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