One of the things I love about Israel is that we have such a short period of time when there isn’t beautiful vegetation everywhere. The leaves barely finish falling from the trees when buds appear heralding the arrival of a whole new crop. In our garden, the plum tree and pomegranate tree have just completed shedding their leaves and already the pomegranate tree has its buds at the ready.
In Israel, however, the tree that is the true harbinger of spring is the almond tree. Each year, it is the first to blossom. During the time that it is bare, the almond tree is barely noticeable. As I would drive through the Jerusalem Forest, home from teaching, I would see only bare empty branches of unidentifiable trees. But today, on my way home, there they were– the delicate white almond blossoms attesting to the fact that spring will come once again. In bloom, the trees are beautiful. They are graceful and elegant.
And they made me think about marriages. Why? Because I am a marriage and family therapist– everything makes me think about marriages!! But I thought about the fact that marriages too have seasons. There are times when the branches are bare. The marriage exists, it remains, but it is not giving off anything special. The husband and wife continue to function, to raise their family, to meet their obligations, but life is just there, to pass through the days and weeks. Couples who are experiencing a winter in their relationship sometimes come into therapy defeated. The love and passion seem to be gone. The feeling of being part of something special has faded. As a therapist, I try to give them hope. Sometimes I have to help them to move toward their spring. But given the will and the desire, their spring does arrive. Suddenly their love buds once more and blooms in a deeper richer way than ever before. They learn how to make that spring appear. They learn that even though circumstances may someday impose another winter, that following it, they can make spring appear once again.
But how do they bring on the spring? Both husband and wife have to take 100% of the responsibility. They cannot wait for the other to do his/her part. Each needs to make the relationship their top priority. They have to try to recapture inside themselves the warm feelings they had for their spouse. They have to do kind things for the spouse, express their love and appreciation, reminisce about happy times, share hopes, plans, and desires. Each must be ready to listen to the other with an open heart. They must hear each other out and then respond honestly without trying to defeat or hurt the other. They must try to problem solve– understanding that sometimes there is a compromise and sometimes they will be able to have things their way and sometimes they will cede their own wishes as a gift of love.
Every couple has winters in their relationships. As they grow in their love and commitment to each other, their winters can become shorter and the springs can become the dominant seasons of their lives.