Bouncing Around Relationship Steps

stages

Where are you in the cycle of relationship stages?  If you are anything like we are, the lines get merged and you can end up bouncing around to a stage out of order… sometimes skipping ahead and other times falling behind in the progression.

Realizing that there are reasons for these stages was kind of surprising and a little reassuring that we are not alone in the stages game. Controlling them is out of the question, but I confess to trying to on way too many occasions.

Stage 1: The Romance Honeymoon

This is the romantic, passionate, stars-in-the-eyes phase. The sex is good and there is never enough of it. This doesn’t happen for all couples but as a rule, this strong attraction stage is laced with thinking about and wanting to be with, your new love.

wow – – romance honeymoon?   this stage was so long ago!  Just reading this reminds me that it is an important stage that should be revisited often!

Stage \2:  Power Struggle – accommodation 

Even Romeo and Juliet had they been married, would have had to deal with the day-to-day realities. In the Accommodation Stage roles are established, expectations are set and compromises are made. It is here that disillusionment sets in and power struggles become evident. The other person’s habits, needs, anger and withdrawal patterns become uncomfortably clear. Intense conflict has the potential for developing during this stage. It is most advantageous to learn about problem solving, conflict management and communication during this stage.

The power struggle will always be there, it just morphs into how you deal with it.  Accommodate and compromise…. understand and respect.  These are the important points to bring to this phase ever time it comes up.

Stage 3: The Stability challenge (Trouble in paradise)

A couple doesn’t really know how strong a relationship is until they deal with the challenges that life brings. Whether it is starting a new job, unemployment or the unfortunate occurrence of an accident or family illness, we all face challenges in life. The Challenge Stage lets the partners know what they can expect from each other during these demanding times.

Children and family crises are important factors during this stage. Each partner sets their own rules and expectations for raising children and how extended family issues should be handled. The challenge here is to be aware of this fact and find a successful compromise in meeting each other’s rules and expectations.

During the Challenge Phase there is a certain amount of disillusionment. The relationship is not what it was dreamed to be and one or both partners may be increasingly attracted to other people of the opposite sex. Sometimes, there is fantasizing about past loves. This is a time when the relationship is very vulnerable to unfaithfulness. How couples deal with this phase will determine the direction that it will take in the Crossroads Phase.

Just knowing this can happen is a big part of preventing it from taking your relationship way off track.  Recognize the warning signs and get back with your partner to work on things and obstacles together.

Stage 4: The Commitment Crossroads (What do I do at this stage of my life?)

Once couples reach this stage they have already experienced some challenges (e.g. medical or money problems) and now other life decisions will have to be made (e.g. to have children, where to live, how to spend money). This stage is different from the Challenge Phase because a number of challenges have already occurred and the couple has learned how each other responds in these situations. The emotional patterns of each are clear and they have established patterns of dealing with their differences. It is common for problems to arise in this stage, but because you have already experienced a great many shared challenges, you stand the best chance of working through these issues and getting to the Rebirth Stage. The three most common negative patterns for individuals to engage in during this stage are:

  1. Being resigned to sticking with the bad decision of staying in the relationship;
  2. Emotional withdrawal;
  3. Trying to force the other person into being different.

Another time you have to just get back in the huddle -WITH your spouse.  These are challenges that need to be overcome together.  Prayer is another important ingredient here.  This is a golden opportunity to make sure you have GOD with you and HIS will leading you through some of the darker times and unstable moments.

Stage 5: Rebirth Bliss (New marriage)

It is estimated that only 15% of all couples reach this stage. At this point, folks have figured out “the real person” they have married. To achieve it they will have successfully dealt with the Accommodation, Challenge and Crossroads Stages. In this phase, couples learn how and when to compromise and they truly (not on the surface) accept areas of differences with minimum resentment. In this stage couples learn to re-appreciate and re-love each other and:

• Focus on what is right with each other;
• Give each other the benefit of the doubt in conflict situations;
• Successfully manage and truly accept frustrations, disappointments and hurts;
• Agree to disagree and fully value each other even if they are totally unable to see things the same way;
• Have a give and take sexual relationship on a regular basis;
• Communicate in such a way they really listen to and hear each other;
• Can disagree with each other and be O.K with that;
• Recover from their disagreements within a short period of time;
• Constantly find things to appreciate about each other;
• Spend time relaxing and having fun on a weekly basis;
• Spend time talking about issues that come up in their relationship.

Once at stage 5-  GIVE THANKS!  GIVE PRAISE!  and hold on to this stage!  How to do that?  Marriage maintenance is our answer – keep growing, keep learning, and keep sharing with others to help them.

We are so blessed to be there finally.  Let me just say that stages 3&4 were hell.  Sometimes even worse than that.  Everyone suffered….everyone!

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Maintenance; It’s All About Maintenance

maintenance

If we were to give any word of advice or an honest reflection on how to save a marriage it would half to be the need for maintenance.  It is all about maintenance.

