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Relationship Stages

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.

Romantic Love
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.

Acceptance
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.

Transformation
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?

 

Knowing your True Self in a Relationship

Each person is completely unique, even if he or she has something in common with others, especially their significant other. Individuality is important, and knowing who you are plays a key role in your relationship, as well as the choices you make for yourself. If you are unsure about yourself or insecure in anyway, this can have a detrimental effect on the choices you make, as well as the strength and stability of your relationship.

Standards and Expectations  
Setting standards and expectations for yourself is a good way to ensure success. When it comes to relationships, this will help you to weed out those toads in order to find your true love hiding deep within the lily pads. If you do not know who you really are, there is no way you can definitely set forth your standards and expectations.

And if you enter into a relationship unsure of yourself, you cannot possibly know what you want and are almost guaranteed to encounter difficult relationships filled with incompatibility, struggle, and strife.   Being able to say,  I know who I am, I know who I want, and I will not settle for anything less,  will help you to be more discerning in your choice of mate, and will enable you to find someone you can build a strong partnership with; standing beside them for all the right reasons, as opposed to leaning on one another for the wrong reasons and wallowing in a miserable relationship that will inevitable come to a bitter end.

Conflict in Relationships
No relationship is without its fair share of conflict. However, there is a fine line between a healthy amount of conflict and navigating some seriously rocky terrain. If you do not know whom you really are and cannot set forth your standards and expectations, you run a high risk of allowing insecurities to creep into your relationship causing undue conflict. Insecure people tend to be vulnerable, choosing mates who are not always the best choice for them, and failing to stand their ground about what they believe and want, as well as being susceptible to tolerating things they should not tolerate simply because they are too insecure to believe they deserve any better. For those who do find a kind and loving mate, despite their insecurities, conflict can creep in because insecurities tend to make people paranoid, causing them to start fights and aim accusations at their partner, even when unfounded and often ludicrous. And while such petty conflict can be the insecure partners way of reassuring themselves of the others devotion and love, over time, this same type of conflict can drive the other partner away because of the constant arguing, clingy-ness, and need for unnecessary reassurances.

Commitment  
If you do not know who you really are, you cannot possibly make a commitment to yourself. This means you cannot set forth those important standards and expectations for yourself or a relationship. If you cannot commit to yourself, you certainly cannot commit to a long-term relationship, nor can you expect that relationship to be strong and healthy with only a reasonable amount of conflict. The bottom line, no matter what your age and experiences in life, find out whom you really are, committing to yourself first, and then find that special someone who will love and appreciate you for who you really are.

Relationship Connection

Connected relationships lead to a greater stability in all of your relationships – including family, friends and coworkers. To create shared meanings and values in your relationships, identify the shared meanings you already have and decide what new meanings you may want to add. Shared meanings help people, whether family or friend, settle conflicts and collectively pursue the goals that really matter to them and the relationship.

Some examples of shared meaning goals are raising a healthy child, building a successful business, or helping an elderly relative pass peacefully – all depending on what is being presented by each specific relationship. When two people find a shared meaning, they are willing to support each others dreams, even when there is little to gain personally from doing so, which is important for satisfying relationships.

Attaining A Shared Meaning In Your Relationships

Recognize The Conflict – Conflict often stems from inner dreams and ideals. If you uncover the ideals hidden behind another person’s position during a conflict, you can often find some common meaning. However, this strategy does not come easily for most people. Practice self-compassion and mindfulness to really take notice of what conflicts you may need to resolve within yourself. Looking inward is a great first step to solving anything. Once you are able to broaden your discussion to include dreams and hopes, you can see where your visions merge and find room for compromise.

Talk About Your Dreams – Encourage one another’s support for these aspirations. Keep in mind that talking about life dreams and what they mean to you requires some degree of trust between you and your partner (or friend/coworker). Such discussions can bring up issues so important and deeply felt that you may feel vulnerable. Just as with many high-risk propositions, there is also potential for high gain. Talking about your dreams and aspirations can lead to stronger emotional connections with the people in your life who matter most.

Meaningful Activities – Regularly engage in planned meaningful activities that draw people together emotionally. Most of us were raised in families in which some rituals were considered important (religions holidays for example). Create your own rituals – whatever you wish for them to be – it could be as simple as the ritual of a shared family dinner once a week. Rituals with family and friends will give those relationships more shared meanings.

Shared meanings are a big reason why we connect in our relationships in the first place. Harvesting these meanings will only create better connection.