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The many stages of ‘Coupling’ from ‘PreCoupling’ to ‘corporation’

Help me think through the stages we go through in our Coupling. What are the various epochs and eras that will come to us? Or maybe we can think of stages as framed by the lessons to learn and the struggles we have to survive? Certainly, over time, the meaning of the relationship and the challenges we will face will change and morph as the seasons change.

As the New Year begins with hopes, PreCoupling begins with infatuation. Hoping to commit then moves to real interest and a side of “I can’t live without you.” Out of these thoughts and feelings we survive through wedding plans and the first few years. This stage includes, “you are my everything.” And a lot of animal lust!

Early Coupling moves us to the building the family stage highlighted by the “cleats and toe shoe” stage. At this time everything revolves around the first time for whatever. Hopefully you haven’t gotten too selfish too soon and started thinking about “my needs.” Right now the task revolves around growing and developing the family.

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A complication comes when we get too focused on the children or the career. These are necessary tasks early in our Coupling and may seem to be primary. They are not. Our first job is to take care of each other as we attend to those other challenges. I know this is heretical. Of course the children and the job are important, but our work is to maintain balance and not be distracted by the difficulties in front of us.

The middle stage is highlighted by the ways we care. We care by meeting the other person’s needs. We care by doing the little things that matter to them. Caring may mean keeping the job through a difficult time or supporting each other as you face down and build up the teens in your life. Companionship is the evidence of the stage, but I want to call it the “Corporate stage.” The root of this very business sounding term stems from the Latin root of corpus or body.

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The main task is taking care of the corporation, meaning, the two of you, the couple. The children are franchisees of the corporation. At some point marking the end of this stage they will be launched to establish their own corporation in their own locale.

Allow me to name the last stage, Joy. Kind of like Christmas that seems to come at the end of the year, the last stage satisfies and completes us like a newborn babe makes a couple a family. The Joy stage of coupling announces the culmination of a lot of work. Nearing or moving into retirement years, a lot of the fights and fears have been resolved. We need and want less and are more easily satisfied. The vision and hearing fade as the unnecessary details wash away.

Simplicity, giving and togetherness, joyfully bring us full circle in our coupling, just like the fantasies of preCoupling, but now its real, like Santa Claus!

Bruce Conn is a licensed marriage and family therapist, and works with individuals and couples. Contact him at or call 478-742-1464.