Sonya Thomas lcsw

The 3 Phases of Love – Part 2

John Gottman has this to say about the second phase of love:

“Phase 2: Building Trust

The big questions of Phase 2 of love are, “Will you be there for me? Can I trust you? Can I count on you to have my back?” These questions are the basis of all conflicts newlyweds had in my Love Lab. The answer to this question is the basis of secure or insecure attachment in the relationship.

Love in Phase 2 becomes punctuated by frustration, exasperation, disappointment, sadness, and fury. The majority of fighting in a relationship happens in the first two years.

Thus, the success or failure of Phase 2 is based on how couples argue. If the ratio of positivity to negativity exceeds 5:1 during conflict discussions, a couple is likely to stay together.

The building of trust is about having your partner’s best interests in mind and at heart. It’s about listening to your partner’s pain and communicating that when they hurt, the world stops, and you listen. Over time I have created a model of communication that helps partners attune to one another.

The word “ATTUNE” is actually an acronym that stands for six processes:

  1. A for Awareness of one’s partner’s pain
  2. T for Tolerance that there are always two valid viewpoints in any negative emotions
  3. T for Turning Toward one partner’s need
  4. for trying to Understand your partner
  5. N for Non-defensive listening
  6. E for Empathy

Phase 3: Building Commitment and Loyalty

Phase 3 of love is about building true commitment and loyalty. It is about a couple either cherishing one another and nurturing gratitude for what they have with their partner, or the couple nurturing resentment for what they think is missing. This third phase is about making a deeper love last a lifetime, or slowly nurturing a betrayal.

An important metric in Phase 3 of love is what I call the fairness metric. The sense that power is fairly distributed in a relationship is what the fairness metric is all about. It is very difficult to establish deep and lasting trust in a relationship that has an unwelcome power asymmetry, one in which the distribution of power feels unfair to at least one person.

Although love appears to be a process that is highly unpredictable, my decades of research and the research of my colleagues have discovered that the opposite is true.