June 2, 2011 at 1:17 pm , by Jennifer Castoro
In case you haven’t heard, it’s tough to get a job these days. And for the thousands of college grads now heading out into the workforce, or at least attempting to do so, odds are many will find themselves back home with mom and pop while they hunt for a paycheck. (Or while they slog through the denial that they’re now “adults,” which could take even longer.) One question in all this boomeranging: What happens to a marriage when a couple’s little bird has flown back into the nest? Meg and Paul, a mid-40s couple married for 24 years, is facing the dilemma with their 22-year-old daughter, Kim, a college grad who’s come back home jobless.
Meg’s turn She thought their only child’s departure would hurt their marriage but in fact her leaving brought them closer. It was wonderful: They could go out for dinners or movies alone, their sex life perked up and Sean began to help around the house more. When Kim came home, Meg reverted to waiting on her, doing her laundry, cooking dinners and all the things she’s sick of doing after 20-plus years. And her husband is backsliding, no longer helping around the house, leaving dishes in the sink like his daughter and bickering with her that she’s too lenient with Kim. Their new-found closeness evaporated, just like that.
Sean’s turn His wife needs to lighten up. What’s the big deal if Kim leaves dishes in the sink? What did Meg expect? She’s always bailed out Kim her entire childhood, and she’s back to doing it again, only this time she constantly complains about it. If she doesn’t want to do things for their daughter anymore, she should stop, pure and simple. He has issues with Kim, too, but he knows it’s not easy to move back home and feels sorry for her. He doesn’t get why Meg snaps at him all the time and refuses to be affectionate. Their marriage went from fantastic to horrible, and he doesn’t think it’s all Kim’s fault.
The counselor’s turn The couple had a second honeymoon period while Kim was away, which obscured some of the issues that came roaring back once she returned. Meg automatically fell back into the mom role that she no longer wanted, and Sean never learned to empathize with her complaints. She admitted to ambushing him with her anger, and he had to understand he was making things worse by brushing off her concerns. Once they got themselves in order, they could focus on their daughter. They started spending 10 minutes each day after work catching up with each other and setting clear guidelines for Kim, asking her to do specific chores and assuming she’d be on her own for meals unless she told Meg otherwise. When they began treating her like an adult, Kim stepped up and eventually found a temp teaching job that could become permanent. Meg and Sean started resuming the activities they did while Kim was away and, after four months of counseling, are back on track.
Has your child moved back home? Has it affected your marriage?