What do you do when your marriage feels more like work and less like play? How do you make a good marriage great when you barely have time for a regular date night? What can you do to bring the love back to the life you’ve built with your spouse?
It begins by knowing what stage of romantic love you’re in.
If the honeymoon is long gone and the spontaneity out the window and the last REAL date night is a date you can’t even remember, you may be in a stage of romantic love that doesn’t feel romantic at all. In her book “This Old Spouse”, Sharyn Wolf talks about the four stages of romantic love:
- Stage One: The Idealization Phase- In other words, “You are the most wonderful, amazing person I’ve ever known. Even your annoying aspects thrill me!” Remember that? Remember when your spouse could do no wrong? When even the annoying things were so endearing? This phase is the first and it lasts the shortest length of time. When the honeymoon’s over, you know it.
- Stage Two: The Disappointment Phase- You get that your partner is human but their quirks are getting to be a bit much. Instead of working on the house, you find yourself mentally working on them… and you want your partner to change (and change fast!).
- Stage Three: The Devaluation Phase- You’ve stopped trying to fix your spouse. You’re fed up, sick of nothing changing and the only conclusion you can come to is that the problem is not the relationship; it’s him. You’re looking for the exit door and the longer you stay, the more you become convinced that out is the only way to happiness.
- Stage Four: The Pride and Appreciation Phase- You see the problems. You know the issues. You’re choosing to be committed to building something stronger than what currently exists. You get that marriage is work and that it’s not all going to be roses and candy. Instead of complaining about what’s not working, you focus on what is and you do the work of seeing your partner as being on the same team (and not an opponent). You come out of this stage knowing that you stayed the course, you did the work, and the marriage that has resulted is the product of time, wisdom, and commitment, not whim and fancy. Most people don’t make it to this stage. They decide in Stage 3 that the “other” person is the problem, drop him like it’s hot and find out that the next person is the same problem in different packaging.
As women breadwinners, it’s critical to look at your marriage through the lens of these four stages. When you know what stage you’re in, you know what’s coming down the road and you’re better able to cope with it. Rather than going by emotion or circumstance, you can look at the marriage within the context of the phase you’re in and make a conscious decision about what you’ll do next.
Keep in mind one thing:
The notion of “soulmate” is relative. In other words, there is no such thing as a perfect partner but there are people out there who could be perfect for you.
Before you decide that your marriage is over or that your spouse is not the one for you, check the romantic stage you’re in. At the end of the day, the lesson you refuse to learn with one person you are doomed to repeat with the next.
Choose to get the lesson THIS time around.