Part 4 – Relationship Phases
For the Relationship Phases, let me take the point of view of a new couple. Please note that these phases can equally apply to friendships, working in organisations and between organisations.
This video shows the three main phases people go through when they are in a relationship.
So back with a couple. More than likely, they have got to the Dating Stage as described in Part 3 – Relationship Stages.
Every relationship begins with a Honeymoon Phase. Can you remember when you have been in a honeymoon phase? Everything is new, exciting, wonderful, and you can’t wait to be with your new partner. Often a couple in this phase of their relationship will at times disappear into their own special little world.
In this stage people are looking for what is the same, what they both like and enjoy. People are often wearing the rose coloured glasses. However it is unrealistic to naturally stay in this phase.
Next comes the Plateau Phase or “take it for granted phase”. This is where people start to revert back to their default behaviours and habits. This often happens when there is a level of security in the relationship. Where, one or both feel they do not have to be on their best behaviour and they start to fall back into their old patterns This is a normal stage of all relationships characterised by the saying, ‘The honeymoon is over’.
People can remain in the Plateau Phase for months, years and even a lifetime.
Now depending how much both people are working in the relationship, they will either be keeping the spark alive and recapturing parts of the honeymoon phase or if not working they may move or slip into the third phase, Trauma.
What happens in the Trauma Phase is that one of the partners is not getting some or most of their major needs met. They are looking for what is different or wrong and may be trying to fix it or create change with an uncooperative partner.
Generally they are unhappy, possibly depressed, potentially fighting and arguments, and a whole lot of other emotions that were definitely not present in the Honeymoon Phase. Here there can be quite a bit of denial, blame, frustration, anger, resignation, etc going on.
This will generally end up in one of two ways. More intimacy, where both partners reconnect. Or separation, where one partner has had enough.
One indicator of the phase a couple is at, is the quality and frequency of making love or sex. In the honeymoon, making love was new and exciting and more often. In trauma making love maybe a duty or a chore by one partner, or virtually non existent.
In business and organisation the stage could be measured by the level of excitement or fulfilment when going to work, or lack of. Many people may plateau as they settle into a routine, or when they have had enough leave.
It is very useful to know what stage you are at, particularly if you are in the Plateau or Trauma stage and looking for something better. There is always something that can be done to improve your relationships.