Empty nesters find a better marriage

December 3, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
We often hear about high divorce rates, but a new study suggests married couples might want to hang in there until the kids leave the house. Researchers say marriage gets better for empty nesters.

The kids are finally off; they've packed up, and moved out. So for mom and dad that means married life's about to get a lot better. That's according to a team of U.C. Berkeley researchers who found that marriage gets a boost once the kids are gone.

Sara Gorchoff is the study's lead author. She says the message is "hang in there."

"You're just not spending enough enjoyable time with your partner as you'd like to, you're doing a lot of parenting things together, that while you may love being a parent, can be stressful and tiring," said Gorchoff.

That's not to say kids are to blame for bad marriages, it's that parents get to spend more quality time together when they become empty nesters.

That's something mother of four Betty Fetzer knows a lot about.

"You get very sad when the first one goes, but by the time the fourth one leaves?Amen," said Betty Fetzer.

Researchers studied 100 women, all graduates of Mills College in Oakland. The report looked at their satisfaction with their relationships at different stages of life. Some were in their 40's with kids at home, others in their 50's and 60's with children beginning to leave the house or already gone.

Mills College student Emily Grantz says every time she calls home, her parents seem to love her not being there.

"I think my parents are going on more dates and having more fun, seeing better movies, now that they don't have me there. It's kind of sad, but they're like going through the honeymoon phase again," said Grantz.

However, there is one caveat. While being an empty nester might make marriage better, women in the study did not report that life in general got better once the kids were gone.

It left some young people like Cal freshman Eran Chazan wondering, "Is it me?"

"I kind of feel bad about me taking up so much of their times and making their lives 10 times harder than it could be without me," said Chazan.

The authors emphasize they're not trying to discourage couples from having children.


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