The Most Important Stage In Every Relationship

Glenna Gill

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“He’s completely perfect,” I bragged to my friends about my new boyfriend. It was the summer of 2013, and Cupid had struck me with the precision of a surgeon. In just a few short weeks, I’d become convinced that the man who captured my heart existed on this planet without a single flaw. If there were any red flags in our relationship, I certainly couldn’t see them. It was from this magical view that I wanted to hang on his every word and follow him anywhere he went.

If anybody had told me back then that my vision was unrealistic, I wouldn’t have believed them. I floated along with endorphins traveling through my body at warp speed. The amount of oxytocin being produced in my brain could not have been measured by existing technology. The world existed only for this man, and I had all the love in my heart to shower him with. We were in the first stage of our relationship, the “butterflies” stage. I’d never been so happy in my entire life as the Earth became a giant bubble of love that I never wanted to burst.

We got married almost two years later on the beach in Key West at sunset. He wore cargo pants and a flowing white shirt with no shoes. I was in a traditional long white dress even though it was my third marriage. I decided that the other two weddings didn’t count. I’d never been so much in love with anyone before. He made everything seem new and exciting. We held hands as the pastor performed the ceremony, then jumped into each other’s arms and kissed when he pronounced us husband and wife.

The Bloom is Off the Rose

Our nirvana was interrupted about six months after that by a subtle shift in our brand new marriage. I’d find out later that this is “make or break” time in most relationships. It’s the dreaded transition period, and no couple is immune to it. The most minuscule resentments appeared out of nowhere. He didn’t laugh at every single joke I made anymore. He called me beautiful less often and became more protective of his time alone. He no longer needed to be near me every second, instead heading to the office on weekends or to play with his bluegrass band.

My first thought was that the man I so loved had fallen out of love with me. He didn’t seem to think I was perfect anymore. He occasionally seemed annoyed with me. We nitpicked at each other over things that didn’t matter. My mind scrambled to figure out what I did to fall out of favor. Neither of us put our best foot forward anymore. The blinders were off.

This was our reality check, and it has happened to virtually every couple since the dawn of man.

After the initial days of passionate bliss together and swearing it would never change, couples begin to let their guards down. It’s the perfect opportunity for growth in the relationship because it’s when we really get to know each other; however, the initial growing pains sometimes bring people to a screeching halt. Surviving this period can be tricky as we begin to show each other the best and worst parts of ourselves. It wasn’t until I talked to my best friend, who is a couples’ therapist, that I realized what was happening.

The Honeymoon is Over

When those first minor resentments pop up, sometimes it opens a floodgate of issues glossed over during the “honeymoon period.” Whatever each actual problem is, it’s never wise to unload an accusatory laundry list of misdeeds on your partner. It can be a total sucker punch, and I don’t recommend it.

Sticking to the issue at hand and resolving it works better than pointing the finger. The good news is that every time my husband and I had a disagreement, I made a mental note of the way he handled conflict. That helped me when addressing future issues with him and keeping them from escalating.

Respect also comes into play here in a huge way. I have said things that were unkind in the heat of the moment that I didn’t even mean. It felt like the times we each hit below the belt while arguing left tiny scars on our relationship. When he’d bring up a flaw of mine, I’d point out one of his. We had days where we hid and licked our wounds rather than communicating in a healthy way.

Finally, I tried to put myself in his shoes and realize how hurt I would feel if angry words were being yelled at me. We were supposed to care for each other, not tear each other down and try to score points. Sometimes I noticed being nicer to a stranger on the street than my own husband. That was when my feelings changed.

Our relationship was my anchor, and my love for him hadn’t diminished at all. Learning to give him the respect he deserved as a person went a long way toward mending fences. I often called him the love of my life, but it was during our transition that the real meaning of love came into focus.

Here’s What I Learned

I’m grateful that my husband trusts me enough to show me who he really is now, even if some things are less than perfect. It encourages me to be more honest and not shoo away problems anymore but deal with them. We can talk to each other about anything now, and I appreciate him in a way I didn’t before. I’m sure it was a relief for him to be able to get off the pedestal I had him on when we were dating.

There is no better feeling than really knowing each other, warts and all, and yet still being madly in love no matter what. The transition we went through made this possible. When we became aware of it happening, we had a smoother ride along a sometimes bumpy road.

My relationship may not be perfect, but it’s perfect for me.

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I write about lifestyle issues, including such topics as parenting, mental illness, family, substance abuse, marriage/divorce, and inspiration. My hope is that these stories will help people suffering from similar issues by reading about other's experiences.

West Palm Beach, FL
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