As we’re heading into a new season (from summer to fall), we’re looking forward to what lies ahead. Living in the desert, we’re excited to leave the harsh heat behind for a while that we’ve been weathering.
Yes, we’ve enjoyed various aspects of this summer. We had 4 baby owls born in a nest in a tree in our backyard. What fun to see them emerge, learn to use their wings, watch them grow and then (sad to see them) move on to make their own homes. All-in-all, it has been SO entertaining! Plus, our saguaro in our front yard bloomed 4 times this summer! We’ve never had that happen before. Plus, our monsoon season has been incredible. There have been so many amazing lightning storms (plus, much-needed rain). Thank you Lord, for the glory of Your creation!
We could go on and on about the enjoyment we’ve experienced this summer; but we’ve also been weathering some real difficulties. Oppressive heat, financial challenges, surgeries, recovery times, etc… have all been a part of our summer. So, we’re ready to move on to see what this Fall will bring. We’re sure there will be many negatives, but even so, we know God will bring blessings as we look for them. (Although sometimes we’ve had to look really hard!) It’s the same with each season and stage of marriage. We’re reminded of the following scripture:
“Enjoy life with the woman [man] whom you love all the days of your fleeting life which He has given you under the sun; for this is your reward in life, and in your toil in which you have labored under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 9:9)
Weathering the Difficulties Along with the Benefits
Yes, there is “toil” and negatives and storms that dump upon us in our marriages; but there are also benefits as you look for those pots of gold that are there for the taking. Here’s something that Michele Weiner-Davis says about this:
“I’m certain that if more couples realized that there really is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, they’d be more willing to tough it out through the downpour. The problem is, most people fool themselves into thinking that whatever stage they’re in at the moment is where they will be forever. That can be a depressing thought when you’re in the midst of hard times. And in marriage, there are lots of hard times but it’s important to remember that nothing lasts forever. There are seasons to everything in life, including marriage.”
SO true! It’s like what Jim Daly wrote:
“Spring, summer, autumn, and winter will come in a marriage, although not like clockwork the way the seasons do in nature…Similarly, seasons in a marriage do not last forever. But enjoying marriage—enjoying life—is only possible when we grasp the concept of seasons, when we recognize the truth that we will experience many seasons in life and in our marriage, and that none of them will last forever.” (From the book, “The Best Advice I Ever Got on Marriage”)
We totally agree!
With this in mind, we want you to be more aware of those seasons and stages of marriage. This way you won’t be so surprised by them. It has helped us greatly since we learned about them.
So, here goes!
The Marriage Map
A lot of the following info comes from a Smartmarriages Newsletter article we received a while ago titled “The Marriage Map” written by Michele Weiner-Davis. We’re sharing a few excerpts from it so you can benefit from it, as well. Michelle wrote:
“As a long-time observer of relationships, I can tell you that, like people, marriages go through different developmental stages. Does marriage have its equivalent to the ‘Terrible Two’s’ or the stormy teenage years? In fact, it does. But because people are unfamiliar with the emotional terrain, the normal hills and valleys of marriage, these predictable transitional periods are often misunderstood. Those who manage to weather these stormy periods usually come out the other side with greater love and commitment to their spouses. That’s why I want to offer you a Marriage Map.
“As you read through these stages and developmental passages, don’t get too hung up on the timetable. Some couples move through these stages more quickly than others, and some by-pass certain stages entirely. See if any of this sounds familiar to you as you think about your own marriage.”
STAGE ONE: Passion Prevails:
In this stage or season:
“You’re head over heals in love, you can’t believe how blessed you are to have met each other. You have so much in common. You’re completely in sync. When little, annoying things pop up, they’re dismissed and overlooked. You feel good in your partner’s presence and start to believe that he or she is bringing out the best in you and you decide to commit to spending the rest of their lives together. And marry, you do.
“…And for a period of time, nothing could be more glorious. But soon, your joy gives way to an earth-shattering awakening; marriage isn’t at all what you expected it to be.”
And that’s when you’re:
Weathering STAGE TWO: What Was I Thinking?
“In some ways, stage two is the most difficult because it’s here that you experience the biggest fall. What accounts for this drastic change in perspective? For starters, reality sets in. The little things start to bother you. Although you once thought you and your spouse were kindred spirits, you now realize that there are many, many differences between you. You feel disillusioned and wonder if you made a mistake.” (Michelle Weiner Davis)
And that’s when the trouble starts! (It sure did for us!) Sometimes the differences seem so overwhelming we’re tempted just to dump out of the relationship. Jentezen Franklin points this out, all too well. But here’s what he says he and his wife have learned to do instead:
“When we go through the valley of trouble, we do not grab our toothbrushes, head out the door and say it’s over. We reach over, grab each other’s hand and keep pursuing God. Even in the lowest seasons of marriage, God will always open a door of hope. Research shows that, statistically, the happiest couples are those who have been married thirty to thirty-five years. It typically takes the first nine to seventeen years for people to die to self. That is why the highest percentage of divorces occur during the first nine years of marriage. You need to understand that some days are good, and some days are tough. You must determine to stick it out together.” (From: “Love Like You’ve Never Been Hurt”)
We pray you will!
