Long Winter of Marriage

The wind is blowing here at the Well Marriage Center office again and Mary Baker tells me the high tomorrow is not expected to even hit 30 degrees.  I caught myself referring to this season as “Old Man Winter,” the personification my own father used to use when winter stayed too long.  It has been too long.  We all feel it.

Couples feel it.

Marriages feel it.

“Winter” has become a theme and analogy for some of the demanding work many couples are investing in right now.  I thought I would share a quick story and analogy…

Tim and Cindy are a couple I’ve been guiding for a few months now.  They’re experiencing their own “marital winter” – years of hurts and disillusionment have brought them to this difficult season.  They said marriage counseling was their last hope.

They had a choice: stay together and do the difficult work or split apart.  We spent time processing that decision, a decision only they could make.  I was reminded of an analogy from Dr. William Doherty, a prominent name in the marriage counseling field.  He’s from Minnesota and he talks about long-term marriage using his Minnesota winters for context.  He points out that we all move into marriage in the springtime of hope, but eventually get to winter with its chill and darkness.  Many couples are tempted to move south at this point and give up.  The problem with giving up, he points out, is that your next marriage will eventually hit its own winter at some point.  So do we just give up, or do we make our stand with this person, in this season?

Cindy and Tim decided that they wanted to stand together, but they were both scared and unsure.  Like Dr. Doherty, I recognized my role as being a guide to help them “cling together as a couple, warming each other against the cold of their winter and seeking out whatever sunlight was still available while they wrestled with their pain and disillusionment.”  It’s a powerful privilege…the role we marriage counselors provide.

The good news is that winter does break and spring does come.  Often marriages can experience this same hope.  We experienced marriage counselors know how incredible and magnificent that spring can be for couples who have done the demanding work winter requires.

Tim and Cindy are on their way…and that’s my message of hope for couples during this, Old Man Winter’s, one last gasp.

  • Adam J Read

    Marriage definitely has its seasons. This analogy here of winter is
    definitely a good one. Given the economy that we have endured for many
    years now…and having four young kids, my wife and I have also used the
    analogy of being in 4 wheel drive…in very low gear. Sometimes all
    you can do is take it one wheel rotation at a time and hope you don’t
    get stuck out in the emotional “middle of nowhere.” You go from being
    free-spirited and ultra-independent to figuring out what you’re really
    made of when you have to figure out how to survive.

    Stress changes you…especially if it hits you for very long periods of time
    and doesn’t relent. You may even end up feeling at some point that you
    have marital PTSD with triggers not unlike a war veteran returning
    home. It alters the way you think. It causes you to ask different
    questions than you asked before, and what you once thought was logical
    may no longer seem logical at all.

    The appearance of outward perfection is also very highly overrated, because pursuing that ends up making us feel fake. At the end of the day, we all simply need permission to care deeply about the world around us, but if we
    continually denigrate each others’ efforts, we end up shutting down and
    building defensive walls around us.