Stages of Love: Not Knowing This Makes You A Relationship Rookie!
posted: Oct. 10, 2020.
“We argue all the time,” she said, with tears welling up in her eyes, “and I can’t even tell you what we fight about. It’s small stuff, but we get so upset with each other. It takes me days to recover… Things are not the same between us. I want us to go back to the way we were…”
Couples therapists hear this a lot. During the pre-Covid times, when I had my Los-Angeles, California brick and mortar office, clients would come in for couples therapy and present a version of “the way we were” story, usually followed by “and here we are.” Now, as I transitioned to seeing my clients virtually, the landscape of online couples therapy is no different.
Couples therapists can approach “the way we were” narrative from many angles. When I hear this familiar story, my first step is to normalize the experience. I explain that an intimate relationship, just like a baby, has developmental stages and markers. In some stages the conflict is unavoidable and, actually, healthy. It is not the fact that we fight that is important. It is whether we are able to fight constructively and quickly recover after conflict.
Successful resolution of the conflict is essential for continued growth of the relationship and for the deepening of the intimacy between the partners. Our work in online therapy is not to learn to avoid conflict, but to find the underlying causes of the conflict and use the friction to help partners compassionately understand themselves and each other. Through repeated experience of successfully resolving conflict the relationship matures, deepens and grows stronger.
In my opinion, understanding the developmental stages of intimate relationship is as important as having a GPS in an unfamiliar terrain. It can help us understand what relationship stage we are in, what are the main lessons for us to learn, and what is in store for us if we stick to the highlighted route.
The stages of love are a helpful guide and a powerful tool to navigate our intimate relationships. The Honeymoon stage of romantic infatuation always precedes the Power Struggle stage, in which we renegotiate our needs in the relationship. Conflict opens the opportunity to the Re-evaluation stage, in which we decide if we want to stay and forge a partnership with our mate. In turn this is leads to the stage of Reconnection and culminate in the stage of conscious and mature love.
We will spend next few blogs talking in detail about each stage, however; this model has certain limitations. Unlike child development stages, relationship stages have no time guidelines. The time partners have been together is not directly related to the relationship stage they are in. Couples that have spent 4 decades together might have never resolved the power struggle phase, for example. Also, the transition between stages can be either gradual or abrupt, and, at times, markers of adjacent stages can be present simultaneously. Nevertheless, understanding the flow and growth process from the initial infatuation to mature love can spare many couples some of the heartache, anxiety and confusion that are part of our evolution and growth. Join me on the journey through stages of love. Next stop is the Honemoon!