The 4 Seasons of Marriage: Secrets to a Lasting Marriage

The 4 Seasons of Marriage: Secrets to a Lasting Marriage

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by Gary Chapman

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Spring, summer, winter, fall. 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. Sometimes we find ourselves in winter—discouraged, detached, and dissatisfied; other times, we experience springtime with its openness, hope, and


Spring, summer, winter, fall. 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. Sometimes we find ourselves in winter—discouraged, detached, and dissatisfied; other times, we experience springtime with its openness, hope, and anticipation. On other occasions, we bask in the warmth of summer—comfortable, relaxed, enjoying life. And then comes fall with its uncertainty, negligence, and apprehension. The cycle repeats itself many times throughout the life of a marriage, just as the seasons repeat themselves in nature.

The seasons of marriage come and go. Each one holds the potential for emotional health and happiness, and each one has its challenges. The purpose of this book is to describe these recurring seasons of marriage, help you and your spouse identify which season your marriage is in, and show you how to enhance your marriage in all four seasons.

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Which season of marriage are you in?
Marriages are in a perpetual state of transition, continually moving from one season to another—perhaps not annually, as in nature, but certainly and consistently. Sometimes we find ourselves in winter—distant, discouraged, and dissatisfied; other times we experience springtime—filled with hope, openness, and anticipation. Sometimes we bask in the warmth of summer—satisfied and comfortable, simply enjoying life together. In times of fall, negligence and uncertainty creep in, leaving us feeling unsettled and apprehensive.

The cycle repeats itself many times throughout the life of a marriage, just as the seasons in nature repeat themselves. Each season presents its own unique challenges, and each holds the potential for emotional health and happiness. This book will help you and your spouse identify which season your marriage is currently in, give you a common language with which to discuss your marriage, and provide practical strategies that will help you strengthen and enhance your relationship.

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Tyndale House Publishers
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The 4 Seasons of Marriage

Secrets to a Lasting Marriage

Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Gary Chapman
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4143-7634-9

Chapter One


In the early days of my career, I was an avid student of anthropology. During my undergraduate and graduate studies in that discipline, I explored ethnographies compiled through the years by various anthropologists. One conclusive finding of these studies was that marriage between a man and a woman is the central, social building block in every human society, without exception. It is also true that monogamous, lifelong marriage is the universal cultural norm.

Of course, some people will deviate from this practice, as in polygamy (which is still found in a few nonliterate cultures) and serial monogamy (which has become common practice in some Western cultures), but these exceptions do not erase the cultural norm of lifetime monogamy from the human psyche. In fact, in spite of the widespread acceptance of divorce in the United States over the past forty years, a recent poll of never-married singles ages twenty to thirty indicates that eighty-seven percent planned to marry only once. Many of these people have seen their parents divorce and that is not what they want for themselves.

The social institution of marriage is first and foremost a covenant relationship in which a man and a woman pledge themselves to each other for a lifetime partnership. In the biblical account of creation, God's expressed desire is that the two "will become one flesh." At the heart of marriage, therefore, is the idea of unity. It is the opposite of aloneness. Again from the creation account in Genesis, it is abundantly clear that God did not intend for men and women to live alone. Something deep within a man cries out for companionship with a woman, and the woman has a similar desire for intimacy with a man. Marriage is designed to satisfy this deep search for intimacy. Thus, marriage is not simply a relationship; it is an intimate relationship that encompasses all aspects of life: intellectual, emotional, social, spiritual, and physical. In a marriage relationship, a husband and wife share life with each other in the deepest possible way. They view themselves as a unified team, not as two individuals who happen to be living in close proximity. Because the desire and drive for intimacy are at the very heart of marriage, the individuals involved become troubled about their relationship when such intimacy is not attained.

Marriage is also a purposeful relationship. All research indicates that an intimate marriage provides the safest and most productive climate for raising children, for example. But procreation is not the only purpose of marriage. Each person is also endowed by God with certain latent possibilities. The partnership of marriage is an ideal environment for nurturing and developing these gifts and abilities. As the writer of the ancient book of Ecclesiastes observes, "Two are better than one. ... If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!" Every married couple has experienced the reality of this principle. Two are better than one.

Husbands and wives are designed to complement each other. When the man is weak, his wife is strong; when she stumbles, he is there to pick her up. Life is easier when two hearts and minds are committed to working together to face the challenges of the day.







After forty-plus years of marriage, I look back and realize that many of the things I have accomplished would never have come to fruition were it not for the encouragement and help of my wife. I'd also like to think that she has accomplished more with her life because of my support. This brings me a great deal of satisfaction. Together we have committed ourselves to seek and follow God's plan for our lives. We help each other discover our unique giftedness and encourage each other to use these abilities to serve God and to promote good in the world. As we do this, our lives point others to God and we accomplish our highest end. Our marriage relationship enhances the effectiveness with which we serve God.

