Relationship Help: What Phase is Your Relationship In?

Relationship Help Truism: All relationships and marriages go through a series of changes and transitions. Some of these transitions feel wonderful and you’ll be convinced that you’ve found your soulmate; while other relationship phases can be quite painful and make you question the viability of your marriage/relationship.

Is Your Relationship Going Through the Terrible-Twos?

For instance, relationships often begin in the “honeymoon” or infatuation phase, where excitement, passion and an intense connection with your spouse/partner are the norm. Couples in this phase describe having more energy, motivation and feelings of euphoria when with each other.

Research shows that our brains change significantly when we fall in love: The pleasure centers of your brain become more active and dopamine levels increase (elevated dopamine levels are associated with feeling elated).

But this bliss doesn’t last.

Around the two-year mark (the exact time frame varies from couple to couple), your relationship leaves this blissful stage and enters a stage where conflict and disagreements are more likely.

This is a common experience and couples need to prepare for this difficult transition.

The personality differences between you and your spouse/partner now become more obvious and you may find that the relationship is starting to feel like a series of jolting bumps in the road rather than a loving union. At this phase you may wonder what happened to the emotional and physical intimacy that once defined your relationship.

Point to Remember:  It is easy to feel disillusioned at this point, especially if you misinterpret these inevitable changes as evidence that you’re with the wrong person. Some become affair-prone during this difficult time or make the premature decision to end the marriage/relationship.

Relationship Help Tips:

  1. Remind yourself that your marriage or relationship will leave this terrible-two phase–don’t jump to the conclusion that you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life.
  2. Learn to handle conflicts and disagreements with skill and tact. Read self-help books on how to communicate effectively with your spouse/partner.
  3. Resist the need to be right all the time–this is a waste of your time and energy (and your relationship will only suffer). The name of the game is compromise so that your relationship can travel to calmer waters.
  4. Learn to compromise, to say “I’m sorry” and to forgive your spouse/partner for his/her mistakes (see Hurt by the One You Love for details on making forgiveness a regular part of your relationship). Even if you don’t agree with your partner, learn to understand his/her perspective (and communicate this understanding!). Practicing empathy will be essential during this transition period.

And remember, each time you place the marriage/relationship above your needs, you restate your commitment to building a deep and loving union.

Until next time,

Dr. Rich Nicastro

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