If you own anything with an engine or moving parts, you are smart to have a maintenance plan.  If you have a job that requires any thought or action (name me one that doesn’t), you should have some training or education to keep up.  Maintenance.  Our own health requires personal care and ‘well’ visits to our health care provider.  Maintenance again.  Raising children?  Yep.  Lots of maintenance needs there.  Pets?  Maintenance.  Do you see where I am headed here?

It is standard operating procedure to maintain the things and skills important to us.  Why don’t we do the same for our relationships?  Especially our marriages?

Marriage maintenance – it’s a novel idea.

When my husband and I embarked on our remarriage, we added a caveat to our marriage contract.  We added the maintenance plan.

It was during our post divorce counseling sessions that the discussion focused on what we would have or should have done different during our marriage to prevent its demise.  I realized that we had done the pre-marriage preparation (Pre-Cana, Catholic pre-marriage counsel with our church and a couple who volunteered to guide us through the process), but by the time we searched out help, it was for a referee not marriage counsel.  The missing piece was to go for some kind, any kind, of marriage maintenance.   Post marriage counseling.   Kind of like a maintenance plan.

So, how does that look?  Well, for us, we attended a couple of marriage seminars, retreats and we facilitate a 12 week marriage group study in our home a couple times a year.  I can’t say that any one of them worked better than the others, however, they all have contributed to our marriage maintenance plan with success.

Marriage is not always easy or effortless.  It definitely is not for the weak either.  Like anything important to us, we need to nurture and care for it. We need to value it and celebrate it too.  Sometimes we even need to sacrifice for it.  I assure you, it is worthwhile.

It was enlightening to learn that there are psychological phases to our relationships.  I didn’t know this until we were in the rebuilding phase and it made so much sense.  These phases explain so much of why our first marriage fell apart the way it did.

The challenge for any relationship is to make it to phase 5.  I encourage everyone to strive for that.  I am thoroughly enjoying that our marriage is there finally and vow to continue our maintenance plan.

List borrowed from another site-

Phase 1: The Honeymoon

This is the romantic, passionate, stars-in-the-eyes phase. The sex is good and there is never enough of it. This doesn’t happen for all couples but as a rule, this strong attraction stage is laced with thinking about and wanting to be with, your new love.

Phase 2: Accommodation 

Even Romeo and Juliet had they been married, would have had to deal with the day-to-day realities. In the Accommodation Stage roles are established, expectations are set and compromises are made. It is here that disillusionment sets in and power struggles become evident. The other person’s habits, needs, anger and withdrawal patterns become uncomfortably clear. Intense conflict has the potential for developing during this stage. It is most advantageous to learn about problem solving, conflict management and communication during this stage.

Phase 3: The Challenge (Trouble in paradise)

A couple doesn’t really know how strong a relationship is until they deal with the challenges that life brings. Whether it is starting a new job, unemployment or the unfortunate occurrence of an accident or family illness, we all face challenges in life. The Challenge Stage lets the partners know what they can expect from each other during these demanding times.

Children and family crises are important factors during this stage. Each partner sets their own rules and expectations for raising children and how extended family issues should be handled. The challenge here is to be aware of this fact and find a successful compromise in meeting each other’s rules and expectations.

During the Challenge Phase there is a certain amount of disillusionment. The relationship is not what it was dreamed to be and one or both partners may be increasingly attracted to other people of the opposite sex. Sometimes, there is fantasizing about past loves. This is a time when the relationship is very vulnerable to unfaithfulness. How couples deal with this phase will determine the direction that it will take in the Crossroads Phase.

Phase 4: The Crossroads (What do I do at this stage of my life?)

Once couples reach this stage they have already experienced some challenges (e.g. medical or money problems) and now other life decisions will have to be made (e.g. to have children, where to live, how to spend money). This stage is different from the Challenge Phase because a number of challenges have already occurred and the couple has learned how each other responds in these situations. The emotional patterns of each are clear and they have established patterns of dealing with their differences. It is common for problems to arise in this stage, but because you have already experienced a great many shared challenges, you stand the best chance of working through these issues and getting to the Rebirth Stage. The three most common negative patterns for individuals to engage in during this stage are:

  1. Being resigned to sticking with the bad decision of staying in the relationship;
  2. Emotional withdrawal;
  3. Trying to force the other person into being different.

Phase 5: Rebirth (New marriage)

It is estimated that only 15% of all couples reach this stage. At this point, folks have figured out “the real person” they have married. To achieve it they will have successfully dealt with the Accommodation, Challenge and Crossroads Stages. In this phase, couples learn how and when to compromise and they truly (not on the surface) accept areas of differences with minimum resentment. In this stage couples learn to re-appreciate and re-love each other and:

• Focus on what is right with each other;
• Give each other the benefit of the doubt in conflict situations;
• Successfully manage and truly accept frustrations, disappointments and hurts;
• Agree to disagree and fully value each other even if they are totally unable to see things the same way;
• Have a give and take sexual relationship on a regular basis;
• Communicate in such a way they really listen to and hear each other;
• Can disagree with each other and be O.K with that;
• Recover from their disagreements within a short period of time;
• Constantly find things to appreciate about each other;
• Spend time relaxing and having fun on a weekly basis;
• Spend time talking about issues that come up in their relationship.

