Maintaining Love

Maintaining Love

Keep your eyes wide open before marriage, and half shut afterwardsBenjamin Franklin

Love is a tender look that becomes a habitPeter Ustinov

Love must be fostered with kind wordsOvid

A good argument settles an issue without unsettling a relationship. A bad argument rarely settles any issueBarbara Montgomery

Most individuals would like to have a loving intimate relationship that lasts a lifetime, yet only some achieve such a lasting attachment. Why is this so? One factor is that making intimate relationships work is a far more difficult task than is generally recognized.  In order to enhance the likelihood of a satisfying relationship, it helps to first understand essential social and psychological factors that are involved in the process of relationship formation and maintenance.

Stage 1

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Early Courtship – The Moment before Falling in Love In this stage, potential partners are “sizing up” one another. Partners are usually on their best behavior and exchange only carefully edited versions of their life histories. Making a good impression is one of the essential goals.

Stage 2

 

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Passionate Love – In this “honeymoon period,” some couples starts developing loving feelings. This stage is defined by idealizing our partner — tending to notice mostly positive qualities and overlooking shortcomings. There may be an assumption that our partner can and will fulfill all of our needs. Partners start to “fuse” emotionally and physically, becoming closer and more involved with one another. Our former single life with its old friends, chores and work responsibilities becomes less central while we are building our new life around our current romance, making it the center of our attention.

Stage 3

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Unmasking” – Unfortunately, we can’t stay on our best behavior forever. Soon we start noticing our partner’s imperfections as well as showing our own.

Stage 4 

Changing the Other – The disappointed partners start to express their dissatisfaction, attempting to force their beloved to become what they think she/he should be.  Sometimes this change is possible, but usually it is not.

Stage 5

Resolution. The resolution stage is a critical period for relationships. One’s idealized partner is becoming a real person, sometimes close to “perfect” and sometimes far from it. Partners may start to understand each other better, make some mutual adjustments, accept each other’s “annoying” habits and ultimately, accept their partner for who he/she is. Some couples are able and willing to do this. For many others, things may start escalating from bad to worse and they may choose to exit the relationship.

What factors help couples to accept each other and sustain their relationship? The accommodation model of relationship interactions (Huston, 2001) suggests that the negative interactions in a relationship can be lessened or avoided if the partners are psychologically compatible. Thus, interpersonal compatibility and adaptability are very important for a happy and satisfying relationship. An important factor to remember is that both partners bring into the relationship many stable personal dimensions, such as sense of identity, values and beliefs, attitudes, stereotypes, intelligence, skills, temperament, and passions. These dimensions frame our expectations for the relationship, our partner, and ourselves, and thus influence our behavior. Partners may be unable or unwilling to change many of these dimensions, as these are developed over the years and may, in large part, define who we are.

Understand the phase(s) of the courtship and adjust your thinking and behaviors accordingly – SjC

3 Responses to “Maintaining Love”

  1. Erica Jones January 11, 2013 at 8:55 pm Permalink

    Great information!
    I didn’t know there are stages of relationships. I can figure out where I went wrong.

  2. Chris Todd January 11, 2013 at 9:14 pm Permalink

    I agree Erica,
    Another great post.
    I usually hit stage 3 and everything falls apart. Stage 3 is a curse for me.

  3. Nathan Clough June 7, 2013 at 10:25 pm Permalink

    Stage three seems to be where it either falls apart or the rough patch you work through to lead into stages 4 and 5.

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