Creating and maintaining a healthy relationship is something that can be continually worked on. These are the stages of relationships, as defined by Harville Hendrix. Harville has crafted relationships into five significant stages. As you read over them, begin to think about where you are currently in your relationship.
Couples begin marriage in a state of romantic bliss. During this euphoric phase, which usually lasts the first to third years or marriage, newlyweds wear the proverbial “rose-colored” glasses – life and love are perfect. Differences tend to be discounted and faults are few. This is the time that spouses seek the intimacy they crave.
Disillusionment or The Power Struggle
This second stage is disappointment time, often with faultfinding. Partners realize that the other’s behavior is irritating or even hurtful. This stage can be frightening and it is when many couples see divorce as the only option. Often, the lack of effective communication skills, problem-solving skills, and the ability to compromise and negotiate leave many couples stuck indefinitely in this stage. Also, the battle of wills occur, and to successfully leave this stage each individual must find a way to adjust to the ways of his/her partner.
Cooperation: Knowledge and Awareness
Stage three can leave the couple feeling stung and hurt by the damage rendered by the turbulent times. If the couple perseveres and is willing to learn the communication and negotiation skills to navigate the power struggle, a new sense of acceptance and willingness to change enters the relationship. Learning new relationship skills, and cultivating creativity within the relationship often accompany this shift in thought. Partners take responsibility for their own problems and shed the illusion that their partner is the key to their happiness.
Stage four is often called acceptance, commitment or mutuality. You and your partner realize that regardless of whom you are with, there will be problems, so you might as well stay in the relationship and work them out. Togetherness just feels secure, and there exists a heightened sense of belonging. The unhealthy patterns that dogged their relationship seem like ancient history. This acceptance is the bridge to ultimate transformation and a love that can be enjoyed for a lifetime.
Couples who put in the time and effort reap this final reward. Intimacy is second nature. The attitude is “we grow together.” This is also called “co-creativity.” Stage five couples develop a web of meaningful relationships that support the marriage and deepen the joy. In this final stage, couples know what the fairy tales neglected to mention: Love is hard work.
Were you able to identify where you currently are?