All relationships begin with this stage. The
need satisfied here is love and
belonging. This stage is characterised by
its dream like qualities, fantasies, and
hopes for the future, the possibilities and
the asking of "what if". Everything is
wonderful, beautiful, fun and exciting.
Romance allows one to take chances and risks and
nurtures a belief that "I can do it". However, real love
cannot begin at this stage so paradoxically one must fall
out of love to learn to love.
This stage lasts, on the average, two months to two years.
Romancing takes up a lot of energy with all the courting
and pretensions and trying to be the same and
eventually you begin to tire. As well, melding at the hip
As well, melding at the hip becomes uncomfortable.
When the cost to your individuality becomes too great
you begin trying to change the other person. There is
resistance, you try to insist and there is a fight, leading to
the next stage of power struggle. A counsellor does not
see anyone in the Romance stage.
3. The need satisfied now is power and some
freedom. There is an awareness now that
you are different but the premise remains
that differences are bad.
This is a critical stage where divorce occurs
most frequently and when couples seek
counselling, The fight is for boundaries and
clearly defining unacceptable bottom line
behaviours. The past is acted out in this
4. You become aware of your quality
world, perhaps a lonely road but a
necessary one to determine what is
really important to you. It is necessary to
reclaim yourself as a whole person
otherwise you die inside or end up hating
your partner. This is necessary to move
The focus in the power struggle stage is
on the present and the past. There is
nervousness about the future and some
questioning whether there will be one.
5. This stage is a prerequisite to readiness to
relate to each other as whole people. See it
as a positive one, an opportunity to journey
together, to learn how to fight fairly with
both winning and to declare one's own
individuality and separateness.
It is possible to have one partner still in the
romance stage while the other is into the 20
power struggle stage. This can be painful
when the one in the romance stage finds
that what he or she does for love and
belonging leaves the other feeling
6. The need satisfied in this stage is freedom
and choice. You are now aware of each
other’s personal world instead of just your
own and the difference is okay. It is
finally clear you are not going to reshape
your partner. Clear boundaries are
This is a resting time. The war is over and
it's time to relax. You breathe a sigh of
relief. The danger at this stage is the
couple may start to move apart as each
does their own thing.
7. There is a realization that each others paths
in life may be different. There may be a
feeling of boredom, a sense of not being
connected and having nothing in common.
The focus is on the present not the future
because that is still undecided.
This is the second most common stage for
counselling or divorce. At first it feels good to
agree to stop changing the other but life is
not like that. Life is about growing and
changing. The positive aspect is that at this
stage you have history and it can be used to
advantage. Don't throw away the
relationship easily. At this time you either
learn mutual respect or you go back to the
This is the only stage where there really is
a readiness for marriage though people
usually have already married in the
romance stage. That's unfortunate
because when they reach the power
struggle stage they wonder what hit
9. In this stage you are wide awake, making
clear choices about yourself and your
partner, based both on individual
differences and those things you have in
common. You see clearly who you are and
what you want as well as who your partner
is and what they want. This is the only way
for a healthy relationship.
You now choose each other with
awareness of past, present and direction to
the future. The needs fulfilled here are a
balance of love, belonging, fun, power and
freedom. You don't need each other; you
choose to be with each other.
If one of the pair is in the stability stage
and one ready for commitment, the
couple will either both remain in stage
three or could return to stage two. Both
need to be ready for the commitment
stage. Though parts of previous stages
may reappear there would have been
enough work to have developed
strategies for dealing with problems.
11. Living together is probably a stage three
without readiness for stage four.
They need to stay in the stability stage
until they are ready for commitment and
really want to be a team. The statement
can now be made to your partner, I
choose to love you knowing all I know,
good and bad." Getting married after
living together can start you back at
In this stage you are two people who
have decided to be a team moving out
into the world.
You move beyond the relationship. The
danger at this stage is over involvement
with the outside world and relationship
being neglected. The relationship must
be continually nurtured along the way.
There needs to be time for you, for me,
for us and for them. This is difficult
sometimes and choices must be made.
These stages are not a linear process; it is
a circle spiralling upwards so when you
hit a certain stage in the power struggle
it becomes easier. You retain stages and
bring them forward as you grow - you
are in one stage or another at any given
time with bits of the others. Knowledge of
the stages helps movement through