There are certain clues at a crime scene which by their very nature do not lend themselves to being collected or examined. How’d one collect love, rage, hatred, fear…? These are things that we’re trained to look for.” ~ James Reese.

We left off in the last blog discussing relationships and the development of a human being. It is my premise that relationships develop in a similar way to the way we developed from infancy through adulthood.

The developmental stages are important to know so that we can next discuss the way your new partner or an established partner may act as a trigger for old memories stored in the Limbic System structures of your brain.

Last week we looked at the developmental stages of Normal Autism, Hatching and Practicing. These are known as the psycho-social stages of development. This type of classification explains development in a psychological and social/interactional context.

The Separation Individuation Stage of development begins around age 12 months and lasts until around 24 months. Some theorists feel the span is closer to 18 months-30 months. We discussed this briefly last week. This stage is one of the most critical stages. In my clinical practice I have found this to be a precarious stage of development because so many culturally-bound things take place for the toddler.

For example, the child is often weaned by age two; the child is frequently toilet trained by age two, and the child has a sense of some autonomy and it is likely that punishment has been implemented by this age. So the child has had the breast or bottle taken away, been told where to eliminate his or her most precious creation, and is now being spanked or sat in a chair for a time out. Life just got confusing!

If a parent dies or a couple divorces, the child may experience a developmental setback. Remember from our past blogs on this subject that the Limbic System structures are recording everything of significance. Certainly it is significant if someone dies or a family breaks apart in its structure.

For the developing couple in a love relationship, we often see the couple begin to start struggling. In our culture it is not unusual for a woman to expect a marriage offer by one or two years of dating. This changes the way the couple relates. It is similar to the separation individuation stage in that the couple is still trying to navigate through how to remain as separate individuals, while at the same time creating a dependent couple connection.

For the child, as well as for the developing couple, it is essential to have predictability and constancy. Things need to remain the same, while the emotions and necessary changes are worked out.

The Oedipal Stage of development is the fifth stage in the psycho-social stages of development. This begins around age three and lasts until around age seven. In childhood this stage is characterized by rivalry with the same sex parent and increased rivalry competition/aggression with siblings.

Here the little boy is in love with his mother and the little girl is in love with her father. It is in this stage of development that we learn a great deal about heterosexual relationships and how to value others and accept love. We also learn or don’t learn about appropriate boundaries, flirtation, rules and that not everything we desire can or should be granted.

The culmination of this stage results in a closer relationship with the same sex parent and the child will move into the next stage accepting that they won’t really marry mom or dad.

For couples, this is an interesting stage of development. It roughly corresponds to the third to seventh year in a relationship. In my clinical work I find that there are things that happen that could threaten the integrity of the developing relationship.

Sometimes this couple’s stage is characterized by sexual experimentation outside of the the usual format the couple has grown accustomed to experiencing. This might include extramarital affairs, extra-relational affairs, the use of sexual toys or pornography, or by inclusion of third parties as was popular in the 1970’s with wife swapping or key parties.

You may have heard of the 1955 movie, The Seven Year Itch. This movies expands on the theme that marriages may suffer from problems with monogamy around the seventh year.

According to the US Census Bureau (2009) the average time of divorce for a couple is at seven years.

This is a critical developmental stage for children and for the developing couple. There are many things to be learned in this developmental stage about boundaries, loyalties and rules. Many of these things are not learned in childhood or there were traumatic events that took place during the developmental stage, which may have caused some problems. These problems may show up later in your couple relationship.

We will finish up next blog on the developmental stages.