There are lots of different theories about relationship phases and stages. The book, The 7 Stages of Marriage by Sari Harrar and Rita DeMaria is an excellent resource that really seems to grasp how marriage changes over time. It not only describes the changes but how to take action during each stage to ensure the health of your relationship.
As a couple grows and their lives change, the marriage is bound to change as well. As a couple moves through the different phases of life, they can expect their intimacy and communication to change as well. Understanding the different stages can help couples recognize what is normal and when there’s a problem.
Here are the seven stages of marriage:
1. Passion Stage- The passion stage is the first phase of the relationship. It is also known as the “honeymoon period.” During this stage there is a lot of excitement and the focus of the relationship is all about getting to know one another better. There’s also a lot of excitement around intimacy. Couples in this stage should be focusing on building their sense of identity as a couple and making time for another. Of course this stage is easiest for two young people who don’t have a lot of responsibility. When couples are getting remarried and have children and careers, it can be more complicated to devote time and energy to the relationship.
2. Realization Stage- During the realization stage couples get to really know one another, both good and bad. There may be a little less emotion and a little more rational thinking in this stage. During this stage communication is the key. It is important that both people are able to confide in one another and the couple is able to build trust with one another. Being able to really listen to one another is essential.
3. Rebellion Stage- During the rebellion stage an individual may be trying to assert himself more and is starting to look out for his own self-interests. Sometimes there are increased disagreements or even hidden power struggles brewing. It is important for couples in this stage to learn how to resolve conflict peacefully. Being able to keep promises, negotiate and compromise are all key to working through this stage. Also couples during this stage can learn to identify and appreciate their differences.
4. Cooperation Stage- During the cooperation stage, a couple is often more preoccupied with other things in life rather than each other. For example, a couple may be dealing with children, work, household responsibilities, volunteering and other tasks which can make the relationship seem less of a priority. Couples during this stage run the risk of becoming more like roommates or business partners rather than romantic lovers. During this stage it is important that a couple make their marriage a top priority. A regular date night and setting aside time to enjoy one another’s company free from life’s distractions can be helpful.
5. Reunion Stage– The reunion stage is often during the empty nest phase of life. After the children leave home, a couple has more time to devote to one another and their marriage. A couple in this stage can benefit from refocusing their energy and creating new memories together as a couple.
6. Explosion Stage- The explosion stage can happen at any point along the way. During this stage, a couple is experiencing a major change or crisis, such as a health problem or unemployment. It is important that couples in this stage pay attention to their needs and gain support as necessary to work through the crisis.
7. Completion Stage- A couple in the completion stage has ongoing stability and security. Together, a couple in this stage can appreciate one another and the life they have created for themselves. During this stage a couple can benefit from creating even more of a sense of meaning and purpose. For example, volunteering together or starting a side business just for fun may help a couple establish a new sense of purpose for themselves.
Recognizing the Stage You Are In
Although in real life, people don’t always move through these stages in a simple fashion, it can be helpful to identify which stage you identify with the most. Then take a look at how your relationship is evolving and how you can adjust accordingly to keep your marriage strong.
As a couple grows together, there is always a sort of push and pull. This push and pull develops as a couple grows together but also as individuals. Successful couples are able to navigate through the changes by evaluating their relationship and working together to maintain communication and intimacy.