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Published on April 19, 2019

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

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.

    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

    More by this author

    Jacqui Olliver

    Psychosexual Relationship Specialist

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    Last Updated on March 30, 2020

    What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

    What Does Self-Conscious Mean? (And How to Stop Being It)

    Have you ever walked into a room and felt like your nerves simply couldn’t handle it? Your heart beats fast, you start to sweat, and you feel like all eyes are on you (even if they’re really not). This is just one of the many ways that being self-conscious can rear its ugly head.

    You may not even realize you’re self-conscious, and you may be wondering, “What does self-conscious mean?” That’s a good place to start.

    This article will define self-consciousness, show how practically everyone has faced it at one point or another, and give you tips to avoid it.

    What Does Self-Conscious Mean?

    According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, self-conscious is defined as “conscious of one’s own acts or states as belonging to or originating in oneself.”[1]

    Not so bad, right? There’s another definition, though — one that speaks more to what you’re going through: “feeling uncomfortably conscious of oneself as an object of the observation of others.” For those of us who regularly deal with extreme self-consciousness, that second definition sounds about right.

    There are many different ways self-consciousness can spring up. You may feel self-conscious around people you know, like your family members or closest friends. You may feel self-conscious at work, even though you spend hours every week around your co-workers. Or you may feel self-conscious when out in public and surrounded by strangers. However, you probably don’t feel self-conscious when you’re home alone.

    How to Stop Being Too Self-Conscious

    When you’re in the throes of self-consciousness, it’s nearly impossible to remember how to stop feeling that way. That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time, when you’re feeling ready to tackle the problem instead of succumbing to it.

    Here are a variety of ways to feel better about yourself and stop thinking about how others see you.

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    1. Ask Yourself, “So What?”

    One way to banish negative, self-conscious thoughts is to do just that: banish them.

    The next time you walk into a room and feel your face getting red, think to yourself, “So what?” How much does it really matter if people don’t like how you look or act? What’s the worst that could happen?

    Most of the time, you’ll find that you don’t have a good answer to this question. Then, you can immediately start assigning such thoughts less importance. With self-awareness, you can acknowledge that your negative thoughts are present and realize that you don’t agree with them.[2] They’re just thoughts, after all.

    2. Be Honest

    A lie that self-consciousness might tell is that there’s one way to act or feel. Honestly, though, everyone else is just figuring life out as well. There isn’t a preferred way to show up to an event, gathering, or public place. What you can do is be honest with your feelings and thoughts.[3]

    If you feel offended by something someone says, you don’t have to smile to be polite or laugh to fit in with the crowd. Instead, you can politely say why you disagree or excuse yourself and find a group of people who you relate to better. If you’re nervous, don’t overcompensate by trying to look relaxed and casual — it’ll be obvious you’re putting on a front. Instead, nothing is more endearing than saying, “I’m a little nervous!” to a room of people who probably feel the exact same way.

    On the same note, if you don’t understand why someone wants you to do something, question it. You can do this at work, at home, or even with people you don’t know well. Nobody should force you to do something you don’t want to do.

    Also, even if you’re willing to do what’s asked of you, there’s nothing wrong with asking for more clarification. People will realize that you’re not a person to be bossed around.

    3. Understand Why You’re Struggling at Work

    Being self-conscious at work can get in the way of your daily responsibilities, your relationships with co-workers, and even your career as a whole. If you’re facing some sort of conflict but you’re too nervous to speak up, you may be at the whim of what happens to you instead of taking some control.

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    If you’re usually confident at work, you may be wondering where this new self-consciousness is coming from. It’s possible that you’re dealing with burnout.[4] Common signs are anxiety, fatigue and distraction, all of which can leave you feeling under-confident.

    4. Succeed at Something

    When you create success in your life, it’s easier to feel confident[5] and less self-conscious. If you feel self-conscious at work, finish the project that’s been looming over your head. If you feel self-conscious in the gym, complete an advanced workout class.

    Exposing yourself to what you’re scared of and then succeeding at it in some way (even just by finishing it) can do wonders for your self-esteem. The more confidence you build, the more likely you are to have more success in the future, which will create a cycle of confidence-building.

    5. Treat All of You — Not Just Your Self-Consciousness

    Trying to solve your self-consciousness alone may not treat the root of the problem. Instead, take a well-rounded approach to lower your self-consciousness and build confidence in areas where you may struggle.

