Has the gloss worn off your relationship? I’ve talked about four stages in relationships so far – romantic love, adjusting to reality, the power struggle, and re-evaluation. These stages are not necessarily linear or an A-B-C type progression. It is possible to experience different aspects of these stages at the same time and its common to go back and forth between stages.
I talk with couples about two primary ways of looking at a relationship – joined at the hip or enmeshed, or mutual independence. Most choose the enmeshed model as better, but is it really?
The gloss has worn off. Love is still there, as is your original commitment. And you realize that the fantasy person you’d committed to, the fantasy relationship you’d always wanted, will never live up to your expectations. And that leads to the fifth stage, reconciliation.
It’s not so much reconciliation between you and your partner as it is a personal recognition that your relationship expectations and assumptions do not and will never match the reality of your relationship. With that personal recognition there is often a re-awakening of interest in getting closer and reconnecting. Partners have come to know each other, and hopefully themselves, much better through the earlier stages. Fantasy is replaced by reality as well as a reduction in conflict. There is often a realization by one or both partners that there are some issues where its better to agree to disagree. Couples typically accept their past conflicts and differences, but with a different attitude, an attitude of using their conflicts and differences to learn more about each other. This shift can be a catalyst for new growth and change. This growth and change often results in a deeper, more honest, and more emotionally and physically intimate relationship.
Reconciliation also entails another shift, one of taking responsibility for your part in past conflicts, your own role in making your relationship satisfying, as well as being responsible for your own personal happiness. Partners may, rather than projecting their wants and desires onto the other, see themselves and their partner as somewhat flawed yet basically decent people who are making sincere efforts, in their own way, to love and be close while still taking care of their own needs.
There is a deeper acceptance in this stage that any relationship, any partner, cannot and will not meet all your needs in any realistic sense. You and your partner still have your own personal needs and issues and they won’t go away simply because you’re in a relationship. Those parts, those needs, that can be nurtured and shared in a loving relationship are also real and couples rely on each other for that connection.
At this point in a relationship the war is over, conflicts have been accepted, and there is often a desire to learn how to work through issues and achieve a mutually satisfying resolution. What frequently starts in this stage is a blending of two people who care deeply for each other, while both still retain their own personal independence. The diagram speaks to this – two independent people with their own goals, dreams, lives who also share common goals, beliefs, and desire for companionship with each other. I’ll be talking some more about the diagram in a future installment of this series.
Want some help to improve your relationship? Send me an email asking or a free consultation. Include your availability on the coming week and I’ll get back to you within 24 hours with a day and time that works for both of us.