Every marriage…or nearly every marriage goes through at least three predictable stages. Understanding them and being able to recognize those three steps may help you navigate them more successfully.

Stage One: Falling in Love

There’s nothing quite so heady and pleasurable as falling in love. You are made for each other. You only see the qualities that make that person the one you’ve been looking for. In spite of the marriage failures of friends and family, you are sure you love each other enough to overcome any obstacle. You will make it! Your marriage will last for a lifetime! Euphorically, you move forward to build your life together. Do you remember how blissfully happy you were in this stage? I do!

(This outline is borrowed from “Getting the Love You Want” by Harville Hendrix.)

Stage Two: Conflict

Shortly after we returned from our honeymoon, we had a minor disagreement. It eventually grew into a major issue, that morphed into almost daily fights. The fighting began eating away at our love for each other. We were in Stage Two.

Most couples move into Stage Two, although the issues may be different for each marriage. It may be one’s habit of dropping dirty clothes on the floor rather than putting them in the hamper. It might be a partner doesn’t keep the house, or cook, or handle money the way you want them to. Perhaps an addiction is discovered that, before marriage, you didn’t notice. The topics of conflict vary greatly, but the one thing all marriages have in common is the reality of Stage Two: Conflict.

Without having good skills to respectfully manage conflict, the focus of attention for both partners tends to be what is wrong with the other one, rather than what is good about the partnership. And, the more the focus on each is blaming the other, resentment grows a thick and gigantic wall between partners.

Options for Moving Through Stage Two

  1. Keep fighting and blaming until all memories of blissful love are gone. Divorce is considered or instituted. Or, you become resigned to a relationship in conflict. Maybe you believe that this is what real marriage is like. Just get used to it. Do the best you can. You remain stuck in blame. Feelings of love are reduced or end. But remaining in disrespectful behaviors kills love!
  2. You look for help. You may find great ideas in a book, or from a pastor, or friend. You may hire a therapist or coach to help you identify what is causing chronic conflict and try to fix it. If you are very fortunate, you find someone to teach you how to be open about all of your feelings and needs but deliver the messages with respectful, non-blaming language. You will learn how to listen to each other for the purpose of understanding the other’s point of view. Hopefully you will learn how to manage your anger. When it is triggered (because all intimate relationships have moments that trigger upsets) you learn how to discharge the energy of anger in a way that avoids taking it out on your partner. If you learn and practice these skills, you get to enjoy Stage Three!

Stage Three: Resolution and Peace

Couple talking respectfully

When you know how, and are committed to treating each other with respect 24/7, things that pop up as issues can be discussed and resolved, usually within minutes. Solutions are found that resolve chronic issues once and for all. You both are impecable about keeping your agreements with each other. Appreciation and gratitude are felt and expressed frequently. There is a natural and easy flow of loving that goes back and forth between you. You live in a sense of loving and being loved that is magical…sweet…passionate.

What Prevents Everyone from Achieving This Awesome Goal?

Ego, self-centeredness, refusal to admit that anyone can be right except you. Resistance to learning anything that might help. These characteristics are from a very young, immature part of ourselves that only wants what we want, even if it kills your love. In our book, “How to Stay Married & Love It!” Jim and I called this part the “inner two-year-old.” Two-year olds are delightful, but a two-year-old is not capable of adult, mature relationships. It’s the two-year-old inside that insists on being right, getting his own way, making him agree with you and refusing to learn new skills! After all, learning new ways of speaking and listening is hard work! Why should you? If she would…If he would… then you could both be happy, right? Inner two-year-olds ruin a lot of relationships!

I Invite You to Make an Adult Decision

As you read this, if you know that you are in Stage Two, make an adult decision and invest in learning the skills that will take you from Stage Two to Stage Three. Enrolling in Millionaire Marriage Club or the Stepping TwoGether Edition is an easy, cost-effective way to learn these respectful skills. The first seven days are free, and then $29/month. If you are disciplined, you can take yourselves through either of these courses on your own. Warning: you will be challenged to identify habits that you need to exchange for better ones. You’ll need to practice these new skills for several months before you can be trusted to maintain them for the rest of your lives together. Otherwise, your brain will want to slide back into old habits that return you to Stage Two: Conflict.

If you need additional support, you can add Coaching to your plan. I would love to help you experience the same level of consistent loving that Jim and I enoyed for the final seventeen years of our time together.

You always have my love and support,

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