The 4 Seasons of Marriage by Gary Chapman

4 seasonGary Chapman has come up with another great book that is applicable to any married couple.  The 4 seasons of marriage is not a journey through marriage from the wedding day to death do us part, but states we can find our marriages in at any time as they are constantly changing due to shifting attitudes, fluctuating emotions and external influences.It is not uncommon for some couples to manage to get to winter in their first year of marriage, whilst others remain in spring for many years.

The purpose of the book is to describe the recurring seasons of marriage, to help the couple identify which season their marriage is in, and to show them how to move away from the unsettledness of Autumn (Fall) or the alienation and coldness of winter toward the hopefulness of spring or the warmth and closeness of summer.

This book is designed to provide strategies for couples no matter what phase they are in.  It can also be the content for discussion groups.  It is suggested the seven strategies laid out in the second part of the book will not keep the marriage from experiencing Autumn (Fall) and Winter; but they will give the reader positive steps that can be taken to make the most of each season, prepare for the next and advance the relationship into spring and summer.

The book is full of case studies from Mr Chapman’s 35 years as a counsellor, every page almost contains stories and anecdotes about how couples have identified the season of their marriage and practical steps they have taken to follow the strategies that enhance the season that the marriage is in.  This book is definitely written for committed Christian couples, who will find it quite inspirational.  If you are not church going you may struggle to get past the frequent biblical references, but if you do you are likely to also find it quite inspirational.

In the first chapter Mr Chapman gives a brief introduction to the nature of marriage.  He explains marriage as a purposeful relationship. At Love2Last, we also define a committed relationship as marriage, even if a legal ceremony has never occurred, so therefore this book is just as relevant whether you are formally ‘married’ or not.

Mr Chapman explains all research indicates that an intimate marriage provides the safest and most productive climate for raising children, for example, but this is not the only purpose of marriage.  Thus marriage is not simply a relationship, it is an intimate relationship that encompasses all aspects of life:intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual and physical.  In a committed relationship couples share their life with each other in the deepest possible way.  They view themselves as a unified team, not as two individuals who happen to be living in close proximity.  Because the desire and drive for intimacy is at the heart of marriage, the individuals involved become troubled about their relationship when such intimacy is not attained.  He goes on to suggest the essential nature of marriage is: Committed, United, Intimate, Purposeful and Complementary.

Marriage relationships are constantly changing.  Attitudes shift, emotions fluctuate and the way partners treat each other changes, sometimes loving and sometimes not so loving.  Sometimes changes are within a couple’s control and sometimes not, such as birth of a baby, death of a loved one, illness, in-laws, getting a job, losing a job, pressures of work, travel, vacations, weight gain or loss, financial ups and downs, moving, staying, depression, disagreements, children (own or step), moods, teenagers, aging bodies, aging parents, hobbies, habits, sex, impotence, infidelity.  All these are examples of situations and circumstances that put pressure on a marriage and demand a response.  If couples respond in harmony with their partner they can keep their marriage in spring or summer, if they don’t respond well and clash, they can feel the chill of autumn or the ice cold of winter. The changes faced in life (and the way individuals process and respond to them) create the seasons of marriage.

Here is a summary of the 4 Seasons, as they apply to marriage, most of this is common sense but it makes good reading and is good preparation for the strategies to follow:

Season Climate of Relationship Emotions Attitudes Actions
Winter Detached, cold, harsh, bitter, couples are unwilling to negotiate differences.  Conversations turn to arguments, or partners withdraw in silence.  There is no sense of togetherness. Hurt, anger, disappointment, loneliness, feeling rejected Negativity, discouragement, frustration, hopelessness Destructive, speaking harshly, not speaking, violent.
Spring Vital tender, open, caring.  Spring is a time of new beginnings.  The streams of communication are flowing.  There is a sense of excitement about life together.  Couples are making plans.  They have great hopes for the future.  They are planting seeds from which they hope to reap a harvest of happiness. Excitement, joy, hope Anticipation, optimism, gratitude, love, trust Nurturing, planning, communicating, seeking help when needed
Summer Comfortable, attached, supportive, understanding.  In summer the dreams of spring have come true.  They are resolving conflicts in a positive manner.  Couples have a growing sense of togetherness. Happiness, satisfaction, accomplishment, connection Trust, commitment to growth, relaxed Communicating constructively, accepting of differences, growing spiritually and together.
Autumn (Fall) Drifting apart, disengaging.  Couples sense that something is happening but they’re not sure what, there is a sense of disengagement emotionally, and each tends to blame the other. Fear, sadness, dejection, apprehension, discouragement, resentment, feelings of being unappreciated. Concern, uncertainty, blaming. Neglect failure to face issues.

There is the other side to each season as well.  For Winter, the coldness often stimulates a desire for healing and desperate enough to seek external help.  When couples persevere they emerge stronger, more committed and better able to work out their differences.

For Spring, the downside is the lack of preparedness for irritations, if they do not follow through with the new beginnings it is easy to skip through summer, straight to Autumn(Fall).

The downside of Summer is that everything seems rosy so couples don’t notice the issues that go unresolved, again easily moving to Autumn (Fall).

