by Drs. Jim and Judy Sellner..
This is the most exciting, passionate, and irrational stage of a relationship. You have long, interesting talks in which you want to know everything about the other person. You think of each other constantly while apart and feel that your lives hang suspended until you see each other again. You are totally and passionately wrapped up in one another, neglecting family and friends. You can only see each other’s good side.
At the same time, out of this rosy perspective you begin to create a vision for the future of your relationship. you begin, together and separately, to forge the hopes of and dreams most dear to you.
Romantic visions, which are only partially grounded in reality, serve a vital function in the development of a relationship. Later on, when difficult times come, memories of their Romance stage will give a couple inspiration and courage to go forward (invested effort) and will infuse their relationship with energy, hope, and optimism.
The questions “Shall we move in together?” “Will you marry me?” or “Shall we make a commitment to keep the relationship going, even if we don’t move in together?” all reflect the desire, typical of the Early Commitment stage, to find something permanent around which you can continue to build your plans, hopes, and dreams.
Also at the Early commitment stage, whether you are aware of it or not, both of you hope to fulfill many personal needs. You hope to share your life in love, to feel closeness, to be understood and to be appreciated. Though not often verbalized, it is a deeply felt wish common to this stage.
At this time you will have some idea of what you are getting into, but you don’t yet know the other person well enough to be sure. Partly because you are pretty much flying blind at this point, you experience pangs of fear.
There is another reason you may feel fear; you know that, at some level, you will have to give a measure of your freedom in exchange for the security of the relationship.
In the Early Commitment stage, the couple are actually assessing their relationship and determining whether it is worthwhile to go forward, based on their own personal needs (stated or unstated) and what they think they have together. Their willingness to go forward shows that they possess courage, optimism, hope, and faith in their relationship. Early Commitment is a mutual affirmation of the best that each partner has to offer. It is a step that must be taken if the couple hope to have a truly loving relationship. During the Romance stage you put your best foot forward in order to make yourself more attractive. In the Early Commitment stage you saw a few things you didn’t like about each other, but you hoped they’d work themselves out over time. Now, in the Power Struggle and Conflict stage, you suddenly observe negative aspects of him/her, and they hit you at your core. You’re appalled to see he/she is not all he/she’s cracked up to be; she/he disappoints you or betrays you. You’re struck by the fact that some of your basic values run counter to his or hers.
In the Power Struggle and Conflict stage, each of you is disclosing more of who you really are. You begin to work out how, and whether, each of you can be yourself while being a part of a relationship. Power struggles arise when she/he tries to tell you how you “should” be but aren’t – and you do the same to him/her. At this stage people take the stance of “I’d rather be right than happy,” or “I know what’s wrong, and it’s your fault.”
In the conflicts and power struggles, each partner defends against the pain and fear of being vulnerable. Each person feels attacked and blamed; each in turn, blames and attacks. To move beyond the struggle involves recognizing and revealing what it is you want to protect. This is as difficult as it is necessary.
Many couples break up at this crucial Power Struggle and Conflict stage, while others continue in the relationship without coming to any resolution. Sadly, they resign themselves to the “fact” that this is all they can expect in a relationship- often because they don’t want to put any more energy into the endless hassles that go nowhere. So they make an unspoken pact to avoid conflict by never discussing anything important; this allows them to lead comfortable, if stunted, lives under the same roof.
However, for most couples, this unspoken agreement is an uneasy truce, and soon another angry flare-up flips them back into their unresolved conflicts. They fight again and again about the same things. But there is that third option: to get beyond the Power Struggle and Conflict stage and move on.
The people who have been able to move through and beyond their conflicts and power struggles are those who have retained a memory of the vision they shared at the Romance stage. This may, in part, explain why some of the most conflicted couples will stay together and try to make the relationship or marriage work under the most “impossible” conditions. When asked, why these couples stay together, the answer is often, “We have so much going for us; at times our relationship is just like it was when we first met.” It is clear, for couples who are stuck at the Power Struggle and Conflict stage, that their original vision was loving and powerful, they simply lack the skills that are required to negotiate with each other.
The most effective way to work through your conflicts is to learn to listen to your partner. It is found that couples can listen, on average, a maximum of 14 seconds. After 14 seconds they interrupt, prepare counterarguments, do anything but listen. Because they don’t listen, they don’t really know what they are fighting about, and that is the main reason their arguments never get resolved.
For couples to engage each other in active, compassionate, and effective listening, they need to learn how to express their thoughts and feelings- especially hurt and anger- in a non-confrontational, non-blaming manner.
A truly loving relationship requires commitment.: the decision to care. All relationships go through trying times -economic or psychological crises, illnesses, disappointments, betrayals. Expressing your love may mean self-sacrificing devotion and loyalty and unrequited caring during those acute periods. That is the nature of ethical love.; it’s a promise made and kept. A commitment in this stage is a rational choice. It is based on the fact that you have come to know each other well through accumulated triumphs and tribulations of the previous four stages. You decide to care whether you feel like it or not. When asked, couples who have made it through 20-30 years usually say that it was their partner’s willingness to stand by them, to love them during difficult times, that helped them endure.
Antoine de Saint Exuprey once wrote, “Love does not consist in gazing at each other but in looking outward together in the same direction.” This view characterizes the sixth stage wherein the couple clarify their values and priorities based on the assumption that they are a couple and are willing to do whatever they can to help each other fulfill their potential. They already have the bond of equal partnership that they have lovingly forged in the previous stages. Now they inspire each other to do creative things that go beyond themselves and have an effect on other people around them. Their relationship, however, will serve as a refuge from the world, a place where they can relax and rejuvenate.
It’s crucial to have a reference point to which you can turn as you are buffeted about by life’s challenges, struggles, disappointments, and temptations. That reference point is in knowing your values and priorities. The world is full of opportunities and attractive sideshows with which you can become mesmerized. Promotions, transfers, power, material pursuits, handsome bodies, sharp minds, the latest fads; you name it, the carnival of life offers it. In knowing your values and priorities, you choose what is important to you. You control the direction and intensity of your life.
pete padilla real world sociology