A lot of people think that once you get into a relationship the task of having a partner is easier than attaining one. Maintaining a relationship is hard work and is a skill-set that needs to be acquired in the same manner as getting them interested in the first place. Books and Hollywood love to focus on the first stage of relationships, the honeymoon phase, because it is love in its purest form.
What if I was to tell you that there are actually five stages of relationships?
1. Honeymoon stage
2. Power struggle stage
3. Stability phase
4. Commitment phase
5. Co-creation or bliss stage
I want to focus on what I believe is the most important phase of a relationship because this is where the majority fail, this is where my most recent failed. The power struggle phase ruins more relationships than any other stage, get passed this stage and there's a good chance that you'll both be hitched for a while.
So what is the power struggle phase? The power struggle phase occurs after the honeymoon phase is over (2-18 months). It's the phase where you start seeing your partner as their true self and all their imperfections. Your passionate lust is no longer enough to overlook things that bother you about the relationship or your partner. The things that you might have found cute may now feel infuriating.
You struggle to share your life with that person because you're so comfortable in your own ways. What you need to learn is that you have a problem and you need to address it because you cannot change things about your partner because the problem is not them, but actually you not being able to cope with the problem you are seeing. You can't always change the situation but you can change how you feel about it. Your partner wants a successful relationship as much as you do and so when they do certain actions that you don't agree with, it doesn't mean that your partner isn't trying to fix things, just simply doesn't know how because the communication is not there. By understanding that you're both two individuals that have decided to share your lives to better both of your lives, you'll be better at recognizing and dealing with problems in a way that fixes the relationship and not just patch things up or even make things worse.
I will use my own relationship as an example. Her biggest fear was feeling trapped and controlled in a relationship, she needed freedom to feel happy. Her only other boyfriend was very controlling and she was always afraid of getting into a similar situation. My biggest fear was us having a problem in the relationship that we couldn't fix. The biggest problem in our relationship was my girlfriend never felt the honeymoon phase as strongly as she expected to feel it for her ideal partner. Because it wasn't as intense as she's experienced in the past she was always unsure of her romantic feelings towards me. Everything else about me though checked off so she decided to give it a shot because she wanted it to work because she knew I could make her happy and that I was a good guy.
Next thing she knows she goes from being unsure, to being in a relationship, to dropping the "I love yous", to being together for a year. It all happened so fast and the longer it went on the harder it was for her to admit that an important part of the relationship for her was missing. She didn't want to hurt me because she wished she could fall in love with me, but it didn't happen. I on the other-hand experienced the honeymoon phase strongly and so I had become very loving towards her, something that made her a bit uncomfortable sometimes and she had expressed her issue but I never understood the full grasp of it. At the time I never asked the right questions and so I never knew the real answers. I never asked why it made her uncomfortable.
I know it seems dumb and hard to miss, but this has all been laid out to you so it seems much easier than it would be if you don't understand the power struggle phase. She tried reciprocating my feelings for her but there was only so much she could handle since she had to make pretend. This made her feel trapped in the relationship and her losing her freedom means she's unhappy. That was the core problem in our relationship and I wish I knew about the power struggle phase while with her so we could have addressed this issue and figure things out sooner.