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Stages of Intimacy in Marriage

by Alexis Aiger

Intimacy in marriage tends to go through several stages that each have a different effect on the perception of intimacy and the relationship as a whole. The passion and romance stage that dominates the beginning of marriage soon gives way to the realization and rebellion stage, which may then flow into the distraction and cooperation stage. When life slows, you may find yourself in the reunion and resurfacing stage, before you settle into the completion and contentment stage.

Passion and Romance

In the first stage of intimacy, passion and romance prevail. You may find yourself thinking of your spouse constantly, anticipating getting home after work, and imagining the passion you will experience later in the evening. Your brain releases dopamine, chemicals associated with pleasure, during this stage, that result in the feelings of euphoria you experience, according to Zoe Hicks, a licensed family and marriage counselor in her article, “The Five Stages of Intimacy” on YourTango. The focus is on the excitement of your recent union, and you focus your energy on the love and attraction that led you to your spouse, states Dr. Rita DeMaria, author of "The Seven Stages of Marriage."

Realization and Rebellion

Feelings of disappointment and questioning that accompany the realization and rebellion stage may throw couples for a loop. In this stage, the passion of early love no longer blinds you. You and your spouse assess the strengths and faults of one another. Early in the marriage, you may have found your spouse’s habit of not making the bed endearing. As you begin to see faults in your spouse, you may find this habit annoying. You may feel discouraged that a lasting marriage takes hard work, states Victor William Harris, a professor at the University of Florida. When euphoria no longer overwhelms your senses, you realize that there is more to keeping the relationship strong than steamy sex and unexpected romantic gestures. You and your spouse may attempt to assert yourselves within the relationship. This may lead to power-struggles as you try to get the relationship to conform to your needs while your spouse attempts the same feat, DeMaria states. The absence of early passion may lead you to feel as if intimacy is missing. This provides, however, an opportunity to learn communication and conflict techniques that may improve emotional intimacy.

Distraction and Cooperation

The newness of wears off, you have taken a more realistic look at marriage and your communication skills have improved to keep the emotional intimacy of the relationship strong. As the years go on, though, you find that daily life creates a relationship that is more about cooperation than passion. Bills need to be paid, kids need to be cared for, chores and errands need to be completed, and little time is left to nurture the marital relationship. This stage may lead to what seems like an ever-widening distance between yourself and your spouse, as you feel more like friends or business partners than spouses, according to DeMaria. Hicks suggests that to keep the marriage healthy, it is necessary to carve out time for one another. You can restore those feelings of intimacy and passion with a regular date night that enables you to remember the romance that brought you together.

Reunion and Resurfacing

The earlier stages eventually fade, as the responsibilities of life and parenting decrease. When kids leave for college or move out on their own, you and your spouse will have more time for one another. Less focused on the day-to-day tasks of parenting and climbing the employment ladder, you can focus on getting to know each other again. The passion felt in the initial stages may return and you may relive positive memories while also making new memories, according to DeMaria. In this stage, you may see your spouse as more than a wonderful parent to your children. You will appreciate your spouse as the person you love, with full knowledge of both of the faults.

Completion and Contentment

In the final stage in marriage, you find contentment and the feeling of true love reigns strong. Your rejuvenated relationship results in a feeling of completion as you find comfort in the life you and your spouse have created. Emotional and physical intimacy may increase during this stage. In this stage, you look at your spouse and realize that you are lucky to have found a life partner, someone who completes you.

About the Author

Alexis Aiger has been writing professionally since 2010 on parenting, relationship and mental health topics. She has a master's degree in mental health counseling from Walden University and a bachelor's degree in psychology from Portland State University. She has worked as a counselor and case manager for several years.

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