All relationships go through different stages as people get to know each other. Couple relationships are complex-with the couple moving through different stages as they try to balance care, power, independence and intimacy. Tensions arise as the couple tries to work this out, with conflicts arising as a result.
This post introduces a model of Changes and Stages in Relationships. The model of changes and stages in relationships does not entirely represent how complex couple relationships are, but it can be used to help you to understand how a client’s relationships goes through challenging times. One common dilemma that arises in couple relationships is how to manage the desire for dependence versus independence.
The stages of relationships in this model include:
Romance marks the beginning stage of a relationship where couples may overlook differences and issues which may arise. Couples begin to build the foundation for their relationship and a sense of togetherness at this stage.
At this stage, couples begin to realise the differences and issues they have. Being together becomes something which needs to be worked on. Couples need to work out how to manage conflict, their expectations of each other and how to compromise when they want different things.
Couples begin to struggle for power as they have an increased desire for independence in their relationship and reduce their dependence on their partner. Arguments can become frequent and intense at this stage as each partner tries to get their own way.
Couples may feel as if they are drifting apart as they are finding themselves and gaining independence. The couple may talk about separating at this stage. Resolution occurs if the couple reconnect without losing their independence or identity.
Having survived the difficult time during their relationship, the couple accept each other’s independence. Moving forward they will work out how to be together as a couple while maintaining their independence.
6.Mutual respect and love
The couple fully accepts each other for who they are. They feel that their relationship is solid even through the ups and downs and know they can work through difficult times together.
(Information and ideas from a paper by Liberty Kovacs, Family Therapy, 16(2), 1988 and developed by Deirdre Morrod, One Plus One)