Gary Chapman tells us that now he understands the different seasons of marriage, he and his wife live almost perpetually insummer, but it hadn’t always been like that for them.  They spent a significant amount of time in the coldness of winter, punctuated with a few short springs and many extended Autumn (Fall) seasons.  It took a long time for them to get to summer, so if the experts found it different, I guess the rest of us need to really work at it.

A quiz is included in the book to help you to determine what season your relationship is in.  I am including this on the Love2Last website for you to try.

The next part of the book looks at the seven strategies that can enhance the seasons of your marriage.  These strategies are intended to move the reader’s marriage from the cold of Winter to the warmth of Summer, from the uncertainty of Autumn to the excitement of Spring.  The idea is to read all seven strategies and then go back and select the one that seems the most appropriate to implement first.  The strategies are:

Strategy One – Deal with past failures

This clears the debris in a relationship and paves the way for implementing the other strategies.  This strategies challenges the reader to deal with past failures.  Failures alone will not destroy a marriage, but unconfessed and unforgiven failure will.

Strategy Two – Choose a winning attitude

This is about breaking the cycle of negativity and changing to think in a more positive light.  Attitude often makes the difference between Winter, Spring, Summer or Autumn (Fall).  A negative, critical attitude pushes individuals toward the coldness of winter; where a positive attitude which looks for the best in a partner and affirms it, leads to the warmth of Spring and Summer.

Ideas for breaking the cycle of negativity:

–          Acknowledge your negative thinking

–          Identify and list your partner’s positive traits

–          Teach yourself to focus on your partner’s positive traits

–          Express your appreciation verbally to your partner

Strategy Three – Learn to speak your partner’s love language

For those that do not know them, they are: Acts of Service, Physical Touch, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts and Words of Affirmation.  This is what Gary Chapman is most famous for and there is a video about them on the Love2Last website.

The five love languages are based on the premise that everyone has a deep emotional need to be loved.  When you meet the need of your partner you create a climate in which the relationship can grow.

Strategy Four – Develop the power of empathic listening

The ability to speak and listen are gifts we have all been given.  Communication is the foundation of all human cultures, yet sadly we do not always hear what is really being said.  The skill of empathic listening is a skill that everyone should learn.  When a partner is talking, the most powerful thing the other one can do is listen.  Only as couples listen empathetically will they come to understand their partner’s thoughts, feelings and desires.  Understanding leads to a blossoming intimacy.

Four keys of empathic listening:

–          Listen with an attitude of understanding (not judgement)

–          Withhold judgement on your partner’s ideas

–          Affirm your partner, even when you disagree with their ideas

–          Share your own ideas only when your partner feels understood

Strategy Five – Discover the joy of helping apartner succeed

Success is different for each of person, so it is about understanding what success means for your partner.  Thus this strategy is designed to help discover the joy of helpingapartner succeed.  Gary Chapman suggests few accomplishments in life are more satisfying or have greater results than helping a partner accomplish their purpose.

Four ways to help your partner succeed:

–          Offer encouraging words

–          Take supportive action

–          Provide emotional support

–          Express respect to your partner

Strategy Six – Maximise differences

Couples should identify their differences and then capitalise on them, it is intended that each couple bring their unique characteristics together to form one team that works together.  Couples should see their differences as assets not liabilities.

Actions that can be taken to maximise differences:

–          Identify your differences

–          Look for the assets in your differences

–          Learn from your differences

–          Replace condemnation with affirmation

–          Discover a plan to maximise the differences so they enhance your relationship

Strategy Seven – Implement the power of positive influence

The power of influence has profound implications for each of the seasons of marriage, however the reader must understand that they cannot directly change anyone’s personality or behaviour, and that the decision has to be theirs.  It is also worth noting that there is a subtle difference between influence and manipulation.

Positive choices lead to positive actions that lead to positive feeling.

The last part of the book is about putting these strategies into practice.  Gary Chapman challenges the reader and encourages them to develop a plan for applying the principles he has described to their relationships.  Marriage was not created to make peoplemiserable; he suggests that we should all love each other as Christ loved the world.   The reason he feels so strongly about the message of this book is because he has seen these strategies turn literally thousands of marriages from the coldness of winter to the excitement of spring.  First though we need to put our plans into practice.

Every marriage is still a work in progress, but the strategies will move relationships in the right direction.  Gary Chapman suggests that the most powerful way to influence a partner is by applying the concepts learned in the other six strategies.

The remainder of the book covers a number of questions and answers, group discussion topics, bible quotes for each season, make a date suggestions, conversation starters and items for couples to discuss in private.  Lastly there are five questions that are intended to put a plan into practice.

Gary Chapman’s final words in closing sum up why he wrote the book:

“When a husband and wife both live according to God’s design for them, they will be mutually submitted to each other and looking out for each other’s best interest.  In this free and loving partnership, they will be able to accomplish the purpose that God has for their life together.  God designed just such a marriage for the reader.  He has seen these strategies turn literally thousands of marriages from the coldness of winter to the excitement of spring.  

 

These book reviews are provided for your information; they are the opinion of the writer or reviewer/s and are not necessarily the view of Love2Last.  The readers should take this into consideration and make their own decision whether they purchase the book or not.  If you do want to purchase this book, it is available through our L2L Bookstore http://love2last.co/products-and-resources/strong-foundations/.

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