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We probably all know ‘that couple’. You know the ones–they’ve been happily married for decades, and are still sickeningly affectionate and madly in love well into their golden years. We all yearn for a piece of this magic for ourselves, but many see it as being beyond their reach. Don’t panic though, as by understanding the seven phases of marriage and working to overcome the different challenges they present, couples can achieve life-long happiness with ease.
The honeymoon phase is a well-known part of a marriage, and follows the wedding day. The couples are giddy with happiness and filled with love and passion for each other, with thoughts of the wonderful day shared with friends and family still fresh in their minds. The ideal time for husband and wife to fully bond as a couple, the honeymoon stage is also a time when thoughts naturally turn to starting a family.
2. Baby Fatigue
Bringing your first child into the world is an exciting and fulfilling moment, but what happens when the reality sets in? Sleepless nights, less sex and extra responsibility all combine to bring the couple crashing back down to earth, and it can be a difficult path to negotiate for many new parents. Some people may feel disappointed and disillusioned with married life at this stage, and are left wondering what happened to the attraction and excitement of the early days of marriage.
3. The Itch
This is the stage where the legendary ‘seven-year itch’ can come into play, when some couples struggle with adjusting to a less passionate and more mundane life together. Suddenly, it becomes more difficult to ignore or forgive your spouse’s bad habits and foibles, and eyes may wander as one or both parties begin to speculate as to whether the grass is greener on the other side. The most important factor in getting past this stage of marriage is for couples to communicate, and remember why they married in the first place. Unfortunately for a lot of marriages the temptation to stray is just too much, and this leads to the next phase.
Firms of solicitors like Irwin Mitchell often sadly see the results of this phase of marriage, when anger, disappointment and even affairs drive the couple to consider divorce. This is a real make-or-break time in a marriage, and it can feel like a huge failure on the part of the couple to make their commitment last the distance.
If you manage to work on your differences and make things work, you’ll find yourselves in a more enlightened phase of your marriage. Suddenly you may understand that a relationship isn’t always rosy, and realise that weathering the storm was worth it. With children growing up and the marriage reaching a new level of development, couples who reach this stage begin to experience more freedom, contentment and maturity.
Another risky stage in any marriage comes when the children leave home, and you’re forced into having only each other to focus your care and attention on. This can be a sobering experience for many couples, but don’t despair. Use this new-found freedom to concentrate on each other, on your careers and on developing new hobbies and interests, and you can avoid the marriage stagnating.
7. Happily Ever After
After surviving through the years, trials and tribulations, a couple will reach a point when they recognise that all that they’ve been through together has been worth it. The years filled with happy memories, children and grandchildren will have strengthened the original spark between you, and you’ll be happy and proud in the knowledge that you’ve stuck with your true love through thick and thin. Now is the time that couples can sit back and relax, satisfied and content that, despite all the odds, they have actually become ‘that couple’.
These seven phases are not hard and fast rules of every marriage, you may not recognise all of them and you may be lucky enough to miss out some of the tougher times. The most important thing to remember, whatever you may be going through in your marriage, that communication is key. If you’re with your soul mate, then who cares what challenges life throws at you? Together you can face the hard times, and you may be lucky enough to come out smiling at the other end.
Millie Whitehead is a retired marriage and family counselor. She enjoys blogging about common marital issues and providing possible solutions for a healthier relationship.
[Photo – Creative Commons Attribution – donnierayjones]