King David captured the vision for us in Psalm 34:3: "Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together." From a biblical perspective, the purpose of life is not to accomplish our own objectives. The purpose of life is to know God and to bring glory and honor to his name. For most people, marriage enhances the possibility of achieving this objective.


Marriage relationships are constantly changing. Attitudes shift, emotions fluctuate, and the way spouses treat each other ebbs and flows between loving and not so loving.

Sometimes, change is beyond our control. For example, when Ben's wife, Nancy, was told she had cancer, the diagnosis changed the fabric of their lives and their relationship. They could adapt to the situation, but they couldn't control it. The same was true of Tricia and her husband, Rob, a member of the National Guard. When his unit was activated, he was sent into a war zone half a world away. Rob and Tricia could adapt, but the circumstances were beyond their control. When it became clear to Jon and Carol that her mother could no longer live alone, they had to respond to a change that they couldn't control. Life is full of unanticipated changes. Our only choice as couples is in how we will respond.

Other changes we create for ourselves, but sometimes with unexpected consequences. When Ken and Melinda moved to Kansas City after living near her family in Chicago for ten years, it created numerous changes that they now had to face together. The decisions we make regarding vocation, child rearing, education, civic and church involvement, and other areas of life create changes that affect our marriage relationships. The manner in which couples process these changes will determine the quality of their marriages.

In the natural world, the four seasons are created by certain inevitable changes that occur as the earth turns on its axis and revolves around the sun. Likewise, the changes we face in life (and the way we process and respond to them) create the seasons of marriage. The birth of a baby, the death of a loved one, illness, in-laws, getting a job, losing a job, the demands of a job, travel, vacations, weight gain, weight loss, financial ups and downs, moving, staying, depression, disagreements, moods, teenagers, aging bodies, aging parents, hobbies, habits, sex, impotence, infidelity—all these are examples of situations and circumstances that put pressure on a marriage and demand a response. If we respond well, in harmony with our spouse, we can keep our marriage in spring or summer. If we don't respond well or if our response clashes with our spouse's response, we can feel the chill of autumn or be thrust into the icy cold of winter—sometimes before we know what hit us.

Some changes, such as sexual infidelity, strike at the very heart of a marriage. Other changes are simply a natural part of life, such as illness, aging, or a new job. Our response to change consists of emotions, attitudes, and actions. The combination of these three factors will determine which season our marriage is in at any given time.

The thesis of this book is that the natural seasons—winter, spring, summer, and fall—provide us with an apt analogy for the changes that occur in our marriage relationships. As we experience life through the five senses—hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting, and touching—we feel emotions, develop attitudes, and take action. The interweaving of our emotions, attitudes, and actions creates the quality of our relationship in the various seasons of marriage.

It has become popular in Western culture over the past forty years to exalt emotions as the guiding light that determines our actions. After more than thirty years of counseling couples, I am convinced this is a misguided notion. Don't misunderstand me: I am not suggesting that emotions are not important. Emotions tell us that something is wrong or right in a relationship, but emotions must lead to reason, and reason must be guided by truth if we are to take constructive action. We must not short-circuit the process and jump straight from emotions to action without the benefit of reason. Many couples who have done this have found themselves in winter when they could have ended up in spring or summer.

Let's begin our journey by defining the four seasons of marriage. In the next four chapters, we will look at the common emotions, attitudes, and actions that create a particular season. We will do this by visiting with couples who have chosen to communicate to me the joys and sorrows of their season of marriage. Names and places have been changed to protect the privacy of the couples involved, but the stories are real and for the most part are told in the words of the people themselves.

Perhaps you will discover yourself in one of these seasons of marriage. If not, the Marital Seasons Profile at the end of Part I will help you identify the season of your marriage. In the second part of the book, I will introduce seven practical ideas for weaving your emotions, attitudes, and actions together to move from one season to another.

In Part III, we'll recap the seven strategies and answer some of the common questions I've been asked about the four seasons of marriage.

Finally, to help you use this book in a small-group setting, or to facilitate your own understanding, we've included a study guide intended to promote conversation about the four seasons of marriage and the seven strategies. My hope is that all these features will help you and your spouse enhance the seasons of your marriage.


