By Rob Furlong
It is late February as I write this and technically it is still Winter but as I look out of my window it is a beautiful sunny day and there are unmistakable signs that Spring is straining to break free from the shackles that have bound it to the cold, wet and gloom of the past three months.
Our lives and relationships often exhibit this kind of cycle. There are seasons of joy and delight – Spring – but there are also times of coldness and sadness when we keenly feel winter's icy bite. It may come as a surprise but the wintry times in our relationships are not necessarily a bad thing – they can be times of reassessment and reflection that can actually draw a couple closer together – and a season like this in a relationship does not mean that it is going to be filled with arguing and negativity.
All relationships go through a natural ebb and flow where there are times of extreme closeness but also times of distance. So how do you handle the wintry times? Sadly, many people think that what they are experiencing means that they no longer love their partner – this is not so! A more likely scenario is that your relationship "bucket" may simply be too full.
Relationships with friends and family (and even close relationships between husband and wives) require a lot of emotional energy and it could be that in this wintry season of your marriage you have been giving out to too many people and your emotional tank is empty. So do yourself a favor – take a break – at least a day or even better a weekend – and carve out some time for yourself to be alone, to rest up and to reflect.
This is often called the discipline of solitude and it is described as an "oasis for the soul where we see ourselves, others and especially our God in new ways." Times of solitude are opportunities for us to clear away the clutter that we have accumulated in our lives, refill our emotional tanks and then return to our daily routine and relationships with freshness and vitality.
When I find myself becoming withdrawn in my relationship with Karen or I feel myself "turning inward" on myself it is a warning bell to me that I need to get some alone time – solitude - where I am free to do some self-analysis, thinking, praying and reading. These bouts of "inwardness" usually follow times where I have been giving out to many different people over a sustained period of time – my emotional resources have been seriously depleted – and I need to discipline myself through some solitude in order to replenish my emotional reserves.
I also make sure that I tell Karen where I am "at" rather than leaving her to think that I am simply in a bad mood and do not want to speak with her. By being open about how I am feeling I am also communicating that there is nothing wrong with her and she is also freed up to support and encourage me. Of course, this also works in reverse when she is also in need of her own time out!
On a more practical note, if you are aware that your spouse may require some time out then why not say something like, "Honey, why not take this Saturday as time for yourself? I will look after the kids while you go for a walk/bike ride/sit in a coffee shop/ (you fill in the blanks!) and you can have some alone time!" Allowing for the fact that your husband or wife may faint with surprise at your suggestion you will also have significantly invested in your relationship together.
Yes, winter is a fact of life in our world and in our relationships but there is always the promise and hope of spring!