Relationships Go Through Stages

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Most people don’t know that relationships go through stages and that those stages can be recycled several times in the course of a long term relationship. Each stage may lead to the next one, or to relationship distress.

The romantic stage:   It’s what happens when two strangers meet and fall in love.  This stage sparks a chemical reaction, and a temporary state of mutual delusion. Don’t get me wrong. Couples DO need that stage upon which to build their relationship. Without it, there is hardly anything to start building on.  But they don’t really know each other. That’s the early stage love that keeps you up at night and messes with your head. That stage doesn't last, but it leads to the formation of a friendship and love bond. 

The power struggle stage, also known as the OMG stage. This is when you may be tempted to ask yourself:  Did I pick the wrong person?  When partners begin to know each other better, differences arise. No two people are the same. We differ in how frequently we want a sexual encounter, how we spend our leisure time, and on how we treat our neighbor. The differences that arise in a relationship when people start living under the same roof can be destabilizing to a relationship. 

Couples deal with this stage in different ways.  A power struggle may arise. Who is right about how to do the dishes? What is the best way to manage money? How frequently do you see your in laws or friends? What are the best places to go on vacation?  Another way that couples deal with differences is by avoiding conflict. This may provide temporary relief, but it leads to distance. Dealing with these inevitable differences in a respectful and dignified way may lead couples to strengthen their bond, which would take them  to the third stage.

The Mature stage: The power struggles tend to subside. Couples learn to compromise, and  figure out how to  accept their differences. They learn to become of aware of what they want, long for, and desire and how to communicate those needs.  They treat their differences with respect, dignity, and a dose of generosity. They learn the value of real giving. This could lead to a re-kindling of the romantic stage and the whole process starts all over again.

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Sara Schwarzbaum


Founder, Couples Counseling Associates

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Liz Garvey



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Linda Lazzara



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 Michael Villarreal:

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