During this stage, you may feel distant from your partner. You may feel like your partner is different than the person you married. However, you actually are still just learning about each other and each of your emotional needs. It may seem like you really knew each other when you got married, but in reality, this is just part of the learning process of this stage.
The power struggle stage can be difficult to navigate and can last months to years. Many couples in this stage either begin looking for a new relationship or attempt to change their partner to match the expectation of when they first met. This can make each of you feel that you are constantly misunderstood, can’t be yourself, or you’re walking on eggshells.
This is a normal stage in any relationship. If you and your partner can work through this stage, you will have a healthier, more mature marriage. You will grow together as a couple and be more connected to each other.
Successfully navigating this stage lays the foundation for a happy marriage and here are the tools you need to do it:
- Learn how to effectively communicate your needs without emotionally triggering your spouse by using counterintuitive communication skills. Effective communication helps you and your spouse begin to understand what’s really being said, instead of just fighting to make sure your perspective is being heard.
- Work towards connecting in ways that you both enjoy and make each other feel safe.
- Develop steps or compromises to end recurring fights. Reframe problems and seek win/win solutions. Realize harmony naturally includes some struggle to get there.
- Work towards starting a new narrative so that old wounds can heal and mutual trust can be restored.
- Strongly consider seeing a counselor who will help you build skills and change unproductive patterns. Research says that couples tend to wait too long — over 6 unhappy years — before seeking help. Getting help in this stage, rather than waiting for a crisis that can be hard to undo, can make all the difference in the future of your relationship.
3. Stability Stage
In this stage, you accept your partner as a unique individual. Rather than wishing for your partner to change, by now you’ve learned to respect your partner. You’ve figured out how to resolve differences and you each have established roles.
This stage brings peace and stability, but with that comes routine and set roles. This can be boring for some. Growth requires risk and ongoing learning. Being too comfortable in the routine of this stage means your marriage does not grow.
Here are the tools you need to navigate this stage:
- Consider changing up roles in the relationship, even if just a few. It can raise your appreciation for your partner and grow you as a person.
- Try to vary the routine to make your relationship fresh again. As you and your spouse try new things, use the communication skills you learned in the previous stage. What you try needs to bring you closer together, not drive a wedge between you two.
4. Commitment Stage
By this stage, you have recognized there is no ideal partner nor ideal relationship. In this stage, you choose to commit to the individual you married. You both have learned how to communicate and continue to do so. You can freely share the good and the bad with each other, trusting your commitment to support you.
It’s common in the commitment stage to realize you love your spouse, but you may not like them at all times. We are all human and not perfect. Love can look beyond imperfection.
The tools you need to navigate this stage include:
- If you are frustrated with the imperfections in your relationship, consider talking to a therapist.