Three Stages of Marriage
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00000764/00001
 Material Information
Title: Three Stages of Marriage
Physical Description: Fact Sheet
Creator: Harris, Victor W
Publisher: University of Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agriculture Sciences, EDIS
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2012
Abstract: Three-page fact sheet describes three phases of marriage, and four strategies couples can use to adjust to the realities of long-term marriages with contentment.
Acquisition: Collected for University of Florida's Institutional Repository by the UFIR Self-Submittal tool. Submitted by Diana Hagan.
Publication Status: Published
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Source Institution: University of Florida Institutional Repository
Holding Location: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the submitter.
System ID: IR00000764:00001


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Stage 1 typically occurs prior to marriage and within the rst several years aer couples tie the knot. It is characterized by passion and strong feelings of romance. Stage 2 unfolds when couples may become disillusioned with the reality that it takes hard work to make marriages and families happy and stable. Distractions such as balancing school, work, nances, children, and extracurricular activities can decrease the time couples have to spend with each other to communicate and nurture their marital friendship. Stage 3 inevitably occurs as couples contemplate whether or not they would like their marriages to continue. e reality is that more than 40% of couples eventually decide to dissolve their marital unions. e rest decide to adjust to marriage with contentment or resignationthe latter resigning themselves to the fact that their marriages probably arent going to get much better. However, a growing number of married couples have decided to work on their marital friendship by gaining new relationship knowledge and skills. ese couples tend to adjust to the realities of longterm marriages with contentment. FCS2312 Three Stages of Marriage1Victor William Harris2 1. This document is FCS2312, one of a series of the Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date March 2012. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.u.edu 2. V ictor William Harris, PhD, assistant professor and Extension specialist, Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL 32611.The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or aliations. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A&M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Millie Ferrer-Chancy, Interim Deane majority of couples across America expect their marriages to be lifelong commitments. e inevitable ups and downs of marriage have prompted many couples to ask, What should we expect in a long-term relationship? What challenges will we face? How can we face these challenges successfully? [Note: e word marriage can be used interchangeably with relationship in this publication if you are not married.]Helpful InformationThree Relationship Stages Couples ExperienceMost marriages go through at least three distinct stages: 1) romantic love, 2) disillusionment and distraction, and 3) dissolution, adjustment with resignation, or adjustment with contentment (Larson, 2003).


2 In fact, two independent statewide studies found that of the people surveyed who considered their marriages to be in serious trouble at some point (i.e., who faced Stage 3), more than 90% said that they were glad they were still together (Johnson et al., 2002; Schramm, Marshall, Harris, & George, 2003). What does this all mean? It means that there are many things we can do as couples to improve our marital friendships. It also means that we are more likely to be glad we are still together if we are willing to work on our marriages and gain new relationship knowledge and skills.Things You Can UseWhat are some things we can do to adjust to the realities of long-term marriages with contentment? Researchers have found that couples utilize at least four general strategies (Duncan, Childs, & Larson, 2010): 1. R ead relationship enhancement books together. is is one of the easiest ways we can improve our marital friendships. ere are some excellent books out there, such as Why Marriages Succeed or Fail: And How You Can Make Yours Last and Seven Principles for Making Your Marriage Work both by John Gottman. Other excellent choices include The Great Marriage Tune-up Book by Jery Larson and Take Back Your Marriage by William Doherty. For information regarding sexual intimacy, e Act of Marriage by Tim and Beverly LaHaye and e Sex-Starved Marriage by Michele Weiner-Davis could prove helpful. 2. U se helpful couple relationship websites. A number of excellent websites are designed to deliver the latest research and resources to strengthen marriages. e National Healthy Marriage Resource Center (http://www. healthymarriageinfo.org/), for example, oers a wide range of resources from relationship dynamics and health to domestic violence and military family needs. Stronger Marriages (http://www.strongermarriage.org) is another excellent website that provides hands-on information from dating and marital communication to divorce and remarriage. 3. A ttend community-/religious-sponsored classes. Relationship education classes can provide meaningful support for strengthening marital friendships, especially when both partners attend together. An increasing number of community-based organizations and religious groups sponsor activities like couple date nights, retreats, and classes focusing on topics such as couple communication, conict resolution, expectations, nances, intimacy, and enhancing marital friendship. Being willing to attend these kinds of classes sends a clear message to our partners that we are willing to invest in our relationships. 4. T ake advantage of marriage counseling. All couples hit some snags as they seek to nurture their marital friendships over the life course. Rather than waiting until a snag becomes serious, wise couples seek help early. Regardless of the issue, counseling can provide a positive step toward growing and strengthening our marriages. Putting our marriage and marital friendship rst and making our partner and relationship our number one priority can help us overcome any barriers or stigmas that might prevent us from getting the help we need. In some cases, divorce may be the best option. A licensed and qualied therapist can help us sort out these issues. What is the reward for all of the blood, sweat, tears, and joy we experience by working on our marital friendships and remaining committed to making them last? erapist and educator Michele Weiner-Davis (2011) shares some excellent insight into some of the rewards of navigating the ups and downs of marriage: It is really a tragedy that half of all couples who wed never get to [the last] stage . [of marriage], when all the pain and hard work of the earlier stages really begins to pay o. Since you are no longer in a struggle to dene who you are and what the marriage should be, there is more peace and harmony. You start liking your spouse again . . By the time you reach [the last] stage . you have a shared history. And although youd both agree that marriage hasnt been easy, you feel proud that youve weathered the storms. You appreciate your partners sense of commitment to make the marriage last. You feel more secure about yourself as a person and you begin to appreciate the dierences between you and your spouse. And what you dont appreciate, you nd greater acceptance for. (p.1) Weiner-Davis (2012) explains that couples start having what she calls old day feelings again and reminds us that when we as couples get to this nal stage of marriage, then we have come full circle, meaning that we arrive back at the beginning of our relationship when it was the most important thing in our lives. She continues: Im certain that if more couples realized that there is really a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, theyd be more willing to tough it out through the downpour. e problem is, most people fool themselves into believing that whatever stage they are in for the moment is where they will be forever. But its important to remember that


3 nothing lasts forever. ere are seasons to everything in life, including marriage. e wiser and more mature you become, the more you realize this. e more you realize this, the more time you and your spouse spend hanging out in [the last] stage . Together again, at last. (p. 1)WebsitesNational Health Marriage Resource Center: www.healthy marriageinfo.org/ Stronger Marriages: www.strongermarriage.orgReferencesDuncan, S. F., Childs, G. R., & Larson, J. H. (2010). Perceived helpfulness of four dierent types of marriage preparation interventions. Family Relations 59, 623. Johnson, C. A., Stanley, S. M., Glenn, N. D., Amato, P. R., Nock, S. L., Markman, H. J., & Dion, R. M. (2002). Marriage in Oklahoma: 2001 baseline statewide survey on marriage and divorce (S02096OKDHS). Oklahoma City, OK: Department of Human Services. Larson, J. H. (2003). e great marriage tune-up book. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. Schramm, D. G., Marshall, J. P., Harris, V.W., & George, A. (2003). Marriage in Utah: 2003 baseline statewide survey on marriage and divorce Salt Lake City: Utah Department of Workforce Services. Weiner-Davis, M. (2012). e marriage map Woodstock, IL: Divorce Busting Center. (e full text of e Marriage Map can be retrieved at http://www.divorcebusting. com/a_marriage_map.htm.)