Have you ever thought about the five stages in a relationship? Chances are you never contemplated your relationship in terms of stages. However, if you look at past (or current) flames using this method, you’ll probably recognize when you moved in and out of these stages.
The Main Five Stages in a Relationship
How long you stay in one stage depends on the couple. Some couples never advance to the later stages because of incompatibility or emotional immaturity.
Stage One: Attraction and Romance
All couples experience this phase. It occurs when you are beginning to get to know each other. It might also be called the fantasy phase because your partner can seem perfect during this time. How long this phase lasts varies, but it can be anywhere from a few months to a few years.
In this stage, you are focusing on your similarities. You are likely spending a lot of time together. You are in love, after all, and you can’t imagine being apart from your lover. Conflict is not only avoided in this stage but seems like it will never happen at all.
This stage is a lot of fun but is not sustainable. People who are constantly changing partners are often trying to remain in this stage.
Stage Two: Reality Sets In
This stage often will begin to creep in slowly during your relationship, but will sometimes happen all at once. In this phase, you now start to see flaws in your partner or behaviors you just don’t like. It’s not that you are no longer in love, but your partner doesn’t seem as great as he or she was in stage one.
Biology is fighting against you as well. The romance stage features many endorphins running through your body that gives you that “high” sensation. Your body can’t keep this up forever, and so in this stage your elation begins to level off. You might even wonder if you are still in love.
Stage Three: Disappointment
What began as reality setting in during stage two often turns to disappointment in stage three. The problem here is that as a couple you believe that arguments are bad but you are angry at each other anyway. Some of the anger can be over trivial things such as small differences between you. Since you don’t realize that conflict can be healthy, you wonder if this relationship is doomed. In fact, you likely have thoughts of breaking up or getting divorced. Without strong communication, trust and the ability to work as a team, couples are unlikely to advance past this stage.
Stage Four: Stability
If a couple can navigate through the unstable waters of stage three, they will find that stage four offers much rest and enjoyment. As a couple, you now have history together and you have been able to work through some differences. The fantasy of stage one is completely gone, but you have accepted this. Yes, you have differences and you sometimes fight, but you love your partner; feel connected to him or her, and you trust that you can work through any future conflicts. You may, however, feel a little bored at times as the chase is definitely over. You may also miss the stage one feelings and wonder if those feelings can be found in someone else.
Stage Five: Commitment
Few couples make it this far, even couples who are married. In this stage, you are truly a team. You have chosen to be with your partner, flaws and all. You no longer miss the romance stage because that would mean being with a new person and you don’t want that. You have a vision for the future together as a couple. If dating, this is the stage where you can get married and feel comfortable with that decision. It is a stage of mature and sustainable love.
Knowing about the five stages in a relationship can help you understand your feelings about your partner and your relationship. Know that it is natural to lose those early romantic feelings but that something much deeper awaits you in a later stage. To advance through the stages requires communication and hard work. It is worth the effort when you find the right person to share the journey.