Do you remember your wedding day? If you are not married, can you envision it? Most women will answer with a fond yes, and think back or envision all the special memories of their special day. Details large and small instantly come flooding back ~ the special looks, the first kiss after the ceremony, the toasts at the reception, the special moments with your mom or dad, other dear family members or good friends sometime during the day, the funny moments that just the two of you shared. Do you remember? If you are like most women whom I have asked this question, you remember so many of the details, perhaps as if in slow motion. It is etched forever in your memory, and colored by the color of your love.
The whole memory for me is infused with the love I felt for my husband that day. I thought my heart would burst with the happiness, love and joy I felt. As wonderful as our wedding day was, and as filled with love as my heart was that July day, the love Larry and I felt then does not compare to the depth of feelings of love and connection that we share now.
While acknowledging that sadly for some, those memories may be forgotten, or tinged with sadness, hurt, anger or disappointment due to later difficulties or divorce, love that lasts a lifetime grows over the years together. It grows as our relationship grows throughout the years of marriage, and as our families grow. In fact, just as children go through stages of growth, so too, do our marriages.
The Early Stages of Married Love
The stages of marriage parallel in some ways, the stages of growth that children experience as they grow through childhood to adulthood. I capture them in six main stages, and just like children grow from one stage to the next, sometimes it seems overnight, and at other times, more gradually, and it seems they are in more than one stage of growth at a time, so too, do our marriage relationships develop.
Married Love Stage I: Honeymoon
This is the time period of up to the first year of marriage. Even for those couples who cohabited before marriage, there is still a period we can call a honeymoon phase in their relationship. This is the time when couples are getting to know each other more intimately. They are experiencing what it is like to live in the same household day to day, and having daily experiences of each other’s preferences, habits and personalities.
For many, marriage results in a feeling of relaxing into the relationship; couples are no longer dating, and the subconscious need to put on your “company face” eases. You begin to see your spouse (and he begins to see you too!) without the external image – rather you begin to share the side of yourself you reserve for family. The experience of “romantic” love is still high during the honeymoon stage.
This is a time of adjustment, discovery and flexibility, as couples begin to learn to partner together day to day, as spouses. This can be a time when old family roles and patterns, that you “inherited” from your family growing up, and even generational patterns through your family culture, surface. Some may surprise you, some you may like, and others you may not. The same is occurring for your new spouse, and many of the adjustments that are needed as this stage and the next involve adjusting and coordinating these expectations and values that you each inherited. This is a time of opening, when you have the opportunity to co-create patterns and ways of relating and leadership in your marriage that support each of you, and lay a strong foundation in your marriage during this first year.
Stage II: Learning to Partner Together
Couples enter this phase when they complete the initial adjustment of day to day living together. This is a stage of further exploration and experimentation of roles and expectations, and working out of the "how" you partner together in your marriage. For many couples, especially couples where one or the other partner has unresolved loss from the death or divorce of a previous spouse, or loss of other significant family members, when ghosts have a big part in these underlying patterns and expectations regarding roles.
By roles, we usually mean the typical things that wives do and those that husbands do within their marriage and family. Because of our family inherited patterning, most of our expectations about these roles are unspoken and for many, unquestioned. We do things the way mom or dad did, and expect our spouse to do those things that our other parent did, without thinking about it, or reconsidering.
Partnering well involves establishing the functioning of our roles in such a way that is easy, hopefully fun, and brings out and draws upon the talents, skills, gifts and interests of each partner. It often involves some conscious discussions about these topics, because most women and men don’t see their inherited role patterns, until they are living in daily partnership in marriage.
Emotional and Spiritual Partnership
In addition to figuring out our roles and how we want to partner in our marriage, running a household, working in our professions, etc, the other unspoken and too-often unrecognized area of partnership is Emotional and Spiritual Partnership. Many couples also have differing family cultures when it comes to these areas of partnership, and coming to union about your emotional and spiritual partnership is actually at the heart of a thriving marriage, where love grows through your lifetime together.
Emotional and spiritual union is the inner soul of marriage.
Learning how to support each other emotionally and spiritually, and create the inner sanctuary and union of the heart that grows out of romantic love, is the on-going soul work of marriage. It is this inner union and partnering that gives vital, thriving marriages their resiliency, strength and depth. This inner soul of marriage ideally begins to develop in Stage II of Learning to Partner Together, as couples continue deepening in their trust of one another. This soul trust develops as we share more and more of our tender Inner Selves with our partners, and find acceptance and love.
For women, the inner sanctuary of our hearts is opened to our spouses, when we feel safe enough to share our innermost feelings, and are received with love and acceptance.
When we as women experience such safety, acceptance, and trust, we begin to feel cherished. When a woman feels cherished, the real magic and transformative power of married love begins.
If you hunger for more of this kind of love in your marriage, no matter how long you've been together, learn how I can guide you to co-create soul-satisfying love with your Beloved, starting this year.