The 3 Stages Of Love You Must Go Through Before Getting Married

Photo: G-Stock Studio | Shutterstock
woman clutching husband's back in sunset

Every couple goes through the stages of love that may or may not eventually lead to marriage. 

The average couple will spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars preparing for their wedding day. I get it. It’s an important lovely day.

It’s a party for family and friends and, in some cases, an opportunity for the bride’s childhood dreams to come true. 

Over 50 percent of these well-spent couples will end up divorced. There doesn’t appear to be any correlation between the lavishness of the wedding and the health and longevity of the marriage.

So, while you’re doing everything you can to prepare for your wedding day, you might want to consider the 50 years that you’ll, hopefully, be spending together after the honeymoon.

So, consider adding some marriage preparation to your wedding planning.

But, first things first. You need to know about the stages of love.

RELATED: The 5 Stages Of Love You Experience In Intimate Relationships

RELATED: Is This Love? 6 Unsexy Questions That Will Lead You Straight To The Answer

Here are the 3 stages of love you must go through before getting married:

1. The romantic stage

Nature helps out with a chemical cocktail to get you going. You're flooded with cortisol, dopamine, oxytocin, and vasopressin. 

These hormones increase alertness, pleasure, motivation, trust, attachment, sexual arousal, attraction, and obsessive thinking while decreasing sadness, fear, and boredom.

This is where you fall in love, believing that you've found your soulmate and that nothing could ever go wrong. For a lot of people, this stage is where the decision to marry and the proposal takes place.

2. The power struggle stage

For better or worse, the Romantic stage is not meant to last. After several months (up to two years), it's replaced with the next stage: the Power Struggle stage.

At this point, the chemicals wear off and we slowly (or suddenly) begin to see that your partner is not actually perfect. 

You may begin a campaign to get them to change back to the way that they were when you were in the Romantic Stage. The only problem is that this is their true selves. You've just lost your chemically induced rose-colored glasses.

Research finds that the average amount of time that a couple waits to seek counseling after they begin the Power Struggle stage is six years. 

This means that they will experience a significant degree of discomfort and unhappiness while trying to negotiate the natural ups and downs of their relationship dynamic, usually without the right tools!

Research also shows that there is a window of opportunity during the year before the wedding and the six months or so after when couples can receive the optimum benefit from marriage preparation. 

Later, under stress, negative habits and relationship patterns may become established and be much harder to resolve.

RELATED: 10 Signs You're In Love With Someone (& They Love You Right Back)

3. The mature love stage

If you can get premarital counseling, either before or during the Power Struggle stage of your relationship, you can avoid much pain and agony, as well as circumvent the formation of bad relationship habits. 

With guidance from a trained Relationship Therapist, you can learn an effective way to communicate better, resolve conflicts and deepen intimacy.

In other words, you can leave the Power Struggle behind and move toward the third stage: Mature Love.

The thing that you will learn in the pursuit of deep and lasting love with your partner is that you don’t get married to be happy.

While being happy is nice, actually, marriage has a higher mission. Its mission is to assist each other in transformation. 

When you experience conflict, it's the opportunity for growth and expansion of your highest self.

Your spouse becomes your ally in helping you reach your highest potential as a human being. Your marriage becomes a living laboratory where our deepest wounds are triggered and, hopefully, healed. 

The healing, however, can only take place when you have the right tools. Arguing and fighting about or burying and ignoring issues, will not promote healing.

In fact, this is more likely to cause even deeper wounding with the person you love most.

RELATED: If You Haven't Experienced These 7 Things It Isn't Really Love — Yet

Statistics show that couples who do some premarital counseling, divorce approximately 30 percent less than those who don’t.

It’s like buying insurance.

I can hear you saying, "But we’re in love. We don’t need therapy." And you might not. 

Premarital counseling is not always therapy in the classic sense. Yes, some couples do come in for help in resolving certain issues that surface in the face of wedding planning — financial pressures, religious differences, and family dynamics. 

But even if you’re not exactly struggling with one another, now is a good time to learn better communication skills and put some important tools in your Marriage Toolbox to give your new marriage every opportunity to succeed.

What are these tools?

  • Deep listening without judgment
  • Presence
  • Connection through touch and eye contact
  • Curiosity about your partner’s world
  • Zero negativity
  • Learning and speaking your spouse’s love language
  • Patience
  • Creating sacred relationship space
  • Consciousness
  • Mutual goal setting

In an ideal world, everyone would have the capacity to stay centered and present in the face of their spouse’s upsetting behaviors.

Everyone would be able to employ these tools easily without emotional reactivity.

The truth, however, is that it’s difficult and requires coaching and practice.

RELATED: The 8 Major Differences Between Being 'In Lust' And 'In Love'

What Gottman has to say about it all

John Gottman, Ph.D., a leading researcher in marital relationships, found that couples who stay married work to keep criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling (refusing to discuss) out of their relationships. 

He calls these "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse."

Indeed, these patterns can become apocalyptic in your relationship, especially when repeated over time. In premarital counseling, you can begin replacing those habits with good, healthy communication patterns including the tools listed above.

Now you know that it's important to get some help learning and using good communication tools before the wedding. 

But what are the topics you’ll want to address with your fiance during your marriage preparation? Start with these:

  • Shared goals
  • Lifestyle expectations
  • Finances
  • Sexuality and intimacy
  • Families of origin
  • Religion and values
  • Parenting
  • Personality traits
  • Careers

Couples today face more demands and have less support than ever before. 

The typical marriage is complex and includes managing two careers while rearing children without much support from an extended family. Gone are the days when Mom and Dad live next door and are available to help in tangible ways.

Parents are likely to still be young and vital enough to be working, traveling, and pursuing their own interests. It's more necessary than ever to build a strong foundation with your spouse that will get you through the stresses and strains of modern life.

Marriage preparation functions as an immunization that boosts your capacity to handle potential difficulties. Why not give yourself every advantage to succeed?

RELATED: The 5 Stages Of A Relationship All Couples Go Through, According To Science

Mary Kay Cocharo is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in West Los Angeles, California.

This article was originally published at Mary Kay Cocharo's website. Reprinted with permission from the author.