The Marriage Map

Survival tip: Remember, all marriages have stormy periods. Seek professional help. The sociologist Linda Waite says 86% of unhappy couples who stick it out report being much happier five years later. To stay happily married, learn to chart your way through … The Marriage Map

Exactly what makes a marriage last? As a therapist and longtime observer of relationships, I can tell you that what happens in marriage is surprisingly predictable, and couples familiar with the emotional terrain ahead are better able to handle the bumpy roads. Most experience five stages, though the length of each will vary.

Stage One: Passion prevails.

Early in their relationships, couples typically are head-over-heels in love. They emphasize their mutual interests and the comfort they feel in each other’s presence while overlooking their differences. At no other time is their physical desire for each other as intense. While in this state of euphoria, they often decide to wed.

Survival tip: Enjoy the magic but recognize that the euphoria won’t last forever. And when it starts to fade, remember: Your marriage isn’t failing. Infatuation is not the glue that holds marriages together.

Stage Two: What was I thinking?

Reality sets in. Differences in interests, perspectives, personalities, and habits become glaring. To make matters worse, sexual attraction begins to fizzle.

Ironically, couples now are faced with making life-altering decisions: Should they have kids? Who will support the family? Those in second marriages face the daunting task of blending families and coping with the financial responsibilities of the past.

Survival tip: Know that disagreements are inevitable. Take a class in building conflict-resolution skills. Stay connected by spending time together, communicating, and making a robust sex life a top priority.

Stage Three: You change.

Couples spend the next few years trying to get their spouses to change. When this doesn’t work, many face a fork in the marital road. Some divorce or have affairs. Some decide to stick it out— because of religious beliefs, personal values, concern for their children, financial considerations or even fear of being alone. A portion of those who stay together resign themselves to unhappy marriages, but others begin to investigate more satisfying ways of interacting.

Survival tip: Remember, all marriages have stormy periods. Seek professionalhelp. The sociologist Linda Waite says 86% of unhappy couples who stick it out report being much happier five years later.

Stage Four: That’s just the way he or she is.

By now, couples accept that they are never going to agree about everything. They find ways to live more peaceably. Spouses more readily forgive and recognize that they aren’t exactly easy to live with either. Fights are less frequent and less intense. Couples finally understand that one must accept the good with the bad. Survival tip: Don’t rest on your laurels. Continue practicing the Three Ts: Time together, Talk, Touch.

Stage Five: Together, at last.

This is the payoff. Couples have a shared history and a sense of accomplishment. They appreciate rather than feel threatened by their differences. Their children are older, and they relish the more relaxed opportunities to reconnect. They’ve come full circle.

Survival tip: Keep yourself healthy and active so that you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.

-Michele Weiner-Davis, Copyright Parade Mar 17, 2002

P.S. I feel the need for humor. It’s a long journey, and as long as you keeping using a map, or GPS (God Provides Solutions) you will get to your ultimate destination!

If you search the internet, you can find articles on the Three, Four, Five, Six, or Seven stages of Marriage. This article I found is the one I like the most!

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