Stage 1: Disillusionment
After the bliss of falling in love (with the ideal person for you), a
new idea sneaks into your mind: your lover has some faults. You may
begin "psychologizing," e.g., "he is very self-centered," "she is nagging
like my mother," "he flirts with women to hide his sexual fears," "she
gets a lot more involved with the children than she does with me," etc.
If these feelings grow in either person, without being resolved, the
relationship is in trouble.
Stage 2: Erosion
The disappointments and fault-finding reduce the love and
attraction. They may not know what is wrong or what to say. If the
relationship is becoming a little strained, this is the best time to have a
good, straight talk or to seek marriage counseling. If no changes are
made, a lot of destructive interactions may take place: put each other
down, compete for attention, spend money carelessly, find new
interests, watch each other critically, avoid each other, stop
"confiding" or having sex.
Stage 3: Detachment
Each disappointment hurts. "Love dies a thousand deaths." Lovers
pull away to avoid hurts and sadness. If the isolation continues, it
becomes more and more difficult to return to being lovers. Sometimes
only one person is in the detachment stage; that is enough to kill the
relationship. In this stage, the couple share and talk little, imply that "I
don't care" even though they're hurting, and begin to think of other
possible partners. They can't decide to leave or not. Often anger sets
in--anger makes it easier to decide to separate.
Stage 4: Physical separation
Separating is a sure sign the relationship has failed. Before, you
might say, "we aren't getting along; we're fighting a lot," but now the
relationship is gone--lost. There are many reactions to separation:
often it is a painful, crushing void, sometimes if you have wanted out
for a long time it is a relief, usually there is loneliness, fear, and
feelings of failure. There are many adjustments to make--new place to
live, new routine, new people, etc.
Stage 5: Mourning and letting go
We mourn the loss of a partner, even one who has caused us pain.
It is the loss of a dream, if nothing else. We rid ourselves of the
"ghosts" of our past love, give up hope of reconciliation, and realize
the ex-lover is gone forever. Usually there is a mix of intense
emotions: sadness, anger, guilt, fear, hope. Often we spend hours
reliving the old relationship--how awful he/she was, how it should
have been, whose fault it was, etc. The person needs to "work