The laws of nature are based on the principles of evolution and adaptation, and like every living thing on our planet human beings are creatures of nature. Human relationships also follow those natural principles, and like all healthy living things require change and growth in order to thrive. Unfortunately, many do not always understand that their relationship will develop and evolve over time so often they feel threatened when their intimate relationship begins to change. Frequently, they may even end their relationships assuming it is “over” because they are feeling less romantic and more critical of their partner. In fact, they may simply be entering into the next natural stage of the relationship. So what exactly are the natural stages of an intimate relationship? Here is one approach to understanding them: The honeymoon stage: In this first, highly romantic stage, the two people in the relationship see each other through proverbial rose-colored glasses: everything each says and does seems enchanting and wondrous to the other. In fact, they are in a state of magical enchantment with each other. They often feel such an intense desire to be together, and think so much alike that it is almost as if they are one person. This is also often viewed as the dependent stage when the feeling of needing the presence of the loved one overwhelms other, often basic, needs — the classic symptoms of being in love: “ I can’t sleep! I can’t concentrate! I can’t eat!” The conflict stage: In this second, more realistic stage, the two people in the relationship begin to see each other’s flaws or at least, each other’s true natures. Now, the partners sometimes do and say things that seem less than wonderful. They realize that they are, indeed two very different people. In this stage, they often question their compatibility as a couple and begin to realistically assess whether or not they share similar values, beliefs and life goals.
The interdependent stage: In this third and healthiest stage, the two people in the relationship see their partners realistically and loving
ly as individuals. They realize that they do not always have to think alike: they have differences which they recognize, honor and celebrate. This stage is a health integration of the first two stages. Many couples seek counseling when their relationship is in the conflict stage. In counseling, they learn to determine whether their basic beliefs, values and goals are truly the same. Often they are very similar, and may even form the foundation of their attractiveness to each other. However, the relationship may not be working because the two people involved have different personality types or have different communication styles and these elements may contribute to frustrating attempts to resolve both minor and major issues. Once a couple understands their differences, and acquires the communication skills to manage them productively, their relationship can evolve from conflict to true acceptance and intimacy.
Based in Rockport, life coach and psychotherapist Susan Britt, M.Ed., a former university director of career and counseling services, teaches individuals, couples and families to resolve relationship conflicts, clarify and achieve life and career goals, and accelerate personal growth. Questions and comments may be addressed to her at
Susanbritt1@verizon.net or 978-546-9431.