The third stage is betrayal. If you’re willing to move beyond denial and take an honest look at your relationship, you’ll move into this stage. You’ll feel like you’ve been duped. Your partner was obviously lying to you in the beginning and hiding their real self from you. Most couples break up during this stage. During this stage, you might blame yourself for not seeing their true character. You might also believe that they weren’t originally like this and blame some outside influence on changing them.
The fourth stage is bargaining. If you make it through the feelings of anger brought up by the betrayal, you move into this stage. You make deals with yourself, “If he spends more time with the kids, I’ll make dinner more often,” or “If he takes me away for the weekend, I’ll try to enjoy sex more.” You try to hang onto small morsels of hope to keep you going. Unfortunately, a lot of couples therapists feed into this by suggesting each partner make concessions in the relationship. By doing this without getting to the root of the problems, they just prolong the cycle.
The fifth stage is acceptance. You decide that things will never get better, no matter what you do or don’t do. It’s time to decide whether to leave, or stay and set up a parallel existence. With a parallel existence, each partner looks for happiness outside the relationship. Some couples consciously create a parallel existence (usually for the sake of the children), and others just fall into it. It’s better than fighting, but everyone deserves better than that. If you’re one of those intrepid souls, you might decide that acceptance is not enough and enter into the beginnings of a conscious relationship. Both partners have to be willing to try, and each should understand that they’ve only just begun the journey. The rules are completely different in conscious relationships, and you will need to learn the new rules in order to create a lasting, loving union.