No matter where you are in your own personal development, the right relationship for you exists. The question is, what are you really looking for in a life partner and what— emotionally —do you have to give in return? A bit of self-reflection and mutual clarification here can go a long way toward spotting some potential red flags in your relationship as well as permanently raising the bar for both of you. And if you are still looking, let this help to guide you in finding the right spouse.
The Stage Climbing Solution breaks down many aspects of life by your stage of development. These stages identify your level of maturity (which increases at each higher stage) and represent the different lenses through which you view that part of your life. With that in mind, here is how spouses and partners typically relate to each other by the stages:
- Stage One―The foundation of your relationship (and often the reason it even came to be) is principally security, dependency and neediness (e.g., emotionally and/or financially, etc.). Either or both of you may be preoccupied with “needing to be needed”. In the extreme, a partner who operates from this stage is sometimes experienced (and seen) by his or her partner as a “bottomless pit.”
- Stage Two―Usually, one partner strongly dominates the other and/or uses the relationship as a vehicle to act out in a variety of ways. Deception and even abuse is often the substitute for intimacy. What is not real can be lied about. (For example, demanding that your partner be faithful while secretly you are not.)
- Stage Three―Both the foundation and the climate for the relationship are grounded in dictums (often clichés or stereotypes) that are usually based on long-standing rules and traditions. In any case, they were not willfully chosen (e.g., how you met, your religious or ethnic backgrounds, who works, who stays home, the nature of your sex life, your policy on fidelity, etc.) . Disagreements often focus on who’s most compliant with whatever rules form the basis of your relationship. Whatever “book of rules” you abide by usually settles control issues and other conflicts as well.
- Stage Four―You each look to your relationship and to each other as a sources of love, validation and approval. In fact, there is often an inordinate degree of jealousy and insecurity. Your emphasis is on being loved (receiving) and validated as opposed to loving (giving). Perhaps you typically try to please your partner as a way of getting back at least as much or more affection. For example, when you say, “I love you,” it can mean, “I want you to love me”, and sometimes or often, you find yourself obsessing about that.
- Stage Five―You dutifully fulfill each other’s spouse/ relationship slot and all that it entails (e.g., sex partner, financial partner, tennis partner, companion, co-parent, someone with whom to share and be intimate, etc.). However, you are not necessarily governed by passion or a strong attachment that transcends your roles, in many areas of the relationship.
- Stage Six―This is a relationship grounded in passion for each other and operates at a high level of maturity. You look to your partner as one to love and support as opposed to someone from whom love, sex, support, and validation are merely expected. There is genuine caring, intimacy, and respect that is not predicated on what you get back. When you tell your partner “I love you,” you mean just that.
- Stage Seven―You are a team who selflessly works together in a common mission outside of yourselves (e.g., your children, your community, etc.). You can easily put your partner first and may even put your partner’s mission above your own without disdain or expecting a quid pro quo. Most importantly, at this highest level of maturity, you are beyond being attached to and/or governed by expectations or merely your own gratification.
In this crucial part of your life, what changes (for you or you and your partner) seem warranted? Of course, most relationships are a custom blend of at least several of the seven stages; and you can work together to make that blend one that provides you both an optimal degree of connection and fulfillment. There are few discussions the two of you can have, which could result in more long-term benefits if you are newlyweds, for example, than what kind of marriage do you really want