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:
- Being resigned to sticking with the bad decision of staying in the relationship;
- Emotional withdrawal;
- 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!