When I overheard the woman standing in line behind me refer to her and her husband as being in that, "You know, married with a two-and-a-half-year-old stage," my ears perked right up. As nosey as I normally am, I didn't tune in because I wanted to hear the dirt on her marriage; I simply had no idea there was a married with a two-and-a-half-year-old phase of marriage—something you'd think an editor of a marriage magazine should know. Apparently her line-mate knew what she was talking about because she laughed that "say no more" kind of laugh along with her friend.
For the rest of the day, this comment kept popping back into my mind. I was fascinated—and a little humbled. This woman gave her marriage so much thought that she had it broken down into micro-phases—no vague "honeymooners" or "empynesters" for this woman.
To be honest, until that point I'd given little thought to the particular stages of my marriage. According to this woman's logic, even after five-and-a-half years my husband and I have gone through many phases: the "newly married in a little apartment, saving for a down payment phase," the "sorta newly married homeowners" phase, quickly followed by my favorite so far, the "married with two hairy dogs sleeping on my new couches" phase.
But in less than two months, my husband and I will enter the most jarring phase so far: the ever-popular "married with baby" phase. Now, I probably would've marked this one as significant even without hearing the odd words of the woman behind me, especially since this one involves me beginning a "no longer working outside the home" phase.
To be honest, I don't know how helpful it is to break apart a marriage in terms of phases and stages—as though a specific time period can definitively explain behaviors or feelings.
Really, it's just about experiencing life together. God has blessed us all with lives that hold all sorts of twists and ragged roads and quick-changes that we need to navigate. The best part of marriage is that we have someone to cross the bridges and trek the terrain of our lives with.
At MARRIAGE PARTNERSHIP, we strive to provide you with some road maps that will keep you from resigning yourselves to a particular phase and help you take charge of your journey together. Maybe right now you feel like you're in an "unhappy" phase (check out page 46), a "too busy" phase (try page 54), a "just want a shoulder rub that doesn't lead to sex" phase (you'll want page 26), or "my, how things change" phase (go to page 72).
Whatever stage you're in, embrace it, and thank God that he uses each one to help form you into the people he wants you to be.
Caryn D. Rivadeneira, Managing Editor
2001 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.