Stage 4 of a Relationship - ALIGNMENT

by Elaine Sihera - Date: 2007-04-20 - Word Count: 604 Share This!

The most enduring unions are based on alignment, or accommodation, of the couple as partners. After the conflict and frenetic activity of the Stage 3 familiarisation and accommodation struggle, this is a welcome oasis of calm. Here the power struggle is greatly reduced and expectations move to a higher, more pronounced level of mutual trust and genuine love. However, many couples, stung by the hurt and damage of the preceding tumultuous times, may remain stuck in Stage 3 or part from each other for ever.

A noticeable shift in thought takes place at this alignment stage, from a reactive to a proactive approach, and a sense of acceptance enters the relationship. The most crucial task for couples now is to reinvigorate their relationship and connection as a twosome. This involves learning positive interaction skills and cultivating creativity which then redefines the union. Each person takes responsibility for his/her own problems and sheds the illusion that their partner is the key to their happiness. Each partner becomes fully aware of the other's personal world and feels comfortable with this difference. It is finally clear that you can't reshape your partner as he will never change, so clear boundaries and trade-offs are now respectfully determined to accommodate this difference.

In this stage of virtual independence, each spouse gives up on changing the other and begins to concentrate on her/himself. He realises his partner cannot meet all his expectations and begins to find other ways to have those needs met. She is likely to become more self-loving instead of always seeking love from him. He also reclaims his own projections that he fought against in his partner. For example, the emotionally repressed man with the 'too emotional' wife begins to accept his own emotional side. The paradox of this independent stage is that we first have to be self-loving before we can receive love from others. We have to be capable of being independent before we can become interdependent and we have to nurture a good relationship with ourselves before we can have a healthy relationship with another. In short, until we are whole within ourselves, not just halves of a couple, we cannot have a healthy relationship.

Stuck at Different Stages
Looking back with cold detachment on my own long relationship, I can see that I had already reached the alignment stage of independence and self-love while my ex-husband was back there in the insecure, familiarisation stage. There were so many things I wanted to do, to achieve and to experience, due to a greater awareness of my identity and desires. For example, being an African Caribbean in a society not noted for successful minorities suddenly assumed importance and influenced my next choice of career after teaching. Unfortunately, it brought me into the public eye at the same time my ex was still coming to terms with his own identity and needs, with his own sense of achievement and appreciation of himself, as well as the new me!

He simply wanted a quiet wife in his corner and this difference kept him stuck in the anxiety stage while I rapidly moved on. The tragic result was that everything I did he regarded with suspicion and negativity, accompanied by lots of accusation and blame. Being at different stages of the relationship, without an opportunity to share perspectives, there was no movement or resolution between us until the end. I did not understand this distinction and barrier between us until I began to study relationships in earnest.

But how do you get from angst and frustration to accommodation, from conflict to resolution? It's not easy but there are four key actions to help.

Related Tags: happiness, expectation, calm, interaction, accommodate, alignment, congruence, independence. respect

ELAINE SIHERA (Ms Cyprah - and is an expert author, public speaker, media contributor and lifestyle columnist. The first Black graduate of the OU and a post-graduate of Cambridge University. Elaine is a CONFIDENCE guru and a Personal Empowerment, Relationships and Diversity Consultant. Author of: 10 Easy Steps to Growing Older Disgracefully; 10 Easy Steps to Finding Your Ideal Soulmate!; Money, Sex & Compromise and Managing the Diversity Maze, among others (available on as well as her personal website). Also the founder of the British Diversity Awards and the Windrush Men and Women of the Year Achievement Awards. She describes herself as, "Fit, Fabulous, Over-fifty and Ready to Fly!"

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