The Five Phases of Relationships

If you are reading this, chances are you’ve been in a relationship of some sort for a while. Perhaps you are looking into Relationship Counseling orCouples Counseling in the San Diego area. Regardless of the reason for reading this blog, I am going to tell you a little bit about relationships in general, since I think it is important for couples to have a good understanding of the phases of a relationship before they begin to work on theirs.

While there is certainly much debate on the specific phases of a relationship among professional Counselors and Therapists, we can all agree that certain “phases” do exist. Couples do not always move in succession from one phase to the next harmoniously, which is why Couples Counseling can be helpful. I will briefly discuss the five phases of a relationship, while interjecting with where I have found (in my professional experience) Couples Counseling to be beneficial.

Phase #1: The Honeymoon Phase – the relationship is fresh, new, and exciting. You cannot keep your hands off of one another. You look forward to seeing your partner at every opportunity that presents itself. You have sex regularly and cannot seem to get enough of it! Your partner is all you think about, dream about, and talk about in most instances.

Phase #2: The Accommodation Phase – this is when you start to realize that love isn’t as “perfect” as you originally thought. Don’t get me wrong, things don’t exactly have to be bad at this point, but you have had your “reality check” with regards to your relationship. Perhaps you have taken your relationship to the next level and moved in together or even gotten married. Daily struggles and bad habits are becoming evident at this point, and you may start to notice things in your partner that you hadn’t noticed before (or had noticed and just overlooked). This is where conflict begins most of the time. Things are becoming bothersome to you and your partner, and you may end up fighting or arguing frequently. A good intervention at this point would be Couples Counseling orMarriage Counseling. This is usually done to avoid bad habits and unhealthy patterns becoming worse and affecting the quality of your relationship. If you can catch yourselves at this stage of the relationship, and intervene with proper counseling, then your relationship should be fairly simple to salvage.

Phase #3: The Challenging Phase – somewhat similar to The Accommodation Phase (#2), The Challenging Phase is all about the troubles you encounter as a couple and how you deal with them. With life comes change, and this phase is all about how you two are adapting to the inevitable changes that occur in your daily life. It could be a new job opportunity, a new baby, or an illness in the family. Any of these events are enough to cause stress and strain in your relationship, and it is all about how you deal with the challenges as they occur. Once your roles and expectations are established (hopefully by Phase #2), you should be well-aware of what to expect from your partner when you encounter challenges in this phase. I often find that couples in this stage who are having trouble maintaining their relationship are struggling with their sex life (i.e. not having sex as often as they used to), or are having issues with being attracted to other people. This phase could be potentially dangerous to your relationship, as you do not want to promote or encourage infidelity or unfaithfulness in your partner, but you also want to ensure that you are standing up for yourself and what you believe in. If you find yourself fantasizing about past relationships, or wishing you were with someone else (which are both easy things to do when you are enduring a challenging time with your current partner), Couples CounselingRelationship Counseling, or Marriage Counseling are all good routes to try here.

Phase #4: The Crossroads Phase – after already having been through several challenges as a couple, (and depending on how you have handled them), you move along to The Crossroads Phase. Judging by past responses from your partner to challenges that have arisen, you are now better able to gauge how he/she reacts to difficult situations and find out when/if you can depend on him/her. This can be a potentially damaging phase to the relationship, and often if couples did not experience a healthy outcome in The Challenge Phase, they do not make it to The Crossroads Phase successfully. Again, counseling can help during this phase, but ideally you want to catch the problem before it gets to this stage. If you find yourself already at this phase in your relationship, it is not too late to seek out help. I am a qualified professional Couples Counselor in San Diego who has helped many couples in the phase work through their problems in order to move along to the next proposed phase of their relationship.

Phase #5: The Rebirth Phase – while statistics do not favor this stage (it is estimated that only about 15% of couples reach this phase in their relationship), it is possible. By this point in your relationship, you are typically married or co-habiting, and have been for quite some time. You have encountered challenges and dealt with them as a couple. You understand your partner better than anyone else does; including your partner’s needs and wants. You have figured out who they really are, and are accepting and appreciative of one another. In this phase, you have learned and developed healthy coping mechanisms and skills for when conflicts and challenges present themselves, and you are able to deal with them together. Instead of engaging in circular, unproductive arguments, you give your partner the benefit of the doubt in situations, as well as accept that you will have to “agree to disagree” in some instances. Your focus is on what it right for one another and your relationship as a whole. You sex life has been reignited, and you are spending much more time than you thought you had relaxing and listening to each other. When challenges do arise, you speak about them calmly and employ conflict de-escalation or resolution skills you have learned either on your own or acquired through Couples Counseling.

Please remember, the proposed Five Relationship Phases are not set in stone. Typically, couples find themselves moving back and forth from phase to phase – sometimes even digressing or moving backwards to a previous phase. These phases are meant to educate you about the stage of your personal relationship, and to identify any troubles or concerns before they become detrimental to your relationship. You do not, by any means, have to live by these “phases” and what they entail, as they are just meant to be used as a general guideline for couples in relationships. Regardless of the “phase” you think you might be in, you can always feel free to give me a call for a consultation regarding Couples Counseling. Together, we can discuss your relationship’s unique struggles and issues, and come to a resolution that is agreeable to both you and your partner. We can also work on coping mechanisms as well as healthy communication strategies that you can employ in your day-to-day life with your partner.  Call me at 858-481-0425 for more info.

Copyright ©2012 Jan Rakoff. All Rights Reserved.

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