happily married couple in love

The Four Stages of Marriage and Marriage Counselling

happily married couple in love

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, and

(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 relationship.

The Stages of Marriage – from a Couples Therapist’s Perspective

happily married couple in loveLet us take a look at the four stages of marriage, how they interact with one another

1) Falling in Love

Most partners are familiar with romance and falling in love.

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.

Little differences between us were cute and endearing.

2) The Honeymoon is Over

At some point those little differences started to annoy us.

We felt bothered by some of those same things that may have been cute a short time earlier.

The self-talk in the back of our mind 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 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 above disillusionment.

They seek the counsel of family, friends, and marriage counsellors.

Some of these people find the key they are looking for from these resources. Many others continue to struggle and their troubles 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 or high conflict stage is where many couples find themselves considering a marriage separation or divorce.  It is recommended that regardless of whether or not the couple separates, that both partners are self-aware of their own contribution to the dance and how to address this.

4) Loving (and how Couple’s Therapy Can Help Get You There)

happily married couple in loveTo reach this stage, the partners have learned the proper tools for a happy marriage.

They learned that marriage does not follow the falling in love and happily ever after formula portrayed in literature and media.

Rather, they learn that there are certain learnable skills, attitudes & tools that they can use to deal with the inevitable problems of the real world, such as recognizing when and how they get stuck in conflict, how to resolve conflict and communication, and to foster safety and trust.

Love and relationships are a whole lot of work,  and there is always room to learn new ways to the art of loving.

One last pervasive myth to mention is the idea that we need to learn these on our own, but all couples need help and support, and often marriage counselling can be a good place to start.

To find out how Capital Choice Counselling helps clients through marriage counselling in Ottawa, contact us today.