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Five Stages of a Relationship – Which one are you at?

Healing

 

Ellyn Bader, Ph.D., and her husband, Dr. Peter Pearson, are founders and directors of The Couples Institute and creators of The Developmental Model of Couples Therapy. I have found their model very useful in helping couples to understand the basis of their relationship issues.

The Development Model shows relationships going through five stages. The stage that you are at indicates how the relationship is developing. Relationship issues occur when each partner is on a different level.

 

 

The stages of relationship development are

  1. Bonding – We are a Couple
    This is the honeymoon phase. The concentration is on shared values, compatibility and spending time together.
  2. Differentiation – We are Different
    This is the stage where we start expressing individual desires, realise that our partners are different to us, and start to work out ways to manage those differences and to resolve conflicts.
  3. Practicing – I like my Independence
    Having developed individual desires in the previous stage, we now start to develop a strong personal identity apart from the relationship. We start to focus on what we want to do and develop our self-esteem.
  4. Rapprochement – Moving Close, Moving Away
    In this stage, we start to develop the ability to move towards a relationship as a couple and then be able to move apart as an individual. This stage sees more focus back on the relationship. A stronger connection develops  in terms of intimacy and trust and the relationship is considered in decision-making.
  5. Synergy – One plus one is greater than two
    In this final stage, the lines between the individual and the relationship become blurred. You are still an individual, you know your strengths, you know what you want and your self-esteem is strong, but you also understand that you are part of something greater and function as a couple.

 

I see couples in conflict because they are at different stages. Sometimes people want to stay in the honeymoon stage (stage I) and they just can’t understand why their partner wants to do things as an individual. However, their partner is starting to move on to stage 2. Conflict develops as one tries to pull the other back and the other tries to pull their partner forward.

Stage 3 can be particularly threatening, where one of the partners is really starting to live their individuality. If the other partner is at Stage 1 or 2, they can be left feeling alone and abandoned.

One of the things I do with couples is to teach them these various stages and work out where each member of the relationship currently stands. Once we understand where everyone is at, we find out what is keeping them stuck and what can be done about to rectify the situation.

Using this model I have achieved excellent success in resolving couples issues. If reading this article has given you a “lightbulb moment”, then give me a call on (07) 3458 1725 or send an email to tracey@startpointcounselling.com.au. Relationships can be repaired. Understanding what’s happening in your relationship is the first step. With this knowledge, changes can be made and relationships can be repaired.

Relationships can be repaired. Understanding what’s happening in your relationship is the first step. With this knowledge, changes can be made and relationships can be rebuilt.

© Tracy Janke StartPoint Counselling 2016

 

 

 

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