Have you ever been told that your relationship is “going through a phase” by people who seem dismissive?
After 40 years as a marriage and family counselor, psychotherapist Jed Diamond claims that “going through a phase” might be exactly the case — five phases, actually — and that bearing patiently through these phases is what makes a relationship real and lasting.
Phase 1: Falling In Love
Phase 2: Becoming a Couple
Phase 3: Disillusionment
Phase 4: Creating Real, Lasting Love
Phase 5: Using the Power of Two to Change the World
Diamond notes that many marriages fall apart at Phase 3, and most couples feel blindsided by it. “They mistakenly believe they chose the wrong partner. After going through the mourning process, they start looking again.”
In fact, Diamond suggests that they are looking for love, as the song goes, in all the wrong places. Couples do not understand that the disillusionment of Stage 3 “Is not the end, but the true beginning to achieve real and lasting love.”
Stage by stage, Diamond offers advice:
PHASE # 1: PASSION IN LOVE
This stage is feels wonderful, the psychotherapist explains. It’s a kind of “better living through chemistry” — as the saying goes — because when we fall in love, we are inundated with hormones like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, testosterone and estrogen. This is the point where we project all of our hopes and dreams into the other person.
We believe that all the promises that our previous relationships have failed to deliver will ultimately be met. “We are sure to remain in love forever,” he says, because this person seems so perfect, so true, so right — like the answer to our dreams.
PHASE # 2: BECOMING A COUPLE
Here love deepens and develops and the two come together as a couple, and this is a moment of unity and joy: “We learn what the other person likes and we expand our individual lives to start developing a ‘we two’ life.”
We feel more connected with the loved one, safe and protected. Many times we think that this is the maximum level of love and we expect that it should continue like this forever. But then Phase 3 inevitably arrives.
PHASE # 3: DISILLUSIONMENT
It is at this stage where a relationship will find new strength or will falter. The first glow of love is wearing away; the perfect ideal begins to show human faults, unreasonableness, unattractive behavior. Little things begin to irritate us. People feel less loved and cared for and more responsible. “Trapped” is a word some use.
At this stage, says Diamond, “We can get busy with work or family, but dissatisfaction accumulates.” The inevitable question arises: “What happened to that fun, giving, loving person I thought I knew?” The break-up looms; do we just give up or should we try to persist?
“There’s an old saying, ‘When you’re going through hell, don’t stop.’ This seems relevant to Stage 3. The positive side of Stage 3 is that the heat burns away a lot of our illusions about ourselves and our partner. We have an opportunity to become more loving and appreciate the person we are with, not the projections we had placed on them as our ‘ideal mate.’”
PHASE # 4: CREATION OF REAL AND LASTING LOVE
“One of the gifts of facing unhappiness in Phase 3 is that we can get to the heart of what causes pain and conflict,” Diamond says. After “walking through the fire” the two learn to be allies by learning to console each other in their failings, and helping to understand that human faults can exist amid real love. That understanding can help a couple heal each other’s wounds. We come to learn that if our dreams are “broken,” the one you love is someone who is capable of loving you for being exactly who you are.
“There is nothing more satisfying than being with a partner who sees you and loves you for who you are. They understand that your harmful behavior is not because you are bad or loveless, but because you have been hurt in the past and the past still lives with you. As we better understand and accept our partner, we can learn to love ourselves more and more deeply. ”
PHASE # 5: USING THE POWER OF TWO TO CHANGE THE WORLD
This is the stage where differences and doubts have been overcome, trust and companionship are so strengthened that the two can cause differences in the world from their real and lasting love.
“If we can learn to overcome our differences and find real and lasting love in our relationships, who knows, we can work together to find real and lasting love in the world.” This is an opportunity, says Diamond, to together use the “power of two” to direct a purpose of life together, in a way that can positively impact the world. A couple that has learned to see each other fully, to accept each other, and love each other in all their imperfections is a couple who, having traveled through these “phases” has a solid foundation for seeing, accepting and loving others, too.