Couple relationships go through growing stages, and although this is a normal and healthy development, it can be painful to experience and can sometimes make couples question if they should remain together. This is often why couples often come into therapy as they move through the stages, especially when one person is moving into a different stage than their partner is in.
Let’s look at stages of growth of all couples.
Stage 1 is called Symbiosis: This is also known as “The Honeymoon Period” – both people are swept up in the excitement of their romance. “He (or she) has so much in common with me!” “Everything seems perfect” and “We are so much alike!” Both are ecstatic with the mutuality and perfection of the other, “How could anything go wrong?” It’s important to have some time like this to establish your coupledom.
Stage 2 is called Differentiating: After a while things happen that show you are really two different people. Maybe you don’t really like watching football, and that he has no interest in riding horses. She thinks you are “too” left leaning and liberal and you’ve been proud of that. It’s disappointing and hard to take for the one who wants to feel exactly alike and perfectly suited ( the one that is still symbiotic). It may feel liberating and factual for the differentiating partner. Here indeed is trouble in paradise. As it happens, one partner starts feeling restless or smothered. It seems like hanging out with old friends would be so nice. Doing that sport, hobby (or whatever) that’s been neglected in spending so much of your time together – starts to look appealing. This is a time when couples often show up in a therapist’s office.
Stage 3 is called Practicing: This is when the couple are both “trying out” being their separate selves while still being connected as a couple. They spend time apart doing separate things. They take the risk to say they disagree and speak their differing opinions. At this time they are often dealing with the risks and struggles of dealing with each other’s different needs and preferences , and it is a time of immense personal growth.
Stage 4 is called Rapprochement: This is when the couple is comfortable going back and forth, going away and coming together, returning to each other with ease and intimacy. They come back to each other refreshed and happy to be connected deeply again. Their trust is secure in the other. The each are supporting the other’s self esteem.
Being able to see what stage your relationship is in can be reassuring and useful. Often one person is a little ahead of the other, and pulling their partner to come along with them. When going through these stages gets rough, couple therapy is often what is needed.
Good luck with each other! Love is a wonderful thing to cultivate at all it’s stages, and much too precious to neglect or loose.