Relationships go through different stages. Knowing that can help a couple to identify where they are and what is happening.

Development of a Couples Relationship

As time passes, all individuals change according to events experienced, external influences, internal thoughts and feelings as well as impacts of their partners behaviour and attention.

Each individual influences how and at what rate the relationship grows and develops. At times this will be a mutually supportive, satisfying and rewarding.

In some situations this causes relationship pressures and stresses. We are shaped by our past. Anxieties, depression, worries that were initially soothed at the beginning of the relationship might then start bubbling back to the surface.

Couples counselling helps recognise those obstacles and repeating patterns of behaviour. With this understanding the relationship can be repaired and then move forwards

Women reaching out

Stage One Bonding

This is when couples are strongly attracted to each physically, emotionally and sexually. Similarities are shared and differences are minimised. Typically this relationship stage lasts around eighteen months and most often mutually beneficial in nature.

A committed and strong attachment forms the foundation of the ongoing relationship. This is a period of co-dependence and exclusiveness where identity changes from I to We.

If one partner moves ahead of the other to the next stage this can lead to feelings of jealousy, insecurity and or dependency.

This is the most common stage of relationship development where couples get stuck. Where one partner wants to maintain the mutually dependent close bond whilst the other sees themself and their partner as a separate person.

Stage Two Differing

Each partner in this stage focuses on the differences and imperfections of their partners. This requires negotiation to promote acceptance of different needs and wants.

We must learn to self sooth our own feelings of discontentment. This develops a clear sense of identity and reduces dependency on our partner. Equally whilst wanting our individual space, interests and friends we also invest in the relationship.

This stage can result in discontentment at the loss of bonding and focus on the differences. This is typified by disappointment in each other leading to conflict and blame.

Both partners must learn to compromise and learn to tolerate differences. One method I use to promote understanding and acceptance is how to engage in positive conflict.

Stage Three Individuality

Couples develop their individuality exploring new experiences as individuals and returning to the relationship. This promotes self-worth and esteem so that new skills and abilities can be developed.

This requires individuals to be open and honest about sharing thoughts and feelings. Support for the others search to realise their potential is necessary and well as your own.

Couples may experience struggles over control and authority. Affairs may take place, one partner may come and go at will whilst still wanting the security of home and relationship.

Stage Four Reconnecting

Couples in the reconnecting stage return to one another. They reconnect on a deeper level of empathy and understanding.

Here there is greater closeness and emotional connection. 

Stage Five Interdependence

This the last phase of development that brings the couple to a point where each accepts and supports their own individuality and that of their partner. Both partners enjoy individuality and the strength of the union.

In this phase the sum of the relationship is greater than the individuals. Trust, intimacy and spontaneity underpins the relationship.

Developing Relationships

Through exploring what is happening to each individual those unsatisfied needs can be identified. Can the individual meet those needs themselves or do they require the help of their partner.

Being able to self sooth and self nurture are important aspects of personal growth. As are being able to ask for support and to give in return.

A stuck relationship can be turned around and become a new revitalised and fulfilling way of being together.

Additional Information

Online information is available from the Couples Institute blog for clients.