Ups and downs are natural in marriage – everyone knows that. Just ask someone who has been married for any period of time. But what most people don’t realize is that the ups and downs are actually predictable. Short cuts to avoid some problems are possible. Really! Not only are the bumps along the road of marriage predictable, but there are simple rules to follow that can act like shock absorbers along the way. Every time someone hears about my new book, The 7 Stages of Marriage, they ask, “What stage am I in?” Why the same question over and over again? The answer is simple - we want answers to how we can keep our relationship loving and vital.
Knowing that marriage has stages helps relieve anxiety and stress during times of trouble. You gain the perspective you need to understand what is going on at this time in your life. Learning that there is a predictable pace and flow to the journey of your marriage can help you focus your energy when you feel overwhelmed and confused. One of the most exciting things about understanding the stages of marriage is that you can set a course for having the marriage that you want. And, it helps you make corrections along the way.
In some ways, marriage today is the same as it always was. Most people want to be, and will be, married at some time in their life. Despite the social changes in our culture including divorce rates and cohabitation statistics, in a wide range of surveys 95% of people say that marriage is important to them. By the age of 40, 90% of men and women will have been married at least once. Seventy percent of people who divorce, remarry. The good news today is that marriage is a choice, not a requirement. Today, many of those who are married say that they are, in fact, happy with their marriages. In a survey commissioned by Reader’s Digest in 2006, through a randomized, scientific selection process, over 71% of those surveyed (who were married) said they would marry their partner again. The survey also found that trust is the number one factor that people value in their marriages. That makes sense because today most marriages are based on the expectations of lasting love and equal partnership. Trust is the foundation for creating a loving, passionate, cooperative, healthy marriage.
The 7 Stages of Marriage provides a practical, life-long map to help you keep your marriage working as the loving, mutually-beneficial partnership that it should be. Each stage has its normal developmental missions and tasks that you can identify and work through in many different ways. Once you identify the stage you are in (or the stages you may be between), you can choose some ways to address the issues you are having. Researchers are finding that marriage has long-term benefits: married people live longer, have more financial security, are healthier, have more sex and deal with stress more constructively. They have also found that marriage is a dynamic, changing relationship. Marriage is a journey. Having a map to guide you along the way is a useful tool. Remember that every journey is a unique adventure. Live and enjoy the stage you’re in and reap the benefits:
More quality time together
Lowered odds for divorce
Re-energized sex life
Flexibility to thrive, despite “irreconcilable differences”
THE SEVEN STAGES
You may be in the Passion Stage if your relationship is all about the two of you and the excitement, sex and intimacy you are experiencing. Action: Strengthen your sense of “us” – make time for each other, leave work at work.
You may be in the Realization Stage if you find you are beginning to get to know each other’s real strengths and weaknesses. Action: Develop the important communication habits – listening and confiding – that are essential to expanding understanding and trust. Consider enrolling in a couples communication class.
You may be in the Rebellion Stage when each of you is seeking to assert your self-interests and you end up having volatile – or hidden - power struggles. Action: Learn how to negotiate and keep agreements – keeping promises builds trust. Identify areas of difference and start talking about them – one at a time. Don’t change the subject.
You maybe in the Cooperation Stage if both you and your spouse seem more preoccupied with the kids, money, home and work and you start to feel like business partners more than lovers. Action: Make your marriage a priority, de-stress and keep the passion alive. Set up a regular date night. Find a babysitter!
You may be in the Reunion Stage if you have an ‘empty nest’ and begin to have more time for yourself and for each other to renew your friendship and passion. Action: Refocus on your marriage, get off autopilot & unpack any old baggage. Plan some special events that bring back good memories.
You may be in the Explosion Stage, which can happen anytime, if you are experiencing major career, health, parenting and family crises. Action: Make use of emotional, physical and spiritual support for yourself, your spouse and your marriage. Pay attention to your physical and emotional health and well-being.
You may be in the Completion Stage as stability and security reign and you enjoy each other and the life you have created. Action: Look to create a new sense of meaning & purpose for yourselves & your marriage. Establish a special project that you will begin together.
Adapted from The 7 Stages of Marriage by Sari Harrar and Rita DeMaria, Copyright 2007 The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.
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. Reprinted with permission from the author.