‘Falling in Love’, a very passionate, very romantic, idealised relationship. The challenge at this stage is for each person to allow themselves to become vulnerable, to take the risk that by opening themselves to the other person they may hurt. Usually the partners are blind to any problems and there is no other reality.
The relationship is happy and stable at this time. The emphasis is on the couple’s ‘sameness’. They do everything together. The challenges are being able to separate enough from their family and developing the expression of their positive emotions, love and sexuality.
Some differences start to emerge. The couple do less together and more as individuals. Each is able to see aspects of their partner that they may not have seen before. They no longer are perfect. It is a challenge for many people to be able to tolerate the decrease in the intensity of the relationship and an increase in the emotional distance will be perceived as evidence of the partner being selfish, stubborn, uncaring or withdrawn.
It is common during this stage to feel quite disillusioned with your partner and to tend to blame them for any difficulties. ‘If only they would change, everything would be alright.’ There are many challenges to face during this stage, developing the necessary skills:
- Express negative emotions to their partner; hurt, anger, fear
- Communicate openly and honestly
- Raise issues as necessary
- Resolve conflicts constructively
- Open themselves to self examination and to increase their self awareness
- Take responsibility for their own part in the interactions of the relationship
The risks for this stage are that many couples lose faith in each other, lose their sense of hope for the future, deciding that they have ‘fallen out of love’ and decide to separate.
5. MUTUAL INTERDEPENDENCE
This stage is characterised by the following aspects:
- Both are able to act independently, feel capable and competent in their own right
- Both are able to provide support for their partner when needed
- Both partners feel that their needs are being met both physically and emotionally
- Both partners are staying in the relationship by choice – not because of expectations of others such as family or religious beliefs or to avoid the fears of leaving.
- Both are able to take individual responsibility
The couple should now have increased respect for both themselves and their partner, increased trust in the strength of the relationship and increased hope for the future. The challenge now is for the couple to be flexible and adaptable enough to adjust to all of life’s changes over time. They should be able to tolerate closeness without fearing suffocation.