Every relationship, regardless of relationship status (married or de facto, etc.) experiences difficulties and conflict (many times), particularly when you are adjusting from being single to becoming a couple!
You may not have realized the relationship difficulties you experienced with a previous partner were just part of the process of becoming a committed couple and you may have been compatible had you recognized the patterns in your relationship and worked out your differences.
That's right, when initial hormones and chemicals (the good old "love drug," dopamine) have calmed down and the lust in your relationship has evaporated, which can happen quicker than you say, "Jack Robinson," you move into another phase where reality hits and you can end up going through the grieving process.
According to Dr. Susan Campbell, relationships go through five stages. Some stages are more intoxicating and appealing than others, however, not all relationships are successful and see it through to the end; most get stuck in power struggles.
Power struggles usually kick in anywhere between three months and two years into a relationship. Some couples remain stuck in this phase and never get out of it, forever repeating the same conflicts over and over again!
According to relationship expert, Harville Hendrix, the power struggle stage is a phase that can be further broken down into five additional stages, known as the grief cycle, as identified by, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, in her book, On Death and Dying.
“What we are grieving is the loss of illusion, embedded in the experience of romantic love, that we are secure and that with our beloved we will be painlessly, miraculously healed of our childhood wound and recover our original aliveness.”
Each stage and phase has its own hurdles, complexities, and issues to overcome. When you understand the different stages, you are more likely to successfully navigate your relationship through the trials and tribulations because you know what you're going through is, "normal."
If you really want a healthy relationship with a best friend, someone who is your true love, you may want to discover what stage your relationship is in, understand the difficulties you may encounter, so you can overcome them.
Yes, to have a successful and happy relationship, it takes work!
I've amalgamated Dr. Susan Campbell's five stages of relationships, the five stages of grief, and additional theories to identify successful and healthy relationships (that last long-term) go through eleven different stages within the five phases of a relationship.
Unfortunately, many couples get "stuck" (or separate), in the first seven stages of their relationship. If you want a "bliss" relationship, or become the "perfect couple," overcome the power struggles phase, which virtually every couple goes through by the way (regardless of relationship status), you need to successfully navigate the first seven stages of a relationship, which I will provide more information on below, if you want lasting love.
To stay together and become the "bliss" or the "perfect couple," you need to move into the eleventh and final stage. To get there, you have to successfully navigate through the first seven stages where the majority of power struggles take place.
First come the initial meeting and attraction. If there isn't an initial meeting and there is no attraction, the relationship will not proceed to the second stage (unless your culture dictates otherwise, for example, a pre-arranged marriage).
The "rose-tinted glasses" stage, or "honeymoon period," is when your partner (the person you're seeing/dating) can do no wrong. You have a tendency to ignore all the differences between you and your date and you just focus on the great things such as your similarities. If you both have the same favorite color, you may see this as a "sign" you're meant to be together. You may even fantasize about your future together (getting married and having children). Physical attraction can be strong and blur your reality!
Your differences are generally ignored and you just want to please your partner. Issues in this stage are your loss of individuality and identity. As a result, you are unable to see your partner for who they truly are (and vice versa).
This stage of a relationship generally lasts between three months and two years. Life can feel great in this stage of a relationship, but it is very short-lived and can be very energy draining keeping up pretenses (trying to be someone you're not).
Some people become addicted to this stage of a relationship and when this stage of the relationship ends, they leave the relationship because they no longer feel "in love." The love chemicals have died down, so they move on to their next partner.
When the chemistry dies down, you start to see your partner for who they really are. Your "rose-tinted glasses" have been removed and you are in, "shock!" You cannot believe that your partner is not perfect!
Think back to an ex-partner. Do you recall going through the phase where you started to see those little behaviors that "niggled" you such as leaving crumbs on the kitchen surfaces or leaving the toilet seat up? These behaviors (or others) started to annoy you, but you were "frozen" into inaction.
In this stage of a relationship, you may witness behaviors that concern you. Maybe you are thrown "off guard" when your partner raised their voice at you for the first time? Or called you a word that you do not approve of? Or slam a door? Or even threaten you? The masks start to slip and you start to see your partner differently.
What you once considered a quirky trait, has become an irritant.
Your perception of the person you are in a relationship with has changed and what you see, shocks you. You realize they are not perfect and you don't know how to respond!
Your eyes are beginning to open and you see some of your partner's "imperfections." Who you once (not so long ago) viewed as a God or Goddess is now taking on more of an appearance of a grumpy guy or a nagging witch.
You "try" to "ignore" the red flags and warning signs believing if you do it long enough, they'll go away.
For instance, that person you first started dating who had fun getting drunk and dancing is not so attractive a few months or years later. You do see a pattern where your partner probably drinks too much and needs to get drunk every weekend, but you don't want to think about it.
In this situation, maybe you get confused because you may believe you have a problem attracting yet another person who drinks too much? Or gets too aggressive? Or is too moody, etc?
Maybe you fear the truth and rather not know so you continue as you have been when you first started dating?
Maybe you make excuses such as, "That's how it was when we first met."
Do you fear to discover what your partner is "really like" and avoid noticing the traits you are not attracted to?
These are all classic avoidance and denial tactics.
Unfortunately, denying your partner's imperfections does not change them or their behavior. The situation will remain the same. As a result, you may experience anger.
You may begin to notice even more qualities you do not like about your partner. For instance, their snoring may bother you but initially, it wasn't a problem. You may even begin to think they snore on purpose! They will irritate and frustrate you; you may even experience anxiety and become angry.
