Navigating the 5 Stages of Love & Surviving the Turbulent  Waters of Stage 3 Disillusionment


Valentine’s Day is celebrated as a day of love. For those who are in a loving, committed, relationship it is a time of special gifts, cards, and chocolates. For others, it is a time when we dream about real lasting love and hope it will be ours someday. Like many I grew up in a family with a mother and father who had serious wounds in their own families and the lessons I learned distorted my love map.

For more than fifty years I have been helping men and women learn from my mistakes as well as my successes as a marriage and family counselor. If you have visited me at you have seen my welcome videos, “Confessions of a Twice-Divorced Marriage Counselor.” You also know that I finally learned the secrets of real lasting love and have been joyfully married to my wife, Carlin, for 43 years now.

I share what we learned in my book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative States of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come. This is the time of year where I get a lot of calls for private counseling. Women and men in a relationship where they have been struggling decide that this year things are going to get better, or I’m getting out. Single men and women decide, I’m going to find that special someone that I can spend my live loving and being loved.

I’ve developed a self-guided on-line course for those who don’t need, or can’t afford, private counseling but know that they want more from their love lives than they are getting and want to give more than they are currently giving.

We all want real, lasting love, whether we are in our 20s, 30s, 40s, 50s, or beyond. Yet too many relationships fall apart, just when the couple could be enjoying their marriage the most. Most people don’t know why. They become disillusioned, frustrated, and lost. They have fallen out of love and mistakenly believe that they have chosen the wrong partner. After going through the grieving process, they start looking again; but often, their efforts end up in disappointment.

Those who have been in a relationship that has gone bad still want love but don’t want to repeat the same mistakes.

I’ve counseled thousands of individuals and couples over the years. I’ve gathered together everything I would have liked to have learned when I was struggling in my past relationships and what I wished I had learned before I jumped into a second marriage. I put it all into a course, “Navigating the 5 Stages of Love.” You can learn more here. In this season of love and romance, many would like some real guidance to unlock the mysteries of love.

The 5 Secrets For Finding Real Lasting Love

            Have you ever wondered why finding the right partner and having a love life that is passionate, nurturing, loving, and joyful has been so difficult?

            Do you ever feel like you repeatedly pick the wrong person to fall in love with?

            Have you ever felt like you are looking for love in all the wrong places?

            Are you in a relationship that started off great, but seems to have lost something vital?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you are not alone. I’ve been there myself. Here are five secrets I’ve discovered that helped me find real lasting love.  

~ Love Secret #1: There are 5 Stages of Love Not Just Two.

            Many of us have come to believe that finding the right person (Stage 1) is the most important stage (Hence all the programs and dating sites that promise to help you find your soul mate). Once you’ve found that special someone, Stage 2 begins and you build a life together. We are told we are then entitled to live happily ever after. But that is not the case for most of us. Here are the 5 Stages:

  • Stage 1: Falling In Love
  • Stage 2: Becoming a Couple
  • Stage 3: Disillusionment
  • Stage 4: Creating Real, Lasting Love
  • Stage 5: Using the Power of Two to Change the World

~ Love Secret #2: Stage 3, Disillusionment, is Not the Beginning of the End But the Entre to Real Lasting Love.

            If we believe there are only two stages for having the relationship we’ve always wanted when things start to go south we ignore the signs or try to fix what is wrong. When things don’t get fixed we often blame ourselves or our partner and real we must get out of the relationship because it seems that no matter what we do, things don’t get better.

            There is an old saying that can help us at this point, “When you’re going through hell, don’t stop.” Most people either stay stuck in their pain or bail out. What is called for here is to keep going. One of the most important things I teach people when they come to me for counseling is how to understand the value of Stage 3.

~ Love Secret #3: Stage 3 Teaches Us to Be Real.

            Falling in love is by necessity deceptive. We so want to find that right person, we all project our unmet needs and desires on them. We don’t see the real person, we see what we want and hope to see. We don’t fully share our real selves. We share the parts of ourselves we think will be most attractive to a potential partner.

            In Stage 3 we learn to recognize our projections and take the risk to slowly reveal who we really are and accept the gift of who our partner really is. We also recognize that there are unhealed wounds from our past relationships, most importantly from our first relationships—the ones we had growing up in our first family with our parents. We must get real with our past in order to have the future we all want.

            The famous psychiatrist Carl Jung said,

“The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.”

This is never an easy task. Stage 3 can help us release the illusions that keep us from our true selves.

~ Love Secret #4: We All Have Faulty Love Maps That Must Be Corrected.

            Most of us grew up in families where we got a distorted map of what real lasting love was all about. There were beliefs about ourselves and others that were implanted in our brains and became mostly unconscious. We were implanted with internalized messages that told us things like:

  • I am not safe.
  • I am worthless.
  • I am powerless.
  • I am not lovable.
  • I cannot trust anyone.
  • I am bad.
  • I am on my own.

As a result we become like confused homing pigeons always flying ever faster towards addictive and disastrous relationships and away from good people and potentially wonderful relationships. It is like having a compass that always seems to take us South when we want to go North. Does that sound familiar?

~ Love Secret #5: Real Lasting Love Requires Three Simple Ingredients.

            Most of us have no idea how to nourish a healthy relationship. It’s as though we are given a beautiful and rare flower, but me mistakenly give it too much water or not enough. I thought all I need to do when I got married was to be a good provider and refrain from being mean and nasty (Oh, and remember to shower regularly). But it took me a long time to learn the simple, yet necessary ingredients for real lasting love to flourish.

            Psychologist, Dr. Sue Johnson, offers guidance in her book, Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love. She helps us remember these three ingredients with one simple word: ARE.

  • A is for Accessibility: Can we reach each other? This means staying open to your partner even when you are tired, hurt, or insecure. Answering “yes” to questions like: Can I get my partner’s attention easily? Is my partner easy to connect with emotionally?
  • R is for Responsiveness: Can we rely on each other to respond to our emotional needs?  Answering “yes” to questions like: If I need connection and comfort, will you be there for me? Does my partner respond positively to my signals that I need them to come close?
  • E is for Engagement: Do we trust our partner to value us and stay close even when we are out of sync with each other? Answering “yes” to questions like, Do I feel very comfortable being close to and trusting my partner? If we are apart, can I trust that we are still connected and cared for?

Most of us didn’t learn how to give and receive real lasting love. We forget that like food, we need these three types of nourishment often, many times a day. A big splurge on anniversaries and special occasions never makes up for what we miss if we don’t get these regular gifts of love every day.

I hope this was helpful to you. If you’d like to receive the gift of having my on-line course “Navigating the 5 Stages of Love,” I think you will find it’s a gift that keeps on giving long after you get it.

If you want to learn more about counseling or to subscribe to my free weekly newsletter, come visit me at

The post Navigating the 5 Stages of Love & Surviving the Turbulent  Waters of Stage 3 Disillusionment appeared first on MenAlive.

Article link