Lila here~ I’ve been working on my new book
and it’s thrown me back into the time I left my partner in 2007. As I re-read what I’ve written so far, it
occurred to me that we had a ridiculously long honeymoon phase in our
relationship. For most couples, the
honeymoon lasts a few months to a few years.
For us it lasted sixteen years.
Once the honeymoon phase is over, a couple
is faced with a power struggle. That
power struggle can last a few months, or it can last the rest of their lives,
depending on how each person deals with it.
There is a phase after the power struggle, but very few couples (maybe
5%) ever reach it. The last phase is
what I call conscious relations. But
first, you have to make it through the power struggle.
The power struggle has five stages, and they
are the same stages that a person goes through when faced with death. In this case, the death is not a person, but
it’s the death of your romantic illusions.
It’s the death of the happily ever after fairy tale. And it’s every bit as painful as if it were a
real person dying.
The first stage is shock. You can not believe that your beloved is
acting this way. Where’s the guy who
brought you flowers every Friday night?
Where’s the woman who cooked your favorite meal on Sunday? Who is this new person and what did they do
to your beloved?
The second stage is denial. Maybe if you pretend you didn’t see (or hear)
that it will go away. Denial can go on
for a long time. In fact, I believe that
a lot of older couples who’ve been together for a long time live in a permanent
state of denial.
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 and
hiding their real self from you. Most
couples break up during this stage.
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 stops
drinking, I’ll make dinner more often.”
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 despair. Things will never get better, no matter what
you do or don’t do. It’s time to leave,
or set up a parallel existence. A lot of
older couples and couples who fear change set up a parallel existence, with
each partner looking for happiness outside the relationship. It’s better than fighting, but everyone
deserves better than that.
If you’re one of those intrepid souls, you
might make it through despair 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