The stages are as follows:
- The Romantic Stage or 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 found love.
When two individuals get married they usually experience this bliss of oneness when they join together as husband and wife. During this stage, couples often minimize their differences and focus on their similarities and each partner ignores the others imperfections. Because this stage is partially based in fantasy, few people can stay long without choking at each other’s uniqueness. I call this stage “mind the gutter stage of the relationship”. This stage is from the moment couples get married to about the fifth or so year of the marriage. But note that, from the day you have sex with your partner you begin this stage. It is also just like having the first baby you have longed for all these years. You handle the baby with care and love and even if the baby does something that you should react, you just say “he a child”. From birth to about 2 to 5 years most parents handle their babies without hitting them or scolding them.
- Differentiation Stage- After all the romance and love making, humans naturally need to be both intimate and independent so being married does not mean you will have to lose yourself as an individual. With time couples gradually begin to pull away and start living as separate individuals. This is the beginning of Differentiation. Differentiation is the ongoing process of effectively sharing your unique thoughts, feelings and desires with your partner. Many couples spend years in this stage because negotiating and managing differences can be very challenging, but it’s worth every minute to improve your marriage. In this process, you need to:
- Know what you’re feeling and thinking
- Express your thoughts without blaming your partner. (Use “I feel” instead of “you make me feel”)
- Learn to modulate your emotions so you’re not attacking or highly defensive
- Check your words, tone of voice and body language so you do not miscommunicate.
This stage starts usually from the fifth year to about the tenth year. Here if it is your baby, you turned to think that your child should know better and you will now focus on the negatives. Most parents turn to expect the child at this age to behave like an adult and still call them kids. We just confuse them, when they behave like adults, parents say you are kids and when behave like kids they say you are not a kid. What do you expect them to do? This is what we do to our marriages as well. We have to learn to understand our differences and understand that this is a stage in every marriage and it will pass sooner than you expected if you handle your spouse with respect and deal with each other remembering that you love each other.
- Freedom or Exploration or the Challenge stage- We all face challenges in life and partners get to know what they can expect from each other during stage in their marriage.
As each partner strives to become more independent, attention focuses more on the individual than the couple. Often, one partner chooses to focus on independence before the other, and this can cause serious marital stress.
Couples need to develop their abilities to compromise, tolerate and negotiate to navigate this stage. It shall all pass so don’t give up on your marriage. 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 discouragement. The relationship is not what was fantasized and one or both partners may be increasingly attracted to another member of the opposite sex. Sometimes, there is fantasizing about past lovers. This is a time when the relationship is very vulnerable to unfaithfulness. How couples deal with this phase will determine the direction of the marriage.
This stage is like having a thirteen year old child who thinks you are over bearing and should be allowed to operate and be free to do whatever he or she wants and you turn to think of the dangers ahead and he or she tells you it is all in your head and not real. Once this cautioning is done in love you can have your child understand you and come along with you. So that is what you have to do in this case too. Talk to each other and not at each other. And make sure you do not look elsewhere for comfort or sexual pleasure since that will further damage your already almost bad relationship. Stick to each other still and remember it will pass.
- The Crossroads– Once couples reach this stage they have already experienced some challenges and now other life decisions will have to be made (e.g. to have children, where to live, how to spend money). The couple has learnt how each other responds in challenging situations. The emotional patterns of each are clear and they have established patterns of dealing with their differences. It is not common for problems to arise in this stage, but because they have already experienced a great many challenges, they stand the best chance of working through these issues and getting to the Reconnection The three most common negative patterns for individuals to engage in during this stage are:
- Thinking of divorce;
- Emotional withdrawal;
- Trying to force the other person to change.
From age eighteen to about twenty, twenty one, children begin to calm down and respect themselves and their parents. Parents also begin to respect their children to extent that even when they are entering their kid’s room they knock before they enter. Some of them even begin to help fix problems in the house. In this stage you get to understand each other and begin to live really as one just the bible says.
- Reconnection- When each person strengthens his or her identity and point of view, partners discover new respect for each other. When couples are able to be both independent and interdependent. During this stage, couples can create a foundation for deeper intimacy and rekindled sexuality. They can now be able to stand up for their deeply held values while negotiating in a way other. They discovered a new intimacy as they expressed their vulnerabilities, understand each other’s point of view, and get to know each other more deeply. When couples actually collaborate in this stage and their marriage becomes greater than each of them individually.
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 agreeably 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.
Couples move through these stages gradually over time. Some couples can make the journey on their own, but many need the benefit of some education, reading or counseling. How long it takes depends on the couple and how they deal with each other. Others over react and give up remarry and start the whole process again and get back to this same stage and start comparing their ex with their current. The fact is, whoever you marry you will go through these stages so don’t be quick to run to the next open arms for comfort. If you’re discouraged about your relationship, remember there is hope and help, and it may be just a phone call away. Sometimes a brief couple’s therapy can make all the difference in creating a flourishing marriage. Please don’t allow your love to burn out in your marriage. These are normal but you just didn’t expect that your sweet lover could turn to be something else when in fact it is you who have changed or is refusing to accept that it will not be so forever, all shall pass. With time all will get better. You move and negotiate and navigate when there is the need to do so. If you want a change in your spouse, it should start from you. You should change first and your change will influence a change in your spouse.
Don’t run from your marriage it is the same everywhere, you will still go through these stages no matter who you marry. If you leave you only get to start form the honeymoon stage again and you move from there to next stage. That is marriage for you. It is like being left in the middle of a bad storm on high seas, if you have patience you get to the peaceful shore but if you give up you will drown.