March 30, 2010
By Thomas Wright, M. Th.
WHAT ARE THE PHASES MARRIAGES GO THROUGH?
Marriages that last go through five different phases. Some marriages never last long enough to experience all of them and some marriages get bogged down in the middle end never mature.
Marriage is a developmental process. The first phase is romance. Romance is characterized by fantasy. You are not yet deeply acquainted with your spouse so you get to imagine them as you wish them to be. Each is putting his best foot forward to avoid discovery and disappointment.
The second phase is disillusionment. This occurs as you begin to discover that the real live human being sitting across from, you at the table is not exactly what you had imagined. Often a feeling of disappointment accompanies the displacement of hope and fantasy with reality.
At this point people usually settle in and try to improve things by working hard at being nice and accepting the things about their mate that disappoint or irritate them. Unfortunately, the harder you try, the worse you feel This leads to despair, which is the third phase of marriage.
The reason things get worse is that trying is lying, and closeness requires honesty. A crisis point is often reached in this phase. There are three ways to respond to this crisis; bail out through separation or divorce, settle in for a life of quiet desperation, or accept the challenge and work for growth.
The fourth phase, for those who accept the challenge is growth. This is a somewhat frightening process of ups and downs characterized by pain—gain experiences. Honest self—disclosure often leads to painful discoveries and readjustments. There seems to be a relationship between the amount of pain you are willing to experience in this process and the amount of gain you can expect in terms of a strong intimate relationship.
The fifth phase is maturing love. This kind of love is both joyful and sad. Mature love is love without innocence, love with a memory of the struggle. Couples who have been willing to go the distance can say, ‘There is someone who knows me through and through and loves me still.” This is what marriage is all about, isn’t it?