One of my favorite definitions of marriage is “moving through life together”. This journey is really just moving through a series of phases or seasons. More often than not, these phases are laid overtop of one another and you may even be in many concentric phases at once. Just like a summer, autumn, winter, and spring, the seasons of your life will not have a distinct beginning or end but will blend and dissolve as you move from one to the next.
As our seasons of lives change, marriage can become stressed. For couples who ignore, minimize, or resist this stress over time, an accumulation of relational damage can occur—like death by a thousand paper cuts. Marriage counseling can help you name and navigate these phases and bring meaning to your temporary, as well as perpetual, struggles.
The phases of a marriage come in all shapes and sizes: The Newlywed Phase. Bringing Home a Newborn Phase. Bringing Home Another Newborn Phase. Or maybe it’s a season of infertility or unemployment or adventure. There’s the Empty Nest Phase. After the Affair Phase. In the Throes of Active Addiction Phase. There’s unexpected wealth and opportunity. The cancer diagnosis. The grief caused by the death of a parent, or worse, a child. There’s the phase where you just feel like roommates living parallel lives. And the season when you’re seriously and surprisingly considering divorce.
Your therapist is one of the many resources that can help you make sense of the phases that you’re in and help transition from one to another. When couples allow the stresses of life to paralyze them, being able to name the phase and talk about it can help them get unstuck and point them toward hope. “Moving through life together” requires perseverance and clarity of vision.
If you’re seeking clarity, we can help. Take part in 8 Conversations to Deepen Your Marriage, a new workshop designed to help you and your spouse grow in intimacy.
Zach Brittle is a licensed mental health counselor (LMHC) in Seattle, WA where he lives with his wife and two daughters. He is a Certified Gottman Therapist and best-selling author of The Relationship Alphabet. Follow him on Facebook at Zach Brittle, LMHC or on Twitter @kzbrittle.