“Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein or Rita Mae Brown

“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” – Bible

Max and Brenda: “I am happy to be in the summer season of my marriage. We feel comfortable with each other, but I know we cannot simply drift through this season. We know each other well, and we must continue to seek out each other and not simply get into a rut.”

The quote from Max and Brenda is from Gary Chapman’s book, “The Four Seasons of Marriage.” Dr. Chapman defines the summer season of marriage as that time when the husband and wife are happy in their relationship. There is trust and commitment and both feel loved and supported by the other.

Perhaps one of the main reasons the marriage of Max and Brenda is in the summer season is that they recognize that it doesn’t stay there habitually. Men particularly can begin to think that as long as they keep doing the same thing they’ve always done, they will live “happily ever after.”

The problem with this reasoning is that things change, the way we’ve been doing it may not have been the best, and we mess up! As Mitch Temple says in an article from Focus on the Family, “When you and your spouse disagree, or get hurt, or become frustrated, or reach an impasse, the easiest thing to do is what you have always done!”

Doing what we’ve always done may be the very cause of the problem. For example, the wife may be able to tolerate her husband’s dirty socks lying on the bedroom floor for a while, but eventually she expects him to pick them up – they’re HIS socks!

We get into a rut and don’t even realize it. It’s so comfortable and seems the best place to be. But ruts can get deeper and deeper, and we get bogged down. Sometimes the ruts aren’t even headed in the right direction, but we can’t get out of them.

Joe’s immediate reaction to any criticism from his wife was to get defensive. It didn’t matter how constructive the criticism was meant to be. His marriage went through some serious difficulties before he got out of his self-protection rut, and realized his wife was on his side. She was trying to help him, not hurt him.

Or maybe the problem is with Jane. She manages the finances in the family and normally does a great job. But then some major purchases are made, by Jane and her husband together, and they get into a financial bind.

She has always handled these matters herself, so she tries to shield her husband by fixing the problem on her own. He finds out later, gets upset at her for not telling him, and she gets more frustrated.

How do we get out of these ruts, or maybe not even get in them in the first place? Here are a few simple suggestions:

• Force yourself, both of you, to do something different; get out of the house, go to a play, try a new restaurant.

• Read a book together with your spouse that stimulates your thoughts

• If something isn’t working, or is causing strife or frustration, seek help. Talk with a trusted friend. That independent and more objective view point can often shed some new light.

• Be open to change.

Probably the most important protection from dangerous ruts is simply awareness that you are in one. Have a serious conversation with your spouse.

Are you doing something that annoys them and you don’t even know it? Is your spouse bored? Maybe she (or he) is more the party-goer than you are. Talk about it and split up the party time and the home time to your mutual satisfaction.

Ruts can eventually get so deep that they become graves, and no one likes a dead marriage. So get out while you can.

The Family and Marriage Coalition of Aiken, Inc. provides resources for you to succeed in your marriage and families. Roger Rollins, executive director of FAMCO, 803-640-4689, rogerrollins@aikenfamco.com, www.aikenfamco.com.