The Six Stages of Marriage
How Couples Evolve Over Time
By John E. Turner, LMFT and Sally R. Connolly, LMFT
Stage 1: Romance, "The Honeymoon" or aptly termed “Loving Under the Influence”.During this initial stage of marriage, partners see each other as perfect. They think that they pretty much think and act alike and are only slightly aware of any differences.
As external interests or renewed career goals emerge, those can be
viewed as a betrayal of the relationship. At this stage, couples need to
learn to accept the differences as enhancing their relationship rather
than tearing them apart.
Stage 2: Expectations, Compromise, Disappointment or DistressIn the second stage of marriage, couples sometimes experience changes in each other and in the relationship with feelings of disappointment, loss, anxiety and self-doubt.
The job at this point is to draw a distinct boundary between themselves as a unit and the rest of the world that affects their relationship.
| Many couples stay in this stage for
Struggles are generally over nurturing each other and themselves as individuals. It might look like how much time to spend together and how much to spend apart, how much to focus on career and children and what time to devote to the relationship.
Stage 4: The Seven-Year Itch or the Stage of CompetitionOne or the other may be feeling the need to run from the relationship. “I want time for myself”. “I need some space”.
Stage 5: Reconciliation and Co-operation
As couples reach this stage of the marriage, the are reaching toward intimacy.
Couples recognize that they have a full identity to share with each other.
Stage 6: Acceptance and CollaborationIntimacy and mutuality. At this stage, couples recognize that they can separate and reconnect without losing that identity.
* Adapted from "The Reinvention of Marriage" by Hara Estroff Marano in Psychology Today.