“The course of true love never did run smooth.”
Most couples have never participated in marriage education of any kind except what they read in newspapers and magazines. No one told them when they married what adjustments they would need to make in the early years of marriage nor did they realize the myths about marriage that they would likely come to believe. Few of us know on our wedding day that our relationship will go through predictable stages as we adjust to being husband and wife.
Jeffry Larson believes that most marriages develop through three main stages, in this order:
Stage 1: Romantic love
Most couples get married in a state of romantic love that many describe as ecstasy. That is, our love at this stage in our marriage is primarily sexual, passionate, irrational, and based on physical attraction. You intentionally, although somewhat unconsciously, show your partner only your good side. Our expectations of our partner and the relationship are also irrational during this ‘honeymoon’ period. We may expect our partner to meet all of our needs for acceptance and love. In this stage of marriage, couples report, “Oh, I love him so much—he’s perfect for me!” “I want to make you the happiest woman in the world!” “You have made me the happiest guy in the world!” It’s like whirling around in a tornado of romance.
Stage 2: Disillusionment and distraction
From How To Deal With Disappointment in Marriage
Over time challenges begin to appear in our personal and couple lives. Daily life is stressful by itself. Learning to share the bathroom, working out marital roles, the stress associated with balancing careers and still making time for each other all take a toll on us physically and emotionally, and the vitality of our relationship suffers. These occurrences are not inherently bad—they are an unavoidable part of life. In addition, some of our fantasies just do not come true; for example, we are surprised and even shocked at realizations like these:
- He isn’t always thinking of me.
- I thought she was going to work too. Now I have to make all the money, and there isn’t enough.
- Wow, does he have a temper when he doesn’t get enough rest! Where did that come from?
Personality traits not revealed during courtship or the honeymoon start to appear when you’re under stress—anger not seen before, depression on certain days of the month, or irritability that sometimes goes on for days.
This natural but painful difference between fantasy and reality (discovered months after the wedding) commonly leads to disillusionment.
Stage 3: Dissolution or adjustment with resignation or contentment
By the time couples get to the end of stage 2, they know there is something wrong with their marriage.
You have three options:
- You can give up, dissolving the relationship through separation or divorce.
- You can just keep on trying to survive, day to day, in an unsatisfying marriage—I call this adjusting with resignation. There is little love in such a marriage.
- You can decide to be more content. Adjusting with contentment occurs when you still love each other but your love has become more like a good friendship with some passion thrown in. Altruistic love may have developed by now too. This is the self-giving kind of love that is kind and patient, not demanding. Real love of a real person, that survived the loss of illusions created in our minds by the myths and memes of romantic love.
From Love never fades
from ‘Overcoming Myths about Marriage’ by Jeffry H. Larson
Yes! I’m glad to read this…seems to me that once phase one is over, most people have given up…living with anyone…even room mates is stressful…when deeper emotions are involved it can become very very difficult…it’s a maturing process, learning to give and take…and getting over always saying: Me. Thanks!
Totally agree with you on that, Bastet. I’ve seen a lot of people in my own social circle who believe that as soon as the first stage is over, it is time to move on looking for another prince/princess charming. Unfortunately, by constantly chasing romance, they miss opportunity to develop a deeper and more real feeling of love. It is particularly sad to observe that when there are children involved. 😦
very nicely put and extremely good to read
but one thing young couples who are going to marry
will never read this, they will be in a state of Utopia
when they will realize it will be too late
and then no meaning to read this
i am not married and i believe something else but one thing for
sure love is a temporary stage, the love we know
eternal love is something else
it is not cards & valentines day
and all those stupid things
it is the silence which loves and not the words
Totally agree with you on that, Ajay. Like the way you put it into words – very well said.
thank you your post was fantastic & thorough,
thanks very much
Lots of wisdom here. Who knows? Maybe you’re giving advice that may change someone’s awareness and their lives. Keep up your good work.
I hope so. I hope this post will help some people to find true real love, that lots of people ‘miss’ to develop because of the constant chase for romance.
The Sage told me those magical words to guarantee marital bliss, any man can use them … “Yes, Dear~!”
Works for me …
He-he, don’t see any harm in women using the same magic words from time to time. 🙂
I encourage it … but The Spouse is an independent wee thinker. Dammit.
