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The Eight+ Stages of Relationships, Part 1

All relationships go through predictable stages as they grow
and develop. This is especially true for romantic relationships.

What stage is your relationship in?

Or if you are not in a relationship, at what stage do your
relationships always end and why?

Even if your relationship seems at the peak of passion, or
chaotic and out of control, or at equilibrium, it is at a
predictable stage and there are more stages for it to reach.
Identifying the stages of your relationship and the attributes,
stumbling blocks, and joys of each stage can help you negotiate
it and the future with more success, peace, and love.

Stage 1: The Honeymoon
According to love songs and fairy tales, this stage is what
love is supposed to be like. You meet, you connect, you fall in
love. Everything seems right. Nothing seems out of place. Even
if some things don't seem right, you are full of hope they will
work themselves out.

When it starts and how long it lasts: This stage can start
from day one, but it's usually in effect within the first month
and can last between three to six months.

The joy: You feel more alive, more expanded, more in touch
with life, beauty, joy, maybe spirituality, and perhaps
yourself. You have hope. You feel exhilarated, or at least
exited. You have fun. These are all very wonderful feelings and
should be celebrated and enjoyed.

The stumbling block: You may overlook whether your partner is
truly compatible with you and rush into the depth of the
relationship too soon and/or with the wrong person. And this, in
turn, can mean you will breakup and get hurt down the road.

What to do: Enjoy, have fun, but slow down and don't count on
a future together yet. Get to know each other first. If you are
right for each other, there is no reason to rush in -- you will
have a lifetime together. If you are wrong for each other, you
will save yourself much heartache.

Stage 2: The Discovery
During this stage, the initial excitement of being together is
subdued so you can actually discover who the other person really
is. You and your partner begin to discover each other's quirks
and neurosis, and you uncover things that bug you about each
other. You also begin to discover what you truly love and
respect about one another. Your communication should deepen to a
soulful level, where you begin to open up to each other.

When it starts and how long it lasts: This stage starts
between 3 and 6 months and can last for a number of years,
depending on how comfortable the couple is with self-disclosure
and how fast or slow the couple wants to progress in emotional

The joy: The joy is the discovery; you are close enough to be
able to glimpse the other person, his or her vulnerabilities,
beauty, even quirks -- which you may think are cute. The joy is
also in seeing evidence that you have chosen the right person
(if in fact you have such evidence), as well as in deep
communication and budding emotional intimacy.

The stumbling block: You may begin to discover things that
drive you crazy about each other. You may also discover that the
two of you do things in very different fashions, or have vastly
different interests. This is a time of choice and you may not
want to choose.

What to do: Look with open eyes at both the beauty -- internal
and external -- of your partner and the ugliness and quirks you
are discovering. This is a time of choice and often in
relationships we choose what feels good now over choosing what
will feel good in the long run -- and we suffer for it. Decide
if this person is a good fit for you for the long run and wants
the same future as you.

Stage 3: The Commitment
This is the stage most singles fantasize about -- the place
where the relationship is settled, you know you are together,
and you can finally relax. This is the stage most couples try to
rush into and arrive at too soon. And it is a wonderful stage,
but rather than an end of a process, it is only the beginning.
In many ways, a relationship does not truly begin until a couple
commits to each other.

When it starts and how long it lasts: The Commitment Stage
starts once each person decides to commit to either live
together or get married, or to another form of deep commitment.

The joy: The joy is the sense of having arrived and no longer
having to strive to win your partner. The joy is the discovery
of who your partner is when committed to you, because commitment
brings out a change in the behavior of each person. The joy is
having someone to watch movies with and cook dinner with and
hang out with and do ordinary things. The joy is having a person
you love to share a life with.

The stumbling block: Many people begin to take each other for
granted during this stage. Because they have arrived, they begin
to pay less attention to the relationship and to their partner.
And because one of the benefits we seek from a relationship is
the attention from our partner, when it lags, problems begin.
The other stumbling block is that we may not pay enough
attention to communication. Issues that need to be communicated
may fall by the wayside for fear of rocking the boat. They will
come back to haunt the relationship later.

What to do: Enjoy the togetherness and your new commitment,
but remember to do two things: Make your relationship a priority
no matter what else is happening in your life. And make sure
your lines of communication are open; you are speaking to and
listening to each other.

Stage 4: The Power Struggle
This is the stage at which most couples split up. The power
struggle can be a gut wrenching, painful place for a couple to
be. This can be a time of arguments or silence, a time that
truly will test the couple's determination. Most couples at this
stage wonder how they got there since it comes on unexpectedly
out of nowhere. Because almost all of the relationship up to
this point has been joy, it is a very shocking place for a
couple to end up.

When it starts and how long it lasts: This stage can start as
soon as the commitment is solidified -- the couple makes a deep
commitment, gets married, moves in together, etc., or soon
thereafter. It can last until the couple breaks up, or for many
years. Or the couple can find a way to work through this stage
and move into the next stages of the relationship.

The joy: There is not much joy in this stage. The joy may be
in the periods when you are not power struggling and are
enjoying each other's company. The other joy is in not arguing,
or resolving an argument quickly, even some of the time.

The stumbling block: There are two prime stumbling blocks. One
is that when couples get to this stage they do not realize it is
a normal stage for all relationships, and that they can get
through it. Instead, the couple thinks something is wrong --
perhaps they are no longer compatible or they no longer belong
together. The second stumbling block is that the couple can get
stuck in this stage, with one of both partners being unwilling
to move forward. This will eventually wear the relationship down
until there will be nothing left.

What to do: There are no simple solutions to a power struggle
in a relationship. But here are a few suggestions:

* Communicate
* Give in on anything that is not important to you
* Give up behaviors, views, and attitudes that are hurting the
* Remember that you love each other
* Don't retaliate, no matter how much you feel hurt
* Read my article, "Relationships and Growth", for another look
at power struggle.
* Look for another article on power struggle coming soon to the
Relationship Coach Newsletter.

Next week, we will examine the next 4+stages of relationships.
Yes, there is life after power struggle.

Your Relationship Coach
Rinatta Paries

(c) Rinatta Paries. Do you know how to attract your ideal mate? Do you know how to build a fulfilling relationship, or how to reinvent yours to meet your needs? Relationship Coach Rinatta Paries can teach you the skills and techniques to attract and sustain long-term, healthy partnerships. Visit where you'll find quizzes, classes, advice and a free weekly ezine. Become a "true love magnet(tm)!"

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