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The tall and stately elm outside my window is covered with snow today. It’s late January and winter has arrived in North Carolina. Schools are closed, as are most businesses, and the streets and lawns are swathed in a beautiful blanket of white. In the cozy comfort of my study, I sit by the fireplace and reflect. I remember the summer we first moved to this place.
The Four Seasons of Marriage PDF Book by Gary Chapman
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|No of Pages||254|
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Across the yard, the elm tree was engaged in a life-anddeath struggle with a kudzu vine. The broad-leaved kudzu was winning, choking the life out of the hapless tree. Looking down the creek, I saw other trees that had already succumbed. Their dead limbs had fallen and their trunks, still pointing to the sky, were covered with snaking vines. They were simply waiting for the next strong wind to topple them.
Although I had arrived too late to save those other trees, I was determined to rescue the elm. With my sharpened, steel vine cutters in hand, I attacked the kudzu with a vengeance, circling the tree and severing every vine in sight. The larger ones were two inches in diameter, and the smallest was half an inch. Finally, I retreated from the battle and waited for nature to run its course.
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Within a week, the kudzu leaves had shriveled, and I imagined that the elm tree was breathing easier. Why begin with winter? I might begin there because that is where the calendar begins, with January. Although it is not true everywhere, January and February in North Carolina are the coldest months. That’s when it snows and there are ice storms.
It’s when people wear gloves and overcoats and when they go sledding in the streets and skiing at Sugar Mountain. Winter is when children look forward to being out of school so they can play in the snow. It is when only the pansies are blooming and the bears are fast asleep. But to be honest, that is not why I want to begin with winter.
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I start with winter because most of the people who have been in my counseling office over the past thirty years have come when their marriage was in the season of winter. Not many come to see me when their marriage is enjoying a time of summer. It is the coldness of winter that drives them to my office.
In the natural world, at least in North America, we speak of cold winters, harsh winters, snowy winters, icy winters, and bitter winters. In short, winter means difficulty. Life is much harder in the winter than it is in the summer. Winter marriages are characterized by coldness, harshness, and bitterness. The dreams of spring are covered with layers of ice, and the weather forecast calls for more freezing rain.
If the husband and wife have a conversation, it is merely about logistics: who will do what and when. If they try to talk about their relationship, it typically ends in an argument that goes unresolved. Some couples simply live in a cold silence. Essentially, they lead independent lives though they live in the same house. Each spouse blames the other for the coldness of the relationship. The Four Seasons of Marriage PDF Book
Kendra added, “When we brought God back into our lives, we began to see the positive things about each other and focused on those. We began to pray together and play together. It has made a world of difference for us. We are actually enjoying being married again. We know that God has good things for us in the future.”
I met Julian and Dorothy in Richmond, Virginia. Julian opened the conversation by saying, “We want to tell you how much we appreciate your writing. It has opened to us a whole new world of understanding each other.” “For twenty-five years,” Dorothy said, “I wondered what made him tick. Then I discovered that his love languages are quality time and physical touch.
My love languages are words of affirmation and acts of service. When I stopped cleaning, cooking, and painting; took time to sit down and talk with him face-to-face; and started giving him loving touches, he began doing acts of service and giving me words of affirmation. We have entered a whole new stage of marriage.” “It’s called springtime,” I said. “And I hope you stay there a long time.” The Four Seasons of Marriage PDF Book
Obviously, making positive changes requires a willingness to change. Madelyn was twenty-one and had been married for only ten months when I met her and her husband, Jackson, in Sumter, South Carolina. “We got off to a rough start in our marriage,” she said, “but God has worked positively in our lives to get us over the hump. He revealed to us our own selfishness.
We still have disagreements occasionally, but I am continually humbled and disarmed by my husband’s willingness to look at what he is doing and be open to change. That makes me love him more and more.” Each strategy holds the potential to enhance the season of your marriage.
I suggest that you read all seven strategies and then go back and select the one that seems the most appropriate to implement first. If your spouse is willing to join you, then what you learn and apply from the next seven chapters could be the beginning of a whole new way of relating to each other. The Four Seasons of Marriage PDF Book
If, on the other hand, your spouse wants “nothing to do with that Seasons book,” you may find Strategy 7 extremely valuable. If you are in the spring or summer season of marriage, these strategies will give you practical ideas for keeping your marriage alive and growing. If you are in the fall or winter season of marriage, these strategies can get your relationship moving toward a warmer, more pleasant season.
Marriages either grow or they regress; they never stand still. Your attitudes and actions will affect your emotions as well as your spouse’s. These strategies will challenge you to develop positive attitudes and actions that will greatly enhance the emotional climate of your marriage. In this chapter I’m not going to challenge our society’s casual use of the word love.
