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Five Stages of a Successful Relationship

The information below is not to be taken as professional advice or direction. Application of this information is solely at your discretion. Consultation with a counsellor is highly recommended. Phone 07 34581735/0409272115

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 or not undertaking the tasks that belong to the level.

The stages of relationship development are

  1. Bonding – We are a Couple (Honeymoon Period)

    Tasks for this stage are

    1. Enjoying time together

    2. Forming a strong couples bond

    3. Finding shared values and areas of compatibility

  2. Differentiation: “We are different”

    (Essential foundation for all the later stages)

    Tasks for this stage are

    1. Expressing individual desires

    2. Understanding how partner is truly different from you

    3. Developing ways to successfully manage differences and to resolve conflicts

    4. Increasing tolerance for ambiguity and managing anxiety

  3. Practising: “I like my independence”

    Tasks for this stage are

    1. Developing a strong personal identity apart from the relationship

    2. Enjoying career, hobbies, volunteering, community involvement

    3. Having separate friendships

    4. Consolidating self esteem

  4. Rapprochement: “Moving close, moving away”

    Tasks for this stage are

    1. Solidifying the ability to move close and move apart

    2. Spending more time together again

    3. Deepening sexual connection

    4. Developing security in allowing partner to make decisions for you

    5. Giving to the partner even when it is inconvenient

    6. Shifting back to the relationship for more intimacy and emotional sustenance

  5. Synergy: “One plus one is greater than two”

    Tasks for this stage are

    1. Integrating intimacy into ongoing life and sexuality

    2. Committing to joint projects/work

    3. Leaving a legacy

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