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RECOGNIZING THE 7 STAGES OF MARRIAGE IS KEY TO GROWTH

"Our book invites you to rediscover your marriage so that you can mine the gold that exists within it," say Mel and Patricia Krantzler, authors of "The Seven Marriages Of Your Marriage."

"We have counseled thousands of couples in troubled relationships who have revitalized their lives together as they understand that every couple lives through many marriages throughout the years they spend together."Indeed, we'd all be in grave trouble, say the Krantzlers, if you and your partner remained the "same" people in the "same" marriage throughout the entire time you lived together. "A couple would smother in the boredom of each other's unchanging personalities, in the dreary predictability of each additional year of marriage. You would simply be older, worn-out couples of who you were at the time you took out your marriage vows."

On the other hand, if couples stretch and relate to each other differently in each stage of marriage, they might more easily weather the crises that occur in any marriage and, rather than considering divorce, make adjustments to the stresses they are experiencing from inside or outside the marriage.

Here is a brief overview of the Krantzlers' model of "the seven marriages of your marriage:"

The Movie-Marriage-In-Your-Mind Marriage: The first stage is denoted this because, "after all, we get more information about how to operate a washing machine than we do about how to function in a marriage; at least a set of instructions and a warranty come with the purchase of a washing machine.

But a marriage license comes with no such assurances - all it gives us is a license to fly by the seat of our pants over uncharted waters."

The biggest surprises - that we're different people with different tastes, opinions, beliefs, values and the like - occurs shortly after the honeymoon, resulting in "I never-knew" feelings," like "I never knew that she's a day person; he's a night person. . ."

Several challenges to a couple in this stage of the marriage are to define the meaning of husband and wife in such a way that you can retain your closeness as a loving couple yet remain separate in-di-viduals; that you can see your differences as personal attitudes rather than as signs of rejection or loss of love; and that you can create an adult relationship with your family of origin so that you can establish an independent life as a couple and still retain a loving, guilt-free, warm connection with your parents and other relatives.

The Our-Careers-Are-Everything Marriage: This state of marriage usually focuses on concerns in the world of work that crop up once a couple has decided to remain together. One challenge in changing focus includes resolving your career and economic dilemmas in ways that will move you closer together as a loving couple, because the tendency is for each of you to turn your spouse into a roommate rather than a lover. Another is to redefine your own personal identity so there is a balance between business and home, and you protect time for yourself as a couple. A third challenge is to make gender equality in your two-career marriage a reality in deeds as well as in words.

The Good-Enough-Parent Marriage: This marriage begins at the point when a couple decides to have a child, not when the baby is born. "All prospective parents, no matter how well prepared for parenthood, will experience a tempest of shocks and surprises once the infant arrives. In fact, shocks and surprises can begin during pregnancy," emphasize the Krantzlers.

Challenges include differentiating your child from your spouse and seeing your spouse as a separate individual as well as part of a threesome; incorporating into your personality a mature image of yourself as a mother or father in addition to your images of yourself in your other roles in life; and the challenge to overcome constructively your intense ambivalence concerning your need to work and your need to mother if you are a career-oriented wife with children.

The Time-Is-Running-Out Marriage: In this marriage come the receding hairlines, the wrinkles and the paunches that can no longer be rationalized out of existence; and your children become adolescent. It is in this time of life that people you know die; that men and women can become depressed in an age-haunted society; that shattered-dreams or unexpected tragedies occur.

Several challenges are to come to terms with your own aging process; to readjust your relationship with your children as they near adulthood; and to come to terms with the unfinished business in your life that exists from your family background.

The Is-This-All-There Is? Marriage: The period between 50 and 65 is too old to be considered young, too young to be considered old. And here comes the "empty nest," menopause, "boomerang children" who return home, grandchildren who may compete for your spouse's attention and the like.

Challenges include improving and deepening your relationships with your children and parents; widening the range of your experiences in life rather than contracting them; and, for women, getting in touch with their own personal power.

The End-Is-The-Beginning Marriage: This marriage begins with the retirement and will persist until one of you becomes a widow or widower. Issues such as retirement-disillusionment, despair and life-threatening-illnesses are not uncommon. Challenges include, together, stretching yourselves and realizing as much of your potential for happiness and growth as is humanly possible during all the remaining years of your life to-gether; informing yourself with the latest factual knowledge about aging, so you can act constructively at this time of life; and affirming the meaningfulness and richness of your past and present life together.

The After-Death Marriage: "Does a marriage end with the death of a spouse? Though a physical ending certainly takes place, the lived experience of a lifetime of partnership doesn't end with physical death," affirm the Krantzlers. "That lived experience remains very much alive in the person who lives on. Your spouse is now spirit rather than a physical entity, but that spirit remains `married' to you until you yourself become spirit. The challenges in this stage is to come to terms with the death without feeling guilty, or being found wanting or unfaithful; and fully accepting life's supreme invitation to live with meaning.