“Every marriage is still in process,” says Gary Chapman. In The Four Seasons of Marriage, he describes how marriages commonly move from one season to another – from summer to fall or perhaps from winter to spring. He differs from some writers, however, in holding that each season may repeat itself numerous times over the long course of a marriage.
“My experience, both in my own marriage and in counseling couples for more than thirty years, suggests that marriages are perpetually in a state of transition, continually moving from one season to another – perhaps not annually, as in nature, but just as certainly and consistently. The cycle repeats itself many times throughout the life of a marriage,” Chapman says.
After analyzing each marriage season, this easy-to-read book presents “seven strategies to enhance the seasons of your marriage.” Chapman describes these as “biblically based strategies” that grew out of his extensive counseling experience.
“No one has the perfect marriage,” he says, but “the good news is that you can have a better marriage than you do now.” It is his conviction that “no marriage is hopeless.”
Chapman is very widely known for his best-selling book The Five Love Languages. He is a Baptist pastor in North Carolina and has counseled a great many married couples.
When a fall or winter season occurs for a couple, the spouses tend to feel uncertain or less hopeful about where their marriage is headed. The presence of these seasons needs to be addressed by couples, Chapman believes. “The seasons of a marriage do not typically change without some positive action — unless it’s a change from bad to worse,” he writes.
Chapman notes that couples in the fall season “are aware that things aren’t right. … They are troubled by the state of their relationship.” And winter marriages, he explains, “are characterized by coldness, harshness and bitterness.”
However, “the seasons of fall and winter are not altogether purposeless. They often serve as a wake-up call to stimulate marital growth,” says Chapman. He comments that “God can use marital winters for good. … When couples persevere and begin to take positive steps to improve their marriage, they emerge stronger.”
Chapman has found that “all couples face difficulties, and all couples have differences.” The real problem arises when couples “fail to negotiate these differences.” It is then, he explains, that couples may “find themselves in the middle of winter — a season of marriage created not by the difficulties of life but by the manner in which a couple respond to those difficulties.”
One of Chapman’s seven strategies for enhancing a marriage calls for a husband and wife to “maximize” their differences. By that he means a husband and wife should take steps to recognize that “God designed our differences to be assets, not liabilities.” He states, “There is always a positive side to our uniqueness.”
Chapman devotes considerable attention to attitudes that either benefit or harm marriage. “As long as we rationalize our negative attitudes as legitimate, they will never change,” he advises readers. “If, however, we are tired of winter and would like to feel the hope of springtime again, we must recognize that our negative thinking must change.” How will this change be made? Chapman offers practical action steps for changing negative attitudes.
The importance of attitudes also arises in Chapman’s discussion of the spring and summer seasons of marriage. “When we foster the springtime attitudes of optimism, gratitude, love and trust, we will enjoy the fragrant blossoming of spring in our marriages,” he writes. “Such attitudes lead to positive actions.”
A husband and wife experiencing a summer season “have a positive attitude about their marriage, they are enjoying their spouse, and they intend to continue ‘watering the flowers,’” Chapman observes. As in springtime, their attitudes generate “positive actions” – actions “that keep the summer happiness flowing.”