The Four Stages of Marriage and Marriage Counselling

Written By: Dr. Martin Rovers, Psychologist with Capital Choice Counselling Group

In the book, Healing the Wounds in Couple Relationships, Ottawa couple’s therapist Dr. Martin Rovers describes the four stages of marriage:

(1) Falling In Love

(2) The Honeymoon Is Over

(3) The Dance Of Wounds

(4) Loving

As illustrated by the relatively high divorce rate, many couples never make it to the 4th stage of loving. This is often due to unrealistic expectations about marriage itself, which is why the main goal of outlining these stages is to realize more realistic expectations of ourselves, each other, and our relationships.

The Stages of Marriage – From A Couples Therapist’s Perspective

1) Falling in Love

Most partners (either short-term or long-term) are familiar with the romance and emotions that come with falling in love – there’s nothing quite like it.

Life was so wonderful and we couldn’t stand to live without the other. Our thoughts often turned to the other when we were not with them. We had fallen in love and knew that this was the person we wanted to spend the rest of our life with. We were learning about each other, finding our similarities and our little differences that used to be cute and endearing.

2) The Honeymoon Is Over

It’s hard to pinpoint when exactly, but at some point, those “cute little differences” started to annoy us. We felt bothered by some of those same things that may have been cute just a short time earlier. The self-talk in the back of our minds started wondering why our spouse couldn’t be more like us. We have entered into the disillusionment stage.

couple in therapy

During the dance of wounds, we start to realize that our spouse is not the perfect person that we had envisioned him or her to be. Sometimes, especially if our falling in love had been particularly intense, we are hurt deeply by this disillusionment. We realize that the expectations we had of the perfect marriage were not going to happen.

Love might have been blind in the romance stage, but marriage is a real eye opener. It is at this point that beginning marital therapy and marriage counselling can be a good idea, as opposed to waiting.

3) Dance of Wounds

Many people stick with and try to work through their problems during the disillusionment phase. They seek the counsel of family, friends, and marriage counsellors. Some people find the solution that they’re looking for from these resources. Many others continue to struggle, internalize their emotions, and their troubles inevitable worsen.

Often the marriage deteriorates more deeply due to negative coping strategies. Sometimes, a third party relationship in the form of extramarital affairs, can be the result.

The dance of wounds is a high conflict stage where many couples find themselves considering a marriage separation or divorce. It’s recommended that regardless of whether or not the couple separates, that both partners are self-aware of their own contribution to their situation. Learn from it and address your issues.

4) Loving 

happily married couple in loveTo reach this stage, the partners have learned the proper tools for a happy marriage. They also learned that marriage does not follow the falling in love and happily ever after formula portrayed in literature, movies, and social media.

Rather, they learn that there are certain learnable skills, attitudes, and tools that they can use to deal with the inevitable problems of the real world. Such skills would include: being able to recognize when and how they get stuck in conflict, learning how to resolve conflict and communication, and creating an environment that fosters safety and trust.

Love and relationships are a lot of work, and there is always room to improve and to learn new ways to the art of loving. If you’re in a healthy relationship, or are going through a rough patch, everybody can benefit from couple’s counselling.

How Can Couples Therapy & Marriage Counselling Help?

We want to challenge the stigma that revolves around therapy and counselling. There is no shame in seeking for help when you need it – therapy is also much more common than most people think. If you are committed to each other and need guidance throughout this crazy thing called love, then we are here to listen and work together to help you find that spark again. You don’t need to go through this alone, all couples need help and support and often couples counselling can be a good place to start.

To find out how Capital Choice Counselling helps clients through their relationship problems, obstacles, and hardships, contact us today!