Your Feelings Will Change over Time
When you meet someone you find attractive, at first you will pay more attention to the positive, attractive aspects of that person. Even if you notice faults or foibles that you don't like, these will most likely take a backseat to the qualities you appreciate. This stage, which may be called the romantic stage, is just the first of five that most relationships go through as they mature. The other four are power struggle, stability, commitment, and cocreation.It Begins with Romance
Romance is the stage in which we focus on our similarities and the things we like about each other. It is the stage in which we go out of our way to be pleasing. This allows a bond of trust to form, and we often feel that “here is a someone who will love me as I am; I can feel safe with this person.”
Although this stage eventually passes, you can recall how it made you feel and bring some of those feelings back into the present. To help you reconnect with the essence of romance, recall what first attracted you to your partner. Take a few minutes to remember how you felt when you two were first falling in love. If you have never discussed this, or if you have not discussed it lately, make this a topic of conversation within a few days. It can help to rekindle some of those young-love feelings.
As you reflect on that romantic getting-to-know-you period, you might also notice that some of the things that first attracted you have now changed. This fact could lead to disappointment, unless you can remember that change is to be expected. It's a necessary part of the journey. What most people do not realize is that once a strong trust bond is established in a relationship, partners tend to feel safe enough to reveal themselves and their negative aspects more fully.
If things have changed for the worse, it's not because your partner was intentionally deceptive. It's more likely due to the fact that once a romantic bonding occurs, your partner feels safe and secure enough to be more open around you. This leads to the next stage, power struggle.
Intimacy doesn't just happen. It takes time, effort, and communication for a couple to become truly intimate with each other. While the romance stage is great, you won't achieve real intimacy until the later stages of your relationship.
During the romance stage, two people may seem like the perfect couple. Their sex drives may be in sync, and they think everything the other one does is cute and funny. Then time goes by, and things may change. Their sex life becomes less exciting (perhaps even nearly nonexistent). They don't seem to be connecting anymore.
You know you're in the power struggle stage when you try to get your partner to change so that you can feel better. Stop and ask yourself why you feel you absolutely need those changes to occur. Can you love your partner for who she is?
If anything like this has ever happened to you, remember that what you get to see of another person during the romance stage is like the tip of an iceberg. When you first meet someone, you cannot know this person all at once. You can't yet see what's hiding beneath the deep, dark waters — the other 85 percent of the iceberg that will be revealed over time.
The power struggle stage is the stage during which formerly hidden differences in wants, needs, and expectations rise to the surface. Power struggles can be resolved if you and your partner are able to recognize that these struggles may originate in unfinished emotional business from your past. To get beyond such struggles and heal any unresolved issues, you must enter the stability stage.A Time of Stability
As your relationship goes from the power struggle stage to the stability stage, you learn that the outer struggle mirrors the inner struggle — that is, if your partner's behavior triggers intense anger or hurt, this probably indicates an area where you have unresolved emotional issues within yourself.
Stability is the toughest stage to master. For most people, a partner can be a ready scapegoat. It's so easy to blame someone else for your pain — all he'd have to do is change one little thing and then you'd feel better! When you let go of blaming your partner, even secretly, and take responsibility for your own emotional triggers, then you are solidly in the stability stage.From Stability to Commitment
If you succeed in mastering the lessons of the stability stage, the rewards are great. In the commitment stage, you can enjoy a genuine sense of safety — not the illusory safety of romance. Now you really feel your unity, your interdependence. You become a we, where you naturally consider how your actions will affect your partner.
Such thoughtfulness comes, not from any sense of obligation, but from a deep knowing of and empathy for the other. But you need to go through the other three stages together before you can arrive at true commitment. Now your promises to each other are trustworthy. They were not before because you had not yet met and mastered the basic life task of taking responsibility for yourself (the task of the stability stage). Until you pass beyond stability, you are still secretly or not so secretly looking to be taken care of, as in, “I want you to stop flirting with other women because it makes me feel insecure.” (Translation: It triggers my insecurity.)Cocreation
Once two people are aligned in their oneness and secure about their ability to make and keep agreements without any sense of obligation, they can create things together with a real sense of partnership. They might create simple things like nice dinner parties for their friends. They might coauthor articles or teach classes together. Or they might use their bond to support each partner's individual self-expression in the world.
Cocreation is where you reap the rewards of the work you have done in the other four stages, and where you give back to the world from what life has taught you. The couple's journey from romance to cocreation helps both partners learn to be comfortable with change. It can help you avoid needless disappointment over the fact that “you're not the person I first fell in love with.”