My husband and I are high school sweethearts. We dated for 8 years before we married, and we’ve been married for 10 years. I’m 35 and have lived with this man for longer than I have lived without him. We like to say we raised each other, a phrase I coined from my mother. When we were young, our fights were intense. It was during one of these arguments that I was venting to my mother about all the things wrong with him and our relationship. It was then that she gave me one of the best gifts I have ever received. She said, “Adrienne, there are phases of relationships where you are so in love, your stomach turns into knots every time you see each other, and you are just googly eyed over each other. And then there are phases where you look across the room and you wonder who on earth that person is and why you are with him.” Her words were a gift, because it prepared me for the hard and difficult of marriage, so that when we hit our first “struggle phase” I knew it was normal.
The first phase of marriage and relationships is the Butterfly Phase. In the Butterfly Phase, you cannot wait to see each other. You feel in love, and it can, at times, be overwhelming. Butterflies are in your stomach when you’re getting ready for a date, or before you see each other for the first time that day. This phase is fun! The sex is hot, and amazing, and frequent. The two of you are just clicking and in-sync. You often look across the room and think, “Oh my goodness, that man is hot! How did I get so lucky?” There’s not much to survive here. This is usually where relationships begin.
The second phase is the It’s All Good Phase. This is the phase where a lot of life is lived. Every day, day-to-day life. Conversations and discussions are about future plans and logistics, and the next day’s schedule, who can take the kids to soccer practice, and what do we need from the store. The sex is great but probably more routine than when in the Butterfly Phase. In this phase, you may look across the room and think, “I’m so glad I’m doing life with this person. There is no one I’d rather be doing it with. We make a great team!” There aren’t many arguments in this phase, and if there are, they are over quickly and with a solid resolution. If routine isn’t bothersome to you, this phase is pretty easy too. If routine leaves you feeling stuck in a rut, finding ways to change things up will help you survive this phase.
Phase Three is The Struggle Phase. In the Struggle Phase, fights, and arguments can be frequent. You can find this phase of marriage usually around times of stress and difficulty, like after the birth of a baby, after a move, a job change, or a death. You may feel like the two of you are speaking different languages, and neither person feels understood. The sex in this phase can be used as a tool to make-up and reconnect after an argument, but for some, this may be where there is little to no sex at all. This phase is not fun. Matter of fact, this is the phase where most relationships and marriages end. You look across the room and think, “Who are you? Why are we married? What are we doing to each other?” This can also be a difficult phase to crawl out of. Surviving this phase might mean outside help from a counselor, or marriage mentor couple, and prayer. Lots and lots of prayer. And time.
The beauty of knowing there is a cycle to marriage is that even when you are in the midst of the Struggle Phase, you know there is an end. The Struggle Phase is where growth happens. It is literally the growing pains of your relationship. And after each Struggle Phase, the Butterfly Phase becomes more intense, more lovely, and more precious. The love and deep connection you have together is now strongly rooted with experience.
The phases have been true for my marriage. We’ve spent the majority of it in the It’s All Good Phase, and sometimes our Struggle Phase has lasted weeks or months, but when we circle back around to the Butterfly Phase I’m always so grateful for the growth. Neither phase has a time limit—sometimes you experience all the phases in one week or one day!
Maybe you’re finding yourself in the first Struggle Phase of your relationship. I hope you know that it will pass, that this is normal, and that it will lead to wonderful things in the near future.
*Now for a little disclaimer*
I find these phases to be true if both people are still invested in the relationship. If there is still a relationship to work on and struggle through. That is not necessarily the case for all marriages.