The 4 Seasons of Love: The Natural Rhythms of Intimate Relationships
The Seasons of Love framework looks to the rhythms of nature to map relationship cycles, and provides guidance on how to live & love into those rhythms. What that means is that for each of the seasons of love, there are conversations, reflections, and actions required to grow into each stage of the cycle.
What are The Seasons of Love
The Seasons of Love is a framework that maps common relational experiences & progression to meteorological seasons.
In mapping the development of relationships to climatic seasons, we see that there are no better models or metaphors than those we find in nature. As relationships evolve, they move both in a linear fashion from their conception to their death, as well as through circular temporal and energetic cycles.
A full cycle of The Seasons of Love takes about 7 years.
I'm sure you've heard the term "The 7 Year Itch", this phenomenon reflects the stalemate that many couples experience after their first (or tenth!) full cycle of The Seasons of Love.
While time is an imaginary construct, we also live within social, cultural, religious, educational, spiritual, and biological systems that rely on an agreed concept of time to measure "when we do things". Many developmental models for human biology, neurology, and psychology map to this 7 year cycle, and it also fits very nicely with cultural expectations for relationship development.
This framework for the Seasons of Love looks to nature and the rhythms of gardening as a metaphorical guide to the types of activities we could consider at each stage of a relationship. What that means is that for each of the seasons of love, there are conversations, behaviours, and actions that will help your relationship to survive & thrive.
What are the Seasons on Awabakal Country?
The frames of reference we choose have deep consequences for the way that we engage with & understand the world. I am currently learning about and exploring Indigenous weather knowledge - I am a keen & new gardener and it is apparent that the land I live on does not at all follow European & colonial seasonal markers.
Australia is a hugely diverse environment, and for that reason the seasonal cycles & indicators of each region can differ significantly. We are also in the midst of rapid and catastrophic changes in weather due to climate change.
This model of The Seasons of Love was taught to me by my dear mentor Alice Haemmerle, and I have developed it and added to it over the years. As I continue to learn, to ponder, and to build upon the models I work with, I'd like to evolve this Seasons of Love model to better reflect the cycles & seasons of the land of the Awabakal People where I live, work, and play.
As much as is possible for YOU, I recommend you learn from, and about, the land you live on, the traditional custodians of that land, and the seasons & cycles of their country.
Spring in the Seasons of Love
Spring in the Seasons of Love lasts for between 12 and 18 months of the 7 year cycle. In the first relational cycle, the spring is known as 'The Honeymoon Period'.
In the garden, there are signs of new life. Buds begin to break from the dormancy of winter, seeds sprout from the soil, and the first flowers bloom as the weather begins to get warmer.
Energetically, the spring of love is about STARTING things. This is the time to commence new projects, begin new roles, experiment with routines, and play together in a creative space.
Relationally, spring is the time for sowing the seeds of new ideas, plans, adventures and dreams. Energy is high, enthusiasm & creativity abound, and hope colours all our days rosy. Anything seems possible in spring!
TL;DR Spring of Love
Macro Cycle: 12 to 18 months of a 7 year cycle
Micro Cycle:Annually in the spring (September, October, November), or March & September of the calendar year.
Theme: Renewal & Rebirth
Action: Sowing Seeds
Summer in the Seasons of Love
Summer in the Seasons of Love lasts for between 2-3 years of the 7 year cycle. As a couple, it is in this period that you are defining the roles and routines that you will express within your relationship.
In the garden, work shifts from sowing to growing. The weather begins to get hot, and it is crucial during this period to keep all of your plants watered. Ideally there is a balance between effort & reward, with productive plants fruiting & flowering throughout this season.
Energetically, the summer of love is about MAINTAINING things. That means you are now doing the real work of living into your values, playing, working, and actualising your dreams.
Relationally, summer is the time to bring consistent time, energy, and attention to your projects, as well as to each other. Ideally you have a balance between effort & reward, with shorter term plans coming to fruition, as you continue to work towards longer term outcomes.
TL;DR Summer of Love
Identity: Best Friends & Creators
Macro Cycle: 2 to 3 years of a 7 year cycle
Micro Cycle: Annually in the summer (December, January, February), or March/April & September/October of the calendar year.
Theme: Roles & Routines
Focus: Maintaining, Manage a Sustainable Level of Effort
Action: Work & Play
Autumn in the Seasons of Love
Autumn in the Seasons of Love lasts for 12 - 18 months of the 7 year cycle. This is the season that provides you with tangible evidence of your efforts, and can be reward beyond your dreams or devastating beyond belief.
In the words of House Stark: Winter is Coming.
In the garden, we reap the full bounty of our harvest. This is also the season to share & preserve what we have grown beyond our immediate needs, to provide for our family and friends over winter.
Energetically, the autumn of love is about FINISHING things. That means finishing projects, ideas, transitions, adventures, as well as anything that no longer serves you.
Relationally, autumn is the time for celebration and gratitude. It is about the closing of a chapter, and about taking pleasure in the sweetness of life.
TL;DR Autumn of Love
Macro Cycle: 1 to 1.5 years of a 7 year cycle
Micro Cycle: Annually in the autumn (March, April, May), or May/June & November/ December of the calendar year.
Winter in the Seasons of Love
Winter in the Seasons of Love lasts for 12 months of the 7 year cycle. This is often a season that couples skip in their headlong rush to do & get more, though in the end winter always comes.
Much of my couples therapy work takes place 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.
In the garden, the winter is a time to slow down. Annual plants drop their seeds & die, while many other plants become dormant. There are, of course, still some productive fruits, vegetables, and flowers, but these are much reduced.
Energetically, the winter of love is about REST & REFLECTION. That means taking a purposeful pause from jumping into 'next', and slowing down to reset your body and relationship, and to plan for the next cycle..
Relationally, winter is time for death. It can be the death of a dream, an old version of you, a project. While that can be painful, there is also the bitter sweetness of something loved and finished.
In the winter, we integrate our experience as wisdom so that we continue to evolve as individuals and as partners. It's time now to identify strengths, as well as where there are gaps so that we can resource ourselves with both education & strategy.
In a purposeful winter, we reconnect to our beloved 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.
[Click here for a deep dive into The Winter of Love]
TL;DR Winter of Love
Identity: Observer, Dreamer
Macro Cycle: 1 year of a 7 year cycle
Micro Cycle: Annually in the winter (June, July, August), or January & July of the calendar year.
Theme: Rest & Reflect
Focus: Plan & Dream