A couple is a reality that is constantly being constructed and reconstructed (evolution). The fact that two people are in love doesn’t imply that they won’t have a relationship crisis, or other difficulties, or conflicts. By the same token, there are some common moments of crisis in long-term relationships.
Each relationship is a world unto itself. It has its own strengths and weaknesses, just as it has its own intrinsic conflicts. Even so, there can be a relationship crisis or more than one in long-term couples. Some types are very common. These are moments in which some specific factors that destabilize the relationship appear.
There are mainly four moments of crisis in long-term relationships: when love ends, when someone takes the decision to formalize the union, when children are born, and, finally, when the children leave the house. Let’s look at each of these in more detail.
See also: Love
1. Relationship crisis – the end of love
This is the first common crisis in long-term relationships. It normally happens one year after starting the relationship. Studies say that, on average, love as such lasts around three months. Nevertheless, its effects last a little longer. Let’s remember, in any case, that this is an approximate statistic, which talks about averages and not specific cases.
The end of love implies a rupture away from the romantic ideals. In other words, we stop seeing our partner as a perfect or fundamentally extraordinary being. At this point, all of the defects in our partner are displayed. This implies a readjustment of the expectations and, at the same time, a crisis. Many couples which looked perfect at first end after a year to a year and a half. This is due to the shift from the ideal to the real.
See also: Breakup
2. Making it formal – a common relationship crisis in stable relationships
Normally, some three years after beginning a relationship, another common crisis for long-term relationships appears. This is that moment in which the idea of “going to the next level” begins to float around. That is, deciding to live together or not. Again, a readjustment that leads to a moment of instability appears here.
At this point, the relationship can take one of many different paths. In the best case, both partners agree to live together or not. This then becomes true acceptance of the other and the transformation into a mature relationship. Others do not agree on the next step to take. Because of this, it is normal for this to lead to break or for the couple to become distant with one another, which can lead to separations or breakups.
3. The arrival of children – a moment of crisis
The arrival of children is another factor that forces restructuring of the relationship. This is one of those moments in which some cracks in the relationship can make themselves visible. It is also common for old unresolved conflicts to resurface, even some from childhood. What appeared stable can begin to wobble.
In this stage, the relationship is relegated to second place because the primary role becomes that of parents. The children become the priority. Sometimes, there are disagreements in how to best raise them. At other times, one of the partners comes to believe that the responsibility is so great that it overflows. It’s probably that the inability to deal with these conflicts can lead to a break. If the relationship can manage to handle the difficulties, it will become a stronger family.
4. The empty nest and new challenges
Even though the couple may have managed to deal with all of the previous stages, the pair still has to face the moment when the children grow up and leave the home. The two are once again alone together after many years. Each one of them has changed significantly during that time and the couple practically has to get to know and recognize one another again.
In the past, couples got married earlier and, because of that, the empty nest crisis took place before the age of 50. In those cases, many couples felt they were still young enough to start over again. Now this autumn re-encounter takes place later. Because of this, breakups are not very common at this stage, but it can turn out to be a time of heavy conflicts. Overcoming them can lead to recovering dormant parts of the relationship.
Even though both members of a couple might love each other deeply, this does not prevent difficult moments in the relationship. Crises in stable relationships are great opportunities to reinforce and strengthen the links between the couple and give the relationship more depth and substance.