Lawrence E. Kincade, Ph.D., LCSW > Five Stages of Marriage


Romantic love:  It's that floating on air feeling that all is right with the world.  When we fall in love we actually experience emotional and physical sensations.  A peptide called phenoethalymine (PEA) is produced by the body.  PEA makes us feel great.  We have more energy and our outlook is more positive.  PEA reduces the sensation of physical pain, and increases sexual desire.  We attribute all these good feelings to the object of our affection and see only the best in them.  Some studies suggest that the more idealistic view we have of our partner, the more difficult the transition into the next stage.

Disillusionment/The power struggle:  This stage is when our partner's habits which we once thought were endearing start to annoy us.  For example, what we perceived initially as spontaneous can later be perceived as impulsive, careless or irresponsible.  Issues around control can start to surface.  In other words, the very qualities we love in our partner have a flip side that can be frustrating.  Marriages often fail in the first few years when issues in this stage become obvious.

Knowledge and awareness:  In this stage, there is a recognition that certain things need work in the relationship.  A couple also comes back around to remembering what they value in their partner.  In this stage, each person is able to recognize things they can change in themselves to make the relationship stronger.  The friendship becomes paramount in this stage.

Transformation:  This is the stage where a couple sets out to renew their commitment to the relationship in spite of differences.  There is an acceptance of each other's faults, with no need to change one another.

Real love:  This is the stage where not only do you accept the differences, but you appreciate more fully the unique qualites each of you bring to the relationship.  There is more humor, fun and a sense of deep and lasting friendship.  There may be a happiness based on mutual respect and realistic admiration.