The Six Stages of Marriage

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. ~Mignon McLaughlin

Marriage is an evolving process of change with ups and downs, twists and turns. Most couples don’t realize that there are predictable stages occurring throughout the life of the marriage. Awareness of these stages can reduce stress and conflict during the tough times. When you understand there are often predictable stages that all couples typically go through, you can navigate safely through and sometimes past the tough times. Here are the six stages of marriage:

1. Fascination Stage – Everybody loves this stage because it is so full of vigor, passion and romance. You are in love and are clear that you want to spend the rest of your life with your partner. You love their quirks and appreciate their differences. You think about your spouse throughout the day and you feel like you are one!

“Don’t be a buzz kill. When your spouse shares something exciting, match their enthusiasm.” ~Unknown

2. Awakening Stage – The second stage involves day to day living together and how each partner shoulders their responsibilities when living together. In this stage, you are beginning to know your spouse much better but their quirks are starting to annoy you. You begin to realize that he or she is not perfect. Perhaps you try to change their behaviors so they can be perfect, like you. Eventually sadness can develop and permeate the relationship because your expectations of the perfect marriage have begun to fade. At this point, discouragement kicks in with a lowered frustration tolerance of each other’s differences. This is the stage when I notice young couples begin to seek help for their marriage. I am pleased to say that I’ve noticed a positive trend emerging in our society; public awareness has encouraged couples to seek help in therapy and begin to reap the benefits of marriage therapy for their relationship. Couples who do not have a strategy to keep themselves strong and intimate tend to drift apart.

“Don’t worry that children never listen to you; worry that they are always watching you.” ~Robert Fulghum

3. Turbulence Stage – During this stage of marriage, the frustration level is off the chart. If you didn’t have the communication skills to help you in stage two then stage three will be awful. The couple tends to get stuck in a painful cycle of bickering. This is when couples will typically consider getting a separation or a divorce. It is common for one or both partners to engage in activities that are detrimental to the marriage such as abusing alcohol, having an affair or some other destructive activity. Rather than focusing on how to improve their relationship skills, the focus is on what is wrong with the marriage. Rather than trying to reconnect, the couple often seeks escape. Couples with children tend to work harder on resolving their problems. This stage can be avoided if the couple tends to be proactive and they educate themselves on how to be successful in marriage. Unfortunately, many couples get stuck in this stage for the duration of their marriage. If you are in this stage now, get the help you need. This frustrating stage of marriage can be stopped and your marriage can be fixed.

“My dad told me on the day of my wedding, ‘Never go in a place that you wouldn’t take your wife.’” ~David Gibbs

4. Alliance Stage – This is where things start to make sense. The couple is more connected. They have learned the communication and problem solving skills that are needed to maintain intimacy and friendship. They have a respectful attitude toward each other. Their love has transcended from a tolerance of one another’s differences to an acceptance of each other as they are. They actually appreciate each other’s strengths and differences. Children tend to be the priority in most families but couples who reach this stage have made their marriage the priority.

“The most important marriage skill is listening to your partner in a way that they can’t possibly doubt that you love them.” ~Diane Sollee

5. Harmony Stage – Renewed passion and playfulness appear in this stage that is commonly referred to as “the empty nest”. The couple has more time together as their children reach the later teenage years. The couple in this stage has a greater understanding of fulfilling each other’s needs and a stronger appreciation of each other. These couples have developed a stronger friendship and they enjoy their time together.

“One of the nicest things you can say to your partner, “If I had it to do over again, I’d choose you.” ~Unknown

6. Fulfillment Stage – The couple is stable and secure at this point. They enjoy each other’s company and the life they have built together. The marriage honors one another and the couple sets an example for others to aspire towards.


Mark Webb is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice at South Georgia Psychiatric and Counseling Center in Valdosta. He is the author of How To Be A Great Partner.  Mark  has been in the field of helping individuals and couples since 1986. He has a vast amount of experience and he can have a very positive impact on your life and your relationship. If you are looking for individual or marriage counseling, please call his office in Valdosta, Georgia and his staff will help you set up an appointment.

South Georgia Psychiatric and Counseling Center
2704 N. Oak St. Blg B-3
Valdosta, Georgia  31602


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