Relationships go through stages of development. We’ve all heard of the honeymoon stage of a marriage where a couple are bonding together. During this early stage, there’s a great deal of passion and mutual giving and receiving. The couple enjoy spending most of their time together. Initially, few demands are placed on the other person. Everything is marvellous and couples want this blissful togetherness to last forever.

Eventually though, there comes a time when they start noticing differences and maybe don’t want to spend all their spare time together. They realise they don’t think exactly the same about everything and may have quite different opinions on some matters. Being aware that a partner is a separate and distinct person who has his/her own thoughts, feelings and desires is a healthy development in a relationship.

After bonding together, and then realising the differentiation between each other, partners will tend to focus on developing a strong personal identity apart from the relationship. Careers, hobbies, community involvement all play a significant part and husbands and wives frequently have separate friendships during this stage. This stage seems to be characterised by more independence of individuals, but in a healthy relationship, a couple is able to do things together as well as allowing each other to do things individually. They can move close together and move apart too.  Their emotional sustenance comes from the relationship, and there’s more likely to be more giving to the partner, even if it’s not so convenient.

Obviously all couples follow their own individual path, but the above is a rough idea of the stage each relationship moves through over time. Unfortunately, it’s not always plain sailing, so in coming weeks, we’ll consider how problems arise and look at what might be done to navigate through them.

Jenny Billingham

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