About a month ago I wrote about a new paradigm for relationships (http://www.romancerecovery.com/blog/both-and), and lately I’ve been thinking about this Third Stage of relationships. What does it really mean, and how would you recognize it? How is it expressed inside a relationship while life is also swirling around you? Is the third stage some goal to be achieved, or is it always a work in progress?
Being in a third stage relationship is an organic process. It’s even a misnomer to call it a third stage relationship in most cases. There are couples who are able to consistently maintain the third stage, but they are few and far between. More often, couples are able to achieve a third stage state for a time, but they’re unable to sustain it. They have moments where they expand into the third stage consciousness, but their base line is second stage. And for the record, I’d like to say that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
We have a tendency to think that one stage is better than another, and that’s not true. Instead of judging ourselves as if the third stage is the ultimate destination, it would be more helpful to judge ourselves on the quality of the journey. That is, of course, assuming we want to judge ourselves at all. Being human, this is probably a fair assumption. The question is not, “Am I there yet?” Rather, the question is, “Am I growing and evolving in myself and in the relationship?”
How would one recognize a third stage state of being? One way is to ask, “Why did I just do that?” Let’s say you gave your partner a shoulder massage. Was it because you know he expected it? (first stage) Do you want to ask him to do something he won’t like and are hoping to soften him up? (second stage) Perhaps it’s because he’s in a bad mood and when daddy’s unhappy, everyone’s unhappy. (first stage) Or maybe it just seemed like a good way to express your love for him in that moment.
Any time we express our love in a spontaneous way for the sake of love, we are in a third stage state. When I first began contemplating this, I realized how firmly entrenched in the second stage I was. We prided ourselves on the egalitarian nature of our relationship. If he cooked, I did the dishes. I cleaned up inside, he took care of the outside of the house. Practically speaking, using the second stage to manage household chores can be a good idea.