#LivingYourBestLife: Relationship Expert: How to Avoid the Empty Nest Divorce

By on July 16, 2017

By Vanessa Sheets–

We talk to a world-renowned relationship coach who helps women restore the intimacy and passion in their marriages in part 4 of our Living Your Best Life series.

Kathleen* was on the brink of divorce from her second husband. They’d been sleeping in separate beds for months, and the silence in the house was almost worse than the endless fighting and bickering that came before it. She felt alone in her marriage.

Like many couples who look forward to the day that all of their children have flown the coop so they can finally trade car pools for lunch dates and Saturday soccer tournaments for romantic weekend getaways, Kathleen and her husband were blindsided by the emptiness they felt instead.

“A lot of women over 50 are in the empty nester stage of life,” says Laura Doyle, New York Times bestselling author and marriage coach who has helped over 150,000 women save their marriages by teaching them the 6 Intimacy Skills in her book The Empowered Wife. “Many of us have poured our energy into our kids, who’ve been a source of engagement, joy and pride. But that can leave the marriage in shambles for a long time, and when the kids leave home, there’s nothing there anymore to distract us from the problems in the relationship.”

The divorce rate for couples over 50 has doubled in the past 25 years, the Pew Research Center reports. 

“But the truth is, no one really wants to get divorced,” says Doyle. 

Gray divorce comes with significant challenges, particularly for women, who report less financial security than married and widowed adults. And while living in a lonely marriage can be heartbreaking, living alone in older age can be even more painful.

That’s why Doyle is on a mission to end world divorce. She helps women singlehandedly turn their marriages around to create an intimate, passionate relationship- the kind no one wants to be divorced from.

Here’s how (her first step usually shocks most women):

  1. Make Yourself Ridiculously Happy. Do three things for yourself each day that bring you joy. Meet a friend for lunch, take a painting class, get a pedicure, dance to your favorite music, or relax with a good book and a bubble bath. Not only will you fill yourself up so you’ll have the energy it takes to create the type of relationship you want, you’ll also make yourself irresistible- and restore your natural magnetism. 
  1. Express Your Desires. Men live to make their wives happy, Doyle says. Instead of complaining that the kitchen is a disaster, tell him “I’d love a clean kitchen,” and see what happens! Find the thing you’re wanting instead of what you don’t like.
  1. Give a Little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Respect is like oxygen to men, Doyle says. If the sex is gone from the marriage, it’s almost always because the respect is also gone. “What’s so sad is women think it’s because they are less physically attractive as they age, but most men still adore their wives and would love to have the physical relationship back,” says Doyle. “But men are not attracted to their mothers, and if a wife plays a mommy role with him, it’s almost impossible for him to feel attracted to his wife.”
  1. Stop Controlling Him. Many women who come to Doyle for marriage help are critical of how their husbands are spending their time and money, what he’s doing at work, how he dresses, or even how he loads the dishwasher. Doyle admits she was guilty of this too when her marriage was at its lowest point: “In my mind, I thought I was making helpful suggestions, but ‘helpful’ in wife language is really ‘critical’ in husband language.” 
  1. Use Spouse-Fulfilling Prophecy Magic. Don’t focus on what’s wrong with your husband- focus on the things you’d like to increase instead. “If your husband is always late, flip it to notice when he’s punctual and tell him how much you appreciate that he’s often on time,” says Doyle. After all, no one is all black or all white- if you look for the positives, you’ll find them.

When Kathleen’s husband broke the silence to ask her which cell phone plan to choose, she gave up her control by using Doyle’s cheat phrase, “Whatever you think.”

Her husband looked at her funny and said, “No, I need you to tell me what to do.”

She repeated, “Whatever you think. I trust you.”

Later, he put his hand on her shoulder and told her “You were so nice today.” Tears rolled down her cheeks as they slept in the same bed that night. 

This was 15 years ago and she still gets tears in her eyes when she talks about how she almost threw out this man who is the love of her life. They just celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary. 

You can read more about the intimacy skills that any woman can use by visiting GetCherished.com to download a sample chapter of The Empowered Wife and sign up for the 5 Day Get Cherished Challenge for daily experiments to try in your marriage.

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.

Vanessa Sheets

About Vanessa Sheets

Vanessa Sheets is a freelance journalist who specializes in fitness, health, and nutrition. She has written for True North, Natural Child, Newport Health, and Greenmaple Wellness and worked in public health as a community educator for a non-profit. She lives in Bend, Oregon.

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#LivingYourBestLife: Relationship Expert: How to Avoid the Empty Nest Divorce