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Faced with falling leaves and chilly winds, a person’s energy level drop and moves towards self-preservation. This season looks bleak in a marriage.
On the surface, everything is “business as usual”; some may even say how good your marriage seems! But you know that something’s not right in your relationship.
Cracks in the marriage have widened into chasms. It could be that disagreements have peaked and can now break your marriage. Healthy communication may have come to a standstill, and you are in the quicksand of resentment or disappointment.
Neglect is the key contributor for marriages moving into autumn. Perhaps you both went on autopilot – life was busy and you were occupied with different things. Little quality time with each other, much less time to work through disagreements or unhappiness.
Couples in this season face one major decision – do we avoid the issues and let our marriage wither away? Or do we choose to have the difficult but crucial conversations, dig deeper to remember our “first love”, and commit to move out of this stalemate together?
Think of it as the ultimatum. There’s just no waiting around, hoping things will get better.
The hope in Autumn
A wife who feels unloved and unappreciated will feel rejected. A husband who doesn’t have his wife’s trust and respect will withdraw and disengage.
What are some things that have undermined mutual love and respect in your marriage?
If negligence drove your marriage to the edge, then doing the exact opposite is necessary to turn it around.
Are you too busy? Decisively cut out social activities or time draining hobbies to make time for each other. If you feel that your relationship lacks fun and excitement, find common activities that both of you can enjoy. Pick up a marriage resource or attend a marriage enrichment programme to communicate better.
Start small, but start somewhere.
This is also where plugging into a healthy and strong community that supports your marriage is crucial. Is there a trusted couple you both are comfortable sharing your marital struggles with? Arrange to meet up, and invite them to journey with you and your spouse out of this season.
Autumn is here. Keep calm, all is not lost; there is hope for a turnaround.
Making the best of Autumn
For the husband
What can you do in this season?
- Conserve your energy (and word bank) for your wife, especially if you are a man of few words. Make effort to have a conversation with her every day.
- Look out for the little things and let her know that you noticed. Maybe she had a haircut, or added a new ornament to the house; acknowledge it and compliment her.
- Learn new communication strategies to connect with her healthily.
Things to watch out for:
- Guard your heart. When you feel distant from your wife, it is easy to be drawn to other friendships where you feel understood and accepted.
- Do not look for quick fixes to your problems. In the same way that your marriage did not hit this rut overnight, it will take time and intentional effort for you both to walk out of it.
- “Cave time” may be necessary for you to recharge, but don’t retreat to it whenever things get tense. Your presence speaks volumes of your commitment to the marriage.
For the wife
What can you do in this season?
- Be quick to apologise if you are at fault, and be ready to forgive (and forget) when he apologises for his faults.
- Notice the small acts of service he does for you, your family or in the home. Express gratitude, and tell him that it matters to you.
- Initiate intimacy with your husband and let him know that he is still attractive and desirable.
Things to watch out for:
- Avoid slipping into the blame game and make it “his problem”. Your husband will naturally become defensive and may choose to disengage.
- Do not compare your marriage with “better” marriages you see around you or on social media, or let your mind wander with the “what ifs”.
- Eliminate negative talk – which could come as criticism, sarcasm or ridicule. Speak kindly, even when you are upset, so that he will be encouraged to communicate with you.
Couple conversations for this season
- When were the best years of our marriage, and why?
- What bothers you most about the current state of our marriage?
- What is one thing that I can do to make you feel loved?
A thriving marriage in every season
This is a difficult season for you and your spouse. Hold on to each other because there can be a turnaround in your marriage.
Every bride and groom enters into their union with a promise to have and to hold, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until death do they part.
When the marriage hits a rough patch, or when you and your spouse no longer enjoy each other, consider how you can live out your vows.
“I didn’t marry you because you were perfect… I married you because you gave me a promise. That promise made up for your faults. And that promise I gave you made up for mine. Two imperfect people got married, and it was the promise that made the marriage. And when our children were growing up, it wasn’t a house that protected them; and it wasn’t our love that protected them; it was the promise.” – Thornton Wilder
There can be beauty and growth in each season. So, hold tight to the good, work hard at the difficult, and commit to journey through life together.
In every season, you can make your marriage the best that it can be.
© 2020 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
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