“We are individuals, but accomplish more together. Remember: marriage is not a contest. God has put the two of you together on the same team to win!”
– Herbert and Zelmyra Fisher (married 86 years)
You don’t have to be perfect to love and be loved perfectly. How can a man and a woman who are imperfect love each other perfectly? By staying and growing together as their marriage goes through its natural stages. Just as the Earth goes through seasons, a marriage goes through predictable phases which are completely normal and expected. A marriage goes through five different stages.
Stage One: Honeymoon. Remember that awesome feeling of finally getting something you really wanted? Perhaps it’s a new suit, a new home, a new car. The newness, the exhilaration, the excitement of gaining the object of your dreams often makes you blind to its faults and shortcomings. Same thing when you’re newly married. Sheer joy sweeps your feet off the ground so much so you fail to notice your partner’s limitations.
Stage Two : Discovery. As the feel-good chemicals in your brain wear off, you both begin to notice each other’s flaws. You start to let your guard down and become more yourself. More days spent together bring more situations you’ve never faced together before.
Stage Three : Adjustment. Let’s face it. No matter how well-suited you both seemed in the beginning, the two of you come from different backgrounds. Every family has its own microculture, different traditions, rules, and habits. It makes you wonder “Did I marry the wrong person?” It helps to remember that just as you are finding the new rules, habits, and traditions a bit of a shock, so is your spouse. The more room you allow for adjustments, the more success and happiness you create in your marriage.
Stage Four : Acceptance. “I accept” isn’t equal to “I agree”. It could mean “I agree to disagree.” Or “I choose to rise above the differences. I acknowledge that my spouse can’t change the habits, rules and traditions he or she grew up with and is used to at the snap of a finger.” Of course, your spouse does change over time and so do you. But you won’t know in what ways he or she will change. At this point, it’s crucial for both of you to accept things as they are. The exception should be for issues that you find not only annoying but worth talking about; you need to say it out in a way that makes your spouse listen and at the very least, acknowledge.
Stage Five : Everlasting Love. “Marriage is a three-ring circus: engagement ring, wedding ring and suffering.” So says a marriage jokes site. “There are two times a man doesn’t understand a woman: before marriage and after marriage.”, claims another. Jokes related to marriage are aplenty. They make you wonder if marriage is an idea worth pursuing. Added to these are movies and songs that portray how easily men and women fall in and out of love. It would seem that the last thing a man and a woman in love should do is to get married. Yet research tells us that romantic love can last. We are not talking about couples who are newly married. We are talking about husbands and wives who remain very much in tune with each other despite having been together for decades. If this is what you understand by a happy and successful marriage, you are on the right track.
The danger of not knowing about these stages is akin to not knowing what is in store for you and therefore, not knowing whether your marriage is growing or dying at any given moment. You may think all is well when the reality is quite different. Kindness is to seek a better understanding on the state your marriage is in. Decide you want an awesome marriage. Do not give up when the spark seems to have gone.
Featured photo by huskyherz