Seven Stages Of Marriage
This is based on a work by Sari Harrar and Rita DeMaria PhD. It looks at the Seven identifiable stages most marriages go through from the moment vows are exchanged till death literally do the couples part…or other factors come in to derail the marriage. The Seven stages start from the stage of Passion – which is the early days of marriage, to the Completion Stage where you find stability and peace.
Let's look at the various stages and which action to take in each of the stages.
1. Passion Stage
This is the early stages of the marriage. It is generally between the Honeymoon up to twelve (12) months into the wedding (Some earlier) or up until a baby arrives. In the passion stage, there is more of the two of you and less of others. You focus on the positives of each other while you play down, overlook or completely get oblivious of their negatives. You bond through unabashed intimacy, traveling and touring (for those who can afford), you are seen in public together (and those of you who are social media lovers, post tonnes of pictures online) and you agree on most issues. It is the most exciting period for most marriages.
Action To Be Taken: During this period, strengthen your sense of “us”, change the narrative from ‘Me’ and ‘I’ to ‘Us and We’. Wear your wedding ring, quickly introduce your spouse to friends when you bump into them, refer to yourself by your New acquired name (for the women), get lasting and exciting pet names for each other, make time for each other, leave work at work. Build a solid network of mutual friends as opposed to individual friends. Reduce, if not completely cut off, the degree of information you pass on to friends and relatives about your marriage. Be fixated on how to make your marriage work, build trust, respect, and unshakable friendship in each other.
2. Realization Stage
This is the stage of the marriage (right after the Passion Stage) where couples are getting to know the real strengths and weaknesses of each other. It is at this stage that the dust of love is settled, all pretenses are over, what we can truly do and what we cannot do are all beginning to show. The neat freaks are coming home and those who hoard are piling up filth all over. Some strengths come to unsettle some of the spouses, like the true strength of a wife who might have played weak and sweet all along. It is the period where the foundation settles and its true nature is revealed. It is a stage a lot of couples get to and can feel disillusioned seeing some of the weaknesses in their spouses – weaknesses they did not know were there. That explains why most modern marriages struggle to cross their 5th Anniversary. I called the realisation stage a stage of Marital Shock.
Action To Be Taken: Develop the two important communication habits in marriage – listening and confiding – which are essential to expanding understanding and trust. During this period, you need not assume anything and you need not imply anything. Talk about things as you see them, and be interested in understanding why things are the way they are. Be eager to explain why certain things are the way they are with you. Try to understand each other as that understanding builds up trust. Build your in-house communication capacity before things spill over. Consider enrolling in a couples communication class or post marital counselling to help you sail through that stage. PGPEDIA offers these services.
3. Rebellion Stage
You may be in the Rebellion Stage when each of you is seeking to assert your self-interests and you end up having volatile – or hidden - power struggles. This is the stage where both couples have come to their wits ends trying to play along. The guy who was all caring is reverting to his old self of not caring what you do with your hair or how what you wear looks like on you. He is now becoming who he is; his boys, his games, his outing, his passwords and flirting around, his ‘workaholism’, his 'short-temperedness', his quest to 'club' or go out and stay out, everything that is self-seeking and of self-interest. The woman is tired of suppressing her opinion, choking under the pretense of being a loving and sweet wife. Now she wants to seek her own interest. and everything selfish and similar to what the man is doing or more. So You don’t speak 'at' me again, you don’t order me again. You don’t patronise me again. You don’t become all sagacious with the dumbest ideas again. Financial and social standings are silently used to justify one’s actions. So a woman who feels ‘oppressed' looks at her finances and ability to sustain herself in the event of a divorce, rather than finding creative ways of resolving the issue. Spouses Rebel against each other.
Action To Be Taken: Learn how to negotiate and keep agreements – keeping promises builds trust. Identify areas of difference and start talking about them – one at a time. Don’t change the subject when the issues are being discussed. Do not be closed minded to ideas because you have a preconceived notion about what you want. Be willing to Compromise and be willing to get each other along rather than dragging each other along. Avoid dragging the horse to the well-side. Negotiation and compromise become the way forward.
4. Cooperation Stage
You maybe in the Cooperation Stage if both you and your spouse seem more preoccupied with the kids, money, home and work and you start to feel like business partners more than lovers. During this stage, there is a lot of emphasis on payment of bills, mortgage, career progression, academic pursuits, social agenda like getting into politics or becoming more relevant to the community in a grand way. Spouses, during this period, are willing to cooperate with each other for the greater good; you put your differences aside and help raise the children, pay the mortgage, grow their political career or any other career ambition they may have. They take a lot of political and business decisions as opposed to decisions based on love and emotions.
Action To Be Taken: Make your marriage a priority, de-stress and keep the passion alive. Set up a regular date night. Find a babysitter! In the heat of its all, make time for each other, build bridges and adopt reconciliatory and engaging approach towards each other, especially after the Rebellious Stage - stage define how most marriages will eventually go.
5. Reunion Stage
You may be in the Reunion Stage if you have an ‘empty nest’ and begin to have more time for yourself and each other to renew your friendship and passion. This period is a very tricky period; the children are all grown and away from the house. Some are at the university; others are working. You may be anywhere in your forties to early fifties. Most Couples would have peaked in their career or can see how it would undoubtedly end if things go the way they are going. The tricky part is what happened at the Rebellion Stage of your marriage and how it was handled(See Stage 3). If the struggle and animosity got intense and that phase passed with these differences unresolved, it is generally at this Reunion Stage that some couples, can quietly and without drama separate. Some couples, do not move past the Rebellion Stage but stay in the marriage just because of the children. When that factor is out of the equation, they just walk away to find solace in new things and in new people.
Action To Be Taken: Refocus on your marriage, get off autopilot & unpack any old baggage. Plan some special events that bring back good memories. If you can seek coaching on how to spice up your love life and return to a miniature Passion Stage.
6. Explosion Stage
You may be in the Explosion Stage, which can happen anytime, if you are experiencing major career, health, parenting and family crises. From Redundancy to Debilitating Sickness or worse the death of a loved one can set the family and marriage on fire. It is a stage most marriages pass through in a form or the other and the knowledge of it helps us meet it and handle it well.
Action To Be Taken: Make use of emotional, physical and spiritual support for yourself, your spouse and your marriage. Pay attention to your physical and emotional health and well-being. Do your best to ease the burden on each other rather than aggravating it.
7. Completion Stage
You may be in the Completion Stage as stability and security reign, and you enjoy each other and the life you have created.During this period, a sense of bliss and equilibrium in your marriage and family life.
Action To Be Taken: Look to create a new sense of meaning & purpose for yourselves & your marriage. Establish a special project that you will begin together.
Adapted and expanded from The 7 Stages of Marriage by Sari Harrar and Rita DeMaria, Copyright 2007 The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.