Three Phases Every Healthy Relationship Repeatedly Goes Through

By Bev Ehrlich

Have you ever questioned whether the person you’re in love with is capable of making you happy? Well, how is that working out for you? The marriage we want is like the body we want – flawless!! Relationships are not perfect! Real relationships are the collision of your partner’s imperfections with your flaws. How you manage that, is key to your healthy relationship.

Ed Tronick introduced the idea that all relationships are a constant dance of harmony, disharmony, and repair. Closeness, distance taking, and closeness once again. This pattern can play itself out over decades or 30 times over one dinner.

Photo: Julia C. Basso, PhD


Harmony is when you feel relational with your partner. You can listen to what their needs are, and see their perspective.

Terry Real refers to this first stage as “love without knowledge.” It’s the promise phase in which you might recognize a soul connection. You feel this person completes you. They get you! They will surely heal all your wounds and hurts. They get you in every way.

Real calls this phase “love without knowledge” because, while you may feel like you’ve known this person for your entire life, you don’t know how they keep their sock drawer or how they manage their finances, or if they leave their dirty laundry on the floor.

As you move from being wrapped up in one another, you begin to notice other things going on in your world. Living life together doesn’t seem quite so simple and disillusionment sets in.


Knowledge without love now comes to the fore. You now know more about your partner. You may feel you now know more about them than you ever wished you knew! You don’t feel very loving at this stage. You begin to behave in a way that keeps you protected and disconnected. Much to your shock and frustration, not only is this person not going to deliver you from all the broken places you’re trying to run from, but you discover that your partner is beautifully designed as Terry Real so eloquently puts it “to stick a burning spear right into your eyeball.”

Looking more closely, we have married our unfinished conversations with our early caretakers.

When we were dating, we met many potential partners who would not have recreated our old family dramas. Our lives together may have been calmer, however, none of them attracted us.

This disillusionment hurts like crazy! You can feel betrayed, angry, and even trapped.


The third phase of the dance is repair. This is the “knowing stage of love.” You know all about your partner. You know all their ugly and imperfect parts. You know they never pay bills on time or always leave their shoes and socks strewn all over the living room floor, they squeeze the toothpaste tube in the middle!! However, despite all this knowledge you choose to love them anyway.

Thomas Hübl  teaches that “healthy intimacy is not something you have, it’s something you do. It’s a minute-to-minute practice; as such, we need to create conditions for sustained practice and build a relationship-cherishing subculture around ourselves, our children, and our marriages. “

A healthy relationship flows from harmony to rupture and doesn’t get stuck there but works its way back into repair and closeness.

About the writer:

Beverly Ehrlich is a relationship coach. She firmly believes that we heal, grow and thrive through healthy and cherishing relationships that show appreciation for each other’s strengths and build on them. Feeling helpless and strained when her husband of many years found himself in the depths of depression, they turned for support to Terry Real’s Relational Life Therapy (RLT). She has since dedicated her life to bringing couples back into healthy connectedness. Beverly encourages her clients to stand up for themselves with love while cherishing their partner at the same time. She teaches strategies that help clients speak their truth so that their partner can hear them and come into repair quicker each time.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).

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