Making Sense of Normal Relationship Development

Romantic Sydney Couples Program, much like individuals, have a developmental lifecycle. We aren’t often conscious of where our relationships are in terms of their developmental stages, but being aware can be extremely helpful in translating the changes in dynamics which occur over the years between us and our spouse.

In a sense it’s a fact that relationships have a life of their own. Each developmental phase in the connection has its own set of thoughts, feelings, behaviours, and developmental activities. These connection phases are analogous to childhood, adolescence, and adulthood in people’s developmental lifecycle.

Youth – The Honeymoon Stage

The earliest, youngest phase of a relationship is an intensely romantic, passionate moment. In this point we feel so deeply correlated that we become emotionally merged. During this phase, often known as the honeymoon phase, we view our partners as being flawless and as finishing us and saving us from undergoing old psychological wounds or pain. Additionally they believe that we’re perfect and finish them. What could feel better than being with somebody who believes we’re great in every way, particularly if we haven’t received that kind of unconditional adoration at any other time in our lives!?

John Gottman, researcher and therapist who has analyzed couples for more than 20 years, has found that couples who stay connected with the way they felt about each other during this honeymoon phase weather the inevitable relational storms better than couples that lose touch with their experience of the time. I think of the developmental task of young, romantic love as cementing the connection and establishing a base that will support the relationship across the years.

Adolescence – The Disillusionment Stage

The next phase of relationships starts when we start to realize that our spouses are imperfect human beings and that they don’t finish us or protect us from being emotionally hurt. In fact, they often seem to target the most regions of emotional pain we expected them to save us from. In precisely the exact same time they start to realize that we are not perfect and appear to be angry or irritated with us around that.

The disillusionment of this stage can be extremely debilitating. It may be experienced as scary or as a betrayal or as a fall from grace. Often anger, bitterness, and resentment rule in this time. Couples may get trapped in this place or the relationship may not endure it at all.

However, if you think of this stage since the adolescence for the connection it can put the painful dynamics into perspective. Adolescence is a time to become a different and independent person. For a relationship to become strong, healthy, and practical it needs to be supportive of two separate, individuated people. When we give up significant parts of ourselves to the connection, generally we suffer and as a result the relationship suffers. Thus, although getting unmerged can sense excruciating sometimes, it’s a significant step in the growth of the relationship.

Adulthood – The Fulfilling Stage

The third stage or maturity in a relationship provides a structure that supports and supports two distinguished people. This necessitates that we be committed to our own in addition to our spouse’s wholeness as people and that we be dedicated equally to the relationship. This stage may feel challenging about finding equilibrium among the three entities – two individuals and the connection. Additionally, it requires a maturity around being able to own and manage our own emotional insecurities and reactivity. However, this stage is the most rewarding and is the time once we can be authentically connected while residing with integrity into our authentic selves.