The Autumn Years of Marriage

“A long marriage relationship doesn’t make or break one’s character; the relationship merely exposes one’s character.” (Terry Powell)


Perhaps my greatest earthly support in battling depression is my wife, Dolly. Her unconditional love and loyalty anchor me and remind me of how blessed I am, even when I feel downcast.  On June 5, 2020, we celebrated 49 years of marriage bliss (48 years of bliss for me, one for her!)

If you struggle with depression and marriage is a desire, start asking God now for a spouse who will strive to understand you, who won’t judge you spiritually when you have rough days, who will pray for you, and who will show affection when you need it most.

If you have a teen or single adult child who’s depression-prone or suffering from a different mental illness, start praying regularly for his or her future spouse and for the strength and maturity that spouse will need.



A long marriage relationship doesn’t make or break one’s character; the relationship merely exposes one’s character. The years constituting middle age and beyond are particularly revealing. That’s when the kids are in college or living on their own. The schedule no longer revolves around their school or sports activities. You are suddenly forced to focus on the marriage and evaluate its status since it is the primary remaining relationship.

These autumn years also bring signs of aging, causing alarm to the extent a person has relied on looks or physical prowess for a sense of significance. During this phase of life, a marriage either deteriorates or grows stronger, depending on the foundation laid in earlier years and the values that control man and wife. Hopefully, marriage between Christians will echo the relationship reflected in Proverbs 31:10-11: An excellent wife who can find?  She is far more precious than jewels. The heart of her husband trusts in her, and he will have no lack of gain.

Failure or erosion of a marriage relationship is not inevitable. The poem below expands on a helpful analogy comparing marriage to an oak tree or a cedar. The poem’s first stanza describes the lifecycle of an oak tree that loses its leaves shortly after a brief period of eye-popping beauty, and the last stanza compares marriage to a cedar that doesn’t alter its appearance or change colors with the changing of seasons.



Lush leaves, a tree’s jade dress,
dance with the wind’s caress.
Then with fall, a change in color:
first, leaves appear much duller.
Then gold or red bleeds from the stem,
draining leaves of all their vim.
Next, a stiff breeze overwhelms.
See them severed from their limbs.
We scrunch them beneath our toes.
Brown. Brittle. They decompose.


Verdant love pulsates with life
between a man and his wife.
Then the autumn years arrive.
Will the warmth of love survive?
Will the glow of vows grow dim
when wrinkles show and they’re not slim?
Will dull routine and things mundane
erode the green and leave just stain?
Will the harsher winds sever
what’s supposed to last forever?
Like leaves, will love take flight?
Make the earth its burial site?
No! True love has its reasons
to thrive in changing seasons.
Not maple, oak, or Bradford pear:
True love is what cedars wear.


  • Is your marriage more like a cedar or an oak?
  • In your marriage, what must happen now to increase the likelihood of finishing well together?
Dr. Terry Powell

Dr. Terry Powell

Author and Professor

Terry is a Faculty Emeritus and an adjunct professor in Church Ministries at Columbia International University. He and his wife, Dolly, have been married for 50 years and share two sons, a daughter-in-law, and a grandson. Terry writes about faith and depression at Penetrating the Darkness. His latest book, Oh God, I’m Dying! How God Redeems Pain for Our Good and His Glory tells of God's sustaining grace in the life of co-author Dr. Mark Smith, who is an effective Christian university president despite suffering daily pain from a near-fatal accident.

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