The Four Stages of Marriage

There are four stages to a marriage.

Stage one is what I called the fantasy stage. This stage goes something like this: “Oh, we have found each other and it is so grand, so ecstatic! We can live together forever as one. Whatever happens, we can handle it, together.”

Here is the stage where the wounded child living within each of the marriage partners cries out, “oh, goody, I have found my safe haven and I shall never have pain, especially of a kind that wounded me in my childhood.” Yes, you touch ecstasy in stage one of marriage, but the ecstasy wanes as you ebb into the second stage of a marriage.

Stage two of a marriage is what I call the counter dependent stage. This is the stage where suddenly you cannot tolerate the way he squeezes the toothpaste in the middle of the tube, or burps when he pushes his chair away from the table (signaling his meal is finished and you get the honor of cleaning up after him). Or, he cannot believe this shrew yelling at him as he walks away is the same sweet little thing who just a few months prior couldn’t wait to show him what a great cook, wife, and everything else he ever wanted her to be. She doesn’t even come close to offering to rub his back every night anymore!

There is a need for stage two. Here is the stage where we must circle around ourselves to recapture our own identity. Especially if we are ever to move into stage three and stage four, as you shall see.

Unfortunately, 97% of all marriages end in stage two. Ignorant of the metaphysics of a spiritual marriage and of marriage’s divine stages, the couple only sees disintegration of goals and dreams, and a fast dissolving of romance and ecstasy.

Here is the stage where the fire breathing dragon comes out of each of you, to scorch that little wounded child with all the fury of a warring monster.

“God, she’s just like my mother,” I hear. “I swore I did everything I could to avoid getting hooked up with one like that. I guess I’m just safest not being married at all, not ever (and oh, what a hole that statement leaves within the heart).” Or, “Geez, he’s as bossy as my father and just as loud. He’s always telling me what to do.” Or, “I have no freedom and I have to go out on my own and find myself. Never again…”

Something is going to happen in this, the second stage of a marriage. It will. It is inevitable. Either you go your separate ways, or you MAKE A COMMITMENT TO WORK IT OUT. The moment you make a spiritual commitment that no one is going anywhere, that somehow, some way, you WILL work it out, you automatically move into stage three of your marriage. Here is the stage where you can rediscover your love for one another – it doesn’t happen in stage two, not when you are counter dependent.

Commitment is the ONLY WAY you can move to stage three and ultimately to stage four. Here is where any infidelity ceases (infidelity can only take place in stage two, by the way). Here is where marriage counseling, if it is to take place, will show solid success. Here is where compromise and negotiation take place (and compromise means just that – EACH of you has to give up something in order to meet in the middle). Here is where the wounded child is healed. Here is where you begin to move from a wounded, flattened one dimensional marriage back into the ecstasy and romance you found during stage one.

When a true commitment has been made to honor the soul’s growth, individually and together, within the marriage, interdependence takes place. When all negotiation and compromise has been complete and the wounded child is healed, you then move into stage four of the marriage.

Ah, stage four. This is the stage you unwittingly got married for in the first place. Is it worth all the effort of having to work through the other stages? You bet. Here is the stage of autonomy, of independence. Here is where one achieves what is called marital bliss.

Marital bliss is the stage of relationship within the spiritual marriage where no one is going anywhere. The wounded child is healed. The marriage is comfortable, honorable, and allows the individual to maintain his or her own identity, while at the same time bringing to the marriage gifts of the spirit: humor, creativity, sensitivity, tenderness, understanding, and the gratifying sense of individuation. Here is where each person can enjoy a safe arena in which he and she can reach out and stretch to their full potential, individually and as a couple.

In the fourth stage of marriage, the ecstasy returns.

In the fourth stage of marriage you are free to touch the face of God.

Related

The Relationship Specialist Blog: The Six Stages of Marriage (December 24, 2014)

About Jack

Jack is a world traveling artist, skilled in trading ideas and information, none of which are considered too holy, too nerdy, nor too profane to hijack and twist into useful fashion. Sigma Frame Mindsets and methods for building and maintaining a masculine Frame
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6 Responses to The Four Stages of Marriage

  1. Stephanie says:

    This is a really interesting post, SF. Very interesting… I’ve read before even when I was young (one of my favorite books was The Road Less Traveled – even though I didn’t understand all of it quite yet), that real love doesn’t actually begin until you get past that stage 1 phase. I’ve never read much about the “stage 2” but it makes sense. I feel like we almost skimmed stage 2 since we both already knew that the real love part had to come after the “crush-like” love feelings wore off a little and real life kicked in with real problems to solve, etc.

    “Here is the stage of autonomy, of independence. Here is where one achieves what is called marital bliss.

