Six Stages of Marriage

Couples Generally Rotate In and Out of 6 Stages of Marriage

As you seek marriage enrichment or marriage help, you will find websites that discuss various numbers of stages in a marriage. Marriage Encounter, which focuses on marriages that are in a good place operates from a perspective of 3 phases: Romance, Disillusionment and Awakening. Retrouvaille, being for struggling marriages adds a fourth stage of “Misery.” 

We have come to see that there is a giant gap between Romance and Misery, so we have developed a concept citing six distinct stages in most marriages that breaks them down in more detail so that couples may better relate to them. Not all marriages experience all of them, but most marriages do experience most of them. These stages are also not necessarily in the order described here, but this order is the most common.

Stage 1: Romance & Passion

Romance and intense attraction bond a couple together and lead to commitment. It seems as though this is a forever love, and nothing can shake it. Together, you are unstoppable, and none of those other couples you know have that magic you share. In this stage you are building a strong bond of trust and intimacy that you will rely on for years to come.

While most relationships start out with this phase, some do not. For example, arranged unions, or unions of convenience are not as uncommon as many think. In these cases, there is hope that you may learn how to have this kind of relationship, but it is rarely the case.

Stage 2: Reality

The honeymoon is over. Those little things that you used to find to be adorable differences between the two of you are starting to turn into little annoyances. Her free spirit is starting to look more like irresponsibility. His strong work ethic is starting to make you feel lonely. The reality of what the rest of your life together may look like is starting to come into focus. He stops putting the toilet seat down. She isn’t always “ready to go” whenever he feels like it.

Disillusionment sets in and conflicts begin as you settle into this unavoidable phase. You are truly finding out who the other person is when they are not at their best, and may be wondering who this other person is, or accepting it as something the two of you will get used to.  How you handle this stage is usually based on how you were raised, and can make all the difference in that comes next.

Stage 3: Rebellion

  • Why won’t he change into the man I thought he would become?
  • Why did she change into someone so different all the sudden?
  • What are all of these differences we now have?

He misses hanging out at the bar with his friends, she wants to go on a romantic weekend getaway. He wants to watch the game. They both want to build their careers. What about kids? What about me?

While in the Passion & Romance Stage, we set all of our desires aside, because nothing mattered more than this other person. But now we want to return to our dreams, and we think the other will come along on our ride. We start moving in separate directions as we start our own mini rebellions.

We are going have arguments here, because I am right and you are wrong. I deserve this, and you just need to understand.

Each of us believes we are on the moral high ground here.

Stage 4: Stability

The rebellion stage is one many marriages just don’t get out of.   Some just refuse to compromise, but some find a way to go along to get along or find a middle ground and make it to the “Stability” stage.

The relationship, however, gets much more complicated. We have children, we build debt, we follow our careers, we get the bigger house, we work on building the nest egg, get the bigger car, and all the “stuff.”

This is a very dangerous phase, because between work, kids, and all of the problems life throws us, we have a tendency to be more like managing partners in “Our Family, Inc.” than a loving couple. One or both of us in in grave danger of feeling a deep sense of loneliness that may be fulfilled elsewhere. Or we may no longer see the person we once did, and believe we have simply fallen out of love.

The biggest, most devastating explosions in a relationship tend to happen in this stage, or they simply fizzle out to the point that one simply thinks, there has to be more to life than this. More than ever, a couple needs a roadmap here, because like in the Romance & Passion stage, they rarely think they need one, but they are no longer thinking “all we need is love.”

Stage 5: Misery

Irreconcilable differences, financial problems, a death in the family, infidelity, addiction, loss of income, midlife crisis… the list goes on and on.

There are seemingly limitless life events that end in the misery stage. The ~50% divorce rate is proof, but add that there is another 25% of couples that stay married, living a life that bounces between this stage and the stability stage for the sake of the kids, financial pressures, and all sorts of other reasons.

Couples that reach this stage tend to believe they are utterly alone, and nobody is suffering like them. The tend to believe that there is something wrong with them. But the reality is that most couples you meet are here, will be here, or have been here.

Both of you must decide if you are willing to put in the effort, no matter how bad things seem, to move past this into the next stage, the best stage!

Stage 6: Transcendence

Transcendence can be defined as a state of extending beyond the limits of ordinary experience. You get to a point that you don’t just know each other, you “know” each other.

There is a oneness between you. You are truly connected at every level. You are still unique people, and it doesn’t mean you never argue or disagree. It means your relationship has reached a level in which you innately know the soul of the other. This is a truly special place, because it is not very crowded. Very few couples ever reach this.

The shocking beauty of this stage is that it is very often the result of having made it through the misery stage. A couple can reach a place so low, that the forest burns down and they are able to plant a new life in the ashes.

But a couple does not need to reach the misery stage to get here. At any stage, any couple can be committed enough to get to this stage. They can learn to bypass some of the other stages.

This is Why We Are Here

The goal of Marriage Rediscovery is to give couples a working roadmap to transcendence. If you came here in the misery stage, we are here to walk with you to help you out of it. If you came in one of the earlier stages, we are here to help you bypass some of the more difficult stages.

Through workshops, small-groups, online content, peer-mentoring, and much more, our mission is to create a place that gives you all of the tools and support you need to navigate the road your relationship travels on. Those you encounter here are just like you. We are peers that have been traveling that road with you, and want to extend our hand to help.

Here, you will find talk of various programs and retreats designed to help meet you where you are.  We are building a database of helpful articles to help you navigate the waters, even counselors that can relate to you in the way that you want, and a discussion forum where you can ask questions, pass on advice… a true community of couples in all stages of their relationship.