvement in marital happiness came from couples’ spending more time together, the women in the same study reported spending just as much time with their partners whether the children were living at home or had moved out. But they said the quality of that time was better.

“There are fewer interruptions and less stress when kids are out of the house,” said Dr. Gorchoff, at Berkeley. “It wasn’t that they spent more time with each other after the children moved out. It’s the quality of time they spent with each other that improved.”

She notes that the lesson from the empty nest may be that parents need to work to carve out more stress-free time together. In the sample studied, it was only relationship satisfaction that improved when children left home. Over all, parents were just as happy with children at home as in the empty nest. (What happens when adult children move back home, their job prospects having evaporated in a brutal economy, has not been extensively studied.)

“Kids aren’t ruining parents’ lives,” Dr. Gorchoff said. “It’s just that they’re making it more difficult to have enjoyable interactions together.”

January 21, 2009 - Posted by | Adventure, Aging, Family Issues, Financial Issues, Health Issues, Living Conditions, Marriage, Mating Behavior, News, Relationships, Social Issues, Women's Issues

7 Comments »

  1. i knew i was always right! ;p

    Comment by Chirp | January 21, 2009 | Reply

  2. I read this article also. I absolutely believe it to be true. Parents really don’t have much time to be ‘a couple’ They are so busy being a united front or giving each other breaks from 24/7 duty.

    Comment by mmh | January 22, 2009 | Reply

  3. LLLOOOLLL, Chirp, you are ALWAYS right! 😉

    mmh – I agree. Parenting takes so much WORK, and so much coordination, and it’s hard to find time to be playful with your husband. Most of the communication turns into business-conversations – who will drive who at what time to where, what is on the calendar for the week . . . no wonder marriages struggle! But the reason I printed the article is because of the very good news at the end – that the marriages can be fun once again, once the kids are raised. That is very good news. 🙂

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 22, 2009 | Reply

  4. Great! Now we can tell children of divorced parents that it REALLY WAS their fault!

    Ok sorry that was my morning attempt at black humor 🙂

    Comment by 1001Nights | January 22, 2009 | Reply

  5. Pretty DARK, 1001 Nights! I think we can tell young people contemplating marriage that it is hard work, that children are a blessing, but that time becomes the greatest luxury of all. I think we tell them about scheduling date nights, so you can capture even a glimmer of the magic, and we tell them that if they commit to one another, and hang in there together, it is all very very worth it at the end. 🙂

    Hmmm. Sort of like a Barack Obama speech, isn’t it?

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 22, 2009 | Reply

  6. Please watch Jon Stewart give a comparison between Obama’s inauguration speech and one of Bush’s speeches. Ironically he found many of the same rhetoric echoed in the speech. I didn’t see that coming. I really liked the speech until he pointed that out!

    Comment by 1001Nights | January 22, 2009 | Reply

  7. Where do we find that? the Jon Stewart comparison?

    Found it – along with a lot of other comedy takes on inauguration day – what a HOOT! Thanks 1001!

    Comment by intlxpatr | January 22, 2009 | Reply


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