Stages of Marriage
Most experts agree that
marriage (and other long-term) relationships tend to evolve in common
Romance or Honeymoon
- Couples are swept up in the excitement and romance of their
relationship. Differences seem relatively unimportant (and
can even be exciting), as they focus on discovering each other and
sharing life together. Sexual attraction is usually strong. 'Getting
bonded' brain chemistry prevails. Many couples assume that
their relationship will naturally work itself out over time with
love as sufficient motivation. Sometimes this stage lasts through
early marriage, but the next 'reality' stage often sets in even
before the wedding and can be the source of 'cold feet'. (See article
on cold feet.)
Reality Stage - Couples
learn more about themselves and each other in situations they haven’t
faced together before. Some of what they encounter may not
be congruent with their pre-existing assumptions and expectations
and may be conflictual. Once married, there is a lot more to disagree
about than during dating or even living together. Some feelings
of disappointment, aloneness and other reactions are normal, along
with a let-down after the activity and excitement of the wedding
Because of challenging
nature of this normal stage, the first two years of marriage have
the highest risk of affairs and divorce. Many couples misinterpret
this normal transition for incompatibility and often worry that
they've made a mistake. They don't understand that many significant
conflicts, while not resolvable, can be successfully managed and
that this is normal in successful, happy marriages. They're often
embarrassed to admit these reactions to their spouse, especially
if they don't understand that these reactions are normal.
Often sex seems more
routine as the initial 'rush' of sexual excitement and 'getting
bonded' brain chemistry subsides and 'partner novelty' diminishes.
Many people begin to feel that the 'spark' has left their relationship;
that they aren't 'in love' any longer. This is another factor that
couples often misinterpret. (See article on married sexuality.)
Childrearing Sub-Stage - The arrival of children
is a particularly critical 'new reality' transition for marriages.
Kids transform the focus of a family and can dramatically increase
the stress level. There is simply so much more work, distraction,
time pressure and potential conflict inherent in childrearing. Most
marriages are not adequately equipped to cope well with this new
family reality. It's very difficult to keep sufficient focus on
the marriage relationship with the attention that kids demands,
but it is essential to do so. The infancy of the second child is
one of the riskiest periods in a marriage, since all these stress
factors are multiplied with two young children requiring intensive
attention in the family. (See our article on Becoming Parents.)
Couples who don't intentionally
strategize and plan to keep their intimacy strong can begin to feel
alienated and drift apart. This is why it's so important to have
marriage preparation before the wedding or immediately after, before
the more demanding marriage phases begin. It's a lot easier to plan
to keep up the positive momentum of your relationship during the
early phases than after problem patterns and habits have emerged.
Unfortunately, many couples don't understand the need for this until
negativity begins to be more of a factor.
Accommodation Stage - Couples
work to renew their relationship on a down-to-earth basis
by learning about their needs and managing their differences and
areas of conflict. (See our article on Bonding & Marriage Success.)
Transformation or Success
- Couples enjoy the benefits of a marriage that satisfies
their needs and provides mutual support. This leads to more
profound intimacy over the years as the couple shares the experience
of ups and downs. They work to keep it that way. There is
another risky transition after about 16 years (when the first child
It is very important
to the success of your marriage that you understand these normal
stages of marriage development, so you will be prepared for marriage’s
challenges. MST helps to minimize adjustment issues by helping
you to lay the groundwork for mutual understanding and realistic
expectations. The skills and habits that you develop in MST
will facilitate your accommodation work and assist you in transforming
your relationship to reach long-term success. With these stages
in mind, you can see how important it is to begin the process of
preparation early in your relationship.
here for related reading and references list.
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/ rescue seminar - Click here if you're married more than a year
yourselves for more success in the stages of marriage ahead. Consider
attending a Marriage Success Training seminar with your partner.
Click here to learn about the benefits of MST.
2003, Patricia S. & Gregory A. Kuhlman. You may copy this article
for non-commercial use provided that no changes are made and this
copyright notice, author credit and stayhitched.com source citation