Every marriage has ebbs and flows, highs and lows, “for better or worse.” It’s how we handle both the good times and the bad that influence a marriage’s success.
In her book, “The 7 Stages of Marriage,” Rita DeMaria, Ph.D., a marriage and family therapist, discusses the seven stages (passion, realization, rebellion, cooperation, reunion, completion and explosion) and how each stage influences the risk of divorce and the long-term success of the marriage.
In her recent blog about the book, DeMaria summarizes each stage:
“The ‘falling in love’ (passion) stage begins before marriage for many couples. About 10 percent of couples in this first stage who plan to marry don’t. The good news is that they recognize their issues while they are in this stage before life becomes complicated. The passion stage can continue into the early year(s) of marriage, depending on when children arrive (if they do).
“The realization stage is next when some people realize that they made a mistake and tend to divorce within the first year or so. Other couples have realistic expectations and start to navigate their life together quite well.
“The rebellion stage is a time for couples to learn to negotiate their differences and the basics of problem solving. By this time, couples have been married about three to seven years, and divorce takes place in about 40 percent of the couples who will ever divorce. This is a high risk time.
“During the cooperation stage, couples begin to learn how to become a team, building a life together, or they begin to live more parallel lives forgetting to nurture the romantic love they have for each other. Without cooperation on issues of money, children, time together and sex, key problems develop. These couples are at high risk for divorce unless they seek couples therapy and/or a couples communication/conflict resolution program.
“By 10 years, about 60 percent of couples in this stage who will ever divorce do so, and by 15 years about 80 percent of couples who will ever divorce will do so.
“As couples approach the reunion stage, the risk of divorce is still there but it isn’t as high. Couples can reunite and reignite the love and passion for each other if they have nurtured their marriage enough and have maintained their commitment, their intimacy and connection.
“Unfortunately, the explosion stage can happen anytime for any couple and often more than once. Depending on how they deal with their crises, traumas and tragedies, these couples may not make it. However, all couples face challenges in their marriages one way or another. Some grow together, and some grow further apart.
“The bottom line is: The divorce rate varies depending on what happens during your journey and what stage you are in along the path. We know that the most satisfying times of marriage are usually in the early years and then in the later years. Both are times when romantic love flourishes. The exciting part to me is that those really happy couples who have been together for a lifetime are the happiest and almost always more in love with each other than ever.”
Bea Northcott is a columnist for the Daily Journal, writing about marriages, relationships and family. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.