Rekindle Your Sex Life When the Kids Move Out

Since the kids moved out, the house is quiet, the kitchen always looks neat, and you're not forever running out of clean towels. You're alone and together with a spouse who may have been swept to the side for years as the children's demands took up a lot of your time.

Now the two of you are looking at each other and wondering if you'll ever return to the same level of sexual intimacy you enjoyed before you became parents. Probably not quite the same, experts say, but in a way, perhaps to a deeper, richer level than before.

"There's a U-shaped curve that comes with marriage over time," says Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., research professor at the University of Michigan and the author of Five Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great. "It's important to understand that although satisfaction with sexuality can decline, this doesn't mean that you cannot reignite the passion and that sexuality returns."

Having great sex once the kids leave home is entirely possible, says Sara Nasserzadeh, Ph.D., psychosexual therapist and couples counselor. "Many couples report that once their children grow and leave home, they are comfortable within their own skin," she says. "As a couple, this is the time to re-explore your sex life. But understand that just as eating and exercise habits change, so does the sex."

It's not going to be like when you were 20. But that's not necessarily a bad thing. The important thing is to rev-up your relationship by doing something different. Take a class together in wine appreciation, salsa dancing or even drumming, Orbuch suggests. "Do anything that is new or different," she says. "You want to add back some new activities into your relationship."

Getting to know your partner all over again is so important, she says. That doesn't mean keeping track of mundane details of the household routine, but exploring how he feels about the way your lives are changing, and how you'll spend the rest of it together as partners.

"Couples constantly tell me that they think they know their partner, but what they are really doing is maintaining a household together," Orbuch says. "The way that happy couples stay passionate and enjoy an active sex life is by really taking the time to get to know the intimate world of their partner."

Ask your spouse some open-ended questions she's not expecting:  If you had all the money in the world, where would you travel to? What profession do you wish you had pursued? Finding out the answers can actually help you re-enter your spouse's private world and start to reignite the sexual passion between you.

Once the foundation is laid, you can progress to reigniting the passion you once shared.

Here are some ideas for ways empty nesters can rev up their sex life:

  • Watch porn together, suggests Charla Hathaway, intimacy educator, certified sexologist and the author of 8 Erotic Nights: Passionate Encounters that Inspire Great Sex for a Lifetime. Buy some pornographic books and magazines and read them together. "Learn how to do massage on each other," she says. "Remember, the kids aren't there to interrupt you so you can put in the time and attention."

  • Don't wear baby powder, baby lotion or anything else that will remind your spouse of kids, suggests Nasserzadeh.

  • Develop a secret language with your partner, says Orbuch. "This can be exciting and add mystery and suspense to your relationship," she says. "Special little signals can add a little romance."

  • Plan some "arousal producing" activities with your partner that will increase passion and sex drive, says Orbuch. "Go on a roller coaster ride together or see a scary movie together," she advises. "Consider exercising with your partner, or doing another activity that gets your adrenaline going. This can really help both of you to feel aroused."