Bond through life passages — 02 December 2011
Managing the seasons of your marriage – Part I

Like in nature, marriages and committed relationships cycle through four seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. Though our weather preferences are clear, we all adapt to and benefit from seasonal climate fluctuations as we do from the emotional variations within our relationship. Knowing how to manage these natural changes within your relationship can help you thrive in love.

Most couples are aware that at times they feel emotionally/physically closer to each other while at other times they are more distant and less connected. Some people explain the observed change in intimacy as an inevitable process of maturing relationships. Actually, the ebb and flow of bonded periods are normal in relationships and are not doomed for steady decline when well managed through attentive mindfulness.

Most relationships start with the fresh newness of ‘Spring’ time. “Budding romances,” often engender a similar excitement and curiosity to the one we experience while watching buds open up to reveal the splendor of their flowers. During the ‘Spring’ season of their love, pairs delight in each other’s exceptional traits, sing each other’s praises and feel emotionally ecstatic to love and be loved in return.

The positive energy of pairs in ‘Spring’ time is infectious to all around them. We love seeing these couples as they delight in each other. Their radiating enthusiasm for one another is inspiring and uplifting to all around them.  The hidden promise is that we, too, may be fortunate enough to find the right mate and be equally adored and connected.

Psychologically, this ‘Spring’ time is labeled –‘The Infatuation Stage.’ the intensity and enmeshment of which is unsustainable. Each individual must retreat a bit to regain personal autonomy, safety and differentiation from the mate.

In psychological lingo the ‘Summer’ season of relationships is often labeled Stage II- The Disillusionment. It is portrayed as the time when reality sets in and people are awakened from their state of unrealistic “nirvana” to face reality. Sobered up they no longer view each other with the same idolizing eyes.

I would like to suggest that as in nature both ‘Spring’ and ‘Summer’ in relationships are needed phases and do recur regularly. They can be created and recreated through long-term relationships to please both mates.

To maintain a blissful state with your mate:

  • Realize that the natural seasons within relationships are cyclical and can be initiated anytime throughout your union.
  • Re-create infatuation by recalling and reminding yourself that all the amazing traits and unique qualities you originally admired in your spouse are still actively there.
  • Understand that some distancing after the intense honeymoon is helpful to avoid enmeshment with your mate and maintain your own separate identity.
  • Know that the natural pull back during the ‘Summer,’ due to intense heat, does not mean that ‘Spring’ is gone forever. It is a break needed to focus on your autonomy so you can better return to love.

May 29,2011



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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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