A lifelong relationship can be distilled down into 10 stages. Unfortunately many relationships do not make it past the fifth or sixth stage, but the universal factor necessary to reach "the end" is communication. Without it, there's no chance of sustaining a dynamic and fruitful partnership. Without it, relationships turn stale and resentment grows like ivy until all of the light in your house or relationship is shut out. The good thing is that if both members of the couple are willing to work, relationships are always changing and improving over time. Yes, we are creatures of habit, but even the most entrenched and detrimental habits can be broken — in any phase of love.
Here are the 10 stages of lifelong relationships:
1. The Honeymoon
Hormones are raging and everything is seen through rose-colored lenses. It seems like "love is all you need," and everything else in your life takes a back seat. It is easy to overlook fundamental differences in personality or values in the honeymoon stage. This phase is often defined by a fusion of the couple. Sex is exciting and new, and the oxytocin is flowing.
Of course, not every relationship begins in perfect harmony like this. Sometimes, one person becomes infatuated and the other feels more distant.
We talk about schema chemistry as a powerful magnetic force between people that serves to perpetuate unhealthy thought patterns that were formed early on in development. In other words, it is common to unconsciously lay the groundwork for repetition of painful dynamics, even though this is clearly not something anyone would rationally or consciously choose. These dynamics can be compelling and drug-like in their power; that is one reason why therapy can be so useful. Understanding and learning about one's own schemas and triggers will help new partners to be more aware of these interpersonal impulses.
2. Reality Strikes Back
The honeymoon is over and your feet are back on the ground. A year or two or three have passed. Quirks that were cute before are sources of annoyance now. Routine is setting in... you're not closing the bathroom door anymore.
In this stage, your worlds are starting to mix in terms of families and friends, and all of these interactions can have a powerful effect on the relationship. You start talking about moving in with each other and fantasizing about a life together. Much of the chemical high has subsided and it is an opportunity to really get to know each other and establish friendship and trust.
3. Make Your Move Or Move On
You have been together for a few years, and pressure is mounting to take the plunge. The reality of monogamy is front and center as you contemplate the possibility of spending your lives together. It is common for one member of the couple to be more enthused about this, and for tension to ensue regarding feelings of rejection or pressure. Family and friends are all weighing in with their (mostly unsolicited) opinions. It is exciting, confusing and terrifying.
4. Wedding Bells
An entire year is often dedicated to planning the big event — it's just that important. The wedding takes on a life of its own and the everyone involved can easily morph into a monster. It's an exciting time, but certainly not without its stressors. Still, if you're marrying someone you truly love, the anticipation and joy are tangible.
5. The Stork Has Landed
Going from a twosome to a threesome is a monumental shift in the relationship. Attention and energy are completely diverted from each other to the little creature. Sleep is a luxury and sex is a memory. Having a baby can break a couple if the foundation and communication isn't strong.
Of course, not every couple chooses to have children; some cement their partnership in different ways, as with pets, travel or home improvement projects. All of these things can be time consuming and enormously stressful.
6. Sex Miscommunication
Sex is a distant memory. Much time has passed, and work, childrearing and sleep deprivation have taken their toll. The diverted attention that began when the baby was born has manifested itself in differing sex drives, leaving one or both partners feeling rejected or deprived. Sometimes, the desire is strong to look elsewhere to meet needs that aren't being addressed. If these thought patterns continue unaddressed, the distance between partners will keep growing. It's imperative to communicate and be kind with one another during this time period. Keep reading...
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