There are 5 key stages of a healthy relationship.
Stage I: Infatuation
After three or four dates:
- Frequently sexual relationship begins.
- Thrill of someone new who gives me positive attention and likes me.
- I finally found the person I have been looking for.
- I love the feelings: love; being in love and desired.
- Enmeshment: No differences/people pleasing.
- Aren’t we compatible!
Stage II: Initial but Limited Commitment (6 weeks to 2 years)
Many relationships never leave this stage even after marriage:
- Only one partner: relationship is exclusive.
- Conflict: real self in each person emerges.
- People pleasing ceases: May feel annoyed by person’s habits when they were not noticed before.
- Differences emerge: infatuation ends and is replaced with deeper understanding and appreciation of the partner.
- Problems emerge: when differences emerge. These differences are either worked through/negotiated with a compromise or ignored with more distance such as seeing less of the person or avoiding certain subjects. Many couples break-up over differences and may even perceive these differences as a personal attack on them. (Example: you are not talkative or cheerful in the morning because you are not a morning person).
- New partner is integrated into network of friends and family/ with feedback and support from them.
- Couples typically live together somewhere in this stage. (One study showed partners who live together more than two years frequently do not marry each other.)
- Can stay in this stage indefinitely.
Major questions of this stage: Is this relationship the “right” one for me ? Do I want a permanent commitment with this person?
Stage III: Permanent Commitment
Marriage or announced permanent commitment.
Buying a home together.
Some people are not always sure why they are commtting: often because do not want to break-up or “it’s time” (press of family or wanting children).
Stage IV: Early Marriage/Commitment
Planning the future together.
Settling into marriage, developing routines and accepting differences.
Acknowledgement by the world that you are permanent (ceremony).
The Power Struggle/Conflict emerges again.
This power struggle must take place and leads to the question: Can I be me and still be in this relationship?
Stage V: Recommitment
Exits are blocked. Recommitment to marriage or permanence and to your partner as the chosen one. This takes place only after each partner has determined they can be who they are and be in a permanent commitment.
Is this love, comfort, fun, and support or is this boredom? (There is boredom if true self has been submerged, conflict has been suppressed, and the lack of tension and increasing distance has killed the closeness.)
RECOMMITMENT IS A LIFELONG, ONGOING, REWARDING AND GROWING PROCESS.