1. In the first stage, the couple must shift their loyalties from their parents to their partners, who must become number one to each other. This does not mean that a couple no longer values or spends time with parents but that parents are no longer the most important family members to them. The parents cannot be the most important or necessary intimacy and devotion to a partner cannot develop.
2. In the second stage, if the couple has children, their loyalty and devotion is extended to them as the couple learns to balance these responsibilities with work responsibilities inside and outside of their homes. If they are successful, sadness and injustices are eased by the family love that is created and maintained. Are Your Partner's Social Skills Embarrassing?
3. This third stage involves the growing up of children and how this in dealt with. This stage also involves any difficulties with health in the immediate and extended family (which could have come earlier also, of course). In this period, parents work very hard so that communication and time for close sharing between the couple and the entire family can be maintained.
4. The fourth stage involves the challenges and adjustments when sons and daughters are at the age of leaving home. Of course, in this financial climate, many sons and daughters cannot leave. This is a challenge in its own right.
5. The fifth stage five involves the changes in life as a couple ages or deals with devastating illness or death.
Sometimes time apart, or what my clients and I call an "intermission," as counseling continues can help a couple to become close once again. Couples usually know for themselves when divorce is necessary. If children are involved, continuing counseling can help a couple hold onto the determination that their children must suffer as little as possible for this decision. The Years of JFK: The Way It Really Was
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