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How to Go Through Different Stages of Relationships and Keep the Peace

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How to Go Through Different Stages of Relationships and Keep the Peace

Evidenced by the high divorce rate in western countries, most relationships don’t work out. Statistics indicate that 40% of relationships end within 3 years.

If you’re curious as to why most relationships fail and what you can do to prevent relationship breakdown, please keep reading. Most importantly, you’ll learn how to manage the different stages of relationships so you can keep the peace.

Stage 1: Initial Attraction

This is the most exciting stage of a relationship as we generally feel the most intense romance at the beginning of a relationship. The grass is greener; the sky is brighter. Our future looks bright and glorious. We are falling in love with someone.

At this stage, you are so attracted to the other person that you would do anything for them. Focusing on the best in them and looking toward a positive future, releases feel-good hormones which work well until the reality of your day-to-day choices start to rock up…

Relationship Challenge: Failure to Adhere to Personal Boundaries

When you are romantically excited, your brain is constantly producing dopamine and oxytocin. This is what leads to feelings of euphoria and connection.

Unfortunately, this level of happy hormone production won’t last for the lifetime of your relationship because every person’s brain has a protection mechanism which requires the perception of safety. As we progress through the different stages of a relationship, the feeling of safety will be compromised at times – either by ourselves or by our partner.

The most common mistake at the first stage of a relationship is failure to adhere to your own personal boundaries. This includes your ethics, morals and values. When you are initially head-over-heels attracted to someone, your personal boundaries can fly out of the window as you try to fit in with that other person’s life. This can lead to a loss of your self-respect, self-esteem and then attraction as you start losing yourself in choices that don’t feel right for you.

For instance, if one person is very health conscious due to previous health issues, and the other talks big about eating healthily, there will be certain expectations in the relationship. When they have entered the following stages in their relationship, resistant situations would arise when the partner who is less strict about eating frequently buys junk food to share.

How to Keep the Peace at Stage 1

This first stage of relationship is when you set up parameters for your partner so they can have realistic expectations of their relationship with you.

No matter how connected you feel early in a relationship, it’s important to communicate how you live your life and your preferences honestly. Let the other person see who you are without any false pretences.

It’s important to maintain your individuality as this is what initially creates attraction. Be clear on your boundaries and aim to make wise (instead of emotional) decisions when you can.

Respect your differences and focus on being the best version of yourself to maintain healthy attraction. This is how you can make your relationship sustainable in the long term.

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Stage 2: Power Struggle

“Power Struggle” doesn’t sound very pleasant in a politically correct world, but it happens in most relationships. After the initial honeymoon phase, couples calm down and begin to look at the real dynamics in their relationship.

At this stage, many couples try to change each other in order to fit their own wants and needs. If you’ve been there, done that, you probably know what this looks like. However, not everyone is aware of what they are doing.

In his book The Laws of Human Nature, Robert Greene claims that trying to influence others is actually human nature, so everybody wants to do it and there is nothing wrong with that.

Although that point sounds valid and reasonable, this is the most dangerous stage of a relationship, because of this challenge…

Relationship Challenge: Failure to Mold Each Other in the “Right” Way

Many people try to mold their partners into an ideal or perfect partner due to a wish list inspired by desires identified from previous failed relationships. That’s why many couples break up at this stage and never go on to enjoy Stage 3.

The reality is that many partners eventually become lax in their efforts to relate. They stop focusing on their partner’s positive attributes and start focusing more and more attention on their unwanted traits. This leads to ongoing feelings of resistance and arguments, and is generally why relationships begin to breakdown.

At this second stage of a relationship (Power Struggle Stage), as both partners battle to feel heard, to be understood and to have their needs met, tension and tempers can rise. What appears to be a small issue to one partner can quickly escalate and be blown out of proportion by the other when something hasn’t been clearly articulated or understood. This often leads to blame and or false accusations.

How to Keep the Peace at Stage 2

It’s important to be in control of your emotions[1] and influence your partner in the right way to develop and maintain a happy and healthy relationship.

If your partner doesn’t understand you, or appears to repeatedly make the same mistake, aim to support them (as you would in Stage 1 Relationship) instead of assuming they are not trustable and are trying to sabotage your relationship!

Deal with your own emotions as they are triggered to make sure your communication remains open, sincere and straightforward. This is the best way to understand each other and know what you can both work toward in the long run.

