I’m sharing the empty nest with a middle-aged adolescent

When we might be snuggling on the sofa, or sharing a takeaway and a bottle of wine, he is playing Grand Theft Auto
When we might be snuggling on the sofa, or sharing a takeaway and a bottle of wine, he is playing Grand Theft Auto

My husband and I are in our late 50s and the last of our three children has left home. Of course that’s sad and I miss them, but a part of me had secretly been looking forward to this time of life.

Having married fairly young, in the moments when parenthood was most challenging – and there were plenty of them – I comforted myself with the knowledge that we had a lot to look forward to as a couple when the children finally took flight.

So far, though, things are not panning out the way I had hoped. Mainly because my husband is employing this new-found freedom to indulge in a second childhood of his own. Every spare moment of his time is spent in the kind of pastime that you might expect of a teenage boy.

He goes to the football with his mates (he used to take our sons); he goes go-karting with his mates (ditto). When he’s not out with his mates – most of whom are divorced – and is actually at home with me, instead of Netflix and chilling with me, he plays computer games on the PC that he bought for the children.

It’s pathetic.

I should be fair and admit that he still has a full-time job, so he hasn’t completely abandoned his responsibilities, and it is only fair that he should have some relaxation when he’s not in the office.

But I had envisaged this as a special time for us. I wasn’t imagining candle-lit dinners every night and weekends in romantic hotels – I’m not daft – but I thought that after sharing the best part of 30 years bringing up children together, with all the relationship compromises that involves, he might cherish the opportunity to spend more time together, just the two of us.

Not so. When we might be snuggling on the sofa, or sharing a takeaway and a bottle of wine, he is playing Grand Theft Auto, or watching Monday Night Football and texting his pals. I feel as if I barely get a footnote in his male-oriented schedule.

Next week, he’s going paintballing with the lads – paintballing! – and he says he’s looking forward to getting to grips with Roblox on the computer, which as far as I can see is entirely puerile.

The latest development is playing these computer games with online communities, so that he is spending hours chatting away about tactics and weapons with people he’s never even met, rather than talking to someone he actually lives with.

I have no wish to join in with any of these activities, but I can’t help feeling offended that he hasn’t made the remotest effort to find out if I might.

I’ve challenged him about all this and he just laughs it off and says that of course I find it ridiculous and boring, but it’s fun for him. He says that he is just spending time with mates, and surely I want to spend time with my friends too… which is true, up to a point.

But I don’t want to spend every spare minute either talking or hanging out with my girlfriends, and I certainly don’t want to spend time online with people I’ve never met.

I’m clinging to the idea that this is simply a phase – a burst of self-indulgence in the first few months of freedom after the children have moved away.

But it’s more likely that this is simply a foretaste of what is to come. The years of happy retirement that I had been looking forward to suddenly seem to stretch ahead ominously as I realise that I am likely to be sharing them with an overgrown adolescent.

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