Stage one of marriage: Passion
This is the honeymoon stage, when romance and intense attraction bond a couple together and lead to commitment. In retrospect, it often seems as short-lived as springtime – by two years, most couples have usually lost that initial magic, though this can vary by couple. But when it is happening, the passion stage is very strong and significant. It is a wave of feel-good brain chemicals orchestrated by Mother Nature to make the two of you forsake all others and take action to ensure the survival of the species.
Even if you’re marrying later in life, or for the second time, nature supplies these delicious bursts of neurotransmitters to make you bond. Couples not only frolic and fall madly in love in the passion stage – they begin to establish the trust, respect and emotional intimacy that will support their relationship forever.
Stage two of marriage: Realisation
In this stage, the honeymoon ends, and a more real vision of the rest of your life together begins. In this stage, you discover your spouse is not only human, he also doesn’t load the dishwasher or lower the toilet seat. Disappointment and early conflicts are the hallmarks of this difficult, unavoidable period, as the two of you make the first steps toward accepting each other for who you really are.
The mission and challenge? No less than laying the groundwork for a long future together based on acceptance, respect and openness to change. You’ll need to assertively discuss and emphatically listen as you both introduce your deepest personal needs and wants. This creates a foundation for being truly known, understood and supported in the years ahead.
Stage three of marriage: Rebellion
She misses her friends; he misses his cool toys. She wants to travel; he wants to play weekly softball. She wants to build her career; he wants to build his career. Even for couples who successfully navigate the realisation stage of marriage and lay the foundation for a happy, respectful coexistence together, a time inevitably emerges when self-interest often overtakes the interests of the marriage. And when this happens, be ready for the battles.
Love amid the power struggles of the rebellion stage is tricky business. You both believe you’re right, so of course your partner’s wrong. That means you’re simultaneously offended at being called wrong and claiming the moral high ground. Is this any way to run a marriage?
Experts say the drama of the rebellion stage are unavoidable. Learning the art of the good fight is the mission now – often it is the nature of the battles, rather than the substance of the discussion, that leads to trouble. Why? Rebellious thoughts, when met with anger and frustration, often lead to rebellious actions, such as infidelity, outlandish spending, or saying yes to the sudden offer from work to transfer to a new city. Any of these can spell disaster for a marriage.