As identified by Dr Susan in her study of hundreds of couples there are Five Predictable Stages in a relationship
The first stage is called the Romance stage. When we fall in love, we fall in love with the single most incompatible person for us, in the universe. The person most capable of causing us the most pain and least capable of meeting our primary human needs. Why?It turns out that we human beings are no different from anything else in nature. We’re either growing or we’re dying. Of course, nature wants us to grow. So nature makes us fall in love with the most incompatible person in the Universe. The person must able and capable of making our worst nightmares come true. Why?Because that person is going to be the most capable of pushing our buttons and forcing us to grow and expand in our lives. They’re the perfect person to ensure our growth. But if we knew this person was the most incompatible person in the Universe for us We would run as fast as possible for the hills. Right? So, Nature drugs us. Yep! That’s the only way we could possibly fall in love with the most incompatible person in the Universe. Your brain releases a series of chemicals like Phenylethylamine and Oxytocin and Dopamine That make you fall in love so you can only see your partner through rose tinted glasses. You would only focus on the Romance Stage on how you and your partner are the same and you ignore your differences. You’ll do anything to please your partner and to have them like you. Because you’re high on drugs! If you weren’t you’d run a mile, right? What happens is that this drug-induced high love lasts for anywhere between two months and two years and probably an average four to six months before it begins to wear off. And when it begins to wear off, you have what I like to call a “love hangover”. You wake up in bed with the most incompatible person in the Universe and you go AHHHH!! AND the Power Struggle stage begins.
This is where the highest percentage of first marriage divorce’s happen usually, around the three to four-year into the relationship mark. What ends up happening is that once your brain stops releasing the oxytocin and the dopamine, and all these beautiful drugs, you wake up and you realize just how much of yourself you sacrificed in order to be in a relationship with this person. And now you want yourself back! You want to reclaim your independence and your autonomy. So you enter into this kind of tug-of-war. This battle of wills with your partner trying to be in a relationship and yet still be independent. And what happens is because most couples- ninety-nine percent of them, I reckon -Are not educated around how to navigate conflict. How to actually communicate and how to deal with this Power Struggle stage. they end up dealing with it in one of two dysfunctional ways:
They either break up or they survive. The breakup route usually happens with people who have been kind of serial daters. They go round, and round, and round in the Romance stage. Falling in love with that feeling of being in love is like drug addiction.
And I like to say “The only difference between a drug addict and falling in love is that falling in love is legal”. And they fall in love with this feeling of being high on love then, end up being serial daters. The minute they hit the Power Struggle stage they run away from their relationship and find the next one.
The second way people deal with the Power Struggle stage without actually moving beyond it is to survive. In that, they usually resigned themselves to compromise or sacrifice. And they give up what they really want in order to be with their partner, Of course, the relationship emotionally dies. They die internally. I’ve been there and done this in the past too. And then their sex life dies as well. Often this ends up in infidelity or the partner’s just eventually grew apart and the relationship breaking up in the end.
OR the relationship surviving with a lifetime of pain. When the Power Struggle happened to me in my relationship I was caught completely off guard We’ve gone so quickly in a matter of months from being head over heels in love to being in conflict and fighting with each other. It seems we couldn’t have a conversation that just felt connected without it being blown out of proportion into an argument. I couldn’t understand it! Because I’ve been a seminar leader who’d helped thousands of people all around the world transform their lives. And yet I couldn’t seem to accomplish the simple task of getting the woman that I loved to respond to me in a way that had us feel connected and in love with each other. Then something completely unexpected happened. . . She left me. . . and she moved to another country.
I was shocked and caught completely off guard. I decided that this woman was my soulmate and I was going to do whatever I could to get her back So being the geek that I am. . . I went and I studied with successful couples who’ve gotten through the Power Struggle stage and have done built a lifetime of love. I started studying communication skills I started studying conflict resolution. And I came up with an alternative to the first two options of breaking up or just surviving. I like to call this taking the third option. The option that most couples don’t even know about, let alone take. Taking the third option involves learning how to love consciously. Involves, instead of seeing your partner as the most incompatible person in the world you start to see them as the most qualified person to help you grow instead of your relationship just being something that makes you happy and secures you transform your relationship into a crucible that allows you to grow and mature as human beings together. And in order to accomplish all of this you’re going to need to learn some skills that you definitely weren’t taught by your parents or by your teachers at school. Certainly, that’s what I had to do. It took us six months of negotiating our differences before she phoned me up one day and said:”Hey, nobody makes me feel as loved and as accepted as you do. I love you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you”. As you can imagine that was the happiest day of my life. And we didn’t get there accidenttDo we still fight? Do we still have arguments? Of course, we do! But they never turn into them mudslinging matches that they use to. They never turn into name-calling. They turn into opportunities for us to become more intimately connected. Through every one of our arguments now, we’re able to turn it around and move through them, so that that cycle of repeating the same arguments over and over again stops happening. And we start to getting arguments complete. So once you’ve learned to fight in a way that has both of you win you enter into the Stability Stage. And this is a beautiful stage where you can take a deep breath(SIGH)and relax.
As the romance from the Romance stage returns but in a deeper more mature way. And all that connectedness returns. And you realize that you’re never going to change your partner, and they’re never going to change you, and you’ve given up even trying to do so, and you’re happy to accept them just the way that they are.
In this stage, if you master the communication skills and you learn mutual respect you move on to the next stage which is the Commitment Stage. If you don’t master those skills and you don’t learn that mutual respect you go back to the Power Struggle stage, round and round and round and round. Until you DIE. Not a pretty picture, but that’s how most relationships end up and that’s why we have a divorce rate that’s higher than 50 percent.
Let’s take a look at the Commitment Stage. In this stage, you choose your partner just as they are. You begin to experience a beautiful balance of fun, power, love, belonging, and freedom!And you can honestly say to your partner:”I love loving you just as you are. Flaws and all” This is the first stage where you’re really ready to make a commitment and get married or do whatever your version of that is. Perhaps do a spiritual partnership commitment. Unfortunately, most couples get married or commit to each other in the Romance Stage when they’re COMPLETELY high on drugs and they have no idea who each other are. And they have no idea how to navigate through conflict when it happens. And then they wake up one day, and they’re trapped in this marriage, and before they know it they’ve gotten kids and they don’t know how to navigate it. This stage of the Commitment Stage is the first stage where you’re really ready to make an explicit commitment to your partner and if you do. do it correctly, you end up moving to the next stage which is called the Bliss Stage.
In the Bliss Stage, the two of you as a team to go out into the world and you move beyond your relationship, and your relationship as a third unit actually becomes a gift that goes out into the world and makes a difference together. Perhaps you’re working on a project together. Perhaps you’re doing something in your community together. Perhaps you start a business together. Whatever the case may be, your relationship serves the world as a gift and you get to make a difference together.