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The Phases and Stages of Marriage, with Ask the Experts' John Thurman

Phase # 1- Lusty Love and Passion

The first stage of marriage is that wonderful, romantic stage, the urge to merge. It is a time of lusty, passionate love. You are in hormone heaven. You have finally found the perfect lifetime partner. She always looks good, smells good and never goes to the bathroom. He opens the door for you, is well-mannered and never makes any body noises.

Life is so wonderful we couldn’t stand to love without the other. Our feelings and thoughts constantly turn to our partner when we are not with them.

The first five years (in some cases) can be exhilarating as the newlywed couple experience a series of new “firsts” together-their first Christmas as a married couple, first dinner party for the in-laws, even their first joint tax return. At the same time, the early years require some radical adjustments, which can be very stressful for the relationship.

For example, when we were first married, I thought that a towel was designed for drying hands and other body parts after hand washing and showers. No one told me that if a towel had letters other than Holiday Inn on it that it was only there as a decorative item.

According to relationship research most divorces occur in the first five years of a marriage, with the highest incidence of divorce coming in year three.

According to research done by the Center for Marriage and Family at Creighton University (2000) the top three issues for couples in this phase of a marriage are time, sex and money.


Newlyweds have to keep up with their spouse’s schedule, as well as their own. Add in jobs, school, time for new in-laws and private time together, and it may seem like you a hamster in a cage, running 90 miles and hour and getting nowhere.

Tip: Take a look at where your time is going and begin to take baby steps to manage it better.


Sex should be fun and easy part of marriage. After all, you are married and have the correct plumbing. Why would this be an issue? Despite the conventional wisdom that your sexual relationship should be comfortable and exciting, especially during the early years of marriage, many couples report problems around the frequency and quality of sexual relations. Some of these issues can be related to past sexual behaviors, abuse, rape, the impact of porn, and the lack of practical sexual education.

Tip: Developing mutually gratifying, and rewarding intimacy takes time, energy, and intentionality. Pace yourself, deal with any issues that may holding you or your spouse back, and always take a shower.


Are you a spender or a saver? I would be will to bet that your spouse is just the opposite.

Most newly marrieds are at the beginning of their earning curve. The are also in the process of learning to understand and blend their individual attitudes towards money. All of this can create additional stress on the relationship. This is compounded by the fact that most couple bring debt into the relationship, and some couples accumulate too much debt.

Another issue tied in with money is:”Who has the power to make money decisions?” Many couples think they are egalitarian, as in, “Oh, we share everything.” The wife finds herself uncomfortable with the way he spends “their” hard earned money and he is annoyed that she seems obsessed on being a “Coupon Diva.”

Other stressors include parenting, religious differences and conflict resolution. Sometimes the very issues that bring a couple together, a child, faith, as well as personality and communication styles can cause stress in the relationship.

Tip: Hang out with other newly married couple. It will help you realize that you are not alone.

And here are some other ideas before you tie the knot:

⋄  Keep dating. Make sure you make time to be a couple.

⋄  Get to know couples who have been married longer than you have. The know more about the ups and downs of a relationship and can be a source of information.

⋄  Take a couple class through your church, parish, of community mental health agency. I like to recommend three books for newlyweds. “For Men Only” and “For Women Only” by Shaunti & Jeff Feldhahn, and “The Five Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman.

As a licensed counselor and speaker, I facilitate a couple of Saturday morning “Get a Grip on Your Relationship” workshops in the Albuquerque area. For more information contact me at

Ask the Expert a question

Ask the Experts panelist John Thurman is a licensed marriage and family therapist with Christian Therapy Services in Albuquerque. Find him at

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About John Thurman

John is seasoned, licensed counselor with more than 35 years of experience helping individuals, couples and families “Get a Grip on Life” by using a practical, forward-looking style that blends the principles of positive psychology with a down-to-earth, common sense approach. John and his wife have been on their own relationship adventure for the past 40 years.

“While we have no control over the past we do have control over our future” is his motto.

Disclaimer: Articles posted by John Thurman are not intended to in any way be a substitute for professional help.