Empty nest depression and other struggles

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LBD
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Empty nest depression and other struggles

Post by LBD »

So many times, you hear of the wonderfulness of empty nesting. I've not felt that way at all, yet. Maybe it will come. It's not been a sexual awakening by any means. I've seemed to have lost purpose. The reasons I used to do and put up with things have left the building....literally. Maybe it is a phase that will pass. Have others been through the same? I'd be interested to know how you handled it.

The hardest thing I've done so far, and likely one of the most rewarding at the same time, was signing to help my son and his new wife get a home. They could have done it without us, but his wife recently moved her business into an LLC and didn't have enough history under the new entity to qualify. So, we gladly helped out. But, basically, this meant as far as I was concerned, he is never coming home (to live) again. Not that I want him to live with us, but on our farm, our (his) land. My daughter will likely move somewhere other than here too once she gets married (she has a steady, it's expected soon.) While I am so very proud of the adults my children have become, raising them to be resilient and independent has its
cost. This change has been hard on the old man, for many reasons. It has had several repercussions in our home and marriage.

My DW is about as empathetic as a pinecone. When I attempt to share my feelings with her, it just makes her mad. Presumably because she likely has some similar feelings and would just rather avoid them....her being an "avoider" and all.
That does little to foster intimacy in marriage. Thankfully I do not work with other women in any kind of close way, but this situation has made it very clear to me how affairs so often start in non-sexual ways. And how good sex starts outside of the bedroom.

Even so, she has been making efforts to be more available to me sexually in the last year or so (physically, even if not so much emotionally.) Sometimes this has been nice. A lot of the time it is just thinly veiled chore-sex. I find as I get older that the animalistic drive that used to push me through that kind of sex is not there in nearly the amount it once was. While at the same time I am getting better at appreciating her efforts, I also just don't want that kind of sex much anymore. A recent conversation illustrates this well. I had made some obvious steps toward sex and was rubbing her back in soft preparation. She said "you can do me if you want to, but please leave my bra on. I can feel you rummaging around back there like you want to take it off, but I'd rather leave it on." She said it all with a smile, but she said a lot more than she realized and I received it all. I responded with "You don't really feel like doing me at all do you?" ... "Well, I don't really, but I can be happy to please you and can do that with some enthusiasm." ... "So you can fake it." ... "Call it what you will." I just smiled, kissed her and left the situation. I was disappointed, but not angry. I used to get angry. It had been a couple of days, and I could appreciate her willingness to please me, but I just wished she had felt in some way similar to me. That mutuality happens less than 10% of the time anymore. I've gotten to where I just don't want to go there because of the emotional pain it causes me. I have no idea what kind of feelings it causes in her, because she will not share that with me. But I can surmise that she feels some disappointment of her own. I truly think that she would rather feel otherwise. But she is not so inclined to really try doing anything about it. I'm sure she thinks all she can do is to do her duty with a smile. At least she tries that.

This brings me to my next struggle. My son being recently married. I think he has a great wife and by all accounts, she is taken fully with him, as he is with her. Watching as well as I can from afar, he is being a great husband to her and leading her better than I ever did his mother at that stage. I feel like they have a great start. But I feel the parenting drive to advise him in real ways. He's come to me with some questions, and we've had a couple serious conversations, and in these he has said some things to me that took me by surprise. He asked me the other day if "mom ever had any issues with you going off hunting or spending time in your shop working on stuff?" Apparently, his wife suffers a little insecurity with him spending time doing things without her (gaming, sports, workouts.) He said he never saw that issue between mom and me, so he was wondering if I ever had to deal with it privately. We had a good discussion around that. I think I gave him some good advise pertaining to his wife and what we know about a past relationship she had setting her up for such insecurities. I offered ways he can build something better for them. That was a rewarding moment for old dad, and I so covet more of those conversations in the future. But that brings me to my question - how much do we share about the truth of our own marriage with our grown, questioning children?

My son told me he perceived us as always having a strong marriage, without much discord. It proved to me that we did a good job hiding much of our problems and keeping them behind closed doors. Early on, DW and I agreed we would try to solve most all of those issues in private, not in front of the children. Looks like we did so. But now, as I know my son, and eventually my daughter, will face similar marital problems that I have lived through, some successfully - I wonder do we continue to propagate the facade of "the perfect marriage", or do we uncover the truth of how the sausage got made? And if so, how much truth? I think there is real value to them knowing we are still together and we will be till death, and here is what that really entails. Here are the good things we did, and here are some bad things you should avoid.

To illustrate my current dilemma, my wife tells a story often of a good friend of hers growing up whose father was a real cad and had left the family while the little girl was just a babe. The crux of the story always goes to the mother, who always spoke highly of the young girl's father whenever the child was around to hear. When someone asked her about that out of the child's presence, the mom said "She deserves to have had a good dad, and as far as I'm concerned, that's all she'll ever know." On the surface, that sounds laudable. I can understand her position and know the sacrifice of her own emotions that took for the good of her child. That child likely never had to struggle with the baggage of her father. I too do not want to sully my children's view of their mother, or of our marriage - because on the whole, it is a great marriage. But on the other hand, one of the things that helped me get over the anger at my father I struggled with for so many years was the realization that my mother was not perfect either. There has never been justification of his actions, but I further gained understanding of his poor choices in reaction to the realities of life, it helped me disassociate them from the little boy they hurt so badly. This led me to the forgiveness that was needed to bring my own peace. In that vein, I don't want my son to judge his wife against his mother's "perfect image". I think there is value to him knowing she is not perfect, and his dad isn't either, yet they were able to navigate those stormy waters and give him and his sister that atraumatic childhood he has described.

Maybe I am worried too much about it, because they in fact had an atraumatic childhood and therefor sharing some of the struggles we worked at behind the scenes could be strengthening for them.