    Marital bliss is the stage of relationship within the spiritual marriage where no one is going anywhere. The wounded child is healed. The marriage is comfortable, honorable, and allows the individual to maintain his or her own identity, while at the same time bringing to the marriage gifts of the spirit: humor, creativity, sensitivity, tenderness, understanding, and the gratifying sense of individuation. Here is where each person can enjoy a safe arena in which he and she can reach out and stretch to their full potential, individually and as a couple.”

    ^^We’ve been in stage 4 for a long time, and it truly is as you described here. It feels like a fairy tale, and very strange that something this fulfilling is attainable on earth. I wish more people could get to this stage… a lot of times they are holding themselves back by discontentment or pride or envy (looking around at all the other couples who DO have this, and deciding they’re fake or unrealistic).

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sigma Frame says:

      Stephanie, I am elated to read your own description of Stage 4, which proves that you’ve reached it. The primary blessing obtainable within marriage is spiritual – the spiritual liberty, contentedness, and wholeness in particular. I think a lot of people don’t really understand this until after they’ve screwed it up.
      I believe many people can’t handle true contentedness. They have the notion that the ‘wanting’ is better than the ‘having’. I have met too many women who were ‘in love with being in love’, and they thought that was truly love. But actually, that’s not real love. They’re essentially ‘in love’ with the Tingles of infatuation, lust, and covetousness. But since they are determined to make the Tingles last forever, it never grows beyond the lust, so they never understood what true love is all about, and thus, they are unworthy of entering into a sanctified marriage.

      “(looking around at all the other couples who DO have this, and deciding they’re fake or unrealistic)”

      If a person’s head and heart aren’t right, they fail to identify opportunities, and they foolishly destroy whatever they have that’s good. I have even seen some couples get to the point where they start experiencing the blessings of marriage, and then they realize that that is the peak, or the ‘goal’, and that that is as good as it gets, or that that is all that God promises in marriage. Then they’re disappointed because they were expecting something different, so then they angrily tear the relationship apart trying to find the thing that they were after. Even after they destroy the relationship, they never realize that the thing they were after was a lie – a soul promise from Satan, which was designed to destroy all their contentment within marriage, and thereby destroy their marriage. It’s really sad…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. ramman3000 says:

    “I shall never have pain, especially of a kind that wounded me in my childhood.”

    The “four stages of marriage” are quite interesting, but I’m having difficulty relating to them. Neither my wife or I had wounded childhoods. Is this important to your stages of development? We never had a stage 1, 2, or 3 in our marriage.

    “MAKE A COMMITMENT TO WORK IT OUT. The moment you make a spiritual commitment that no one is going anywhere, that somehow, some way, you WILL work it out, you automatically move into stage three of your marriage.”

    We developed closeness during the three- or four-year friendship that preceded our romantic relationship. We made this commitment to one another when we started dating (although isn’t this sort of thinking beaten into all Anabaptists?). I’ve always wondered why more people don’t do this: this should be a prerequisite to marriage.

    “…97% of all marriages end in stage two … where no one is going anywhere. … The marriage is comfortable, honorable, and allows the individual to maintain his or her own identity, while at the same time bringing to the marriage gifts of the spirit: humor, creativity, sensitivity, tenderness, understanding, and the gratifying sense of individuation.”

    When I told Boxer that my marriage had complete reciprocal trust and the utter assurance that no one was going anywhere, he seemed to be think I was delusional. Never experiencing stage 2, I honestly don’t know what that’s like.

    While the marriage is comfortable and we have our own identities, your list of marriage gifts isn’t what I would have highlighted and I don’t know why. Unshakable friendship is the glue that holds us together. Another fundamental aspect is teamwork: we complement one another. Through 16 years of marriage, having kids has been the most… interesting… thing to happen. Five kids has been a wild ride that we couldn’t have done individually. The sense of unity has always mattered more than the individual identity, although that happens too.

    This is as best as I can do to fit your stages: friendship (sort-of stage 1 & 2), dating (stage 3), and marriage (stage 4).

    Like

    • Wayne says:

      Ramman, thanks for your thoughts.

      I believe all marital relationships go through, or should go through, these 4 stages. But the stages in which certain key features occur will vary from couple to couple. By key features, I mean events like the engagement, the formal ceremony, legal paperwork, sexual consummation, children, etc. Most people only think of a marriage in terms of these key features, and fail to recognize that they should be moving through these 4 stages to achieve the bliss in Stage 4.

      Some people, like yourself, don’t have a lot of emotional baggage to deal with, so the healing aspect may not be significant. But for people who do, marriage is usually how healing occurs. If healing doesn’t happen, and the relationship only irritates those wounds further, then this could incite a breakup at Stage 2.

      Like

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