Is this the person I really want to stay with?

Re-evaluation is the fourth stage in relationship development. Webster’s says re-evaluation involves the action of assessing or evaluating something again or differently. We often consciously re-evaluate different aspects of our lives – work, goals, relationships, etc. We take some hard looks at where we are in relation to where we want to be. We can get bored, decide we made a mistake by committing to this person, blame our unhappiness on our partner, and may start thinking the grass is greener somewhere or with someone else.

Arguments may have faded, we’ve adjusted to reality, but we’re still questioning ourselves. By this time in our primary relationship, if we’ve done some work, we know our partners pretty well. We know their fears and their defenses and how they react or think about different aspects. We know our partner, his or her limitations (we all have our own limitations), and think we know how much our partner is capable of meeting our needs. Knowing all this do we really want to stay with this person we committed to? At this same point negative thoughts often start creeping in, at first occasionally, and if we don’t catch them they can become constant negative refrains going through our minds. Sound familiar?

Internal questioning and negative thoughts like these act like a wedge, driving couples apart. Both people in the couple may begin to emotionally (and sometimes physically) disengage, turning outwards to other people rather than towards each other to discuss and resolve the problems they see. Simple companionship declines as well as sexual contact. Fears of abandonment often come up strongly here, as well as more questions. Is my partner cheating? Can I make it on my own if I leave or my partner leaves? Am I really okay the way I am? Will anyone else find me attractive or appealing?

Often a person in this stage of a relationship will begin to confide in someone of the opposite sex, perhaps a friend, a co-worker, or someone via social media. This confidant can take on more and more importance in a person’s life due to their neediness and vulnerability. People in this spot can get very emotionally involved or emotionally intimate without realizing it. When we relax our boundaries and let others in we can enter an emotional affair that violates our partner’s trust and privacy.

Physical sex doesn’t have to occur, and many emotional affairs take place via social media. Guilt may or may not be present, but often occurs when the affair – whether emotional, physical, or both – is discovered by the other partner.

The relationship can recover and couples can reconcile. However, it won’t be the same and, in many ways, often becomes an entirely new and often stronger relationship.