If only I had a kobo for every time I have heard a married woman, or man, ask this question…I would be a billionaire by now! I have to admit that even I have asked that question, at a point in my marriage. It gets to a point when we wonder where the love could have possibly evaporated to. But, over the years, age, maturity, and doing a lot of reading, have shown me that there are, in fact, a number of phases in every marriage. A couple’s love and relationship evolves over time…and this is not such a bad thing. This could even serve to strengthen your union. But a lot of couples panic when it seems like their relationship is changing, and start to even question whether or not the love is there.
Relax, people! It just means that you are evolving as a couple.
Even though I have known my husband since 1990, we didn’t start dating until November 2007, and 12 short months later, we were married. So, you can imagine that it was Passion Central! We fell madly in love with each other, and even through the stress and fighting that comes with planning a wedding, our hot, passionate love didn’t fizzle for a second. And this continued a year, and even two years, into our marriage. We were in the Honeymoon Stage. For a lot of couples, the first one or two years are a passion-fueled period, which are essentially all about the two of you, and you are both focused on the attraction that got you together in the first place. You do everything together, and individual differences are minimised in this stage. You each present your very best self. It is the perfect Mills & Boone type of romance, full of lust, affection, and LOTS of sex.
The mistake a lot of couples make is thinking this stage will last forever.
Soon, this evolves into the Settling Down Stage. Some experts even call it the Realization Stage, and I kinda see why. You two are still hot for each other as a couple, but oh boy, eye don dey clear oh! You start to see that your Partner is not perfect…and neither are you. You see that your partner is only human. His messy wardrobe, or wet towel thrown on the bed, or unlowered toilet seat, start to grate on your nerve. He might also not be digging your perpetual hair net wearing in the house (it’s okay to get your hair a little messy sometimes, Madam!!), or the fact that you complain about e-v-e-r-y little thing. Disappointment and early conflicts characterise this difficult, unavoidable period, as the two of you make the first steps toward accepting each other for who you really are. In this stage of the relationship, all the intensity and high energy of the Honeymoon Stage inevitably give way to the ordinary and routine. But instead of getting yourself all worried and worked up, you need to learn how to deepen your communication skills. When my hubby and I got to this stage, in our third year of marriage, I have to admit that it was tough! We, the hitherto ever passionate couple, had become this ever-bickering couple…fighting over nonsense. We had to learn how to negotiate…how to understand, and appreciate, where the other person was coming from. Our prayer point moved from thanksgiving over having found each other, to us seeking clarity about what was going on in each other’s heart and mind.
Often walking hand-in-hand with the 2nd stage, is the Family Growth Stage, where you grow from a family of 2, to 3 or even more. For my husband and I, this came after, and not along with, the Settling Down stage…and we grew from a family of 2, to a family of 4! Just like that! And it was rough! Along with dealing with the strain of being new parents, we also had to deal with the strain of our new situation. We had lived alone in our home for 3 years, and had gotten accustomed to a few privileges, like having sex anywhere we felt like. Suddenly, we had 2 Nannies, my mother, and of course our 2 babies, cohabiting with us…and it took a lot of getting used to. This stage, though a joyful and integral part of a marriage, can also be extremely lethal. As a couple, you are now faced with greater responsibilities, in every sense of the word. It makes many couples start to wonder if this is all there is to life? The best way to handle this difficult stage is through a LOT of prayer, a LOT communication, and counselling, if need be. Don’t be shy to ask an older couple for help, during this period. You are not superwoman. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are.
