I thought I’d do a brief series on the stages of marriage.
These stages are predictable and fluid. Couples can move back and forth between the stages throughout their marriage. Unless divorce or death occurs, all marriages will go through all five stages. Couples move through the stages at different speeds. One sign of a healthy relationship is the ability to resolve challenges presented by each stage. In my work, most couples are relieved to know that what they are going through is a normal stage of marriage. It also helps to know what it is you are supposed to learn in each stage. It doesn’t make the lessons easy to learn, but at least you know you are not alone, and it isn’t that something is wrong with you or your partner.
The first stage of marriage is the Romance Stage, aka the Honeymoon Stage.
In this stage, the emphasis is on becoming one. Dr. Jackie Black describes this stage very succinctly as you + me = us. In this stage, each person sees reality through rose colored glasses. The couple dreams of the future together, and spends a fair amount of time doing things to please the other. Any disagreements that may happen to come up during this time are usually pushed aside. In this stage, the need for love and belonging come to the forefront. We have all seen people in this stage, and they are either as cute as a basket of kittens, or just too much for anyone else to have to put up with. If you talk about the weather, (s)he will dreamily tell you what his/her beloved said about the weather yesterday, while gazing into his/her eyes which are the color of the sky in the spring, blah, blah, blah. If you listen to the radio, every song will remind him/her of that special someone, etc.
Some of the results of this stage are that some part of you is denied. You may believe that the other person completes you. This stage takes a lot of energy, which may be the reason it is relatively short-lived. It will only last from two months to three years. Because there is a loss of individuality, you may attempt to change your partner. When your beloved resists that change, you are ready to go into the second stage of marriage, aka the power struggle stage.
The romance stage is necessary, and allows couples to begin building a foundation for their relationship. Many of my clients worry that something is terribly wrong with their marriage when this stage ends, but this stage must end in order to allow you to go through the next stages. Sometimes it will seem like you revisit the romance stage, but that feeling of being struck down with love is only meant for the beginning. Sometimes a client will come in and say “I love her, but I’m not in love with her.” That is perfectly normal, and it doesn’t mean that anything is wrong, or that you married the wrong person. You are just ready to go forward into the next stages when that happens.