Marriage is notoriously hard work. I mean, come on, nobody ever complains about it being too easy. There are times when we look at our partner and genuinely question, "What are we doing here?" We can get so entangled in what was or what we expected from our marriage that we lose perspective on what is actually happening. If only there was some kind of roadmap that clearly laid out the full territory of marriage; encompassing all the phases of evolution and transgression.
There is. And I'm here right now to share it with you.
According to the work of Chuck Spezzano, the development of relationships falls into clearly defined stages. In these phases specific states of mind are encountered and various issues are to be addressed. Whilst a relationship can pick-up at a certain stage or regress to previous stages, they are often experienced sequentially as the relationship advances. So, without further ado, I present the 5 stages of a relationship:
The couple have fallen in love... with each other and the idea of being in love. This phase fulfills the souls need to be special to someone. It is a stage where the couple projects the ideal man or woman onto the potential partner. There is a “sameness” perceived between the two of them; the behavior looks and feels familiar.
I actually don't know who you are. Surprise me.
2. Power Struggle
This is when past tensions, power struggles, and ego differences surface. They realize they aren’t the same person. Fears tied to love and intimacy arise, resulting in the partners battling to get their needs met. For some, it feels safer to remain powerless and victimized by their mate. For others, there is a fear of giving away personal power in an equal
relationship. When both people are operating from an unconscious place they will project their shadow onto each other; demonizing or demoralizing their character. It’s a phase where independence and dependence need to balance out. At this stage each person will take on the role - and switch off - until they negotiate emotional needs and expectations accordingly. When they learn to value the partner over their need to have things their own way, healing takes place and the relationship advances.
"In every marriage more than a week old, there are grounds for a divorce. The trick is find, and continue to find, the grounds for marriage."- Robert Anderson
3. The Dead Zone
This is when all excitement and obvious challenges have been addressed, and boredom sets in. Deeply ingrained needs that demand satisfaction will come to light. This time is characterized by the feeling of being trapped: one person wants to be free (a Uranian phenomenon) whilst the other struggles to merge (Neptune). A partner may also withdrawal due to a fear of closeness so they withhold affection. In turn, their partner grants space. When this happens the person withholding love finds their fear of abandonment realized. If, however, the partner makes an active effort to push past the barrier, then the individual holding back feels overwhelmed by intimacy. In either case, fear arises.
Beware of what Chuck Spezzano calls, “Counterfeit Bonding.” This is defined as a partnership in which boundaries are diffused and one partner is swallowed up by the other (a.k.a. codependency). This dynamic breeds a false sense of unity and togetherness. One partner strives - whether consciously or unconsciously - to overcompensate for any perceived lack in the union. He or she disconnects from the emptiness inside and attempts to fill the void by doing what is “right.” The soul, on a subtle level, picks up on the lack of congruency between what it feels and the demonstrated behavior. Inauthenticity, then, is what thwarts true alignment.
People often get stuck here and take on roles and burdens out of a sense of duty. Childhood traumas, unfinished business from the past replay until the two have worked them out. The challenge here is to jointly negotiate the traps and pitfalls so the couple can progress into a more positive phase.
"Happy marriages begin when we marry the one we love, and they blossom when we love the one we marry." - Tom Mullen
Here the two are comfortable with each other. Finally, they see clearly and appreciate the partner. They have successfully become one, not in the sense of fusing together but in the reality of having created a relationship that is purposeful, creative, and well. At this level they are conscious enough to not allow stagnation to stunt their growth. In fact, they are growth-oriented and have an impetus to overcome any issue that arises.
Marriage is a mosaic you craft with your spouse. It's millions of tiny moments pieced together that tell a story of love.
This is the highest vibration and accomplishment for a relationship. This is the birth of a "Spiritual Relationship" where the couple is above day-to-day struggles. It is immensely inspirational, transformational, and intimate. Their souls now know each other very well and provide support on all levels. They prize and protect each other’s individuality, yet remain securely linked. Sex offers an opportunity for the souls to transform in the spiritual dimensions. At this phase, it is not the people but the souls that have limitless compassion and trust for each other. The result is elevated vision, self-mastery, and true unity.
It is through these phases that couples learn and practice truly unconditional love. When this level of companionship is established, the partners step off the "wheel of relationship karma" and into a entirely new, and different space.
"Let me discover you." Doesn't that feel like love?