University of Florida

The Three Stages of Marriage

Love is powerful force—it can make the strongest men cry, cause a person’s heart to flutter, or even start wars. When two people find that special someone and fall in love, then they may get married. However, many star-crossed lovers are unaware that marriage is hard work, and they don’t realize their relationship may change.

Learn about the three stages of marriage and discover tools you can use to have a happy ending.

Stage 1: Romantic Love

The first stage of marriage begins before a couple is married and within the first few years of being wed. During this time, couples have strong senses of romance, passion, and physical attraction.

Stage 2: Discouragement and Distraction

When a couple realizes that marriage is hard work, then they have entered the second stage. From caring for children to working and paying bills, couples can grow apart because they have less alone time to talk and rekindle their romance.

Stage 3: Separation, Adjustment with Resignation, or Adjustment with Contentment

The third stage is when couples consider staying together or separating—about 40% of couples decide to separate. When couples decide to stay together, they can either grow further apart or discover ways to develop a deeper love with romance again.

Although separation may feel like the only option, more than 90% of couples—who faced the third stage—said they were happy they stayed together, according to two independent studies.   

Tools to Use

Here are some strategies that you can use to have a happy, long-term marriage.

  • Don’t believe all myths about marriage.
  • Learn ways to enhance your relationship by reading books and websites.
  • Attend marriage counseling—seek help early to avoid serious conflict later.
  • Focus on things you like about your partner, and overlook the insignificant things you dislike.
  • Rather than believing only your partner needs to change, changing yourself—by learning new knowledge or gaining new attitudes and skills—can make a positive adjustment.
  • Visit community-based organizations to get involved with activities such as couple date nights, retreats, and topic-driven classes.

For more UF/IFAS publications about marriage and intimate relationships, visit

Adapted and excerpted from:

V. W. Harris, “Three Stages of Marriage” (FCS2312), UF/IFAS Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department (Accessed 07/2014).  

V. W. Harris and G. Hinton, “10 Things You Need to Know Before You Get Married” (FCS2319), UF/IFAS Family, Youth and Community Sciences Department (Accessed 07/2014).  


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