“It has been said that time heals all wounds. I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue, and the pain lessens, but it is never gone. ” ~ Rose Kennedy.
So far we have covered the following psychosocial stages of development as it applies to human development and the developing couple: normal autism, hatching, practicing, separation individuation, and the oedipal stage.
The Latency Stage of development is characterized by quiet withdrawal. It lasts in human development from approximately eight to twelve years of age. It is the stage directly before adolescence. Parents often assume, due to the intellectual and reasoning abilities of a child this age, that they can take care of themselves. This is far from true.
In this stage the child may exhibit some defiance, argumentativeness and testing behaviors. He may pull away from both parents or identify more closely with the same sex parent. A word of caution: just because the child is quieter emotionally, this does not mean the child is not engaged in some deep and important thought. You don’t want to dismiss or ignore a child in this age range, or in any age range. This is an important time to establish greater communication with the child so the next stage of adolescence will flow more smoothly.
For the developing couple the Latency Stage is characterized by much the same thing. If you make it into the eight to twelve year range, the relationship is quieter. This does not mean everything is fine. The individuals in the couple relationship withdraw into themselves. Life goes on as usual and routines are honored. Sometimes the individuals fail to check in with one another. “How are we doing?” “A penny for your thoughts.” “Are there things we might want to talk about?” All of these are helpful at staying current with one another.
During your relationship, this is an important time to establish deeper communication with one another. It is not a time to assume you know the next word or thought of your partner. Even if it feels that you know how to complete one another’s sentences, try not doing this and be open to something unexpected, fresh and original.
Couples during the Latency Stage may be having private thought about “what if?” Fantasies can stay fantasies, but sometimes they don’t and we can use this time to further connect with our loved one.
The next stage of childhood is the controversial Adolescence. This is the time of the journey. The child must cross the long or short bridge into adulthood. Adolescence is similar to the separation-individuation stage we discussed in earlier blogs. There is a struggle that must take place. This struggle is about how to remain dependent upon and achieve independence from your parents. It is also about how to arrive, eventually, at a type of interdependence which is the hallmark of healthy families.
In childhood, adolescence is often characterized by irritability, anger, the dependence/independence struggle and gregariousness. The child is now old enough to get into serious trouble, unlike during the separation-individuation stage around age two. The child is developing physically and they are sexually alive, they question the values and opinions of their parents, and they are seeking a definition and direction with regard to their own identity.
The couple enters a stage of adolescence as well. How does this look?
A couple that arrives at the 13th year and stays intact through the 19th year is often therapy bound. This is the time when most couples I know come to therapy or return to therapy if they have been engaged working on issues together in the past. They are seeking to understand life at an older age. They implore one another to stay connected and continue to need the softer forms of emotional intimacy and caring. They defy one another around taking liberties with the independence each has earned as individuals by this time.
It is a dangerous time for couples in that they must keep the relationship viable. They must let go of or embrace understanding of the issues they carried with them into this relationship. They need to let the other go in order to connect in an even more truthful manner. Letting the other go refers to unchaining them from old needs and patterns that had little to do with them.
The last stage of development is that of adulthood. Sometimes we add on the stage of mature adulthood for those who have the gift of making it beyond the age of 70. For our purposes we will combine them.
Adulthood has its own stages within this hopefully long period of time. Adulthood is most characterized by patience, seeking to assist others, making priorities about the rest of your life, planning for older age and maintaining your health. It is also about the challenges of loss, death, health and perspectives on the life you have lived.
Couples entering the adult stage of their life are settled. They have no thoughts to act on disrupting the balance they have worked hard to achieve. They support one another and help the other actualize dreams and goals. They are brave. They are brave for each other. They will help the other die. They may help each other grieve the loss of a child. Their spirit is the essence of what most people want in a relationship. It takes lots of time and even more patience to traverse the stages of couple development.
In the next blog we will tie together the developmental stages with the Limbic System structures and discuss how to look for signs of the past in the present relationship. We will also look at when the past intrusion is useful, dangerous, or simply interesting.
Take care and be well.
Nanette Burton Mongelluzzo, PhD
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Last reviewed: 13 Jun 2012