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stages of a relationship

The attraction stage is the first one.  Then, we move into a period of fun and romance and going out that can last weeks, months or years. Stage 3 is a time of struggle, when couples start finding out things they may not like about each other.  Power games can range from who gets to make social arrangements, to the way he likes her hair done, to attitudes about important matters such as money, work, children.

This is the 'make or break' stage as many couples cannot take the heat at this point and end up separating.  Some unwise couples are already living together or married when they begin the power struggle and they end up trapped in a prison of their own making.  How many couples do you know who spend their whole lives hassling and bickering, some in fun and some in hostility?

After the power struggle comes the negotiation point, if the relationship has survived.  This is the time for couples to ask serious questions about themselves and each other before they go any further.  I'm a strong advocate of pre-marriage counselling.  No-one in their right mind would enter a business arrangement because they like the colour of their partner's eyes, and yet people think nothing of committing to a lifetime with someone on that basis!  At the very least, you need to know what the other person wants from a partner, what they think they have to put into a relationship, and what they hope to get out of it.

If all things are equal and prospects look reasonable, the couple can then decide what type of commitment they wish to make — living together on a trial basis, de facto marriage, or the full thing.  For religious and moral reasons, some couples opt for the last choice but a lot of young people don't want traditional marriage these days.  Issues like whether they'll have children, how many, when, how will they be raised, and so on, are too important to be left to chance in the complex world of the 2000s.  It may all sound a bit cold-blooded and unromantic, but there is nothing more unromantic than divorce and unwanted children and bitter breakups.  No, I'm afraid romance is for courting couples, not for the betrothed.  Getting married with rose-coloured glasses on is like playing Russian roulette — it's only a matter of time before the fatal shot is fired.

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