So, when my son asks me one day in similar fashion if sex was a struggle, do I tell him the full truth, or do I tell him his mother always tried to be generous, "flavoring" the truth? Or do I open the subject myself one day? I think it is something where good counsel is so often left out, but I don't know how to do it, as I certainly never got any....
There are no solutions, only trade-offs. -Thomas Sowell
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Re: Empty nest depression and other struggles

Post by SeekingChange »

We have been honest with our children, when the time is appropriate. Our parenting philosophy has been to show them we sin too and need a Savior. We want to walk beside our children in life. And if our experience can help them in their lives and marriages, we absolutely want to share. We learned to keep our pride at bay long ago.
God can change what people do, behavioral patterns that have been in play for decades. He can change what we do to cope, to find comfort, to survive conflict, to count. Rahab had done a same old thing for years... and then she did something new.
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Re: Empty nest depression and other struggles

Post by MiddleMan »

Wow, a lot there to think about. We are new empty nesters, going on about 6 months now. I have not had any trouble with it, other than a few moments of missing the kids. I was rather looking forward to having an empty house, to be honest. DW had a lot more trouble with it, but it didn't last too long. I guess it depends on what you expect. We still have 3 out of four living in town, so that probably helps. Two more will be leaving for 10+ hours in different directions by next fall, so she will have more struggles with that.

We've had many years of DW being low to no drive, which was a surprise to me as she sure wasn't that way before kids, and while were dating. It took all my willpower to keep us pure before we married. I know my wife would rather not "have to" have sex, but she knows it is important to me so she does what she can to make it fun for me. It's important to understand she can't just wish to desire sex. She's done some things like listen to Christian sex podcasts, read some things, etc, but nothing has "fixed" it. I think you need to appreciate that you have a wife who is willing to accommodate and take advantage of the chance to be open and intimate with her. She doesn't do that for anyone else, it's still something special just between the two of you. I say this as someone who spent a few years in bitterness about it and have come through the other side.

Our marriages are different in that my wife is a communicator, and though she gets embarrassed to talk about sex (even after all these years) she does. But she will certainly talk about how she is feeling about things.

I suggest honesty in talking to your kids about your marriage. Not necessarily brutal honesty, but it's okay to share struggles and explain how you handled conflict, good and bad. As far as sex, if he asks, tell him, "We had struggles with that for a long time, but we worked through it and are still together."

I feel like this is pretty inadequate, but I may put more thought into your questions and write more later.
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Re: Empty nest depression and other struggles

Post by Mike smith »

LBD, I saw your long post and almost didnt read it but am sure glad I did. I had similar issues with my wife, but with some big differences. while my wife was a reluctant lover, there was no love in her reluctance. I finally got so frustrated with her reluctance, I said, I wouldn’t beg any more. That essentially ended our sex life 39 years ago.
I understand the frustration of one sided sexual pleasure, but it is at least sex. Given your wife’s care for your needs, I would think counseling could reap benefits for you as a couple.
As for your son, it sounds like you wanted to be the typical farmer whose son grows up and into the farm with his dad. I’m truly sorry that hasn’t happened, but I guess you can at least be glad he didn’t turn into the prodigal son.
Having said all of this, I realize I haven’t offered much help or consolation, but I do truly feel for you and you issues. They are real, and they are painful and I pray for you and your family. Mike
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LBD
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Re: Empty nest depression and other struggles

Post by LBD »

SeekingChange wrote: Sun Dec 24, 2023 2:07 pm We learned to keep our pride at bay long ago.
Don’t know if you’re suggesting there is pride at the core of my question, but I do not believe that is part of it. I sadly know the gory details (many of them at least) of my own parents train wreck marriage, and I often wish I didn’t. However, I have shared some of my own perceived failures with my son, and to lesser extent my daughter. I’m often self-deprecating to a fault. It can turn nihilistic if I’m not careful. I’d rather them learn to focus on the things they can change, which is themselves, rather than others. I’ve been guilty of the opposite too often. But at the same time, they should know that they will have to respond to their spouse’s shortcomings too. How they respond is most important. Do not return evil for evil.

Do they need to know that sometimes dad was short and churlish because mom was habitually refusing sex, or was restricted in her sexual activity? Would that not be putting blame on the wrong person for my choice of actions?

So far, I’ve mostly chosen to share things with him in somewhat of a third person format, though some directly. I figure he’s smart enough to imply that at least some of that comes from personal experience. For instance, he knows I had several sexual partners prior to marriage, and that I wish it were otherwise. He does not know one of them was his mother. The only way he’ll learn that is if she tells him. That’s not pride IMO, it’s just not my story to tell alone.
There are no solutions, only trade-offs. -Thomas Sowell
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LBD
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Re: Empty nest depression and other struggles

Post by LBD »

Mike smith wrote: Sun Dec 24, 2023 3:05 pm. while my wife was a reluctant lover, there was no love in her reluctance. Given your wife’s care for your needs, I would think counseling could reap benefits for you as a couple.
MiddleMan wrote: Sun Dec 24, 2023 2:24 pm I think you need to appreciate that you have a wife who is willing to accommodate and take advantage of the chance to be open and intimate with her. She doesn't do that for anyone else, it's still something special just between the two of you. I say this as someone who spent a few years in bitterness about it and have come through the other side.
My wife will never go to counseling. I’ve asked, I’ve gone without her. It’s just not gonna happen. But … what you’ve both said is correct, and worthy of praise. She does care for me and attends my needs as she see them. I am thankful for that, and I’ve told her so. I fought the bitterness too. It’s a relationship cancer, best removed and killed with impunity. Nowadays I spend most of my time being angry at myself for not handling things better.
There are no solutions, only trade-offs. -Thomas Sowell
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