As for us, we look forward to continuing to share our story, to pray for marriage (ours and others), and to participating in our marriage maintenance plans.

God Bless Marriage and the Marriage Maintenance Programs!

 

 

 

 

“Us” on the Back Cover

book coverOur story is similar to so many others…. but, to us, it is special.

We went to high school together and had numerous mutual friends, however, we didn’t really meet until our mid 20s.  After a whirlwind year of dating and meeting family and friends, we married in a large Catholic wedding.

All the proper steps were covered-  a time for courtship, the formal request for hand in marriage, attended “Pre-Cana” (marriage preparation for Catholics), and the full mass to celebrate our sacramental union.  The combination of cultures was represented and the symbolic activities included  being wrapped in Mexican wedding lasso (double rosary), receiving first coins, candle ceremony, and of course, the something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.

After the wedding day, we stored everything -the ceremony, the symbols, and the actual blessings into storage and they were not pulled out again until it was too late.

We continued on our whirlwind – raising a family, getting in and out of debt, growing older and building walls and resentments along the way.  We forgot the lessons we learned and we ignored God’s encouragement to look to Him.  Even though we attended mass often… we only warmed the pews, not our hearts.

Well, it was inevitable – after 22 years we became a statistic… part of the greater than 50% of marriages that end in divorce.  That was when we went to court and severed our marriage.  This part of our journey included all the bitterness and feuding we could muster too.  Friendships were challenged – some lost even.  Children (even as young adults) were hurt.  Everything we knew and were familiar with changed.

This is where the story gets interesting though.  After that courtroom divorce, we managed to survive – each in our own way.   Maybe the real word is exist. We just barely did that for a little while.

Pay attention because this is where some really miraculous stuff started happening.  We started to rebuild and find ourselves.  Who knew we were so broken?  How did that happen?  Why did that happen?  With a lot of work and change and time we were able to rebuild and even restore our marriage.  This time on a very firm foundation.  This time with God truly invited and very much a part of our lives.

We want to share our lessons and continue to learn and grow with our own.  Are you ready?

Celebrating My (restored and much better) Marriage

Who Moved My Tree

marriagecelebration

Our third anniversary is this month, although, not that long ago I would not have even believed that it would be possible to be married again after a divorce.  I would have said it was even less likely to be so happily remarried to my first husband!

Oh, but God.  Only God could have orchestrated our lives to be where they are now.

We are so grateful for all of God’s blessings.  They have been bestowed on us in many forms
Celebrate Recovery (a Christ centered 12 step recovery  program for any hurt, habit or hang-up)
Christian friends
Loving family
God’s timing
Crisis Family Care and Pastor Butch Heath
The Marriage Miracle
 worldwide marriage encounter
Prayers – known and unknown
and even tears… healing tears, painful tears, emotional tears, and finally – tears of joy and gratitude.

The turning point in our story occurred about 2 years after our divorce.  We…

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Savoring My Darkest Day

light in darkness

John 1:5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Some memories are so distinct.  The clarity is so crisp and real that you can relive every moment, feeling, smell, and sight. Your senses come alive with the memory and savor that time in history.

Usually these are the good memories we carry around that are so clean and clear to recall.

When I try to remember that day that a judge declared our marriage over in his courtroom, there is only a dim hazy image in my brain.  The details are gone and there isn’t a bit of enticement for me to go back and savor anything about that day.   If I had to really describe my memory of that day, I would also try to explain how heavy it felt, smothering and overwhelming in its weight.

In spite of my dark, heavy memory, I know for a  fact that this event occurred on a normal May morning in South Florida.  Most likely the sun was out when I exited that courtroom to proceed to work, but the memory in my mind tells me it was a dark day.  It was a lonely, sad, and dark day.   Although I am grateful that the details have been forgotten, I cling to enough of this memory to be able to realize how far we have come since that day and to celebrate the light that followed.

I savor the memory of my darkest day because without it, I would not be in such a wonderful place today.  In a solid, blessed marriage with a like-minded christian  husband.  In a marriage that bases our survival on God’s blessings and direction.  In a marriage that glorifies God’s promises.

Matthew 19:26
And looking at them Jesus said to them, “With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Duh.  lol – just “duh”.  Like, smack my forehead, light bulb flashing and jackpot bells and whistles kind of “Duh”!  With God.  Who knew?

I’m not sure how we missed that important lesson in our first marriage preparation, or any of the counseling meetings we attended when our marriage was falling apart, but there you have it.  We needed God, and our darkest day was the catalyst to finding Him.

We thought we had had Him all along – what with a Catholic marriage, and being pew warmers at every Sunday morning mass, and even a crucifix in our home.  It took our divorce to realize that we needed Him inside our hearts and shoulder to shoulder with us on our life’s journey.

I think before, in our first marriage, we had placed God in storage and only invited Him out for celebrations and some lip service.  I know now that He was always there, we just didn’t look to Him or acknowledge Him in the day to day moments and definitely not in the hard ones.

So, thanks to that dark day in our marriage, we found out how to invite God back in the middle – into our hearts, homes, and all of the trials and celebrations we face.  Is it any wonder that I savor that dark day?