How to Get Through the Different Stages of Marriage
Most married people will acknowledge that a marriage will have wonderful times along with some very difficult times. There are actually stages that most marriages go through and each stage can come with it’s own challenges. Understanding that things are not always going to go well in a marriage, that there will be times when you disagree, fight or even consider a divorce, can help prepare mentally for these difficulties before they arise. Talking with your spouse about how to resolve the potential future issues in each of the recognized stages can help both partners feel prepared to deal with whatever may get in the way of a happy and healthy union. The following stages are commonly found in most marriages and can be dealt with and overcome through some knowledge and preparation.
1. The Honeymoon Stage
With this stage, there is little difficulty and the couple usually can’t get enough of each other. Physical and emotional intimacy helps bring the couple together during this time. Both partners may overlook small transgressions that would bring out an argument or disagreement in a veteran married couple. It’s best to enjoy the stage as a preparation for the years to come. Find a common ground on how to deal with potential future problems and take advantage of the fact that you’re probably getting along so well. Use the happy times to talk about how you plan on dealing with struggles in the future.
2. The Realization Stage
Couples during this stage will begin to see things that irritate them about their spouse. It may be something small like the way they keep house, or or larger issue that should be dealt with immediately before it becomes a big problem. In this stage, the honeymoon is over but it’s still important to maintain a physical and emotional intimacy. Maintaining that bond, along with taking time to talk through problems, should help the couple make it through the realization stage.
3. The Rebellion Stage
In the third stage, the couple may each feel the need to have something that belongs just to them. This may mean spending a lot of time apart and a certain level of resentment if one is not able to have that time. It’s important that both partners are able to develop their own interests but they must understand that it’s essential to continue to work on the marriage. Taking time to do frequent date nights, weekend trips alone and just setting aside time to spend together without other distractions, offer the couple a chance to reconnect and maintain the closeness they had early in the relationship.
4. The Cooperation Stage
This is the time in the marriage when things can get most stressful. Life may be hectic with family responsibilities and financial duties like mortgages. The marriage may begin to feel more like a business arrangement than the loving union it felt like in the first few years. Working together to get through any marital issues is essential. Couples may let problems continue to get worse rather than bring them up just to keep from having disagreements or arguments in front of the children. During this stage it’s best to work through issues as the arise to be sure they don’t turn into bigger problems in the future. Couples should also continue to find ways to get time alone where they have the chance to reconnect without distractions.
5. The Reunion Stage
In this stage, the children are grown and out of the home and the couple is left to find themselves alone again. Financial situations tend to be better than in the earlier years which means they have the freedom to pursue activities they couldn’t before. This stage is usually a happy one but it’s important to keep communication open since many people may experience a feeling of discontent with their own lives at this age. Talking with one’s spouse can help keep the marriage strong while allowing the couple to age together and find new ways to enjoy themselves.
6. The Explosion Stage
This stage can often cause serious problems in a relationship, but if the couple can work together to overcome, a stronger relationship will be achieved. Health issues and major life events like the passing of aging parents can cause strain on the individuals and the relationship. One or both partners may also began to reconsider decisions made in life and regret choices that led them to where they are. While this is normal, it should not be allowed to cause unnecessary strain on the marriage. The couple must work together to see how they’ve overcome problems through the years and focus on the enjoyable parts of life. This can be a good time to find a new hobby that can be done together like a physical activity or traveling if the budget allows.
7. The Completion Stage
The last stage of marriage tends to be a happy one for most couples. It’s a time for relaxation, enjoying family life and using retirement to do things they may not have had a chance to do earlier in the marriage. At this point in the marriage the couple knows each other very well and likely has few serious conflicts due to the years spent working through issues. The problems that do arise can be dealt with by the couple in a way they probably learned earlier on in the marriage. In this last stage, the couple has the chance to just enjoy being together.
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Image courtesy of Moyan Brenn