Updated: 6 days ago
All marriages go through phases. Some phases are exciting while others can be more challenging. Some are short-lived while others seem to drag on endlessly. Whatever the duration or effects, couples must realize that longevity and fulfillment in marriage is directly related to how well they navigate through the hills, valleys, lulls, and turmoil faced during any given phase of their marital journey.
Over our next several blogs, I’ll be sharing lessons learned from 30+ years of marriage, as Roosevelt and I have grown through four of the five marriage phases. Sometimes the journey was smooth sailing while other phases forced us to navigate through rough waters that threatened to capsize our marital ship. Our motto has been “personal experience isn’t always the best teacher, but learning from someone else’s experience certainly could be!”
This week will start with defining the duration and unique characteristics of each of the five marriage phases. In subsequent weeks we will identify challenges and pitfalls couples commonly encounter followed by how we can apply biblical principles for successful navigation and growth through each phase.
Phase 1: Honeymoon - Sometimes referred to as the “Passion Phase”, during the first 1 – 3 years of marriage couples commonly experience that head over heels, in love feeling where everything seems to be perfect.
The toilet seat left up, toothpaste squeezed at the wrong end, and dirty clothes in the middle of the floor are easily overlooked. Being captivated by love and frequent lovemaking causes couples to see through rose-colored glasses that conclude their partner can do no wrong.
Of all the phases of marriage, the honeymoon phase is extremely important because as God intended, it promotes bonding, encourages intimacy, and develops the bond of trust. Due to the frequent release of endorphins and love hormones, romance and intense attraction serve to bond a couple together leading to a greater sense of commitment.
During Phase 1, couples experience first-hand, two becoming one as they follow the advice of Proverbs 5:18-19 (ESV) which instructs husbands to, “let your fountain be blessed, and rejoice in the wife of your youth, a lovely deer, a graceful doe. Let her breasts fill you at all times with delight; be intoxicated always in her love”.
Phase 2: Realization - In the second phase of marriage, which typically spans 3 to 12 years and encompasses raising children, managing a household, and advancing careers, couples continue to cherish one another. However, they also become increasingly aware of their individuality, including their unique preferences, likes, and dislikes.
In this stage, differences become more obvious, flaws and bad habits are brought to light, and issues that were formerly considered insignificant can now become frequent points of contention. Some couples find themselves wondering, "Why did I get married?"
James 4:1 asks, “Why do you fight and argue among yourselves? Isn’t it because of your sinful desires? They fight within you.” During the Realization Phase couples realize that self-interest overtakes marital interest and unresolved arguments can cause quick one-sided decisions that lead to financial issues or job changes that stress the marriage even more. Unfortunately, infidelity may become an option to escape the bitterness at home often leading to the end of the marriage. The average length of a first marriage in the United States is seven years. Most of those people get married for a second time, which can also end in divorce. Second marriages have a 60% chance of ending, and third marriages have a 73% chance of divorce.
Despite these facts, of all the phases in marriage, the Realization Phase is where you take off the “mask” and reveal the real you; thus, laying the foundation for a genuine lifelong bond which starts with accepting one another for who you really are. This phase offers couples the opportunity for immense personal growth as they recognize and respect one another’s individuality and choose to embrace their differences rather than criticize and fight against them.
Phase 3: Cooperation As couples sail through years 12 -20, routines and roles are established as they master juggling multiple schedules. Because children are in junior high or high school, parenting styles are shifting as the children are maturing and becoming more independent.
In the Cooperation Phase, marriage takes on a business-like personality. While lack of romance and emotional distancing is often experienced due to the priorities of paying mortgages, handling investments, directing careers, managing health and raising children, couples tend to now feel that they truly know each other and there’s a sense of safety and security in the relationship.
While there may be less time for sex and huge declarations of love as was experienced in Phases 1 and 2, this is phase is more like smooth waters, one where couples can continue to strengthen their marital bond while engaging in common interests, such as child rearing, spiritual development, and community involvement.
Phase 4: Reunion In the years 20-35, couples enter the Reunion Phase where they may need to find each other again. Couples may wonder, “now that our parenting commitments are lessened, our finances established, our careers are set, and our mortgage is paid, what’s next?”
It's time to fill the intimacy gap that may have developed over the past 10 to 15 years when your spouse wasn't a priority and everything else was. Developing a fresh appreciation for your spouse that goes beyond their roles as a parent and provider is required. This then can lead to a state of peace, satisfaction, and fulfillment with a refreshed and reconciled feeling for your spouse as your lover, friend, and partner.
Rekindle the flames of desire, refocus and bridge the gap that middle age created as you redefine your newly developed duties and expectations for your marriage, resulting in a fresh appreciation for your spouse.
Phase 5: Completion/Legacy Legacy is the focus of the 5th and final stage of marriage which is 35+ years of marriage. These are the golden years that last until one spouse leaves the earth. It’s a time of reflecting on a long and rich history together with deep feelings of gratitude and appreciation.
For many couples it’s a time for renewing their marital vows as they celebrate their love for one another. With the arrival of grandchildren, couples can help shape another generation for the Kingdom of God.
Marked with long sought after marital stability, financial security, and ownership of their time, spouses experience a sense of true comfort with one another as never before.
Researchers find that these long-term couples have a high rate of marital happiness because they endured the most tumultuous times and can now enjoy the fruit of their labor. In the Completion Phase, couples can testify to Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!”
In our next blog we will explore the “Potential Challenges and Pitfalls” a couple may experience during the 5 Phases of Marriage. We will share a few of our own stories before offering “Biblical Principles for Successfully Navigating” each stage.
The Power of Agreement uses scriptural references, biblical examples, the Quick's personal stories, and testimonials from family and friends describing how working in agreement produces powerful results. Order your copy today!
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