Happily Ever After

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Happily Ever After

A marriage is the most rewarding – and the most challenging – relationship of your life.

Don’t let this alarm you, but no matter how old you are, how smart you are, or how hip you are, your relationship to your spouse will parallel your relationship to your parents during your childhood. Your marriage will mirror many of the stages you went through beginning with infancy, when you believed that you and your mom were in fact the same person; to the tantrums, withdrawal and defiance you used as a toddler to separate yourself from her. Finally, you discovered your own identity was separate and found that you were able to love your mom and be yourself at the same time.

To love your spouse and still be yourself. that’s the goal for your marriage. But love can be threatened by changes in behavior and feelings that occur naturally as a marriage progresses. Many partners react with fear and anger, rather than understanding that these changes are inevitable, and necessary.

“For Better or For Worse?” It’s up to you. Your reactions to the stages of love are the key to success or failure in your marriage.

The Stages of Romantic Love

Stage 1: You and I are one — and we are perfect for each other.
Conflict rating: 0
Closeness Rating: 5
You understand pretty well that this stage is temporary-when you are looking objectively at other couples. But when you’re madly in love you have a hard time imagining any problems ahead in your own relationship. You see each other as perfect and wonderful, and you refuse each other nothing. This stage does serve a purpose. It permits two strangers to build the foundation for trust and caring. Some couples become trapped in this stage. They are never apart, and neither person can do anything without the other. They both become stunted as individuals, and the relationship stagnates. It is also possible for one member of the couple to stay at this stage while the other moves on, causing pain and fear for both.

Stage 2: We are not alike, and you have some really bad habits.
Conflict rating: 3 – 4
Closeness rating: 3 – 4
You are beginning to notice the sometimes irritating ways in which you are different from each other.everything from leaving the cap off the toothpaste to more earthshaking issues like attitudes toward money, family and religion. As you realize that your beloved is not perfect, you are aware that your feelings are changing. You may begin to feel stifled. You are still in love, but all of your needs can’t be met by this one person. You can’t keep adapting to doing what your partner prefers all the time. You need to pursue your own desires, your own friendships, and to discover more about your own core values separate from your spouse.

This article was originally published at The Couples Institute . Reprinted with permission.
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