The next stage some couples face, after the Family Growth Stage, is the Rebellion & Power Struggle Stage. Oh boy. From its name, you already know it doesn’t sound good. Suddenly, each party starts becoming resentful. She resents the fact that he hardly helps out around the house, and she misses being able to hang out with her friend at will. He resents the fact that he can’t be out late with his boys, without having his ear chewed off when he gets home. Even for couples who successfully scale through the earlier stages of marriage, and have succeeded in laying the foundation for a happy, respectful coexistence together, a time inevitably comes when self-interest overtakes the interests of the marriage. And when this happens, be ready for the battles. For my husband and I, this was the stage that in tandem with the Family Growth Stage. At the time, I was working full time, and I just couldn’t accept how I was expected to be everything to everybody! I felt I had lost myself. Every kobo I had was ploughed back into the family, and I felt I didn’t have anything left to take care of myself. I started resenting my husband for not being more hands-on, and for not fully understanding some of the financial implications of having a bigger family. He, on the other hand, didn’t understand why I insisted on ordering the children’s clothing, toys, and even some food items from the States, instead of buying them locally. I felt I was right, he felt it was right. The result? Katakata of the highest order! Our fights suddenly took a horrible dimension, and started becoming very dirty. We started saying horrible and hurtful things to each other. If we weren’t a praying couple, that might have been the end of our union. But thank God for God oh! We had to seek the counsel of an older couple, who helped us see where the other was coming from. And we were able to reach a compromise…and have lived happily ever after since.
After the storm comes the rainbow, which is the Cooperation Stage. Yes, you still have responsibilities and commitments, your kids are still growing, you still have bills to pay, but the two of you have learned to walk in each other’s rhythm. You understand each other better, and are working as a tag team now, even through more difficult circumstances than before. Thankfully, this is the stage my husband and I are in now. We are working together as a team. This was what allowed me take a step back from a 9 to 5 career, to be able to harness my family, as well as my dream of this website. And as I prepare to possibly return to a full time career, it is my husband’s care and support that continue to be my backbone. In this stage, you become not only each other’s best friend, but sister, brother, mother, and father…all rolled into one. But, you must not rest on your oars, as it is very possible to retrogress into the Rebellion and Power Struggle stage, if we start taking our partner for granted.
The next stage is the Reunion Stage, which is a stage we should all pray to get to. It is the stage that comes after the Cooperation Stage (which often lasts 10 to 20 years). One day, your kids are grown, your finances are established, your career is set, your commitments have been paid off. It’s now back to being the two of you. For happy couples, it is a time to appreciate each other again, not just as parents and providers, but as lovers and friends, thinkers and seekers. Alas, a lot of couples don’t get to this point, and give up along the way. The truth is that, getting here requires a lot of work. You have to keep stoking the fire of your passion, you have to keep managing the disillusionment that comes with middle age, and failing health and fading looks. It takes a lot of work. But it is so well worth it. Those of us who have parents still alive can attest to this, and it is something that will compensate for all the early difficult years. Maintaining a childlike love of life, laughter, nature, and each other is the real secret to a perpetually blessed relationship. It is also living in the present, not the past. In this stage of marriage, there is never a belief that the best times are over – they should always be today and tomorrow.
Alas, this won’t be complete without talking about the Explosion Stage. Though this doesn’t happen with every marriage, when it does happen, it can be at any time of your marriage…the beginning, or even after a number of years. Major life changes or adversities, like job loss, health problems, financial troubles, the illness or death of a parent or, worse still, a child, could affect your relationship for a day, a year, or the rest of your lives. While the other six stages tend to occur in order, the Explosion stage can happen at any time in a marriage, though it happens most as we pass through our 40s and 50s. If we go through this stage, we should learn to consider our spouse a partner, and not an adversary. We need to learn how to communicate, and be each other’s support system. Blame, finger pointing, and resentment must all take the back burner.
In the end, marriage isn’t easy…but if we work hard at it, and PRAY hard about it, we should be able to triumph. Growth throughout the marital journey requires openness and flexibility. The invitation to the marital journey, and the resources to undertake it, come from God. HE gives us enough clarity to take the next few steps, even if we cannot see the entire road and where it will end.
Happy Love Week, my people! Remember to treat your partner gooooood!
With References from: