I’m sure you’ve all heard the term “The 7 Year Itch”, and indeed many of you may have directly experienced this phenomenon! While you might dismiss it, or question the expression of it, the truth is that I see it all too often in relationships.
What I HATE about the whole 7-Year-Itch thing, is that it only refers to the 7th year. That is, the year that Things Fall Apart. When in fact, this cycle is one of the most resourceful and valuable perspectives that we could possibly have in a relationship!
“What rubbish are you speaking?”I hear you say.
What are the Seasons of Love?
When it comes to relationships, there are no better models or metaphors than those we find in nature. I am going to self-indulgently combine gardening AND the seasons to give you a really clear strategy for a healthy, growing, love affair that lasts a lifetime.
We are all familiar with the idea that seeds sprout & grow in Spring, they mature and strengthen in Summer, reach completion & harvest in Autumn, begin to die in late Autumn, and then life fallow and rest in Winter. So too do relationships follow this cycle.
A full macro seasonal cycle in a relationship usually takes (can you guess?) 7 years! Within those 7 years, we also have 7 micro seasonal cycles.
What that means is, for each Season of Love there are conversations, behaviours, and actions that will make your relationship thrive & survive. There are also symptoms for each season that you have need more tools to take you through the seasonal cycle, or that you are stuck in one season.
The Spring of Love
The first Spring of your relationship is also known as “The Honey Moon Period”. Your partner is new and exciting and you are totally loved up.
Through the lens of the 6 Core Needs, all four of your primary needs are met; certainty, variety, significance, and love & connection. No wonder we are feeling so ‘in love’! Your new love is also quite likely speaking all of the love languages to you, and your cup feels full.
In the spring, the focus is on new things; plans, adventures, dreams. As a couple, you are in START mode, which means your energy is high and the leading emotion is Hope. Anything is possible in the Spring![Watch this space for a deep dive into Spring, coming in September 2019]
The Summer of Love
The Summer in your relationship is about freedom & growth. It kicks in for most people at about 6 – 18 months after the start of Spring. As a couple, you are beginning to define the roles and identities that you each express in your relationship.
If this is your first summer, then you will notice that the giddy high energy of Spring has settled down, and you are moving into MAINTENANCE mode. From a gardening / relationship perspective, that means that you now need to take care of all of the seeds you planted willy nilly in the Spring.
That means you are now doing the real work on your plans & dreams. If you create together, then your relationship will be rich and last the test of time. For couples, becoming Creators means giving birth to something that you nurture, outside of your relationship. That may be children, a business, a project, a renovation, fur babies, or something else you love.
Through the lens of the 6 Core Needs, the focus has shifted, and you are now experiencing certainty, love & connection, and contribution.
The most important thing, is to keep the water up to your plants. That is, a good drink of water every day or few. In really hot weather, you need to water daily. You must also do this in your relationship. ‘Watering’ metaphorically translates to the small acts of love done daily.
It is the cumulative effect of these actions over time that creates true intimacy & connection.[Watch this space for a deep dive into Summer, coming in December 2019]
The Autumn of Love
This is the season that will make or break your relationship, and it usually lasts from 18 months to 3 years.
In the words of House Stark: Winter is Coming.
The Autumn of Love can be rewarding beyond your dreams, or devastating beyond belief.
The energy is one of FINISHING. The purpose of autumn is to harvest your creation! That might mean the birth of children, the fulfilment of a dream, the purchase of a home, the financial rewards of a business or career venture.
This is also where many couples run into trouble. Perhaps their ‘harvest’ isn’t to their liking. Maybe in the Spring you joyfully sowed fields of tomato seeds, only to find that you don’t really like tomatoes. Other couples find that they have a big gap between their expectations and their reality; that years of hard work in the summer have left them with little financially, emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise. Some find that they are in a relationship where one partner isn’t willing to roll up their sleeves and work. Still other couples don’t follow the rhythms of nature, and live in a perpetual summer-. Always working, never enjoying the fruits of their labour.
Through the lens of the 6 Core Needs, it is likely that variety is low (unless you bring energy & attention here), and certainty, love & connection, significance, contribution, and growth are strong.
The trap here is to equate your disappointment in your harvest, with the potential of your relationship, or the nature of your partner. This is the time when many couples decide “we just aren’t compatible”, “I love them, but I’m not in love with them” or that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.
It is such a deep loss to walk away at this time, without seeing this as an opportunity to move forwards together! Rarely do couples ‘get it right’ the first time around![Click here for a deep dive into the Autumn of Love]
The Winter of Love
And so we find ourselves now at the time of the 7 year itch… Winter is the time for death, and for dreaming. The energy is of REFLECTION. It is not a time for action, it is time to hibernate, rest, and recover.
It can be the death of a dream, of an old version of you, of a project. That can be a painful thing, and also worth celebrating with the bittersweet joy of something well-loved and now finished. Without purposeful reflection and closing of chapters, we find ourselves merrily led by our noses to a future not of our choosing.
Most of the couples I work with come to me in the winter of their relationship. They have harvested their rewards, and find themselves stuck in roles that they hate, or with results that they find unfulfilling. They are giving each other the metaphorical cold shoulder, and the temperature is well below freezing. I find it heart breaking to see, because the winter is the most beautiful time to deeply & intimately connect with your partner.
This season of love usually kicks in at around 7 years, and can be the last season of a relationship. Resourceful couples will move through the seasons every 7 years or so, and they understand how to get the most from each season, then transition into the next.
It is time to reflect on the past and let go of what no longer serves. In the winter, we integrate our experience as wisdom so that we continue to evolve as individuals and as partners.
It is time to identify gaps in skills, and educate yourselves. In the winter, we reconnect to our love and get to know them all over again, this wiser and older version of the one we fell in love with. We dream together and fantasise about how we want the next 7 years to look, and what we want to actualise in our lives. We celebrate our love, our joy, our hardship, our grief, and the lessons we want to bring with us.
This framework is so precious to me, and helps me to navigate & evolve through love, business, health, and all of the aspects of my life. Adopting the purposeful dreaming, action, and reflection cycle has helped me to be more centred and present to my life. I’m not trying to do ALL OF THINGS, ALL OF THE TIME!
I want this for you too.