If you are reading this, it is likely that you are in a relationship or just left one and are looking for answers. Relationships may seem natural and easy to you. You also may assume that you are good at them. Based on divorce statistics this may not be accurate. One of the major reasons is that most people are unaware of the stages of a relationship.
You may even be going, “stages, what stages?” I thought you just fell in love, and that was all there is to it, and it’s going to be like this forever!
Like most things in life, relationships are not that simple. Relationships are one of the most complicated things we all do. I learned this the hard way and being a slow learner, I had to do it a few times. I was one of those people who thought that I would meet the right person, and that was all there was to it. (oops, is that you as well? 🙂 )
My relationships hadn’t lasted anywhere near as long as I wanted. Eventually, I got to a point where I wanted to learn what was missing or what I was missing.
The Couple’s Journey (and yes, it’s a journey)
After a couple of failures, I decided I needed answers to questions that I didn’t even know existed. I tried to understand why my relationships were not turning up very well. I always went in with high expectations never materialized. So, I started looking for answers.
I went to a local bookstore and went to the relationship section. As I was weeding through the stacks of books, I stumbled on this one book that seemed to call my name.
This book is called The Couple’s Journey by Susan Campbell. The book’s title seemed to answer what I was looking for as my relationships sure had been a journey!
Susan Campbell very succinctly describes relationships as a series of steps that we will all go through if we want to have a successful long-term relationship.
The Following describes THE STAGES:
Stage 1- Romance
Now, romance, who doesn’t like romance?
The romance stage is the one stage that most people are familiar with and relish! You meet Mr. or Mrs. Right, and you fall head over heels “in Love .” You can’t sleep, you stop eating, and all you can think of is the other person. For quite a while, the time you’re spending with your significant other seems to get better and better!
Unconsciously, you believe that this fantastic feeling you have at the start of a relationship will be there forever! After all, “I have finally found my soulmate.” You get filled with illusions of a fantastic future with love, intimacy, and joy! The feelings and passions are so strong that you fail to recognize anything less than a perfect partner. You have this illusion that you have finally found the ideal partner, and my searching days are over.
The Amazing Benefits of the Romance Stage
The romance stage acts as the glue that brings people together. It will provide you with a foundation and memories that you and your partner can always look back on to keep them going. As the Romance stage can last a while, and it can be filled with amazing experiences, travel, fun, romantic get-aways, that will bring amazing joy and happiness to you. This can also help you to overlook the little things, that in the big picture actually don’t matter.
The End of the Romance Stage
Unfortunately, the romance stage usually comes to a less subtle and pleasant ending. Troubles start to percolate to the surface, as you begin to see the flaws in your partner. The illusion you have been holding on to about your partner slowly dissolves, and you realize that your partner is not all you thought they were. They also recognize that neither are you.
The biggest illusion that you may buy into the illusion that your partner is the cause of the issues that perculated to the surface inside of you. Even worse is that you may justify taking less than positive actions against your partner as a result.
The Power Struggle
As the name suggests, the power struggle is about power or, in some ways, recovering the power that you may have unknowingly given abdicated away in the romance stage. The power struggle is what most people remember poorly, and it is the leading factor driving couples to Divorce Court. Actually, lt is the ignorance of the stages of the relationship, and that this is perfect and that it will pass, is really the problem.
The power struggle can start suddenly or subtly. It begins with the recognition that comes to conscious thought that “you’re not who I thought you were.”
This realization can be a tough pill to swallow. You can feel disillusioned, upset, and disappointed. Unconsciously, some people decide that they want to get what they want and have to fight for it, which only exacerbates the problem.
People will slowly let go of their denial, depending on what triggered the shift. The illusion of the romance stage starts to fall by the wayside as people realize that their partner’s not perfect.
You may find yourself trying to find ways to manipulate your partner to be the way they envisioned before the tinted glasses came off.
Unfortunately, some people use the power struggle to exact revenge on their partner as they feel let down or even tricked. As a result, the relationship can evolve into a “spite war” and quickly dissolve itself.
The End of the Power Struggle.
The power struggle can continue almost indefinitely for some people. You hear many stories of couples that have been together for many years and have never resolved their underlying issues.
In their ignorance, most people don’t understand that this is simply a stage in a relationship. You may conclude that the issues that have come up represent a fatal flaw in their partner, one that is likely insurmountable. You may not even try to fix it or understand the power struggle and instead jump ship. Unfortunately, this is when most relationships fail, sadly with the good parts yet to come. Even worse, this is the time with the most potential for significant healing and growth.
If both people can face their own demons, heal and evolve, they can create a fantastic relationship.
Or you can stay in the blame game and blame your partner for the feelings you don’t want to experience. The trap is that the issues that brought you together are unresolved, and the amazing opportunity to heal and grow is lost. You take your wounds with you, having to start this process all over again, thinking that a different person will be the answer.
