Passion, intimacy, love, infatuation, excitement, and…dishes. Wait, what? What do dishes have to do with passion, love, intimacy, infatuation and excitement? A lot, it turns out.
When you first fall in love with someone, you are ridiculously ridiculous. You find yourself checking your phone every 30 seconds to see if your love interest has texted or called you; you find yourself getting brazilian waxes and obsessing over your outfits even though you never really cared about those things before. You are giddy with feelings of love and infatuation and can hardly contain yourself from thinking about the person nonstop. You see yourself marrying this person and can’t imagine they possess a flaw in the world. Perhaps you’ve even pictured yourself doting over the children you’ve created with this person.
This stage of the relationship is always incredibly invigorating, and undeniably enjoyable. You feel no pain, and you don’t care if you ever sleep again. You have sex more times in a day than you previously had in one week, and food-what’s that? It has been proven that sex during this infatuation stage is like being on heroine. Scientists monitored infatuated couples’ brains during sexual intercourse and they discovered that the brain showed a 95% similarity to what happens when a person is on heroine. Thus, the expression, “Love is a drug,” illustrating its powerful effects.
There’s no predetermined period of time that this stage of a relationship lasts. That will depend upon the individuals, themselves, as well as a multitude of other factors: age, gender, careers, children from previous relationships, past experiences-you get the idea! While we all wish this stage would last forever, it is impossible to sustain the high that comes with new love. Just as it is impossible to sustain the high of a drug, or the high of winning the lottery, or any other adrenaline-ridden venture in life. What goes up, must come down. And, there will always be dishes.
2. UNDERSTANDING AND LANDING
This isn’t to say that the down has to be a crash rather than a crush. It just means that after some time, you, as a couple, will begin to settle in and allow real life to resume. This stage is an important one. This is where real understanding begins to occur, and the relationship unfolds with time. This is when the long conversations begin, and it is most often when family and friends are introduced to the beloved. You are interested in everything your partner has to say and does. You talk about your likes and dislikes, your dreams and hopes for the future.
The landing from this flight of fancy you two have begun can be a bumpy landing at times. It can feel downright scary as the clouds part and the sun shines brightly on the realities of a real-life relationship. Now is when we start to see the dishes that have been piling up that have been easier to ignore up until now. We begin to see the weaknesses in our partners, as well as their annoying habits and terrible jokes. This can also be an endearing stage if you are willing to recognize your partner as a perfectly flawed human being, and see your own flaws as well.
The magazine Psychology Today, published a great article about this very stage of a relationship. Basically, the article states that “The day you wake up and say you have married the wrong person is the day that your marriage truly begins.” This means that the day the veil of infatuation lifts and the 20/20 vision of everyday life begins is when the relationship really begins. This is “make it or break it” time for many relationships as the reality of everyday living set in.
3. STABILIZE AND BURY
This stage happens when the relationship becomes part of your everyday existence. As life happens around you it is also happening within the relationship. Everyday tasks such as grocery shopping and laundry become conversations, and discussions about mother-in-laws are all the more frequent. The love we once felt is now buried under piles of laundry and dishes, yet we feel more stable in the love that has developed with the passing of time.
Buddha has been credited with the phrase “After bliss, there are dishes.” This is when the repetition of doing the dishes can become boring, mundane, and frankly, a sore spot. This stage of the relationship is inevitable, if not unwelcome. This is when couples must commit to “unburying” themselves from the everyday tasks of life and find new ways to connect.
My husband was gracious enough to take dance lessons with me, as I dance pretty much all day, every day. We were incredibly surprised to discover he is the better dancer of the two of us when it comes to partner dancing, and the feel of his arms around me, directing my body as we glided across that dance floor, awakened a newfound appreciation for him within me. This is what is required during this phase. Less work, more play. New activities for both of you. Maybe some sex toys, or sex in public will add new dimensions to your now familiar sexual encounters.
This stage is also where the struggles to change your partner are abandoned. You realize that you really cannot change them, and you begin to accept them for who they are. Mutual respect becomes more important than power struggles, and repeatedly pushing yourself outside of your own comfort zone becomes more important than the stagnancy of the relationship. You begin to experience a beautiful balance of love, belonging, fun, power and freedom.
This is the stage where you turn to your partner and say, “I don’t need you. I choose you knowing all I know about you, good and bad.” This stage could also be called the Co-Creation stage. You and your partner become a duo with a shared goal or shared activities. Often, this is when parents become “empty-nesters,” as their attention is no longer on their children and their relationship with them is less intensely focused.
This is when couples take time to nurture their relationship, and all the lessons learned in the previous years, regardless of the number of years together, are brought forward to deepen the relationship. If couples find themselves fighting about the same things over and over, it’s because they have some unresolved power struggles that must still be worked out. We must learn to think of our relationships as a spiral staircase, ever ascending but full of twists and turns.
5. LOVE AND INTIMACY
This is the stage you have been wanting all along, right? The stage where you find you love this person more than you could have ever imagined, but still fight over the remote or how they drive. This is when sex (usually) is better than it ever has been before. There is now a sense of safety, comfort and ease with this person that has stuck by your side through thick and thin, and the level of intimacy is now greater than ever before.
Some argue that this stage arrives around year 5; for my husband and myself, it has happened throughout our marriage of 30 years. As each of us has reinvented ourselves and found new ways to communicate we have resurfaced over and over again to love one another completely. No one can predict how a relationship will unfold over time, but that is the beauty of a relationship. If you can surrender the need to control your partner, to control circumstances in your life, and surrender the need to control the outcome, and instead be open to whatever shows up, you will find yourself in a relationship you never dreamed existed!