In the Midwest, trees' leaves are beginning to change colors creating a gorgeous palette of red, yellow, purple, brown and green. It is a season for bundling up and cheering on your favorite football tea and for drinking apple cider.
Just as our calendar year has its seasons, so too does your marriage.
When you notice that your relationship has changed, it can be disconcerting. You might worry that love has died or doubt your partner's feelings for you.
As you think back to how it used to be in your relationship, you may realize that the level of passion is just not what it was.
You may be wondering if this change in the way that you and your partner relate to one another and spend your time is natural and normal or if it means that something is wrong.
This wondering, unfortunately, can create distance in your relationship. Your partner may begin to feel judged, causing strain. The moments of connection that you two do have may be missed because of your worries.
We're here to tell you that changes can be normal in a relationship...
According to conventional wisdom, there are distinct phases of a marriage (or long-term love relationship).
Honeymoon phase: This is that initial period of time when you two can't get enough of one another. This is when you fall in love and feel butterflies in your stomach.
Reality phase: Also called the “realization” phase, this is the time when you begin to see that your beloved is actually human and has flaws just like you do. This can be a crisis time if the perceived flaws are deal breakers for one or both of you.
Cooperation phase: This is when a couple is mostly focused on working together toward a common goal-- to raise a family, start a business together or care for home and pets together. This can be a time when passion and the relationship take a backseat to other concerns.
Rebellion/crisis phase: Crises can occur throughout the phases, but there can be a marked period when one or both people question feelings and the relationship itself.
Accommodation phase: If the couple stays together throughout the crises along the way, at this point there is a sense of coming to peace with who the other person is and a settling in to life together. This may be a time for merely tolerating one another or for re-discovering love and passion.
As you probably already know...
Nothing in life is as neat and tidy or linear as this.
Relationships usually move in and out of phases like these and some couples never do experience all of the phases listed above. Or, they experience the phases in very unique and non-textbook ways.
The big message here is that EVERY relationship is different. Pay attention to what is “normal” for you and your partner and honor that. Know that there will be seasons to your relationship too.
None of this means that passion and connection have to fade or die.
You and your partner can weather the seasons of your marriage by doing these things...
#1: Find ways to appreciate every season.
Don't create problems where there aren't any.
While it is important to recognize and address resentments or conflict that come between you two, don't over-analyze or expect problems that don't exist.
If, for instance, you are focused on your career or caring for your kids, this doesn't have to be a bad thing for your relationship. It may simply be a period of time where attention is focused elsewhere.
No matter what is pulling your attention away from one another, you two can still maintain a healthy and loving connection.
#2: Always question your assumptions.
The way that you view a season, event, comment or situation can literally mean the difference between staying happily together or splitting up.
Before reacting to something your partner said or did, take a moment to question what you are assuming. Ask yourself what is true and then make a decision about how you will proceed based on facts and not on potentially inaccurate guesses or assumptions.
#3: Learn from each season.
Even the most difficult times in your love relationship or marriage have something to teach you.
For example, if infidelity happens and a couple decides to stay together and rebuild trust, there is a lot that they can learn. They can identify the habits they each have that cause distance in their relationship and they can make meaningful changes to vital areas like communication and intimacy.
#4: Don't cling to the past.
What gets a lot of people in trouble is when they essentially live in the past.
Whether it's the fact that your partner lied to you 3 years ago or the way that he or she doesn't surprise you with gifts like when you were dating, your continued attention on the past doesn't serve you or your relationship.
Now is the time you have. Now is the season you and your partner are currently sharing together.
Make amends, forgive hurtful words and actions, celebrate the good times you've had together AND be present and fully engaged with what's going on in your relationship right now.
#5: Make your relationship a top priority.
When you're living in the present moment with your partner, you can more easily give your energy and attention to creating a fabulous season now.
Despite the challenges you face and the many responsibilities you each have, you CAN make your relationship a top priority. (Your kids and your career don't have to suffer either!) This is perhaps the most important strategy for weathering the seasons of your marriage.
Know that you do have the time and you do have the energy for really being with and loving your partner.
Want to know how to create a love relationship or marriage where the passion NEVER has to die? Get Susie and Otto Collins' free ebook: Passionate Spark~Lasting Love by visiting: www.relationshipgold.com