Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The 7 Stages of Marriage: which one are you in?

Did you know marriage has predictable stages? In what stage of marriage are you right now? Depending on the source, there considered to be from 3 to 9 stages of marriage. Here are the 7 main stages that any marriage will likely go through at various times. 
This stage is also known as the Honeymoon Stage, and usually occurs during the first year or two of marriage, but may also occur at other stages, such as after the Empty Nest stage. Not every couple has a passionate stage in their marriage and for some it doesn’t last long. You may be in the Passion Stage if your relationship is all about the two of you and the excitement, sex and intimacy you are experiencing. You can extend, or begin, the passion stage by doing things that strengthen your sense of “us” – such as making spontaneous time for each other, leaving work at work, and scheduling in date and intimate time together.
You may be in the Realization Stage if you find you are beginning to get to know, or to stop denying, each other’s real strengths and weaknesses. Disappointment and conflicts are a part of this stage, so couples must learn to recognize the needs and wants of their partner if they are to grow beyond this stage. You can improve your communication during this stage by active listening and confiding, both are essential to expanding understanding and trust. Certified Temperament Therapy is very helpful at this stage. 
In this stage each spouse starts to reconsider their part in the marriage. You may be tempted to return to friends and activities from your pre-marriage days. Power struggles may take place. You might begin to feel unappreciated and feel it’s “your turn” to be happy. 
This is an ideal time to remember Paul’s words about marriage: if a husband is seeking his wife’s counsel before making difficult decisions, and putting her and the children’s welfare ahead of his own interests, he will not likely have any trouble inspiring her to respect him and choose to submit to his leadership. A husband must love his wife in the way Christ loves His Bride, sacrificing himself to show his love for her and to care for her. A wife truly wants a man she can respect, and a man wants to be respected. A man desperately wants a woman he can love, and a woman wants to be cherished and treated with love. 
Paul exhorts both the husband and wife to submit to one another to reduce conflicts. To avoid or end this stage, learn how to negotiate and to keep agreements – keeping promises builds trust. Identify areas of difference and start talking about them – one at a time. Don’t change the subject and point the finger of blame at one another. Look for the win-win. 
During this stage couples are preoccupied with the kids, money, home and work. It can be a period of growth or it can be a time when emotional separation begins. Cooperation is often focused on individual goals for which each person cooperates with the other in order to achieve, including careers, college, parenting, home buying, etc. As long as each are helping the other achieve goals, things are fine. 
However, Eph. 5:31 reminds us that we are no longer two individuals in a marriage, we are made one and need to develop a marital identity. Individual likes, pursuits, and interests are not the problem as long as they don't replace time building the marital relationships. Turning your marriage into a business partnership, instead of a unity of hearts, minds, and bodies is not what God desires. 
When you find yourself in the cooperation stage and losing a sense of togetherness, regenerate your marriage by making it a priority. Try new things together, start a hobby you both will enjoy, or take a weekend away for romance. Remind yourselves why you were attracted to each other in the beginning, before the kids, the mortgage, and the aging parents.
Typically, this occurs when parenting needs are diminished, finances are established, careers are set, and perhaps the mortgage is paid. You may be enjoying grandchildren and more freedom to travel or relax. 
For happy couples, this is the time to appreciate each other again as lovers, friends, thinkers, and seekers without all the pressures that came with being a younger couple or parents. This can also be a time couples separate, if you have not prepared emotionally for developing a new relationship as empty nesters. Refocus on your marriage, get off autopilot and plan some special events that bring back good memories. Go on a mission trip together or begin mentoring younger couples, laughing about how you got from there to here. Find a renewed purpose as a couple now, instead of the old roles that no longer fit.
The Explosion Stage can happen anytime during a marriage, especially during times of major career, health, parenting and family crises. This is a common time for a couple to seek counseling. 
The most important thing is to learn how to deal with crisis events in appropriate, God-honoring ways. Each spouse may have a different way they naturally respond to stress, which causes even more confusion because the other spouse has unspoken needs and expectations of their own. It is important during stressful times to make use of emotional, physical and spiritual support for yourself, your spouse and your marriage.
Find Godly friends who will support your efforts to cope in healthy ways, instead of giving you poor advice that will only make things worse. Pay attention to your physical and emotional health and well-being. Certified Temperament Therapy is very helpful in this stage.
In the Completion Stage, stability and security reign and you enjoy each other and the life you have created. You have gone through a lot together, survived, and possibly thrived. Much of the arguments and tension have worn away and you can laugh at the fact that you actually made it, you are still married in spite of everything. 
You have many life experiences in common that you share with no one else. Usually by this time couples can share their thoughts openly with one another without fear of rejection. Other people see this as “sniping” but it might only be that you can openly say what you need to and the other understands and does not take offense. This is a good time to try some new adventures together that are pleasurable, building new memories that are exciting and loving, without the painful drama that may have been a part of your past. 
Adapted from The 7 Stages of Marriage by Sari Harrar and Rita DeMaria and Christian Counseling: Integrating Temperament and Psychology, by Henry R. Mohen, PhD

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