Stages in a relationship

          My sister asked me to watch the video "Strangers again" knowing how hopelessly romantic I am.  She said this video has been spread around in Facebook.  The video shows seven stages according to the directors own belief:
  • Stage 1: Meeting 
  • Stage 2: Chase
  • Stage 3: Honeymoon
  • Stage 4: Comfortable
  • Stage 5: Tolerance
  • Stage 6: Downhill
  • Stage 7: Breaking up
         Even without the video, I am already quite familiar with the stages since I've always researched on how to improve my relationship.  I agree with the video. But based on my experience,  there is more to the stages than what was shown.  I believe, the perfect relationship would be when the couple would eternally cycle through Stage 2: Chase - Stage 3: Honeymoon - Stage 4: Comfortable.  Once Stage 4: Comfortable reaches Stage 5: Tolerance, there is a high likelihood that it will be dragged down to Stage 6: Downhill and its inevitable consequence Stage 7: Breaking up.

Stage 2: Chase
         The chase stage or the "getting to know you stage" is essential.  It should neither be rushed nor skipped.  It should reoccur as often as possible.  Couples should never stop being interested in one another.  Even if you've been a long time couple, we should never assume that we know everything about our partners.  We should always expect, accept or even encourage change. More importantly, we should never reject their desire for improvement by bringing back the mistakes or anything negative because it hinders them from moving forward and learning from it.  We should never underestimate our power to believe or even just hope.  Yesterday, we went to church and the gospel Jesus' statement "Blessed are those who believe without seeing".  I believe we can apply it not only in our faith but with everything in life.  This reminds me of a song "The Power of One" by Donna Summer:

"The power of one
  Begins with believing
  It starts in the heart
  Then flows through the soul
  And changes the world"

         However, it is understandable that human relationships are based on the trust system.  It requires trust to believe.  If we believe and expect too much, we have to face the risk of bitter disappointments and it could affect us severely.  This is will negatively affect the relationship.  When faced with this dilemma on whether to believe or not then it would we should just be hopeful.  That way we don't turn down our partner and we don't end up being disappointment either.  I have always been guilty of this mistake.   For example, a boy was late for a date, the next day he tells his girl friend "I'll pick you up early tomorrow at 8 a.m.  The girl says "I doubt it".  The next day the boy was late because he felt offended by the girl and the girl was disappointed because the boy was again not able to do what he promised.  The girl could have just said "I'd be very happy if you do." (being hopeful)

         In the same way, we should never stop trusting, proving ourselves to be trustworthy and revealing ourselves to our partners.  When our relationship is based on the past or have gaps, one party gets left out and that creates conflicts and misunderstandings.  But it is also important to respect others preference towards privacy.  This becomes a delicate line where one should be cautious otherwise the other party might feel discomfort.  

        People are subject to change.  It is a natural consequence of self-improvement.   Self-improvement is not a selfish act.  In fact, we should support our partner in improving themselves because they are improving for our sake.  The better they are as individuals, the better they are as partners.  It is a win-win relationship for both individuals.   The improvement of a partner could also challenge or motivate the other to improve.  This strengthens the bond between them because they feel like they are functioning like a productive team.

Stage 3: Honeymoon
         Most people think that honeymoon or spending time doing anything together as a couple is always positive but it could also be negative. Some say that too much time together is unhealthy.  But how much time is too much?  Too much is not a length of time nor a percentage of time.  It becomes unhealthy when it creates a negative impact because one of them feel that only one of them is benefiting and the other was forced to sacrifice something they don't want to.

Many tend to neglect that honeymoon is actually a stage to strengthen the relationship. How? 
  1. It is an expression of wanting to be together.
  2. They share an experience which they could someday recall and reflect upon or laugh about.
  3. Both of them feel loved because each of them had to dedicate their time just to be with each other.
But it can also bring about negative effects such as:
  1. Neglecting responsibilities
  2. Not having time to develop relationships
For example, a girl with a clear intention of spending quality time with his boyfriend invites him to take her to the movies.  The boy was also invited by his friends to play video games which he enjoys doing.  He is afraid that his girlfriend would think he prioritizes his friends more than her so he takes her to the movies.  This creates an unhealthy time together since although he is physically with his girlfriend, his mind is wandering off thinking of the fun he has missed out for his girlfriend. It is a lose-lose for both parties.The boy missed out on the fun while the girl will also be uncontented since he is unable to give her the affection she needs.  Worse, negative experiences may also be brought out during couple arguments.  The boy may blame her girlfriend for the fun he missed out for her.  The girl would blame the boy for not telling her that earlier and she feels terrible dedicating her time for him when his mind is wandering off anyway

     3. Not having time for personal growth and identity
     4. Not having enough space like when we are tired or stressed and just want to relax on our own

       When a relationship is healthy or  having proper communication, understanding, compromise, love and trust, there can never be too much time together.  Every relationship requires a give and take between both  partners.  More importantly it has to be willful,  honest and sincere.  This is the tricky part.  There will always be a time when we have to refuse. Otherwise, it will have the negative effects stated above.    The refusing party has to carefully state his reasons honestly and in the sweetest way possible.  While the other party has to accept, understand and let go freely.  This is the reason why this has to go after the chase stage because by this stage, the couples should already know what it important to each other and support it.  

Stage 4: Comfortable
        When a couple gets into the comfortable stage, each of them can either: 
  • go back to the Stage 2: Chase
           They could continue working harder to improve their relationship more.  People usually interpret this as being "in love".  They take every opportunity to rekindle their love just as when they started off.  They try to work things out with utmost dedication.  Although this may sound difficult, if not impossible for most people this is attainable.  I have seen many old couples despite decades of years in marriage still holding hands with each other, giving each other flowers whenever they have a chance to and prioritize their dates even in the midst of all their other commitments.
  • forward to the Stage 5: Tolerance stage
          They could stay relaxed with one another.  Their treatment for one another starts to decline.   They dedicate lesser time for one another.  Communicating and opening up to each other becomes harder.  Soon, they will feel that there is a gap between them and then misunderstandings and arguments occur more often.  Once they start to feel unloved it will go towards the downhill stage.  

Stage 6: Downhill
         Once the tolerance stage is reached, it is already difficult to climb back up since there is a consideration of trust involved.  We take pain very seriously and it is difficult to forget.  With this, it will be difficult to work things out because the damage has been done.  Our insistence cannot overcome the damage caused by the harsh words exchanged during our arguments.

Stage 7: Breaking up
          Some couples prefer to prolong the agony before facing the truth that it is better to break up.  However, this is not the stage to struggle nor fight for love.  Those opportunities have long been gone.  But breaking up may sometimes really be the best option.  It is not the end of the world nor is it a failure.  

Defining the stages of the relationship is not that simple.  Since there are two parties in a relationship, one party may be at a different stage than the other.  For example, one may opt for the chasing stage while the other opts for the tolerance stage.  Bottom line is making  a relationship work isn't easy.  It has many factors and requirements.  But once you make it work, it can be the greatest thing in life you'll ever live to experience.