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Keeping Romance Alive: Imago Relationship Stages in Mature Relationships

The first time you fell for someone, everything was raw and exciting – that whirlwind of attraction and newness. The phrase “relationship stages” was probably 1000 miles away from your mind.

Yet, inevitably, the transition occurs when those “love chemicals” start to fade, and you receive a more realistic – sometimes disappointing – view of your partner. And how you reconcile that natural change:  whether that means powerful emotion swings involving fighting and making up, deciding to live parallel lives, breaking up altogether or, ideally, forging a conscious relationship.

You didn’t know anything, so you probably made a lot of mistakes. But now that you’re older and wiser, you can just skip that other stuff and settle in to the comfortable good parts, right?

Not necessarily. 

Every relationship goes through the same stages. How you handle those stages can differ, but much of that coping comes from understanding what’s happening, why it’s happening, and how to successfully avoid the pitfalls that can stick you and your partner in an uncomfortable place.

Let’s take a look at each stage, what you can expect, and how to navigate it now that you’re older and know better.


High on Love Chemicals

There’s not a lot to “fix” or worry about within the first stage of a relationship. Both of you are amazing and wonderful – and can’t imagine being apart. Why would you want to change that?

What you can try to do, in your more experienced, more enlightened state, is take the time to stop and smell the roses. In other words, enjoy it while it lasts, and be aware that your feelings will fade a bit in time.

It’s just how nature works.


The Long Morning After

Commonly called the “Power Struggle” phase of the relationship, this is where you and your new love see each other in the cold light of day – after the “intoxication” of the Romantic Love phase. You may realize that things are not as rosy as you initially thought.

Here’s where your past experiences can become more of a blessing than a curse. We all have tendencies. If you acted a certain way in earlier relationships, you’re far more likely to fall back into that pattern now – older and wiser be damned.

If you are used to a “passion” cycle of fighting and making up, chances are good that you’ll veer toward that path. Those who previously went the “parallel lives” route will tend to return to that. If you’ve struggled to maintain a relationship for any length of time, you’re far more likely to become disillusioned after romantic love fades, and you’ll find yourself wanting to pull away.

This is how you’ve trained yourself to think relationships work. 

But they don’t have to.


Putting in the Work to Reach Relationship “Consciousness”

There are two ways that your past romantic experience can be beneficial:

  1. By letting you know faster when you’re totally wasting your time.
  2. If at least one of you has managed to created a conscious relationship in the past.

The first one can get you out of a pairing that just isn’t working with less fuss and heartache than when you were younger – but only the second one helps you attain a truly happy, long-lasting relationship.

Forging a conscious relationship means both of you offer the other respect, dignity, and a commitment to helping each other grow and heal. Getting to this point is rarely easy. Both of you need to feel safe enough to let your walls down. This will allow the other person to push you toward change, and you can mutually work to meet each other’s needs.

Change, as you may have heard – and have certainly experienced – is hard. That’s why Imago created the “intentional dialogue” and encourages “stretching” exercises which assist in promoting micro-changes that enable both of you to get used to growth in a way that only pushes you a little bit at a time. 

That’s a key word – time – because, in most cases, this needs to be done slowly and methodically, with an eye toward small goals.

But that’s okay, right? Because your years of experience have taught you patience and perseverance. And if you manage to persevere in this case, the benefits are well worth the effort.

Want to learn more about building a conscious relationship? Get in touch for advice and help.

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Copyright @2020 Dana Cole, LMFT