Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love. — Psalm 106.7
Love has five stages—though many people get stuck at the third stage—according to psychologist Jed Diamond. The first stage is easy enough: falling in love. “Your partner rapidly becomes the ideal person for you; they simply have no flaws of any kind,” a Brightside article on Dr. Diamond’s five stages summarizes.
In the second stage the two become a couple; “a time of unity and joy.” This is part of what makes the third stage—disillusionment—so jarring. “You start to feel like you want a break from them or even tell yourself they’re not the one for you.” And here, after months or even years, many people exit their relationship. But this doesn’t have to be the end.
Couples that work through the third stage, Dr. Diamond says, get to create real, lasting love. “Your mind is freed from these illusions which you projected onto your partner in the early stages” And it only gets better.
Once a couple has reached the beauty of the fourth stage of love, they have the opportunity for the fifth stage: using the power of two to change the world. It’s here that the marriage so many of us long for comes into full bloom. The fruit of a thriving marriage cannot be conjured from aspirations, it must be cultivated through sacrifice.
This doesn’t just happen in love, but also in community, and faith. Decades before Dr. Diamond, Dr. M. Scott Peck wrote of the four stages of community. In the first stage, called pseudo-community we pretend to be close; in the second stage, chaos, we project our ideals on others.
The third stage of community, emptiness, is where we give up our demands for one another and build an understanding of each unique person. It’s only after we have yielded our personal pursuits that we can nurture the fourth stage: authentic community.
How often this pattern repeats. Psalm 106 laments how quickly we forget the foundation of our relationship with God when disaster batters our lives. The chaos of pain is disillusioning. Instead of progressing through the season of our trials, we are tempted to abandon the hope of our future.
But, as the Psalmist reminds, this doesn’t have to be the end. Like Israel, we can learn to cry for help as we embrace the hope of tomorrow; “Save us, O Lord our God, and gather us from among the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.”