Is your marriage in the season of summer, spring, winter, or fall? Find out in THE FOUR SEASONS OF MARRIAGE, from bestselling author Gary Chapman who penned THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES.
Chapman's tone is that of a friendly, empathetic counselor. First, he invites you to discover which season of marriage you and your spouse are in. These seasons don't progress in order; rather, your marriage is probably fluctuating back and forth between all four, he writes. After you identify your season, Chapman offers seven strategies to help you make the most of that season, and ideas for putting the strategies into practice. As he unpacks the characteristics of each season, Chapman includes profiles of married couples who have come to him for advice and counseling. His hope is to help couples move their marriages from fall or winter into spring or summer.
Marriage, Chapman writes, is both intimate and purposeful. When intimacy --- sharing life in a deep way --- is not attained, we feel troubled. Marriage is also purposeful. It helps us raise our children, and in nurturing and developing our gifts and abilities. "Life is easier when two hearts and minds are committed to working together to face the challenges of the day," he writes.
Spring is where most marriages begin. There is joy, excitement and an anticipation of the future. It's a time of new beginnings and positive changes. Summer means happiness, peace, satisfaction, fun and comfort. There is a sense of accomplishment and a desire to keep growing as a couple. You overlook your spouse's shortcomings, and there is a growing sense of togetherness.
Fall, of course, is a precursor to winter, characterized by sadness, apprehension and rejection. A spouse might feel insecure. The couple drifts apart, disengages. An affair may happen, catapulting the marriage into winter. Winter, he writes, is characterized by the emotions of hurt, anger, disappointment, loneliness and rejection. Our attitude is usually bad. We see problems as too big or unresolvable. Our actions include withdrawal, silence, harsh words and even violent acts. Divorce can be just around the corner. "The marriage is like two people living in separate igloos," writes Chapman.
If you find yourself in a fall or winter season, Chapman assures you this is not hopeless. This leads to the easy marital profile indicator quiz, which may seem a bit simplistic. Next, Chapman unpacks the seven strategies for enhancing the season you find yourself in, from dealing with past failures (confession, repentance, forgiveness), to a very concrete set of ideas about empathetic listening. The third strategy, "Learn to speak your spouse's love language," will feel familiar to readers of THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES, and recaps the ideas from that book. The seventh strategy is one that a spouse can read and implement alone if the other spouse is resistant to working on the marriage. A study guide at the end of the book is suitable for group discussion, with alternate questions for a couple's private use.
There are a few small troubles. Chapman is already touting his THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES by page 26 as he does throughout the book, as well as heavily pushing marriage conferences. Both are worthy things to recommend, but it does feel a bit self-promotional. (He's a popular speaker at marriage conferences.) Some of the analogies feel overly cute (the problems in the season of summer are "yellowjackets," for example; in spring, it's "poison ivy").
But these are minor flaws in a helpful book that should mainly appeal to Christians whose marriages are in trouble, or to fans of Chapman's THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES. Small groups and counselors will appreciate the study guide tucked into the back to help with further explorations.
Reviewed by Cindy Crosby on April 24, 2007