Through All The Changing Seasons of Life

Stress, Survival or Strength? ........ My husband once married a famous actress. And I got to be there for the fun occasion! As a pastor, my husband has married lots of people, and I've attended more weddings than most folks. I've heard countless sets of wedding vows, many traditional, some a bit different. No matter the exact words, I'm always led to reconsider my own marriage commitment.

One of the contemporary phrases my husband offers to couples composing their vows, in place of "for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health.. "is through all the changing seasons of life..." I like that seasonal image, for in 23 years of marriage, my husband and I have seen a few seasons come and go. On the calendar, 92 and a whole lot of different phases and stages of life together.

The passage of time naturally brings different seasons to a marriage. Simply growing older causes change. How many of us can expect to look or act the same on a 25th or 50th anniversary as on our wedding day? For better and for worse, we will change.

Often changes of marital season revolve around children. After 11 years of "just the two of us," bringing home a baby was an adjustment! As our two children enter different seasons of their lives, so will we. Eventually we will experience the empty nest, a new season altogether. Perhaps we will see our children marry, maybe making us grandparents someday.

Beyond family composition, changes in employment who is working and who is not, how much income is available, a new job in a different city usher in a new seasons in a marriage. Between us, we've had 18 different jobs in six states, sometimes both working, sometimes one or the other. Full-time jobs, part-time jobs, multiple jobs and work from home have provided many varied seasons.

Educational pursuits and particular projects are seasons unto themselves. The first half of our marriage included two master's degrees and a doctorate. More recently, we've each had a book published. For others, there may be "seasonal" projects of building or remodeling a house or of learning a new trade or hobby.

Sooner or later, it's practically guaranteed that all marriages will know seasons of crisis. They may be somewhat expected, such as dealing with aging parents or learning to live without them. Or they may be unanticipated, such as job loss, serious illness or tragic death. Our own first baby, who lived but a day, brought an unnaturally dark season to our lives a dozen years ago.

In today's fast-paced world, things do not stay the same for long. For married people in particular, there are many changing seasons for each individual and for the relationship. While new seasons can be welcome such as a graduation, a baby, a promotion, or retirement they are also stressful. The challenge for a couple is to embrace change both good and bad and allow it to strengthen rather than break the relationship.

Incompatibility, Irreconcilable Differences and Growing Apart

People who divorce for reasons of irreconcilable differences or incompatibility were presumably once not so different from each other. Early in their relationships, they had considered themselves compatible, or they would not have married in the firs place. So what happened along the way? Very often such couples claim that they "grew apart." Seasons changed, for one or both partners, and they moved in opposite directions, rather than staying together on a single path.

The changes that influence partner away from each other may be the result of normal, natural circumstances related to processes such as parenting or aging. A couple that did very well together pre-children may drift apart as the family grows. People who enjoyed each other as college students may be less enthralled with each other in their fifties.

Changing economic circumstances in either direction may also wreak havoc on a marriage, with finances being the single biggest factor identified as a cause of marital stress. As time goes on, through various seasons of life, the financial goals of one spouse may no longer match those of the other. Even with more disposable income, a marriage that "clicked" before a job promotion may find itself in trouble with long work hours and more travel.

We've all heard it said of an especially difficult situation that it will "make or break" a marriage. Parents of children with significant special needs are said to have an 80% chance of divorcing. Parents of children who die also have an exceptionally high rate of divorce. yet others facing equally daunting circumstances solidify their marriage commitments and become stronger through the struggle.

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