Excerpted from The 4 Seasons of Marriage by GARY CHAPMAN Copyright © 2005 by Gary Chapman. Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The 4 Seasons of Marriage: Secrets to a Lasting Marriage 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
georgettegirl More than 1 year ago
Dr. Chapman describes the 4 seasons of marriage and the 7 strategies couples can use to turn their marriage into a spring/summer season of marriage. I think what I got out of this book is that a fulfilling marriage takes *a lot* of work! That's obvious now but it wasn't before I got married. I think all couples who are planning to get married should read this so they can put those strategies into practice before their marriage drifts into the fall/winter phase. This book would also help those marriages that are already in the fall/winter season of marriage---experiencing despair, hopelessness, isolation, etc.---and move into a spring/summer marriage. Dr. Chapman includes examples from marriages throughout to illustrate his ideas. The book also contains a study guide in the back. I think it's a good book to keep on your shelf to use as a reference.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
rlighthouse More than 1 year ago
Great Marriage Book! Dr. Gary Chapman compares marriage to the 4 seasons, spring, summer, winter  and fall. Even though one spouse might think that everything is great and they are in the summer season the other spouse might be discouraged and feel they are in the  winter season. The 7 strategies that Dr. Chapman recommends to help turn a bleak winter marriage into a thriving summer marriage along with plenty of real life examples are included in the book.  I enjoyed the book and it gave me plenty of resources and food for thought on ways that I can help my marriage stay in the summer season.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
iblog4books More than 1 year ago
As with other books I've read by Gary Chapman, I was impressed by <i>The Four Seasons of Marriage</i> . Dr. Chapman strikes a delicate balance between explaining his belief that marriages journey through &quot;seasons,&quot; practical helps for couples in each of those seasons, action steps for improving your marriage, and Scripture to provide the biblical basis for all of his thoughts. I found this to be an incredibly practical book--though many of the suggestions will not be easy ones to put into practice. I also appreciated the focus on personal responsibility, rather than blaming one's spouse for everything that's wrong in a relationship. This book is a must-read for all couples--regardless of how long you've been married or what season you find yourself in. [5 stars]
Nicnac63 More than 1 year ago
This book is beautifully written. The seasonal metaphors have a nice flow and feel, and the advice is given in practical and caring ways. Marriages go through many stages as we mature, raise families, become empty nesters, and eventually grow old together. That doesn&rsquo;t mean they go stale. We can nurture them to keep them continually growing. Even if you&rsquo;re in a happy and stable marriage (as I am) this book offers beneficial advice on how to keep it that way.  I really enjoyed the quiz used for couples to determine which stage they are in, or leading into, and the real-life examples that Chapman provides from his years of counseling clients. Overall, this is a very inspiring book, written in a smooth conversational tone. It presents authentic guidance for nurturing a marriage.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was good.  Very easy to read and easy to apply to our marriage.  Gary Chapman writes about how our marriages can be compared to the four seasons of the year.  He begins with a look at winter where there is often cold silence between husband and life and things are difficult.  He continues through spring, summer and fall showing how our marriages can be easy and joyful at the beginning, then showing how it can move between the seasons.  Many examples of others marriages are used and given to show us how they looked in each of the seasons.  Great book.
luvnjesus More than 1 year ago
The Four Seasons of Marriage was a quick read for me. My husband and I have been married for a wonderful 17 years and didn't feel like the book offered any new insights. This book would be good for a new marriage, or a couple who recently accepted the Lord and would be encouraged by a Biblical view of marriage.
pinkgirlLS More than 1 year ago
The Four Seasons of Marriage was an interesting look at marriage, comparing the ups and downs of marriage to the seasons. We&rsquo;ve been married 10 years, and I didn&rsquo;t feel like the book had any new insights. It was a good quick read, but maybe more helpful for a younger married couple or a couple that has recently been saved and would be encouraged by a biblical view of marriage.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Review by RuthSophia I'm not a person to read marriage books, and besides, I'm newly happily married. However, I decided to read it anyway. I enjoyed Chapman's 5 love languages book and figured there would be helpful information I could glean from him in this book as well. In his easy, conversational tone, Chapman walks you through what different seasons of marriage can look like. He then gives you practical advice on how to bring your marriage seeing a difficult time into a time of new life - these suggestions are certainly not limited to folks having a hard time though! Many were good reminders to me to not let complacency set in, but to stay actively engaged and communicate with my husband so that we don't get between a rock and hard place. I hope to add this book to my collection one day.
J4Life5 More than 1 year ago
I had already read Gary Chapman's book It Happens Every Spring, so I had some exposure to the idea of marriage being compared with the four seasons of the year. What I liked the best about this book is that it is so easy to understand. Chapman explains each season clearly, then gives real-life examples of couples living in that season, and then follows up with strategies that address each season. I think it is also very helpful that he included what the strategies looked like when implemented by someone working alone to improve their marriage in case their spouse was not as motivated to make changes. The discussion questions at the end were great to further improve communication. This book should be required reading before a divorce is granted! Hopefully everyone can experience a summer marriage after reading this book. On the negative side, I read this as an ebook version and the third column of the questionnaire was cut off so it was difficult to read all the words. However, that was the only negative. I have already gotten Chapman's book The Five Love Languages and can't wait to dig into that!
Virginia76 More than 1 year ago
Dr. Chapman's book describes the four seasons of marriage and how to tell which one your relationship is in. There are strategies for a marriage to be healthier, as well as tips for keeping a healthy marriage (once the reader has one). Very interesting reading and I am glad that I read this book.
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