Yes, a relationship can be a lot of work, but it won’t feel like hard work if both of you choose to communicate effectively. This includes respecting each other’s values and ways of doing things and working together as a team.

Stage 3: Harmonious Love

After you have gone through the Power Struggle Stage, you may safely arrive at Stage 3 – Harmonious Love Stage. This is when you have for the most part figured out how to get along well with each other in almost every area of your life.

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For example, both you and your partner agree that one person does most of the cooking because they enjoy cooking, and the other will do the dishes. Both of you agree that having sex 3 to 4 times a week is ideal. You both agree that having a date night once a week is a good thing.

Although this may sound like a flawless relationship, there is still a common problem at this stage.

Relationship Challenge: Lack of Excitement and Spontaneity

As your relationship becomes stable, it can also become boring.

International best-selling author Ginie Sayles argues in her book How to Marry the Rich: The Rich Will Marry Someone, Why Not You? that what you have in common builds rapport, whereas your differences make the relationship interesting.

Clearly, lack of excitement at this stage may lead to boredom, and that’s when some individuals begin to cheat on their partner.

How to Keep the Peace at Stage 3

We are naturally motivated by variety and mystery. In order to keep the peace at Harmonious Love Stage, you must introduce novelty back into the relationship.

For example, you can travel together and create new experiences that you share with your partner. Shared experiences are the foundation of a deep emotional connection.

Growing together is the key to a long-lasting and happy relationship. For instance, attending personal development seminars, reading books and even starting a business together. In this way, you both grow in the same direction with lots of interesting things to do together.

However, it’s also important to maintain your own pursuits which fulfil each of you as individuals. This provides a natural break for you to again desire each other and ensures fresh content for conversation.

Stage 4: Commitment

After two people complete the Harmonious Love Stage without too much interference, they commit to each other by beginning to explore a more serious relationship. Hence, they have entered the fourth stage of a relationship – Commitment Stage.

Commitment isn’t just having an exclusive relationship by not dating other people; it’s more about having a shared vision that is compelling enough to bond a couple. Having a shared vision is the strongest glue to hold a relationship together.

This stage of a relationship is best characterized by devotion to the cause, having a long-term blueprint, living together as a couple and being accepted by your social circle as a couple.

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Though this looks amazing, there is often a taboo topic within the dynamics – money.

Relationship Challenge: Financial Dispute

In western culture, money is probably the No. 1 taboo topic in a relationship. We start off by being polite and then it just doesn’t ever seem the right time to bring up the topic of money. Consequently, many couples avoid talking about money until it becomes a problem.

That’s why financial dispute often arises at Stage 4, after a couple have already moved in together. Some people even get married at this stage and then are dismayed to discover they have a financial dispute.

Now you may be wondering… why are financial disputes a problem?

Well, let’s have a look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs first:

    Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is represented as a pyramid with the more basic needs at the bottom. These are physiological needs (e.g. food and shelter). The second level of human needs is safety (e.g. financial security or emotional security). The third level of human needs is love/belonging (e.g. an intimate relationship).

    Consequently, when the second level of human needs is in danger, e.g. financial security is a problem, people become more easily triggered and emotional reactions can spiral out of control. Constant arguing then leads to the feeling of safety being compromised, which can undermine the trust and security of your relationship. This in turn, makes you feel separate and alone.

    While many experts say the No. 1 reason for divorce in almost every country is money, relationship breakups are generally caused by the associated damage that occurs when people’s emotional reactions are out of control. It just happens that finances are one of the most common emotional triggers among couples.

    How to Keep the Peace at Stage 4

    Make sure you and your partner are on the same page when it comes to money. Have an honest discussion with your partner about money and make sure you understand each other’s values and obligations in this regard.

    Maybe one person wants to save a large percentage of their income, whilst the other person wants to enjoy a facial and a massage in a luxurious spa once a week. Without a healthy discussion, that could become a problem in the relationship.

    Therefore, a couple should talk about their preferences in an openly candid way and find a solution that works for both partners.

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    A potential solution is having a crystal-clear financial plan that can be implemented immediately. For example, a couple decide to save 30% of their income and use 10% of their income as “play money”, i.e. this amount of money can be spent guilt-free.

    Stage 5: Complete Trust

    Now this is the blissful stage every couple looks forward to where you are both feeling more relaxed, happy and content. If you’ve reached this stage of a relationship, congratulations!

    At Stage 5, you completely trust your partner. Neither of you keep any secrets, you’ve shared everything together and you both have the desire to keep sharing your journey in the future.

