The 7 Stages Of Marriage And How To Conquer Them
You might think that marriage is the end of stages—that singledom, those couple of wild years after college, and the countless failed relationships you’ve have to deal with. But married life — and all monogamous commitments — can be broken up into (sort of) distinct periods, as well. Some of these phases will feel like the end, some will feel very sad to leave, but if you know they’re normal, and if you have a few pointers, you can get through them still happy about your “til’ death do us part” decision.
Stage 1: Before you’ve even met the one
The success of a marriage depends on mental and emotional practices that you partake in long before even meeting your potential spouse. At the base of every rift is the failure to put oneself in another’s shoes. Many couples break up not because there are problems inside the relationship, but because each individual fails to understand the troubles their partner deals with outside the relationship: instead they take the other person’s moodiness personally, and so they become emotionally distant.
The trick: Compassion Meditation
Starting today, regularly do something called compassion meditation—it will keep you from wanting to kick your future moody hubby out on the streets. Take five minutes a day to sit and consider that everybody in life is fighting their own battle, and wants to be happy, just like you do. When you understand all their actions stem from that shared desire—to be happy—you’ll find yourself holding back most cruel words.
Stage 2: Floating in clouds
This is the phase when you feel happier than you ever knew you could be any time you’re around your partner. It’s when 100% of your thoughts about your partner are positive and warm. It’s when you’re addicted to his presence.
The trick: Real Conversation
It’s so easy to get caught up in the feel good hormones of this stage, that you fail to realize you and your partner aren’t really talking about anything substantial. All those fuzzy feelings make conversations about your favorite kind of pie, or what kind of puppy you want to get, feel interesting. But once this stage wares off, you could find your partner very boring. Practice pulling yourself out of the hormonally-charged moments and initiating substantial conversation. Don’t be afraid to not be agreeable all of the time: it’s okay to have a difference of opinion. Have real conversations—conversations that might begin debates—to make sure your relationship can withstand disagreements.
Stage 3: The horrible roommate
If you live together when the relationship is still new and exciting, or you hold off on living together, you can overlook your partner’s unbearable living habits. But, eventually, the haze will die down and you’ll feel like you’ve landed the worst roommate on the planet!
The trick: The forgiveness-assertiveness-patience trio
Remember before reacting to dirty dishes that your partner doesn’t do anything to hurt you. So when you do bring something up, do it in a kind tone: don’t scold your partner or talk down to him. That being said do say something about big (note: big) things. Let little things go, but address the things that you know will get under your skin. Next, wait: building new habits takes time. Your partner won’t be perfect at executing your request overnight. Forgive slip-up’s in the beginning.
Stage 4: We’ve got this
So you’ve worked out the roommate kinks, and the walking on clouds stage has passed and you really feel this relationship is based on compatibility, built to last. This is when things are most prone to falling apart because you think you can stop putting in effort.
The trick: Keep communicating!
Because you’ve been doing such a great job at this, you might think that now your partner knows you so well, he can read your mind. And that’s dangerous. Be more conscious than ever of continuously stating what you want, as well as when you’re discontent. Of course, continue to do so with a kind tone.
Stage 5: The “he’s not perfect?” stage
When people feel secure in the fact that their partner isn’t going anywhere, this is when they’ll stop making an effort to be the best version of themselves. It’s when they’ll allow themselves to act more irritable, or stressed, or grumpy. When this starts, you might think you married an undercover-jerk!
The trick: Don’t take it personally
It really wasn’t realistic that you’d both be sweet, thoughtful, charming and selfless all of the time. It’s a good thing if your partner feels comfortable showing his bad moods around you—it just might not feel that way. Just tell yourself it’s not personal. Don’t think of ways to reprimand your partner for giving you the cold shoulder: think of ways to relieve his stress like by lending a listening ear, or giving him a back rub. There will be times when you need the same understanding from him.
Stage 6: The true test
You just spent months to years constantly conscious of the state of your relationship. It took up a lot of your attention and energy. And now, you’ve basically figured out your groove. Uh oh…now what?! Even though it may have been exhausting to feel like you were working on your relationship daily, you also got used to paying it a lot of attention. When you suddenly don’t have to, you might mistake this for falling out of love. Peace can be mistaken for boredom.
The trick: Devour books
Marital improvement books, that is. They seriously work! You’ll read dozens of stories, and studies by experts, that show that this slump is totally normal. They’ll show you how to excite your relationship, now that it’s stabilized.
Stage 7: Are we really in it for the long haul?
The first few years of marriage—for the sake of this point, let’s say the first five—can feel like a huge accomplishment. But they’ll make you suddenly hyper aware of the fact that this deal is meant to hold up until death. You’ve made it this far, but forever is just so long. You’ll both begin to doubt the other person’s faith in this marriage to last another 30, 40, 50…years. You’ll become insecure thinking that your partner is bored, or ungrateful.
The trick: document the good
Keep a journal in which you write down all the great moments with your partner, from the small, seemingly insignificant to the grand and romantic. Keep in mind that, you’re judging married life in comparison to a “better married life” when you should be comparing it to single life!!! None of those lovely moments you’ve been documenting would even be possible if you and your husband were not together. Have faith that he realizes that, too.