Ten years ago, a friend of mine moved to Florida. At the time they moved it was the dead of winter and there were six-foot snow drifts covering half of their house. They were more than happy to leave all of that behind for tropical temperatures and palm trees. Now, years later, they are missing the changing seasons.
However, changing seasons when it comes to relationships can be difficult. This is especially true of marriage. Author and marriage expert, Dr. Gary Chapman, says there are four seasons of marriage. Most marriages, he says, move through all four seasons, but not necessarily in order. Which of the following seasons is your marriage in?
“Spring is where most marriages begin,” says Chapman. “The excitement of creating a new life together is not exclusively for newlyweds.” The emotions in a spring marriage are characterized by excitement, joy, hope, and happiness. Couples feel animated and buoyant, and their attitudes towards one another are positive. There is both gratitude and anticipation of the future, and an overall feeling of optimism and trust.
Just like newlyweds or second/third/fourth honeymoon couples tend to do, couples in the spring season want to do things to deepen the relationship and benefit the other person. However, nothing is perfect. Just as many people suffer from allergies and hay fever during the spring, a spring marriage can contain the same kind of unexpected irritations as well.
“Fun is the theme of a summer marriage,” says Chapman. “Life is beautiful and reaping benefits of efforts to understand each other. Spouses share a deep sense of commitment, satisfaction, and security in each other’s love.” Emotions include happiness, satisfaction, accomplishment, connection, peace, and FUN! Attitudes are beautiful, but they must be watered, or else they will wither in the heat of the sun. There is usually a desire to keep growing together. The communication is constructive, and couples have learned to accept each other’s differences.
A couple in the summer season of marriage needs to be forewarned, though. Unresolved conflicts under the surface must be brought out if a marriage is to remain in a state of fullness.
Unresolved conflicts under the surface must be brought out if a marriage is to remain in a state of fullness.
“These marriages look fine externally; outsiders may even comment on how happy the couple seems to be. Yet inside the marriage, things are changing.” Fall marriages can either be a prelude to winter, or a couple can dig deep and make time reverse so they can move to spring. Emotions in this season include sadness, apprehension, rejection, resentment, loneliness, and emotional depletion. Couples in the fall season of their marriage have attitudes of great concern over their marriages; there is an uncertainty about where things are going.
The beauty about the fall is the fork in the road that makes itself available to couples. Either they can lead into winter with attitudes of neglect and allow the marriage to drift in a negative direction, or they can go back to the spring season with actions that foster a positive relationship. A couple can either grow closer together or drift further apart in this season.
“Winter marriages are characterized by coldness, harshness, and bitterness. The dreams of spring are covered with layers of ice.” Conversations are only about logistics–who will do what and when they will do it. Communication is relegated to silence, arguments, criticism, and, at times, verbal abuse. Lives are lived independently, although under the same roof. This is caused by rigidity: unwillingness to consider the other person’s perspective and work towards compromise. The emotions ever present in a winter season of marriage are hurt, anger, disappointment, loneliness, and a sense of rejection. The attitudes of spouses in the winter season are a pervasive pessimism, seeing the worst, thinking problems are too big, discouragement, hopelessness, and the nasty habit of blaming the other person.
The natural inclination of individuals within a winter season of marriage is to avoid the elements and withdraw. There is either a conscious or subconscious desire to hurt the other spouse with harsh words or even violent acts. Spouses tend to feel detached and desperate for change. There is, however, a positive side to the winter season. According to Chapman, couples tend to “maintain hope. People don’t lay down in snow and wait to die…they seek help. Trials produce patience and perseverance, and forgiveness makes room for love.”
Tell us! What marriage season are you currently in?
Taken with permission from Dr. Gary Chapman.