Four Stages of Marriage

Most marriages go through a series of stages.  Most marriages go through a series of stages.  These are:

  • Romance
  • Disillusionment
  • Misery
  • Awakening

Due to the high divorce rate, many couples never make it to the 4th Stage of Awakening.


Most of us are familiar with the first 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, and all that mattered was being together. No matter how much we saw other couples going through struggles, we knew that was not us.  They didn’t have what we had.  

Life was going to be wonderful, and everything would be perfect. 


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 second 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 to continue.

They give up on the marriage, and divorce during this second Stage of Disillusionment.  Some continue on.


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 third 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. Many believe the pain is too intense.  Too much has happened.  There is nio way to forgive and move on,  restoration of love and trust seems impossible…  things can never be the same.   When children are involved, this third 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 significantly more likely to repeat the same mistakes, and experience the effects of yet another 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 can help.

Teams of couples who have experienced all four 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 third Stage of Misery into the fourth Stage of Awakening.

Whether you are in the Disillusionment Stage grieving the loss of that magical Romance or if you have moved firmly into the Misery Stage, Retrouvaille can give you the marriage help you need to rebuild your marriage.


Tens of thousands of couples have turned their marriages around by giving this program a chance.

Can you save your marriage by attending and working the Retrouvaille program?

You will never know until you try. Call the phone number or send an email to the caring Retrouvaille volunteers in your area. Ask them those tough questions that keep nagging at you in the back of your mind.

The people answering the phone or responding to your email are people just like you who have been there and pushed through to the fourth Stage of Awakening. They will be able to relate to your feelings of hopelessness and loss. They will do their best to give you the answers you need about this program.

Be assured that all contacts are held in the strictest confidence.

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