Instead, I’m going to focus on the importance of love as an essential human need. Whether we’re educated or uneducated, we know instinctively that children need to feel loved. I like to describe each child as having an emotional love tank. When the love tank is full-that is, when the child genuinely feels loved by the parents-the child grows up normal and well adjusted. The Four Seasons of Marriage PDF Book
But when the love tank is empty, the child grows up with many internal struggles. During the teenage years, these children will go looking for love, typically in all the wrong places. Much misbehavior among children and teenagers stems from an empty love tank. The same is true of adults. Married or single, every adult has an emotional love tank.
When we feel loved by people significant to us, life is beautiful. When our love tank is empty, we struggle emotionally. Much misbehavior among adults grows out of an empty love tank. For us married folks, the person we would most like to have love us is our spouse. If we feel loved by our spouse, the world looks bright. But if our love tank is empty, the world begins to look rather dark.
Success in business, education, or sports will not satisfy the longing of the human heart for emotional love. When emotional love evaporates, marriages slip into fall and then winter. Conversely, when emotional love is rekindled, the warm breezes of spring and summer return to the marriage. In this chapter I want to focus on the nature of emotional love as it relates to marriage. The Four Seasons of Marriage PDF Book Download
What you are about to read has the potential to change the emotional climate of your marriage. It all begins with “the tingles.” In the normal course of life, we meet someone who catches our attention. There is something about the way he or she looks, talks, or acts that gives us a warm tingly feeling inside. The tingles are what motivate people to go out with each other.
Sometimes, on the first date, we lose the tingles. We find out something intolerable about the other person and the tingles dissipate. But with some people, every time we get together, it just gets tinglier and tinglier. Eventually, we find ourselves emotionally obsessed. We’re quite certain that he or she is the most wonderful person we’ve ever met.
Everyone else will see the flaws, but we won’t. Our parents may say, “Have you considered that he hasn’t had a steady job in five years?” But we’ll respond, “Give him a break. He’s just waiting for the right opportunity.” Our friends may ask, “Have you considered that she’s been married five times before?” But we’ll respond, “Those other guys were losers. The Four Seasons of Marriage PDF Book Download
The woman deserves to be happy, and I’m going to make her happy.” It is this propensity to pass judgment that daily sabotages the conversations of thousands of couples. When a wife says, “I think I am going to have to quit my job,” and the husband responds, “You can’t quit your job. We can’t make it without your salary.
And remember you’re the one who wanted this house,” they are either on the road to an intense argument or else they will withdraw and suffer in silence, each blaming the other for the coldness of winter that settles on their marriage. But how very different the conversation would be if the husband withheld judgment and instead responded to his wife by saying, “It sounds like you had a hard day at work, honey.
Do you want to talk about it?” He has now opened up the possibility of understanding his wife. And when she feels understood, together they can make a wise decision regarding her job. It is the withholding of judgment that allows the conversation to proceed. A third characteristic of empathetic listening is the most important but also the most difficult: Affirm your spouse even when you disagree with his or her ideas. The Four Seasons of Marriage PDF Book Free
How do you do this? By affirming your spouse for sharing his or her ideas and feelings with you. In other words, you express your appreciation to your spouse for being open and honest with you. Affirmation is a big step beyond merely withholding judgment. When you affirm your spouse verbally.
You give him or her the freedom to have ideas that differ from your own and to have feelings that you would not have in a similar situation. However, once we understand that our differences are designed to be positive not negative, we can replace condemnation with words of affirmation.
Millie might begin by saying, “I know that I have gotten upset with you in the past about how much time you spend in front of the television and how you don’t help me with things around the house. But I am beginning to realize that God made us different for a purpose, and I need to learn from you how to relax and enjoy life more and not be so obsessed with getting everything done. The Four Seasons of Marriage PDF Book Free
So I want to thank you for being the person you are.” Such an affirming statement may even solicit a hug from Joe. Whatever his response, he now feels more accepted by her. Joe might begin by saying, “I know that in the past I’ve been critical of you for how you’re always on the move, never stopping to smell the roses.
But I’m beginning to realize that God made us different for a purpose, and I want you to know that I appreciate all your hard work and how you keep things flowing smoothly around here. I know you would like me to help from time to time, and I want to do that more often.” You may feel hurt, disappointed, frustrated, or even angry in your marriage, but these emotions need not control your behavior.
Emotions are to be acknowledged and processed, but they are not to be the controlling factor in our lives. If we allow angry feelings to control our behavior, we may lash out with critical, condemning words or physical abuse. On the other hand, we may say to ourselves, “I feel angry. I feel hurt, disappointed, and frustrated. The Four Seasons of Marriage PDF Book Free
But I want to have a positive influence on my spouse, and I refuse to be controlled by these emotions.” Positive change begins with positive choices. Once you have decided to implement the power of positive influence in your marriage, you are ready to begin utilizing the six other strategies discussed in this book. After thirty years of counseling married couples, I know of no better approach.