You are angry that you are in a relationship with someone who is not who you thought they were. And, you are angry because they have not changed as you hoped and expected.
The problem is, your partner will most likely feel the same about you. Yes, you read that correctly, they will more than likely have similar issues with you, too.
They thought they were in a relationship with the love of their life and now, (in their mind) you've turned into a nag or a grumpy person. They feel "robbed" and believe you have cheated them out of their ideal relationship. Pretty much the same way you feel!
This is the stage of a relationship when individuals "bargain" with one another to get what they want from the other. For instance, you may have sex with your partner if they've been particularly attentive towards you or helped out more. Or, you may want to treat your partner to a meal out because you want sex.
This is the stage of a relationship where individuals want and need to find meaning. There's no point in being in a relationship just for the sake of it. If you are going to lose your "freedom" there has to be a point to being with another person!
When you attempt to bargain with your partner to get "your way" and you "fail," you can slip back into the fifth stage again and feel anger. Or, you may move into the seventh stage were you feel despair or depressed about the situation and your relationship.
You become passive and indifferent towards your partner and the relationship.
When people reach this stage of the relationship and experience despair, helplessness, and even feel overwhelmed by their situation long enough, they have two option:
Power Struggle Phase - Stages: Three to Seven (Inclusive)
When it comes to your intimate relationship, the power struggle is around you and your partner moving on from the romance stage, and you've identified the need for freedom and individuality; reclaiming your identity.
This phase of a relationship is critical if you want it to last the long haul. This is where a lot of relationships tend to end, which includes divorce.
Are you experiencing a partner who is pulling away from you and you don't know why? Maybe they're in stage seven of the relationship cycle.
Do you feel anger and don't know why? Maybe you're in stage five.
As you can see, the phases and stages in a relationship support you to understand what is going on between you and your partner, and why.
This is a critical stage in a relationship and a lot of relationships tend to end, which includes divorce.
Are you finding it difficult to relate with your partner and this wasn't an issue before? Triggers from your past and previous relationships may be at play.
Learning to accept that there are differences in relationships, and this stage in a relationship is normal, will help you to realize that you are together by choice, not because you "need" to be.
When you have moved from despair in your relationship and feel safe with the support of your partner, you are able to move into the "acceptance" stage of the relationship; accepting the reality of your life, partner, and relationship.
You are in an emotionally different place and you can begin to explore your options and make new plans together so you can move forward in your relationship. As two individuals working in unison with a common goal, to live in bliss together whilst supporting each other to actualize your individual goals.
Stability in stage nine can only be achieved when you are accepting of your partner, the differences, their "quirky" ways, your reality, and the relationship. You no longer feel the need to compete for power with your partner. You compete together to support one another.
It's the two of you against the world!
Stage ten is when "real love" kicks in. You are emotionally committed to one another. You are committed not just in "fact" through marriage, or parenting, or living together.
You have each other's back and are there for one another, no matter what!
You are in a blissful/perfect couple relationship and are a "super-person" because you know you have the love and support of your partner, who compliments you, your strengths, and your skills.
You enjoy each other's company. You do not feel the need to compete against each other. You support one another.
You are the envy of others who are stuck in stages one through seven!
When you're in the final four stages of a relationship, congratulations! You've navigated through the first seven stages. In your relationship, there will be clear boundaries between you and your partner and power struggles are no longer a problem.
In stage seven, you did your final grieving for the relationship. There was a sense of sadness because the "fairy-tale" romance dream that was established in the "rose-tinted glasses" stage is no longer a reality.
In stage eight, couples may drift apart because each partner in the relationship can individually pursue their own interests, to the detriment of the relationship. This is when individuals may feel bored with each other, disconnected, and they no longer find they have things in common.
This is the second most common stage for relationships to end in divorce, or couples seek counseling or marriage counseling.
The advantage of this phase is that you have a history together and you both know how the other behaves. You recognize the "warning signs" and have a way of communicating that you both understand.
When couples achieve this phase in their relationship, they have established a balance between individuality, love, and connection with their partner, and a sense of belonging. You both know what you want individually and collectively for the relationship. This is the stage when people are emotionally ready for marriage.
Couples may rush into this stage and even bypass previous stages all together (the romantic idea of being married overrides the issues of commitment and what it truly means to be a "partnership").
Regardless of the stage of your relationship, both of you must continually invest in it if you want to stay together in a happy, loving, and supportive partnership.
2. Have you worked out all of the potential difficulties you may encounter in the next stage?
3. Why not get relationship coaching so you know exactly what lies ahead? Get support from family and friends so you can successfully navigate difficulties and have a healthy relationship with your partner?
4. Try to identify the tactics you and your partner use when you compete for power. If you are uncertain of the power dynamics in your relationship, you will benefit from doing the free power archetype quiz (better still, get your partner to do it also) so you can gain a deeper understanding of the conflict between the two of you.
Just click the button below to take the quiz which will take approximately three minutes to do.
As you can see, there can be difficulties in relationships, regardless of the stage, you're in.
Knowing the stage your relationship is in gives you some understanding of the issues that may impact on you and your partner, and why they are happening; this helps you to plan and move through issues more quickly. It opens up the opportunity for you and your partner to discuss what is going rather than getting stuck, angry, or leaving the relationship!
Are you ready and wanting to reach stage eleven?
What are you waiting for?
I'm looking forward to connecting.
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