    You’ve gone through all those ups and downs in life together, so you’ve built real, true love.

    Is there any potential problem at this stage? Yes.

    Relationship Challenge: Taking Each Other for Granted

    Now that you can easily predict each other’s decisions and behaviors, your partner may have become boringly predictable. Worse still, your relationship may also have become predictable and lack romantic ambience.

    This is when people generally become complacent and begin to take their partners for granted. They may no longer take care of their own personal appearance, or rarely put in additional effort beyond what is expected.

    There is little consideration for the other person’s desires and genuine appreciation of each other appears to have fallen away. This can make either or both partners feel redundant in the relationship.

    When complacency is the norm, all attraction can be lost, which is why some couples get divorced after being married for several decades.

    How to Keep the Peace at Stage 5

    The key to a peaceful long-term relationship is bringing the courtship back.

    Start to impress each other with your efforts to bring life back into your relationship. Give each other gifts and write or text a meaningful message during the day. Tell your partner how wonderful they are. Kiss each other every morning and every night passionately, just like Holly Golightly and Paul Varjak’s love story from Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

    Look into your partner’s eyes with curiosity and uncontrollable attraction, just like when your eyes met theirs for the first time. Practice this regularly and you can reignite your early attraction and desire for each other.

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    The Bottom Line

    Going through these five stages of a relationship isn’t easy. But so long as you implement these and other strategies and work together to keep the peace, your effort will pay lasting dividends in your love life.

    Featured photo credit: Candice Picard via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    Jacqui Olliver

    Psychosexual Relationship Specialist

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    Last Updated on January 5, 2022

    How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

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    How to Deal With Anger (The Ultimate Anger Management Guide)

    We all lose our temper from time to time, and expressing anger is actually a healthy thing to do in our relationships with others. Expressing our differences in opinion allows us to have healthy conflict and many times come to an agreement or understanding that works for everyone. However, there are times when anger can become overwhelming or damaging, and during these times, it’s important to learn how to deal with anger.

    Expressing anger inappropriately can be harmful to relationships, both personal and professional. You may express too much anger, too often, or at times that are only going to make things worse, not better. In this article we will look at anger management techniques that will help you better control your emotions.

    Let’s take a deeper look at how to deal with anger.

    Expressing Anger

    Anger is a natural and normal part of almost any relationship. This includes relationships with your significant other, kids, boss, friends, family, etc. Anger provides us with valuable information if we are willing to listen to it. It clues us in to areas where we disagree with others and things that need to be changed or altered.

    Unhealthy Ways to Express Anger

    Here are some common yet unhealthy ways to express anger that you should avoid:

    Being Passive-Aggressive

    This is a term many of us are familiar with. Passive-aggressive behavior happens when someone is angry but uses indirect communication to express their anger.

    Some of the more common passive-aggressive behaviors include the silent treatment, making comments about someone behind their back, being grumpy, moody, or pouting, or simply not doing tasks or assignments that they should.

    This is a passive-aggressive person’s way of showing their anger. It’s not very productive but extremely common.

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    Poorly-Timed

    Some people get overwhelmed and express anger in a situation where it can’t really do any good.

    An example would be getting angry at one person in front of a crowd of people. All that does is make people uncomfortable and shuts them down. It’s not a healthy way to express anger or disagreement with someone.

    Ongoing Anger

    Being angry all the time is most often a symptom of something else. It’s healthy and normal to express anger when you disagree with someone. However, if someone is angry most of the time and always seems to be expressing their anger to everyone around them, this won’t serve them well.

    Over time, people will start to avoid this person and have as little contact as possible. The reason being is no one likes being around someone who is angry all the time; it’s a no-win situation.

    Healthy Ways to Express Anger

    What about the healthy ways[1] to adapt? When learning how to deal with anger, here are some healthy ways to get you started.

    Being Honest

    Express your anger or disagreement honestly. Be truthful about what it is that is making you angry. Sometimes this will entail walking away and thinking about it for a bit before you respond.

    Don’t say you’re mad at something someone did or said when it’s really something else that upset you.

    Being Direct

    Similar to being honest, being direct is a healthy way to express anger.

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    Don’t talk around something that is making you angry. Don’t say that one thing is making you angry when it’s really something else, and don’t stack items on top of each other so you can unload on someone about 10 different things 6 months from now.

