7 Stages of Marriage
Rita DeMaria, PhD
CFR Connections Newsletter - June 2007
Ups and downs are natural in marriage – everyone
knows that. Just ask someone who has been married for any period
of time. But what most people don’t realize is that the ups and
downs are actually predictable. Short cuts to avoid some problems
are possible. Really! Not only are the bumps along the road of
marriage predictable, but there are simple rules to follow that
can act like shock absorbers along the way. Every time someone
hears about my new book, The 7 Stages of Marriage, they
ask, “What stage am I in?” Why the same question over and
over again? The answer is simple - we want answers to how we can
keep our relationship loving and vital.
Knowing that marriage has stages helps relieve anxiety and stress
during times of trouble. You gain the perspective you need to
understand what is going on at this time in your life. Learning
that there is a predictable pace and flow to the journey of your
marriage can help you focus your energy when you feel overwhelmed
and confused. One of the most exciting things about understanding
the stages of marriage is that you can set a course for having
the marriage that you want. And, it helps you make corrections
along the way.
In some ways, marriage today is the same as it
always was. Most people want to be, and will be, married at some
time in their life. Despite the social changes in our culture
including divorce rates and cohabitation statistics, in a wide
range of surveys 95% of people say that marriage is important
to them. By the age of 40, 90% of men and women will have been
married at least once. Seventy percent of people who divorce,
remarry. The good news today is that marriage is a choice, not
a requirement. Today, many of those who are married say that they
are, in fact, happy with their marriages. In a survey commissioned
by Reader’s Digest in 2006, through a randomized, scientific selection
process, over 71% of those surveyed (who were married) said they
would marry their partner again. The survey also found that trust
is the number one factor that people value in their marriages.
That makes sense because today most marriages are based on the
expectations of lasting love and equal partnership. Trust is the
foundation for creating a loving, passionate, cooperative, healthy
The 7 Stages of Marriage provides a practical, life-long
map to help you keep your marriage working as the loving, mutually-beneficial
partnership that it should be. Each stage has its normal developmental
missions and tasks that you can identify and work through in many
different ways. Once you identify the stage you are in (or the
stages you may be between), you can choose some ways to address
the issues you are having. Researchers are finding that marriage
has long-term benefits: married people live longer, have more
financial security, are healthier, have more sex and deal with
stress more constructively. They have also found that marriage
is a dynamic, changing relationship. Marriage is a journey. Having
a map to guide you along the way is a useful tool. Remember that
every journey is a unique adventure. Live and enjoy the stage
you’re in and reap the benefits:
THE SEVEN STAGES
You may be in the Passion Stage if your relationship is all
about the two of you and the excitement, sex and intimacy you
Action: Strengthen your sense of “us” – make time for each
other, leave work at work.
You may be in the Realization Stage if you find you are beginning
to get to know each other’s real strengths and weaknesses.
Action: Develop the important communication habits – listening
and confiding – that are essential to expanding understanding
and trust. Consider enrolling in a couples communication class.
You may be in the Rebellion Stage when each of you is seeking
to assert your self-interests and you end up having volatile –
or hidden - power struggles.
Action: Learn how to negotiate and keep agreements – keeping
promises builds trust. Identify areas of difference and start
talking about them – one at a time. Don’t change the subject.
You maybe in the Cooperation Stage if both you and your spouse
seem more preoccupied with the kids, money, home and work and
you start to feel like business partners more than lovers.
Action: Make your marriage a priority, de-stress and keep
the passion alive. Set up a regular date night. Find a babysitter!
You may be in the Reunion Stage if you have an ‘empty nest’
and begin to have more time for yourself and for each other to
renew your friendship and passion.
Action: Refocus on your marriage, get off autopilot &
unpack any old baggage. Plan some special events that bring back
You may be in the Explosion Stage, which can happen anytime,
if you are experiencing major career, health, parenting and family
Action: Make use of emotional, physical and spiritual support
for yourself, your spouse and your marriage. Pay attention to
your physical and emotional health and well-being.
You may be in the Completion Stage as stability and security
reign and you enjoy each other and the life you have created.
Action: Look to create a new sense of meaning & purpose
for yourselves & your marriage. Establish a special project
that you will begin together.
Adapted from The 7 Stages of Marriage by Sari
Harrar and Rita DeMaria, Copyright 2007 The Reader’s Digest Association,
Copyright © 2010- The Relationship Center
The Marriage Doctor® and Marriage Doctor® are registered trademarks
of Rita DeMaria. The words The Marriage Doctor® and Marriage Doctor®
cannot be used in any context. Copyright (©) - Rita DeMaria
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