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 on days when I’m feeling downcast.  On June 5, 2020, we celebrated 49 years of marriage bliss (48 years of bliss for me, one for her!)

If you’re single and 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’ll 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 your child’s spouse will need.




A long marriage relationship doesn’t make or break one’s character; the relationship merely exposes one’s character. Those 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 a bit more and evaluate its status, since it’s the primary relationship remaining.

Those 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. It is during this phase of life that a marriage either deteriorates or grows stronger, depending on the foundation laid in earlier years and the values that control the man and wife. Hopefully, marriage between Christians will echo the qualitative relationship reflected in Ephesians 4:32: Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Failure or erosion of a marriage relationship is not inevitable, depending on whether the marriage is analogous to an oak tree or to a cedar. The oak’s leaves turn brown and fall to the ground in the autumn, but the cedar sprouts green shoots year round. The following poem expands the tree analogy a bit further.

The first stanza describes the lifecycle of a tree that loses its leaves shortly after a brief period of eye-popping beauty. 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 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.

Marriage with illness, pain, or disability can be difficult, but it can also be an opportunity to learn patience, forgiveness, and sacrifice - gifts to savor and celebrate.


Navigating marriage with chronic illness can be dark and lonely. Yet it can also be an opportunity to learn patience, forgiveness, tenderness, humility and sacrifice – gifts of a love forged by fire, a love to celebrate and savor. 


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