    Be direct and upfront about what is making you angry. Ensure you are expressing your anger to the person who upset you or you are angry at, not to someone else. This is very counterproductive.

    Being Timely

    When something makes you angry, it’s much better to express it in a timely manner. Don’t keep it bottled up inside of you, as that’s only going to do more harm than good.

    Think of the marriages that seem to go up in flames out of nowhere when the reality is someone kept quiet for years until they hit their breaking point.

    Expressing anger as it occurs is a much healthier way of using anger to help us guide our relationships in the moment.

    How to Deal With Anger

    If you feel angry, how should you deal with it right at that moment?

    1. Slow Down

    From time to time, I receive an email at work that makes me so angry that steam is probably pouring out of my ears.

    In my less restrained moments, I have been known to fire off a quick response, and that typically has ended about as well as you might imagine.

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    When I actually walk away from my computer and go do something else for a while, I am able to calm down and think more rationally. After that happens, I am able to respond in a more appropriate and productive manner. Doing things that helps you learn how to release anger can make an uncomfortable situation more manageable before it gets out of hand.

    2. Focus on the “I”

    Remember that you are the one that’s upset. Don’t accuse people of making you upset because, in the end, it’s your response to what someone did that really triggered your anger. You don’t want to place blame by saying something like “Why don’t you ever put away your dishes?” Say something more like “Having dirty dishes laying on the counter upsets me—can you work with me to come to a solution?”

    When you are accusatory towards someone, all that does is increase the tension. This doesn’t usually do anything except make your anger rise higher.

    3. Work out

    When learning how to deal with anger, exercise is a great outlet. If something happens that angers you, see if you have the opportunity to burn off some of the anger.

    Being able to hit the gym to get a hard workout in is great. If this isn’t an option, see if you can go for a run or a bike ride. If you are at work when you become angry and the weather permits, at least go outside for a brisk walk.

    Besides working some of your anger out through exercise, this also helps to give your mind a chance to work through some ways to address what it is that upset you.

    4. Seek Help When Needed

    There are times when we could all use some help. Life can be stressful and overwhelming. It’s perfectly fine to seek some help from a mental health professional if it will help you get back to a healthy balance.If you find that you are angry all the time, it might be a good idea to go talk to an expert about learning to control intense emotions. They can give you some sound advice and ideas on how to get your anger to a more manageable and healthy level.

    5. Practice Relaxation

    We all seem to lead incredibly busy lives, and that’s a good thing if we are loving the life we are living. That being said, it is very beneficial to our physical and mental well-being to take time out for relaxation.

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    That can mean spending time doing things that help us calm down and relax, like being around people we enjoy, practicing deep breathing or listening to music. It could be making time for things that help bring us balance like a healthy diet and physical activity.

    Many people incorporate techniques such as yoga and meditation to calm their minds and release tension when learning how to deal with anger. Whatever your choice is, ensure you take time out to relax when warning signs of anger start to bubble up.

    6. Laugh

    Incorporating humor and laughter on a regular basis will help keep anger in check and help you get over a bad mood and feelings of anger more quickly. This isn’t part of formal anger management techniques, but you’ll be surprised by how well it works. Remember, life is a journey that’s meant to be enjoyed fully along the way through healthy emotion. Make sure you take time to laugh and have fun.Surround yourself with people that like to laugh and enjoy life. Don’t work at a job that just causes you stress, which can lead to anger. Work at something you enjoy doing.

    7. Be Grateful

    It’s easy to focus on the bad in life and the things that cause us negative emotions. It’s vitally important to remind ourselves of all the wonderful things in life that bring us positive emotions, things that we easily forget because we get caught up in the whirlwind of day to day life.

    Take time out each day to remind yourself of a few things you are grateful for in order to help you learn how to release anger and invite in more positive feelings.

    Final Thoughts

    Life can be overwhelming at times. We seem to have constant pressure to achieve more and to always be on the go or motivated. People we are around and situations we are in can cause stress, anger, and negative emotions. At times, it can seem to be too much, and we get angry and our emotions start to get out of control.

    During these times, keep in mind that life is an incredible journey, full of wonder and things that bring you joy. When you find yourself angry more often than is healthy, take time out to remember the good things in life—the things that we seem to forget yet bring us so much positive energy and emotions.

    Use some of the tips included here to help with how to deal with anger and better control your emotions.

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    More Resources on Anger Management

    Featured photo credit: Andre Hunter via unsplash.com

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