Note: This article contains coarse language that may offend some readers.

The first stage of love is the one that’s the focus of movies, literature, and song. But that’s just the beginning of the deeper story Harmony Hobbs wants to tell.

This is the first picture ever taken of Robbie and I. It was 2003 and we'd been up all night in New Orleans when this…

Posted by Modern Mommy Madness on Tuesday, July 11, 2017

The stay-at-home mom, who blogs at Modern Mommy Madness, shared the first photo ever taken of her with husband Robbie. Her goal wasn’t to reminisce, but to talk about the five stages of love. She wrote on Facebook:

I read something recently that said there are 5 stages of love. First there is the exciting, falling in love stage; that’s when this photo was taken. I’d never met a man like him and we couldn’t get enough of each other.

But the couple in that 2003 photo was just at the beginning of a long path. As Harmony wrote, over the next decade, they put in the difficult work that defines stage two:

The second stage is becoming a couple and building a real life together, which we’ve been doing for the past 12 years. It’s a lot of work. SO MUCH WORK. At one point, I was fairly certain I was going to die of sleep deprivation. I had thoughts of smothering Robbie in his sleep. We loved each other, but … you know. We also hated each other sometimes.

Counterintuitively, the hard work of love often means working past all the things you dislike in your partner. And that’s what makes stage three the thing that kills so many relationships. Harmony wrote:

Which leads me to stage three: DISILLUSIONMENT. Most people get stuck here, because disillusionment really freaking sucks. We see each other for what we really are, and it’s hard to remember why we fell in love. Everything is a struggle, and life has worn us out to the point that any kind of work beyond immediate survival feels like an overwhelming task. Date night?! BITCH, PLEASE.

It’s a dark time.

So what is on the other side? How do couples work through the work of stage two and the disillusionment of stage three? As Harmony explained, stage four is where the rewards start to come in. This is where you make each other better and come out stronger as a couple:

But if you hang in there, stage four is about creating real, lasting partnership. It’s finding the kind of true love and acceptance that comes with breaking down to your worst in front of another person, and HE DOESN’T RUN AWAY SCREAMING. Instead of rejecting the ugly parts of me, Robbie is helping me put myself back together again. He trusts that the new me will be even better than the old one, and that helps me to believe it, too.

Then comes the goal — the thing we see and envy in committed couples who have been through it all. And while Harmony hasn’t reached stage five yet, she knows that’s what she where she wants to be. She concluded:

Stage five is using the power of two to change the world. We aren’t there yet, but I look forward to it. I am so, so grateful that we picked each other.

Though some might see stages two and three as discouraging, for Harmony, there’s a message of hope to be found in the five stages. Even if you and your spouse are struggling through the hardest parts of two and three, you can take comfort in the fact that something amazing is still ahead of you.

As Harmony told Dearly:

“I hope that my story can give other people hope. That’s why I shared it — because there have been so many times that I have needed just a tiny shred of hope to hang onto.”

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