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Couples Development
Springer - Social Work ASWB Master's Exam
Social Work

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Theories Of Couples Development
Although relationships vary significantly, there are some predictable stages that characterize intimate relationships. Couples interactions follow a developmental model, much like those that explain individual growth throughout the life course. stages are not linear.
Stage 1: Romance
- individuals are introduced, find they have common interests
- largely consists of conversations and dates, getting to know each other
- Focus is attachment
- filled with passion, nurturing, and selfless attention to the needs of others
- Differences are minimized and partners place few demands on each other
- romantic bond is the foundation that is critical to the health of the relationship
- In this first stage, members engage in symbiotic or mutualistic relationships—often putting the needs of others before their own
- Differentiation and learning to balance and support the separate needs of others happens in later stages but is not present initially.
Stage 2: Power Struggle
- begin to see they have differences from their mates
- unique qualities result in unique needs that require an ongoing process of defining oneself and managing conflict, which threatens intimacy
- individuals focus on differences rather than similarities, which is the hallmark of the initial romantic stage
- Differentiation, or seeing oneself as distinct within a relationship, must be managed so that these new feelings do not result in breakups
- o “survive” this stage, individuals must acknowledge differences, learn to share power, forfeit fantasies of complete harmony, and accept partners without the need to change them
Stage 3: Stability
- redirection of personal attention, time, and activities away from partners and toward one’s self
- There is acceptance that partners are different from one
- the ultimate goal being intimacy that does not sacrifice separateness
Stage 4: Commitment
- Individuals the reality that both partners are human, resulting in shortcomings in all relationships
- Partners acknowledge that they want to be with each other and that the good outweighs the bad
Stage 5: Co-Creation
- Each partner is able to value and respect the separateness of the other
- The foundation of the relationship is no longer personal need, but the appreciation and love of the other and the support and respect for mutual growth
- this stage of couples development aims to create or nurture things that are enduring, often by creating positive change that benefits other people
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