How To Cope With Different Stages Of A Relationship (& Break Through To Real Love)

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Coping With Different Stages Of A Relationship & Real Love For Married Couples

When you're worried about the state of your marriage and partnership, you end up asking yourself, "Did I marry the wrong person?"

It's a terrifying thought, yet a common enough worry in most relationships, especially as you go through different stages of a relationship.

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Alain de Botton penned an article about this for The New York Times entitled, "Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person".

What do you do if you're haunted by the fear that you and your mate are unsuitable?

Do you feel like you are stuck with only two options — live parallel lives and try to get by or join the 50 percent and get divorced?

If your spouse is driving you bananas, you actually married the perfect husband or wife.

Marriage and relationships go through developmental stages similar to childhood and offer us a second opportunity to grow up.

It's an alchemical process that will change lead into gold.

If you understand the steps, it is easier to get through the rough patches and coalesce into an ecstatic union.

So, how do you do it? How do you make sure you didn't make a mistake in choosing your spouse and that they weren't wrong for choosing you?

First, remain calm. Relationship problems are predictable.

Disagreements are part of growth. It is normal not to get along all the time. Just because you are fighting doesn't mean the relationship is doomed.

Actually, it's the opposite. It's an opportunity to heal the deep pain caused by your unmet childhood needs.

We unconsciously seek to repair broken parts of ourselves within our intimate relationships so we can be whole and fully alive.

It's in the moments of difficulty and disconnection that we learn what parts of ourselves need to mend and mature.

In our intimate partnerships, we subconsciously recreate the dynamics of our childhood to attend to them.

When these unmet needs become conscious, we can transcend our early wounding.

This integration of the conscious and unconscious is an alchemical transmutation that creates wholeness and well being.

The climax of the movie "Guardians of the Galaxy" illustrates this transformational moment when Chris Pratt's character, Peter, flashes back to the moment when his mother was dying and he was unable to hold her hand.

At this crucial moment, as an adult, he can grab his partner (played by Zoe Saldana) Gamora's hand. Thus, he heals his childhood wound.

This cinematic crescendo may seem over the top, but often we experience heightened and intense emotions when our painful pasts are unconsciously aroused.

It's as if we need superhero or God-like strength to modify a childhood pattern and free yourself from the past.

Yet, it is possible.

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Just as children advance through developmental stages so do relationships.

It is healthy for a child to grow and change. Likewise, it is fitting for relationships to develop and mature.

The first stage of a relationship is the honeymoon.

We are intoxicated by the love chemical, phenylethylamine (PEA), a natural amphetamine that produces the hormone dopamine.

Dopamine is a stimulant that masks our differences and heightens our desire so that we can't get enough of each other.

The honeymoon is like a signing bonus. Eventually, the love hormones fade which leads us into the following phase.

You know you began the succeeding stage if your spouse is driving you crazy.

If so, congratulations! You entered the next step of commitment, the power struggle.

This stage is not for the faint of heart for you, and your partner will challenge and infuriate each other.

If you're not aware of what's up at this phase, it might be hard to make it through.

Your beloved will unconsciously inflame your childhood wounds, and you will be flooded with difficult emotions that were never tended to or processed.

The pain of disconnection is an indication of what needs attention.

This is an opportunity for you to learn more about each other and your triggers. This inquiry causes transformation and the final phase, real love.

Real love is gold and the bliss of being your highest self within an orgasmic connection.

The key to moving through each stage is to seek to understand your partner through compassion rather than judgment.

We are in a relationship with another person who is going to have different opinions, desires, and ideas than ourselves.

During the power struggle, these differences can feel scary, overwhelming and confusing. It's essential not to get stuck in your feelings.

Instead, reach out and be curious.

Communicate with your partner to understand their point-of-view rather than convince them of yours.

Dig deeper to discover the dynamic you and your partner are reenacting. Do this gently and with love.

Within Imago Relationship Therapy and Relationships First, this is achieved through a dialogical structure between you and your partner.

The structure provides safety so that you both can explore the underpinnings of your disagreements.

This is the alchemical transformation of turning lead into precious metal, turning the pain into energy, freedom, and unbridled joy.

Become an alchemist in your marriage and transform the parts of your relationship that are causing you torment into euphoric, conscious connection.

Dive into the process to become your whole and authentic self.

Through compassion reveal maladaptive patterns, so they are not repeated.

Transmute disconnection with communication and curiosity.

Remember, you picked your partner for a reason.

So, commit to moving through the stages of relationship together and allow for your partner's point-of-view.

Hold both viewpoints and synthesis occurs, a joining of opposites resulting in real love a non-judgmental, secure and passionate connection. 

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Thea Harvey is a licensed marriage and family therapist, wife, and mother who specializes in couples counseling. She co-founded Harvey Center for Relationships with her husband with the mission to help couples thrive.