The 4 Stages of Marriage: Which one are you in?

Do you know what stage your marriage or relationship is in?

Generally, there are 4 stages to a marriage.  Different venues use different terminology, but they tend to have the same general meaning.  We related most to the stages that are titled and defined by  We went to a marriage weekend with Retrouvaille and it was a life-changing experience.  I will share more about that in another blog post!

On Facebook Live last week, we mentioned the stages of marriage while answering an “Ask Me Anything” question. (If you didn’t see it, ‘like’ us on Facebook so you can watch our weekly answers to some really deep questions.)

No matter what stage of life or marriage you are in right now, this information is hugely valuable.

The following is taken directly from the Retrouvaille website:

There are 4 Stages of Marriage: (1) Romance, (2) Disillusionment, (3) Misery, and (4) Awakening. Due to the high divorce rate many couples never make it to the 4th Stage of Awakening.


Most are familiar with the 1st Stage of Romance. Life was so wonderful we couldn’t stand to live without the other. Our thoughts often turned to the other when we were not with them. We had fallen in love and knew that this was the person we wanted to spend the rest of our life with. Little differences between us were cute and endearing.


At some point those little differences started to annoy us. We felt bothered by some of those same things that may have been cute a short time earlier. The self-talk in the back of our mind started wondering why our spouse couldn’t be more like us. We had entered into the 2nd Stage of Marriage, the Disillusionment Stage. During the Disillusionment Stage we start to realize that our spouse is not the perfect person that we had envisioned him or her to be. Sometimes, especially if our Romance Stage had been particularly intense, we are hurt deeply by this Disillusionment. We realize that the expectations we had of the perfect marriage were not going to happen. For some this realization is too heart wrenching and they give up on the marriage and divorce during this 2nd Stage of Disillusionment.


Many people stick with and try to work through their problems during Disillusionment. They seek the counsel of family, friends, clergy and marriage family counselors. Some of these people find the key they are looking for from these resources. Many others continue to struggle and their troubles worsen. Often the marriage deteriorates more deeply due to drug, alcohol or other addictions. Sometimes a third party relationship in the form of extramarital affairs result. As the couple finds themselves in this 3rd Stage of Marriage they know they have entered the Misery Stage.

The Misery Stage is where many couples find themselves considering a marriage separation or divorce. When children are involved this 3rd Stage of Misery is particularly difficult on them. Regardless of whether the couple stays together in misery or divorce the children often believe it is their fault regardless of assurances to the contrary. The effects of divorce on a child cannot be over emphasized. The pain is so intense during the Misery Stage that it is common to only want it to STOP. Much like the pain of a toothache that consumes your whole being you cannot seem to think of anything else besides stopping the pain. One spouse may be pushing hard for the divorce while the other wants to stop divorce.

If the couple ends the marriage at this point and remarry other partners they are more likely to experience the effects of divorce with their second or third spouse.


Most people whose marriages end in divorce are not bad people. Rather, they are often people who never learned the proper tools for a happy marriage. This is where Retrouvaille (pronounced re-tro-vi with a long i.) can help. Teams of couples who have experienced all 4 Stages of Marriage present the Retrouvaille program. Instead of giving up they found solutions. In Retrouvaille they learned the tools they needed to live a happy marriage. They learned that marriage does not follow the Romance and Happily Ever After formula portrayed in literature and media. Rather, they learn that there are certain learnable skills, attitudes and tools that they can use to deal with the inevitable problems of the real world.

These skills, attitudes and tools give them what they need to move from the 3rd Stage of Misery into the 4th Stage of Awakening.

Now, this last stage’s information is clearly meant to show that Retrouvaille can help couples move from misery to awakening…and they truly can.  But let me share with you what the awakening stage means to us….

  • It means that we have placed God at the center of our marriage, first and foremost.

  • It means that we have weathered some serious storms and know we will face more.

  • It means we understand that marriage is hard work (the kind of hard work that one is actually able to truly enjoy).

  • It means that we have a love deeper than we could have ever imagined back in the romance stage.

  • It means we seek out  God-centered tools and resources that will help us continue to strengthen our marriage.

  • It means there is no room for pride, malice, or contempt.

  • It means that forgiveness must reign in our lives every day.

  • It means that we are eternally grateful that we actually made it through misery.

May we all be awakened by God’s grace, mercy and love.

**If you are stuck in misery, consider contacting or any of the several christian marriage ministries that can help you move to awakening.


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