According to a study of hundreds of couples, carried out by Dr. Susan Campbell, every relationship goes through the following 5 stages:

Romance stage

Begins when we fall in love with someone.  It can last up to 2 years, then it ends as quickly as it began.  In this stage, we tend to ignore our partner’s flaws, we just don’t see them, our brain releases hormones, Oxytocin and Dopamine, that create love feelings, which make us feel good, but ignore what makes us feel bad.

You will only see what you have in common with your lover, the subconscious mind will hide your partner’s flaws.  You engage in many activities together, and there is high sexual activity within the relationship.  You try to only show “good” qualities to each other and avoid disagreement and fights.  You think you have met “the one” or have “can’t live without you” feeling.  Those love feelings can last from 2 months to 2 years.

This stage comes to an end once the going gets rough, when couples see their visions and dreams are not going to be realised as they had hoped.  Some couples would break up when this happens, only to discover that the same things repeat over and over again in their next relationship.  Others will move on to the next stage – Power Struggle stage.

Power Struggle stage

At this stage, the couple begins to realise that “you’re not who I though your were” or “we’re not who we thought we were”.  They start to focus on their partner’s differences and flaws.  They feel disillusioned, disappointed, or angry.  They are not sure what are their partner’s emotional needs.  They don’t understand why  his/her behaviours change after the “romance stage”.  One partner will pull away and withdraw, needing space …. and the other partner is needy, pusues and feels emotionally rejected.

In this stage, some people try to change their partner to be the way he/she was supposed to be or the way he/she promised to be.  For others, the belief that threat, force, manipulation, or domination, can get them what they want.  The power struggle becomes unconsciously a way of hurting their partner in retaliation for the disappointment one has suffered.

Couples can limp along miserably for years or the relationship can end abruptly because either or both partners are unwilling to confront aspects of themselves that maybe too scary or painful to face.  The power struggle stage is the most common stage for couples to get stuck.  Many couples decide to part ways at this stage  because they don’t know how to resolve conflict or seek professional help with a couple counselling. 

The goal of this stage of relationship is to be autonomous in your relationship, while maintaining the love connection with your partner.

  • Accept and appreciate each other’s differences.
  • Recognise who you are and what you have as a couple.
  • Give up your fantasies of harmony without struggle and pleasure without pain.
  • Look upon each other as free and unique beings.
  • Give up being perfectionist.
  • Surrender to life as it is.

If the relationship survives the power struggle stage, it moves into “Stability” stage – a more accepting, more peaceful stage. 

 

Stability stage

At this stage,  the couple accepts one another as individual persons and they learn mutual respect.  They realise that they cannot change their partner and give up the desire to.  They learn how to manage their conflicts, rather than being upset by them.  They set clear boundaries, negotiate differences and define role expectations.

However, if the couple becomes too attached to the hard won peace and stability, their relationship might stop growing and stagnates.  All growth involves risk, pain and uncertainty, it requires a change and step outside comfort zone.

Commitment stage

This is actually the stage when couples should marry and not in the infatuation period of the ‘romance’ stage. When you reach this level, you not only love, but you feel secure in your relationship.  You like each other, and choose to be together without needing to be together.  You are committed to your relationship, and realise as humans we all have flaws.

The Bliss or Co-creation stage

At this stage, the couple as a “team” moves beyond their personal relationship and their focus extends into the world; they may start a family, create a business or some other project together. These stages don’t necessarily occur in a particular order.  It is important for couples to remember to continue to nurture and not neglect their intimate relationship while focusing outward.

Fear is an important emotion that often help to keep us safe by warning us of danger. Yet, fear can also prevent us from having fun or benefiting from positive experiences for no good reason like travelling overseas, riding a motorbike, making new friends or changing career.

We should not allow fear to control and take away our personal power and limit our experience. Avoiding your fears only prevent you from moving forward – it makes you anxious and will exhaust you because you are constantly thinking about different ways of avoiding the situations.

By letting fear dictate your actions, it can hold you back from your dreams, you can miss out on things that can give you a free, fuller life and make you happier. I know it’s not easy to just “getting over it” or “just do it”, but ultimately, the only way to deal with fear is to face it.  To overcome fear is a personal process – you need a lot of inner strength and a good amount of coping strategies, self-talk and perhaps counselling to help you rise above what you find frightening enough to completely avoid it.

Would you want to be held captive by fear and go through life wondering “what if”? Feelings of regret and missing out can lead to many problems later in life such as midlife crisis, depression or anger issues. However, you can learn to control your thoughts and replace – the worries with hope, the fear with determination, you can become fearless in the pursuit of your passion.

Be kind to yourself when facing your fears for the first time – it is a process and it may take time for you to fully achieve it. If you find yourself getting more panicky, take a break and find something pleasant or comforting to notice or do. You can try to explore your fear again when you feel calmer, taking breaks as needed. It’s ok to try, fail and to try again. What’s important is to keep trying and make a bit more progress each time.

Here are some things you can do to face your fears:

1.     Acknowledge your fears

Acknowledging your fears will help you understand what you are feeling and allow you to work towards overcoming them.

2.     Expose yourself to your fears

The only way to face fear is exposing yourself gradually to your fears. For example, facing the fear of flying – start by watching the planes taking off and landing at the airport, once you feel confident that plane travel is safe, the next step is to take a short flight to a nice destination that you have always wanted to visit, do a few more short trips then progress to a longer flight overseas.  You will start to feel less anxious as you consistently engage in what you were once afraid of.

3.     Manage your stress

Stress and fear often go hand in hand. Breathing exercise and mindfulness meditation are two great techniques to reduce stress levels.  Whenever you’re in a moment of fear, you can engage in deep breathing to help bring those stress levels down. If fear or anxiety  arises, be curious, observe the anxiety.  Notice how your body feels, and any associated thoughts. See if you can observe it as it is, don’t get involved in the story or try to avoid it. If you get too agitated, turn your attention to something neutral, like your breath or stop and take a little walk.

4.     Think about the outcome

In facing our fears, we will grow instead of being stuck. Try something new and challenging is a great way to face your fears. The hardest part is doing something out of your comfort zone for the first time, but once you’ve tried it you may find it wasn’t as scary as you thought, and the next time you do it things will be easier.

Once your fear is conquered, you are fully in charge of your life. Focus on the feeling of accomplishment and a sense of pride in achieving your goal. are