The third stage of marriage is The Stability Stage.
That sounds good, especially after spending so many years in the Power Struggle Stage. Well, yes and no. This is the second most common stage for people to seek counseling or get divorced. In this stage, you accept your partner’s differences and no longer see them as negative. You accept that each person has his/her own personal world, and that is ok. You have some freedom and some choice. The boundaries have been set and are now clear. You have learned that you will not be remodeling your spouse.
You have learned some important lessons, but there is some sadness when you accept that your dreams are not going to become reality. You always wanted to travel with your spouse, but (s)he breaks out in hives at the very mention of travel. You wanted to be more adventurous sexually, but that is not going to happen. You are not going to get what you wanted, but the struggle of trying to get it was very exhausting and difficult and now it’s time for a rest. There is some danger that you could move too far apart from each other as you each pursue your own interests.
You may realize that you have different paths in life. You may feel very unconnected to your partner at this time. You do have a history together, which can be a great advantage. And you have learned to honor the other person. That was a gift from the second stage. It may feel that you have not made any progress at all, and you are just exhausted from the fighting in stage two, but that is not true. You have learned some very valuable things. The future has not yet been determined, but you are still together, and a number of things have actually been resolved, even if you have just decided to stop worrying about certain things.
Once again, don’t be afraid to make an appointment with me or another therapist if you are disappointed with your marriage in this stage. This stage is a bit of a “desert” experience, but there can be unseen growth that will help you move to a satisfying marriage.