Reminder: it is NORMAL to have conflict in a relationship. Excellent relationship researchers, the Gottman’s, discovered that it was not the number of disputes that determined if a relationship was robust or not, but how the couple resolved the conflict.
Notice that the stages are cyclical. We begin in the honeymoon phase; we move through differences, struggle, repair, enduring love and enter once again into the honeymoon phase. If the repair stage is done well, we will move through these stages throughout our relationship, creating more and more intimacy, trust and safety. If we cannot repair well as a couple, the relationship may end in the struggle stage.
Some of you might feel that you go through this whole cycle daily, and you might. It is entirely possible to go through the entire cycle in a day in a more mature relationship. Generally speaking, with a new relationship, we spend about 0-2 years in the honeymoon phase (although it can be longer), before the differences start to become apparent. In a new relationship, where there has been little struggle, the couple will have to learn how to resolve conflict and whether their differences are insurmountable, or not.
It might be helpful to find support during the repair stage. Many couples don’t know how to repair well; they overstep their boundaries to keep the other person happy, maybe they never had healthy repair modelled at home as children. Learning how to repair can be one of the best things you ever learn and is worth the investment, it can save your relationship!
When you have effective repair, you can trust one another more. You can feel safer and move closer together. You develop a stronger sense of ‘we’. This propels us back into the honeymoon stage, where we fall back in love and start the cycle again.
Over the next few days, we will go on a journey through the five stages.