And then there is the challenge of:
Weathering STAGE THREE: Everything Would Be Great if YOU Changed
“In this stage of marriage, most people believe that there are two ways of looking at things, your spouse’s way and your way, also known as the ‘Right Way.’ Rather than brainstorm creative solutions, couples often battle to get their partners to admit they’re wrong. Now is the time when many people face a fork in the marital road. Three choices become apparent. Convinced they’ve tried everything, some people give up. Other people resign themselves to the status quo and decide to lead separate lives. Ultimately, they live unhappily ever after.
“But there are still others who decide that it’s time to end the cold war and begin to investigate healthier and more satisfying ways of interacting. Although the later option requires a major leap of faith, those who take this leap are the fortunate ones because the best of marriage is yet to come.” (Michelle Weiner Davis)
Weathering STAGE FOUR: That’s Just the Way S/He Is
“In stage four, we finally come to terms with the fact that we’re never going to see eye-to-eye with our partners about everything and we have to figure out what we must do to live more peaceably. Fights happen less frequently and when they occur, they’re not as intense as in the earlier years of marriage. We let things roll off our back that might have caused us to go to battle before. We stop being opponents. We’re teammates again. And because we’ve reached this stage, we reap the benefits of the fifth and final stage.”
Now, before we go onto Stage Five, which is the stage my husband Steve and I are in (I wish everyone can get to enjoy this stage) we’re sharing something that other couples have found. Thomas Whiteman, and Thomas Bartlett wrote about this in their book, “The Marriage Mender.” They talk about “mature love” and what it takes to get to this stage.
“Couples [who have reached mature love] have learned to appreciate each other’s uniqueness. But they don’t just sit back and bask in the beauty of love as if all their work is done. They also recognize the ‘weeds’ of the relationship—petty arguments, jealousies, attitudes that can creep up and choke the life out of the relationship. Couples at this stage are better at tending the garden, picking weeks before they become major problems, and spreading the nourishment of safety, respect and solid communication.”
And now, for this next stage of “mature love” or “Stage Five”, which Michelle writes about:
STAGE FIVE: Together , At Last
“It’s really a tragedy that half of all couples who wed never get to stage five. This is when all the pain and hard work of the earlier stages really begins to pay off. You’re no longer in a struggle to define who you are and what the marriage should be. For this reason, there’s more peace and harmony. You start having ‘old day feelings’ again. You’ve come full circle. The feeling you were longing for during those stormy periods is back, at last. You’re home again.”
Trust us; it’s wonderful to get to this season of marriage. It’s not that you will be trouble free! Each season/stage has troubles of its own. But it’s MUCH easier to weather it together.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12)
And that’s the “formula” for getting to this place. Do this together WITH God!
But it’s important to also remember:
As You’re Weathering These Seasons and Stages of Marriage:
“It’s important to remember that people generally don’t go through these stages sequentially. It’s 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. Just when you begin to feel more at peace with each other in stage four, a crisis occurs. You then find yourselves slipping back to stage three. But if you’ve been fortunate enough to have visited stage four, sanity sets in eventually. You are able to get back on track. Love is dynamic. So is marriage. The wiser and more mature you become, the more you realize this, and the more time you and your spouse spend hanging out in stage five. Together again, at last!” (Michelle Weiner Davis)
We hope this makes sense to you. It sure has to us and many other couples we know. If you want to learn more about these states, our understanding is that you can read more about them (and other info) in a (non-Christian) book titled, The Divorce Remedy, written by Michele Weiner-Davis.
Here are two things we hope you will prayerfully consider as you are weathering the seasons and stages in your non-abusive marriage:
“If you’re in a difficult season in your marriage and you start to think, ‘How can I take another ten or twenty or thirty years of this?’ you’re headed for trouble. You’re asking God to give you the grace for something that hasn’t happened. Instead, break it down to a single unit—a single day: Just focus on this: ‘Can I love my husband [or wife] for this day?’ Don’t think about ten years down the road, or even ten months!” (Gary Thomas, from his book, “Devotions for a Sacred Marriage”)
“God permits the change of seasons in our lives and in our marriages for the same reason He created the natural change of seasons—to allow for growth. …Perhaps you are in a season of marriage where you are not walking in unison as a couple. Despite how difficult and painful this season might be, trust that God is working and has not abandoned you! Never lose hope or become numb, pain has the power to motivate you to take the action necessary and to pray with fervor to find peace in the storm until God in His wisdom and in His time brings you to the next season of your marriage.” (Kathleen Billings)
Please know our love and prayers are with you as together we work on our marriages to the glory of God.
Cindy and Steve Wright
— ADDITIONALLY —
To help you further, we give a lot of personal stories, humor, and more practical tips in our book, 7 ESSENTIALS to Grow Your Marriage. We hope you will pick up a copy for yourself. (It’s available both electronically and in print form.) Plus, it can make a great gift for someone else. It gives you the opportunity to help them grow their marriage. And who doesn’t need that? Just click on the linked title or the picture below:
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