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As children, we are raised with our favorite fairy tales – stories of knights on white horses, true love’s first kiss and happily ever after. This desire for love follows us into our adult lives, as we find ourselves searching for the real deal. Navigating the world of dating, seeking for that one ‘perfect’ partner.

If we are so in love with the idea of love, why then do so many marriages today fail? Marriage and family counselor Jed Diamond has counseled couples for over 40 years, and in doing so he discovered what he describes as 5 stages that couples go through in a relationship. Couples naturally progress from one stage to the next, however, most couples are hung up at Stage 3, believing that they have arrived. Stalling at that point in the journey of real, lasting love, in turn, causes their relationships to falter.

Here are Jed Diamond’s 5 Stages of Love:

Stage 1 – Falling in Love

The natural first step for any relationship is obviously to fall in love. This process, aided by the feel-good hormones in our body including dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, is part of our natural biological makeup, helping us to select a mate and have children. In this stage, we wear the proverbial ‘rose-colored glasses,’ where we view our partner as being everything that we have ever dreamed of, our perfect partner. We are positive that we are destined to be together forever.

Stage 2 – Becoming a Couple

This is the stage where the couple begins to bond and develop their identity as a couple. It is during this time that couples move in with one another, adopt pets, have children. The head over heels lust of stage 1 passes, replaced by genuine feelings of connection and cohesiveness. We feel appreciated, safe, secure, cherished and cared for within our relationship.

Stage 3 – Disillusionment

The point where most couples fall apart, stage 3 is the point when reality steps in. We begin to notice the little things about our partners that bother us, and the dissatisfaction in our relationship grows. We no longer feel the love and care from the previous stages, replaced instead by anger and hurt. One or both of those in the relationship want to get or, or they settle for ‘existing together’ while accepting that their relationship is not what it used to be. Many couples tap out at this point, believing that their relationship can’t be salvaged but the truth is that this is a chance to see our partners for who they really are, free of any illusions or projections we had placed upon them in the early stages. If we are willing to work through the challenges, we have the opportunity to love deeper and better appreciate one another.

Stage 4 – Creating Real, Lasting Love

Now that we have worked through the challenges, we can work on healing together, creating an even deeper trust and love for one another. As we start to work through the healing process, working as allies, assisting one another in facing our demons we find that our partnership is closer knit than ever before. The love that we thought was once gone begins to return, opening our eyes once again to the fact that we may have found ‘the one.’ We begin to better understand one another, learning about one another’s past hurts and struggles. In helping our partner, we also learn to love ourselves.

 Stage 5 – Using the Power of Two to Change the World

As we learn to work through our differences and find a real, lasting, genuine love it opens our eyes to the power that love has in today’s society. We begin to believe that we can work through some of the bigger issues in the world through teaching and sharing that which we have now discovered. Whether you are guiding someone else through the stages of their own relationship or using the power of love to work towards healing in society as a whole, as a couple you work together to share the gift you have been given.