Sponsored item from Andrew Meehan at Harrogate Family Law.
Going to university is an exciting time for teenagers but it can be a turbulent period for their parents. So much so that many couples contemplate divorce when their kids leave home.
The impact of the empty nest on relationships is reflected in divorce statistics which show a peak amongst couples in their 40s and 50s.
Here are 5 reasons why couples are more likely to split when their kids leave home
1. We don’t have anything in common any more
Family life is busy and mums and dads are often so engrossed in supporting their kids with their studies and everyday activities – not to mention the dramas and dilemmas that are part and parcel of teenage life – that they forget to spend with each other.
Ultimately, couples start to develop their own interests and friendship groups, finding themselves socialising separately more and more.
When the children leave home and parents are left under the same roof together, with no distractions, they suddenly realise that they face spending their retirement with someone they no longer have much in common with.
2. I want more out of life
Anyone who has brought up teenagers will tell you that it’s exhausting. The high school years can be hugely disruptive for everyone in the family and parents frequently find themselves at odds with each other as they struggle to work out how to cope with each new emotional challenge.
It’s hardly surprising therefore that many parents emerge scarred by the friction of countless family disputes, with a strong desire to put themselves first for a change and explore new interests and opportunities.
With most of us looking forward to a longer and healthier retirement, there’s a growing reluctance amongst empty nesters to settle for mediocrity and a tendency to see this time in life as a watershed where one era ends and another begins.
3. Divorce isn’t frowned on any more
Divorce has lost the stigma it had a generation ago and that means husbands and wives are far more ready and willing than they once were to confront the tensions within their marriage. They may have been avoiding conflict and putting up with issues in their relationships whilst the children were at home, whereas now they feel able to bring things to a head without any obligation to maintain the status quo for the sake of the children.
4. I’ve met someone else
All the factors already mentioned can leave a relationship vulnerable and under stress creating perfect conditions for new friendships to flourish.
Increased social media use amongst those in the 40 and 50-something age bracket is a contributing factor in many relationship breakdowns as ‘silver surfers’ make contact with old school friends and former lovers, re-igniting relationships at a time when their own marriage is tired.
5. I’d rather be on my own
A significant proportion of divorces involving couples in their 40s and 50s are instigated by women and it isn’t necessarily because they’ve started a new relationship.
More women are financially independent now than in any previous generation and they tend to wait until their children have flown the nest to assert their own ambitions to go it alone.
Divorce in these circumstances can be very amicable – more a gentle parting of ways than a big courtroom battle.