Stages of Marriage

September 7, 2011 under Syllabus 2011-2012


This week’s topic should help every man understand where he and his spouse are in their “stage” of marriage. Deacon Dave Shea will reprise this discussion to help the men of Father’s team get the most out their marriage.


This topic will help all the Father’s – no matter what stage of marriage they are in, Newly Married, Middle Years or Later Years) understand the issues and opportunities that we face as men in our marriages. Each stage brings new challenges and Dave will help us recognize our stage and then be able to talk with our spouses about how to make the most out of our marriages.

Newly Married

· The first five years can be exhilarating as couples experience new “firsts” together- their first Christmas as a married couple, first dinner party for the in-laws, even their first joint tax return. At the same time, the early years require personal adjustment, which is stressful on the relationship.

· Sometimes it’s poor choice of partner. Couples who entered enthusiastically- but blindly- into marriage soon see their spouse’s shadow side when there’s no longer a need to keep up a good front. They realize that they married a person who doesn’t share the remote, likes to chatter in the morning or, worse yet, doesn’t share their values.

· Others fall prey to the stresses of early marriage. Some of these stresses might be age-related. Young couples may not have developed the emotional maturity, coping and communication skills, or financial savvy to navigate the many decisions thrust upon them early in their marriage. Hanging in and learning the art of negotiating can resolve these issues, but it takes maturity and patience.

· Help is available if the couple has the wisdom and humility to seek it. The most important thing to remember is that most of the early stressful adjustments in marriage are normal. Beyond leaving the the toilet seat up or down, what are the important issues that need to be negotiated?

· According to research done by the Center for Marriage and Family at Creighton University (2000) the top three issues for couples during the first five years of marriage are time, sex, and money:

Middle Years

· For most couples, parenting is the most distinctive feature of this stage. It may be compared to the middle years of childhood (ages 5-12), which is sometimes called the latency stage. Although the child continues to grow, this growth tends to be steady and without significant turmoil.

· Some couples-the “sandwich” generation-find themselves taking care of children plus aging parents. Meanwhile, their marriage and personal needs may be pushed into the background, unless a crisis erupts. Couples in the middle stage of marriage often must renegotiate household, financial, and parenting tasks. The stress of these multiple adjustments helps explain why the marriage satisfaction rate drops significantly for parents with young children.

· While rearing children can unite parents in a common venture, it also changes the marriage irreversibly. There is more to argue about and less time for conversation, play and sexual intimacy.

· During the teen years, parents generally find that they need more emotional than physical energy. Parents stress out over how strict or lenient they should be with their teens. Parents begin to lose control over their teens, but they still bear the responsibility of parenting without the rewards of children who look up to them as if they walked on water. Marital dissatisfaction decreases significantly for most couples during the teen years.

· Couples who do not have children have their own issues to deal with. They may want children and have been dealing with infertility. If many of their friends have children they may they feel left out. They may be so consumed with career or extended family obligations that their marriage relationship has become stale.

Later Years

· The later years includes the blissful “empty-nest” season of a marriage that can feel like a second honeymoon. Many couples welcome their new freedom,” while others have a hard time letting go. Sometimes a couple who happily thought they were in the empty-nest stage are faced with a boomerang young adult who again needs their care, presence, home, and perhaps babysitting services. The later years can also bring major health issues and the gradual loss of abilities.

· Second marriage couples enter the later years of their lives but it’s the early years of their marriage. Men and women who marry after a divorce or death of a spouse, or after waiting for the right person, experience in their later years some of the same adjustments of young marrieds.

· Issues of diminishing health, grief over peers dying, and significant blocks of togetherness time are common. Thus, the wife who married her husband “for better or for worse, but not for lunch together!” becomes a poignant cliché.

· How do couples re-negotiate their relationship to take into account their new freedom, increased time together, possibly decreased income, and fading health and energy? Some do it with grace because over the years they’ve learned the marital dance of flexibility and tolerance. Some complain a lot, about life, each other, about the weather.

· Some may want to complain but know that’s not very endearing. Yet they struggle with letting go of the old patterns and roles of their life together. For these couples, the desire to let go with grace may be enough motivation to:

· Attend a marriage enrichment program geared especially to older couples

· Explore new hobbies and interests together

· Volunteer with their church, community, or other good causes that would benefit from their experience

· Deepen their spirituality to help them deal with the losses and limitations of later life

· Forgive others’ faults and drop long-held grudges

Bible Readings

1. Ephesians 5:22-25

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the savior of the body. 24Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.

Catechism Readings

1. Paragraph 1660

The marriage covenant, by which a man and a woman form with each other an intimate communion of life and love, has been founded and endowed with its own special laws by the Creator. By its very nature it is ordered to the good of the couple, as well as to the generation and education of children. Christ the Lord raised marriage between the baptized to the dignity of a sacrament (cf. CIC, can. 1055 § 1; cf. GS 48 § 1).

Small Group Questions

1. Look at the stages of marriage described in the lesson – where are you and your spouse?

2. What are you doing to get the most out of the stage of marriage today?

Recommended Resources

1. Stages of Marriage – Catholic conference of Bishops

2. Five Stages of Marriage –


1. When you go home today – initiate a discussion with your wife about what stage of marriage you are in and how you are dealing with the issues associated with that phase.


Rich Delcore

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