Have you ever wondered why so many relationships fail? Perhaps you have experienced the disappointments of a failed relationship between your father and mother, or your uncle and aunt, or in the life of your best friend, or even your own. Not too many years ago, the news of your favorite relatives breaking up was shocking. Hearing that a couple, especially your parents, is getting a divorce used to be rare, but now it is commonplace. What happened?
Although the ultimate goal of most relationships is to find committed love, there are several stages, or, shall we say, several levels, to reaching that goal. But we might not be prepared for them. They catch us by surprise, and by the time we realize it, the relationship has been damaged to the point of no return.
Before you get serious, you should at least be aware of and study the following relationship stages. Each presents its own mountain of challenges, so be prepared, lest your find yourself devastated by a broken relationship.
Dating is the easiest part of a relationship, and the process of dating should be maintained long after marriage if you want your relationship to last! How do you continue to date, finding that love and excitement you once knew, after marriage, and when the kids and bills overwhelm you? You both might be tired from chasing the kids or going to work, and or picking or dropping off the kids, or consumed with the stresses of the increased responsibilities and expenses. But dating is what got you together, and you need to keep it up.
Ahhhh, the first stage of commitment. I always say relationships are easy to get into and hard as heck to get out of. Once a woman gets her claws into you, whether you think you like her or not, she becomes intertwined in your spirit. The two of you become one (Mark 10:8). You may notice yourself speaking like your significant other, or even moving your head the way she does. When these things happen, you now know you are officially in a relationship. The boyfriend/girlfriend/Engagement stage is still pretty light hearted, though, and you can cruise through a couple of years relatively easily – if you are not living together.
3. Living together in a committed relationship
Being someone’s boyfriend or girlfriend is one thing, but living with that person will tell you if you really want to be in the relationship or not. Everything looks good from afar, and when you are just dating, boyfriend and girlfriend or engaged but still living in separate homes, there are many things about your newfound love that you will never know until you move in together. Like they say, you never know what kind of fish you’ve got ‘til you pull it out of the water! When under the first spell of infatuation, we tend not to notice that he/she is the messiest man/woman on planet earth, or the fact that he/she likes to sleep all day and does not want to work. I often chuckle and say to myself, as people are starting off as boyfriend and girlfriend in happily wedded bliss, little do they know they are only in the honeymoon stage of a relationship and more difficult tests will be coming just around the corner! She may love your big feet, but the smell of your funky shoes after you just played five hard games of basketball may be a deal breaker (First Date Deal Breakers). You don’t really know the person you are dating until you move in with him/her. Everything prior, comparatively speaking, are just nice formalities.
4. Money management and finance
How one manages (or does not manage) money can be a deal breaker, no question. Especially if one person feels he or she is taking care of the majority of the bills and responsibilities, the relationship can quickly turn from good to worse. You want a lover, not a parent or child! Nothing puts a strain on a relationship like one party not pulling his/her weight.
5. Employment or working together
My dream was always to have a relationship where my girl and I could work and build a business together for our family – until I found her in an inappropriate relationship with one of the employees. I said to myself, “Hmmm, maybe it’s not such a good idea to build a business with her.” Little did I know that working with someone is the equivalent of learning to live with that person. You may live with your man/woman and get along fairly well, but working with that same person can yield entirely different results –especially if that person’s work ethic is not the same as yours. For example, as I am busy busting my butt to build the business, my significant other, in direct conflict, is ok with taking her time and possesses no sense of drive or urgency for completion. In fact, if I was not pushing her, no work would ever get done! You may say to yourself, “you’re a slave driver.” No, I am saying to myself, success is just around the corner and the only way we are going to get there is to keep pushing toward the goal. The difference in work ethic could be the realization that this person is not a good match for you.
There is something about marriage that takes the life out of a man, almost as if he gives his life force to the woman. Is the man dying while the woman is living securely? Yes, if she barely notices if the man is happy or not… “if you don’t say anything, I won’t either!” The fact is, most married men lie to their women and almost never tell them the truth about how they truly think and feel. (The 24 Lies that Women Want to Hear) Perhaps they simply don’t want to hear the rebuttal from the lovely woman he is married to. Perhaps he is too scared of losing her to speak the truth. Either way, it’s a doomed proposition, and I feel sorry for the many men who live their lives in fear of the woman they are married to as oppose to the truth inside them.
7. Having children
Having children is a whole new dichotomy that there is absolutely no calculation for! You have no idea whether you are going to a have a boy or girl, you have no idea whether your children are going to be sane or not, good or bad, hyper or calm. You can’t account for the many unknown variables. Plus, children will suck all of the energy you have and then some, so if you really don’t want to be a parent or embarking on the role for uncertain reasons, then maybe you should reconsider. The only way you are going to make it past this stage in your relationship is if you absolutely love being a parent, your children, and your husband/boyfriend/domestic partner.
Time itself is the ultimate determiner of the success of this last stage. Frankly, without forgiveness, it is more than like that many couples won’t be together long enough to even reach this point. (Learning the Art of Forgiveness is a Must to Attracting a Successful Relationship). In addition to forgiveness, you need to seek out novelty with each other. What do you do when you have been having sex with the same man or woman for years, having sex in the same predictable positions night after night? I know there are only seven days in a week and I could probably think of seven positions, but what about the other 358 days times 10 years? You’d better really love and accept each other, and trust each other enough to seek out and try new things. (Learning the Art of Acceptance is Key to a Successful Relationship!). This is the only solution that could possibly transcend the annals of time and boredom: to actually love the person you have decided to spend the rest of your life with. To women, marriage may be bliss; to most men, marriage is temporary insanity. However, if you are that bomb woman who keeps reinventing herself and is following all of our steps, you will at least be able to keep your relationship on the level of sanity.
Each one of these stages is a new level that, if you’re unprepared, can abruptly halt the future success of your relationship. Think of each stage as a reality check, or a step on a ladder to a successful relationship: you must be ready to complete each step in order to climb to the top and reach the overall success you desire. Don’t let yourself get caught by surprise. The more prepared and realistic you are, the more ready you will be to face the challenges when they come – and the less likely you will be to have to face disappointment.