Hence our high divorce rate.
Steps for Getting out of the Power Struggle
At the time and if you are in the middle of it, the Power Struggle can appear to be daunting. In reality, the universe is simply trying to show you have have some work to do. Here are some simple process to help you move out of the Power Struggle
a) Acknowledge that you are simply stuck.
b) Cease any form of blame. Stop blaming either yourself, your partner or the weather. While the power struggle may feel uncomfortable, understand that its simply as stage that you can pass through. If you are upset, that’s the purpose, to bring old wounds and fixed thinking to the surface.
c) Acknowledge that your upsets are yours and yours alone. Try to be grateful for where you are at. Once you release the energy that got your here, you will be way better off. (see tools Below to help you with this)
d) Get more information. Educate yourself as to what is going on. The more you understand, the easier you will be able to see that it is merely a step that you and your partner have to pass through. If you bail, you will likely just find yourself back here again.
e) Get some new tools: 1) A great tool to start with is a powerful communication tool called Safe Conversations – found HERE. Safe Conversations was created by Harville Hendrix, Ph.D., and Helen LeKelly Hunt, Ph.D. who are mentioned below.
b) Another amazing too is from Choose Again found here. Choose Again is all about Self Repsonsibility. They have an amazingly powerful 6 step process that is simple and easy to use and brings everything back to ourselves and helps you to heal.
e) Take Action!
The Need to Focus on Gratitude
One of the reasons that relationships can struggle is that you can get lost in your own pain and discomfort. A major reason is that you lose sight of your partner as you can wallow in your own discomfort.
One thing that will help you a great deal is mastering and focusing on Gratitude. Check out our great book bundle on “The Gift of Gratitude” Here.
On To The Good Stuff!
The Stability Stage
The stability stage begins with forgiveness! You and your partner take responsibility for your own emotional responses while allowing space for your partner to have shortcomings. You and your partner learn to accept each other as individuals. More importantly, you realize that you can benefit from the conflicts as the conflicts help show each person where they are stuck and what they need to work on transforming.
You now understand that your discomfort is simply being reflected back to you by your partner. You fully realize that your partner is human and also emotionally wounded. This new understanding allows room for acceptance and compassion. You can open up to empathy and new insights.
If you and your partners are self-responsible, you both can see any conflict, big or small, as a gift and a way to evolve and release old wounds. You can begin to see that the relationship is only part of your life and will not meet all of your needs. The Stability stage allows you to see the big picture and that the relationship is not their whole life. People can start to focus on their life journey as a whole.
The Commitment Stage
In the Commitment Stage, you and your partner surrender to the reality of your relationship. You will realize that the relationship has its shortcomings and is different from what you expected. You also recognize that you can accept a part of who you both are, with both positive and negative qualities.
You both can learn to let go of simple “right or wrong” thinking and instead allow for new and powerful solutions. The good news is that couples can become more creative in finding ways where both people can get their needs met without sliding back into the dynamics of the power struggle!.
Campbell shares how couples develop creative solutions to conflicts: “Couples who continue the evolution through this state come to understand the interconnectedness of all beings everywhere, and the interdependence which parallels that experienced by the couple.”
The Co-Creation Stage
In this stage, couples will be able to use what they’ve learned in their partnership on a larger scale. They can now apply what they learned and help humanity improve. At this stage, couples often will engage in some form of creative work to contribute to the betterment of humanity.
Bonus Section-Get the Love You Want
So Why Are We Attracted To The People That We Are?
After reading the Couples Journey, I found that I was also intrigued as to why we are attracted to the people we are. I stumbled on to another terrific book called “Get the Love You Want” by Harville Hendricks.
Hendricks discusses what he calls our “Imago Match” in this book. He shares that we are all attracted to a specific type of person, one that is our unconscious match.
He clarifies this by sharing that you will be attracted to someone who possesses your parent’s positive and negative traits. In essence, you are attracted to people who can help you re-trigger your old wounds, and when this occurs, you can find a better resolution instead of blame.
Unfortunately, when triggered, a lot of people forget this very quickly. They forget that our relationships are powerful gifts that can help us on many levels. This hidden power makes all of our primary relationships potential healing grounds for our hearts and soul. Additionally, you can act as an angel for your partner to help them heal and grow, as they do for you.
Relationships are a fantastic gift, or at least they can be!
Relationships are about way more than just the “romance” stage. Most people don’t realize that our intimate relationships can be one of the best venues for lifelong healing and growth not to mention being able to create a family! They can be one of our most incredible experiences and a gift, one that can last a lifetime, If we don’t fall into the many potential pitfalls.
A successful long-term relationship goes through a series of stages. Each stage varies and will provide excellent opportunities for growth and change. The more you know about the stages, the better prepared you will be as your relationships evolve and help you to avoid potential pitfalls.