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The Five Stages of Marriage: Overcoming Challenges with Biblical Principles

Updated: Apr 4

A few weeks ago, Roosevelt and hosted an event designed to honor married couples, celebrate the power of love and marital longevity, and create a forum for discussing marriage, dating, and singleness. The event featured an original short play which challenged the audience to ask the question, “Why Should I Get Married?”

The question of “why should I get married” often stems from what society sees as the numerous challenges, inevitable pitfalls and frequent uncertainty that married couples seem to face on a continuous basis. While it’s a fact that married couples face a variety of challenges as they navigate parenting, finances, careers, managing a home and feeling loved, appreciated, and fulfilled in their marriage, the TRUTH is, there is biblical guidance and practical tips that when incorporated can lead to an enduring love that stands the tests of time!

In our last blog we shared the definitions and the }p duration for the five phases of marriage. Now let’s uncover some of the potential adversities and pitfalls that couples often face and practical tips founded in powerful biblical principles for overcoming and successfully navigating through those challenging times.

The Honeymoon Phase occurs during the first 1 – 3 years of marriage when couples commonly experience that head over heels, in love feeling where everything seems to be perfect, and your spouse can seemingly do no wrong. This is the phase where couples just can’t seem to get enough of one another, and sexual intimacy is at an all-time high in the marriage.

I can remember this being the case for me and Roosevelt in our new apartment, in a new city with just the two of us. During the first five or six months it didn’t matter that I couldn’t find a job because we were in love and love was all we needed… until it wasn’t.

Like many couples we were blinded by the infatuation during the Honeymoon Phase which caused us to overlook one another’s quirky habits and unusual behaviors. Unmade beds, unrealized expectations of home cooked meals, lack of funds to pay bills and undeniable personality differences have a way of bringing the honeymoon to a screeching halt! When reality sets in, it can be quite sobering.

It’s during the Realization Phase (years 3 -12) that couples find they might not always “feel” in love with one another. The stresses of life tend to accentuate differences and those issues that were formerly considered insignificant are now frequent topics of disagreement.

As is normal between years one and three of marriage, we started our family, but parenthood wasn’t something either of us had a good understanding of when we said, “I do”. Our three beautiful boys changed our lives and our marriage, but we had no idea that each of our children would come into this world with some type of physical or behavioral challenge.

Throughout those early years of our children’s growth and development we had various health issues to deal with from the loss of one child who was a twin, to an autism diagnosis to major corrective surgery within the first year of life for one of our sons. Financial, emotional and physical stress was a part of our daily lives and we each had our own way of dealing with it.

Ecclesiastes 4:9 (NLT) reminds couples that, Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.” It was during those years that we had to lean on each other and rather than accentuating the negative about one another, we learned how to appreciate our differences to become a stronger team as parents, partners and friends.Our emotional bonds were strengthened as we developed our communication skills through tools like Personality Profiles and The Five Love Languages.

Those building blocks were foundational for years 12 – 20 in the Cooperation Phase. Because our boys actively participated in sports and Roosevelt served as the youth pastor at our church, we quickly established consistent routines with many of our conversations centered around practices, appointments and games for the boys and financial strategies for balancing our budget and ministry obligations. Our marriage took on more of a business-like personality with the busyness leaving minimal time for sexual, physical and emotional intimacy.

For many years we struggled with balancing our demanding schedules. Once we realized the importance of protecting and prioritizing our marital intimacy, we began to set boundaries and agreed upon marital expectations so that we could see our marriage thrive.

It’s exciting to be in the Reunion Phase of marriage which happens between years 20 – 35.For many couples this is the “empty nest” phase of life when the children are gone off to college or move out to start their own life of independence. Many couples, like us, rekindle the romance, discover new and exciting hobbies and interests and simply relearn how to enjoy one another again.

As we matured through the years, both mentally and physically, we discovered that intimacy was so much more than sexual. Growth in our spiritual intimacy has deepened our oneness in a way that allows us to minister together as a team which powerfully impacts the lives of other couples. Our appreciate and celebration of one another’s gifts, talents, and calling has helped us discover the power that resides in agreement.

The Reunion Phase requires couples to resist thinking that they are now strangers and roommates sharing the same space. This is the time for reminiscing about what you found most attractive about your spouse and remembering what initially drew you to one another. Be intentional about setting aside time for deep, authentic conversations with the person you’ve spent most of your life with. Dream together by revisiting journals to remind one another of the things that God spoke to you and about you. Partner together to reach those dreams and don’t let your age be the deciding factor.

Celebrate that as a couple, you’ve raised wonderful, God-fearing children. Proverbs 17:6 says, “children’s children are the crown of old men, And the glory of children is their father.” To the virtuous wife, Proverbs 31:28-29 reminds her that “Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her: “Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all.”

Thirty-five plus years marks the 5th and final stage of marriage, the Completion/Legacy Phase. We recently officiated the 50th Wedding Vow Reaffirmation of our spiritual mentors. It was a beautiful day of celebrating their love and how God enabled them to overcome the dysfunctional years of drugs, infidelity, and emotional trauma to reach this golden year of marriage. What started as tumultuous years has now been redeemed as they stand as a beacon of light for their children, grandchildren, and the church and community they now pastor.

Flourishing as a couple in phase five requires prior preparation. Plan well so that you don’t outlive your financial savings. Stay active so that health issues don’t overtake either of you. Enjoy your golden years together by sometimes being spontaneous and adventurous. Travel to complete your bucket list. Tap into your years of wisdom to encourage and mentor younger couples. And finally, leave a legacy for your family and others. Proverbs 13:33 (NKJV) says, “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children, but the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous”.

As you navigate the 5 phases of marriage, be mindful that unexpected devastating events such as loss of a job; illness or death of a child, parent, or other close family member; financial troubles; relocating to a new city away from all family and friends; infidelity; drug or alcohol addictions; and abuse could occur anywhere and at any time in your marriage. Confronted by a personal crisis, your marriage can be a source of solace or sorely tested and tried. Don’t hesitate to seek wise and godly counsel from your pastor, therapist, or a marriage and relationship coach.

Author Gary Thomas in his book, Sacred Marriage asked, “What if God designed marriage to make you holy instead of happy? What if your relationship isn't as much about you and your spouse as it is about you and God?” What if our aim, focus and goal became allowing the most intimate relationship we experience on earth, our marriage, to guide and shape us into becoming more like Jesus? With that in mind, we conclude with these three things to consider during every stage of marriage:

  1. Focus on growing as individuals and as a couple by:

    1. Praying together regularly.

    2. Sharing spiritual truths with one another.

    3. Sharing your experiences with God together.

  2. Seek to understand your spouse’s needs in each season of life and look for ways to help meet them.

  3. Prayerfully anticipate the next season of your life as a couple.

    1. Think about the physical and emotional adjustments you will need to make.

    2. Make plans for how you will allocate your time and energy.


Join us in 2024 for The Oneness Experience Weekend. This 3-day, 2-night all-inclusive romantic weekend in the beautiful mountains of North Carolina will give you and your spouse an opportunity to get away from the daily distractions of life for a time of refreshing, reconnecting, and recommitting to your marriage covenant!

Feb 16 – 18, 2024 at the Ridgecrest Conference Center, near Asheville, NC, USA.

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