    Even professional counselors are embracing this holistic type of treatment[6] because they feel that the health of the mind and body are inextricably linked. This approach combines physical, spiritual, and psychological components. Common activities and treatments include meditation, yoga, massage, and healthy changes to diet and exercise.

    If much of this is new to you, it will pay to give it a try. You never know how it will impact you.

    If you’re feeling self-conscious about how your body looks, a massage that makes you feel great could boost your confidence. If you try a new workout, you could have something exciting to talk about the next time you’re in a group setting.

    Putting yourself in a new situation and learning that you can get through it with grace can give you the confidence to get through all sorts of events and nerve-wracking moments.

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    6. Make the Changes That Are Within Your Control

    Let’s say you walk into a room and you’re self-conscious about how you look. However, you may have put a lot of time and effort into your outfit. Even though it may stand out, this is how you have chosen to express yourself.

    You have to work on your internal confidence, not your external appearance. There’s nothing to change other than your outlook.

    On the other hand, maybe there’s something that you don’t like about yourself that you can change. For example, maybe you hate how a birthmark on your face looks or have varicose veins that you think are unsightly. If you can do something about these things, do it! There’s nothing wrong with changing your appearance (or skills, education, etc.) if it’s going to make you more confident.

    You don’t have to accept your current situation for acceptance’s sake. There’s no award for putting up with something you hate. Confidence is also required to make changes that are scary, even if they’re for the better. Plus, it may be an easier fix than you thought. For example, treating varicose veins doesn’t have to involve surgery — sometimes simple compression stockings will take care of the problem.[7]

    7. Realize That Everyone Has Awkward Moments

    Everyone has said something awkward to someone else and lived to tell the tale. We’ve all forgotten somebody’s name or said, “You too!” when the concession stand girl says to enjoy our movie. Not only are these things uber-common, but they’re not nearly as embarrassing as you feel they are.

    Think about how you react when someone else does something awkward. Do you think, “Wow, that person’s such a loser!” or do you think, “What a relief, I’m not the only one who does that.” Chances are good that’s the same reaction others have to you when you stumble.

    Remember, self-consciousness is a state of mind that you have control over. You don’t have to feel this way. Do what you need to in order to build your confidence, put your self-consciousness in perspective, and start exercising your “I feel awesome about myself” muscle. It’ll get easier with time.

    When Is Being Self-Conscious a Good Thing?

    Self-consciousness can sometimes be a good thing[8], but you have to take the awkwardness and nerves out of it.

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    In this case, “self-aware” is a much better term. Knowing how you come off to people is an excellent trait; you’ll be able to read a room and understand how what you do and say affects others. These are fantastic skills for people work and personal relationships.

    Self-awareness helps you dress appropriately for the occasion, tells you that you’re talking too loud or not loud enough, and guides a conversation so you don’t offend or bore anyone.

    It’s not about being someone you’re not — that can actually have adverse effects, just like self-consciousness. Instead, it’s about turning up certain aspects of yourself to perform well in the situation.

    Final Thoughts

    When you’re self-conscious, you’re constantly battling with yourself in an effort to control how other people view you. You try to change yourself to suit what you think other people want to see.

    The truth, though, is that you can’t actually control how other people view you — and you may not even be correct about how they view you in the first place.

    Being confident doesn’t happen overnight. Instead, it happens in small steps as you slowly build your confidence and say “no” to your self-consciousness. It also requires accepting that you’re going to feel self-conscious sometimes, and that’s okay.

    Sometimes worrying that there is a problem can be more stressful than the problem itself. Feeling bad for feeling self-conscious can be more troublesome than simply feeling it and getting on with the day.

    Forgive yourself for being human and make the small changes that will lead to better confidence in the future.

    More Tips for Improving Your Self-Esteem

    Featured photo credit: Cata via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Merriam-Webster: Self-conscious
    [2] Bustle: 7 Tips On How To Stop Feeling Self-Conscious
    [3] Marc and Angel: 10 Things to Remember When You Feel Unsure of Yourself
    [4] Bostitch: How to Protect Small Businesses From Burnout
    [5] Psychology Today: Self-conscious? Get Over It
    [6] Wake Forest University: Embracing Holistic Medicine
    [7] Center for Vein Restoration: What Causes Venous Ulcers, and How Are They Treated?
    [8] Scientific American: The Pros and Cons of Being Self-Aware

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