Don’t you worry, we were not purring kittens either to start with, as reflected by the nicknames we gave each other in the first decade of our relationship including ‘Battle Axe’, ‘Bossy Boot’, ‘Stroppy Pants’ etc. etc. etc.. Another decade made the trick 😉 Now we both are purring…
Talking about ‘independent ladies’, you might enjoy my other post at https://otrazhenie.wordpress.com/2013/02/11/marriage-is-a-relationship-in-which/ Let your spouse read it. As she is such an “independent thinker”, it might help her to stop following the ‘crowd’ and start acting more ‘independently’, not like other ladies 😉
I really enjoyed reading your post today. I wish I would have had this 15 years ago. Thanks for the great advice. Also thank you showing supper and liking the Lifeissacredliveonpurpose.wordpress blog today.
Funny you say that – that was exactly what I was thinking when I was writing this post: “I wish someone told me that before I got into a relationship” 🙂
Glad that you liked this post. 🙂
Where the devil was this post when my two marriages were falling apart? :]
Of course I’m only half kidding. (Only half…..)
This was illuminating on many levels and yet, I know it’s true because my experience tells me so. This was actually a delightfully well written post and was entirely my pleasure to read. Thank you for sharing.
Thanks for your comment, Michael. Sorry to hear about your experience with previous marriages. Luckily, I came across this information before my one fell apart. However when I was writing this post, I wished so much someone told me that before I got into a relationship. Though, as the saying goes, better later than never. Glad that you found this post helpful and enjoyable.
I think the biggest failure in many relationships is that we don’t make a conscious choice to love the person we’re with. It’s easy to “fall” in love – you really don’t have to do anything, but MAINTAINING a relationship takes hard work and dedication. One person can be with another, if they make a choice to love that person they’re with. All relationships go through stages of disillusionment, but we as the people in those situations have the power to make the change.
Totally agree with you. Very well said. We all have that power to make the change.
[…] not enough to know that marriage changes over time as described in my previous post The course of true love never did run smooth…. Myths about marriage—beliefs we hold as true that have no basis in reality or scientific […]
What a beautiful post! So much wisdom and truth!!
I have a theory (developed years ago) about human nature and long-term commitment. I have no idea if this theory holds water, just me musing. I think that we humans, much like everything else in the natural world, are ever-growing and ever-changing (that’s a fact). When we meet someone and fall in love, we are one way, and our lover is also one way. We then create an unyielding structure, a legal, life-long binding commitment that cannot accommodate our growing, evolving natures. Change is simply a fact of life—neither good nor bad—but if you build an unyielding structure that is not designed to accommodate change, like a house or an office building, on a fault line, it looks like devastation and disaster when change naturally occurs and essentially leaves the building behind in ruins.
We make these serious commitments as children, basically. It’s like getting a tattoo at age 18; we unthinkingly commit our 65-year-old selves to the values we had as kids!
I think it is the lucky couple who fall in love as kids and grow and evolve together, by mutual consent and work and willingness to hold loving space for each other. My folks did it, and they loved each other more and more right up to the very end of their 56-year-long marriage.
Your post should be in the owners’ manual we all should be issued at birth! Thank you for writing and sharing!
I really liked your theory. Never thought about that myself, but now looking back at my own family, I do think your theory is right. It is important in a relationship to leave enough room and freedom for change, as all people evolve over time. Also, in a relationship people do influence each other. Looking back, I can see now how my relationship and my spouse have influenced the way I was evolving over the last decades. I’m pleased my spouse gives me enough ‘breathing space’ in our relationship, including time for blogging. I do appreciate that.
Your theory is potent. I love that analogy; the visual of a castle made of sand collapsing beneath the roaring tide comes to mind and fits well. Nice.
Love your image of a ‘castle’. 🙂
Yes!! Space is so crucial. I think that what allows us to give each other space is that we can trust that All Is Well, and the person who we fell in love with is on a trajectory to becoming the best person that he or she can be. And, hopefully, so are we! Like the mutual agreement is not so much to take care of each other (which is kind of a top-down approach and suggests that our partner is somehow lacking, perhaps) as it is to take care of our Selves *for* our Selves and each other!
So grateful to you for your beautiful blog and your very thoughtful posts and comments!
Love that way of looking at it, Marji. Totally agree with you on that – good relationship is about helping each other to ‘grow’ or ‘evolve’ into the best person you can be without turning yourself into something you are not.
I’m so glad that we met in the blogosphere. Love your insightful comments. That’s what makes blogosphere so special to me – receiving thoughtful comments, exchanging ideas and perspectives and learning from my visitors. 🙂
I personally love this quote. I just hope that true love does have a happy ending at some point.
Thanks for your comment. Glad that you like this quote 🙂
Funny thing, otrajenie is reflection in my native language 🙂
Probably, we have the same native tongue then 😉
I guess we do 🙂
Things that makes you go “hmm”… This is a very well-articulated and poignant piece.
Glad that you liked it. 🙂
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