Most love relationships begin, develop, and even unravel without our being fully aware of what’s going on. Especially at the beginning.
That’s why it’s so valuable to understand the stages of a romantic relationships and how they impact your connection as a couple.
We meet someone, feel an initial attraction, and then if everything lines up as it should, we are swept away in a torrent of chemically-driven emotions.
As you’ve probably experienced, these intense feelings of infatuation and early love fall away over time and transform into something else.
Sometimes that something else is a deeper, more satisfying, emotionally intimate connection. Other times, not so much.
1. The Lust Stage
Gaining interest in someone is a stage in itself that could be considered part of the relationship. It is a lust stage where you take interest in someone and what you perceive they could offer you, and during this stage the hormones estrogen and testosterone take front and center stage to turn up the heat.
The only thing you need to do to make this work is pull out your list of must haves and deal breakers (you have one right?) and take a look at the person through a critical eye rather than a hormonal eye. Yes, they may get your juices flowing, but if they don’t have the qualities that you are looking for, or if they have all the qualities you want to avoid, then it is best to lust after them from afar. The lustful feeling will go away eventually and you will be glad that you didn’t get involved with someone who was not going to be a good fit for your life. But, if they fit your list, then you will move on to the next stage.
2. The Experimentation Stage
If you make it past the initiation stage (and many people don’t), then you will enter the experimentation stage. Some people don’t make it this far because they find something in the first stage that they don’t like so much. During experimentation, you dig deeper into the interests and values of the other.
3. Intensifying or Bliss Stage
Now the relationship is getting more serious and intense. You’ve found enough in common that you begin sharing more private and intimate information.
This is the time when you might express your feelings of affection, start spending more time together and give one another gifts. It’s one of the most important and exciting stages of romantic relationships.
If you are in the intensifying stage . . .
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of this new connection. But this is an important time to make sure you are both on the same page before you become more intimate or involved.
4. Bonding stage
This usually occurs in the form of marriage or another method of showing the world you’re a team and your relationship is truly intimate. Once this stage is reached, many couples stay bonded for good and have great relationships.
5. Discovery stage
Once a couple passes the above stages of love relationship, all the unrealistic expectations tend to fade away.
Both sides start to discover more of each other and make efforts knowing how they both can fit and work things together.
Couples start defining and clarifying their roles, commitment, and compatibility towards each other. They need to explore their relationship needs and their partners too.
They need to decide on questions like how much time do they like to spend together or remain apart, how does each side like to express love or receive it etc.
Once couples are able to communicate their needs effectively to one another, they can avoid a lot of other things that can make a relationship bitter.
They need to avoid unhealthy behaviors like avoidance, withdrawals, criticism, and defensiveness. Instead, focus on acceptance, compassion, forgiveness, and patience.
6. The Lack Of Fulfillment Stage
Unlike in the other stages of relationships, your partner is not going to meet all your needs at this point. There will be some things that your partner is not giving to you, and there will be some things that you are not giving to your partner. This will leave both of you slightly unfilled in the relationship, and if you don’t address these issues now, they are going to fester into sore spots that will affect your relationship negatively in the future. That will cause you to fight, feel bad, and possibly break up later on down the road.
To make it through this stage, you need to develop a way of talking about your relationship in a safe place where you can work through any issues that have creeped up. Experts recommend sitting down once a week and discussing your relationship. Reflecting on the week past, and which of your needs were not met, will help you fully explain to your partner why you feel like those needs were not met and what they can do about it, and vice versa. If you wait too long to talk about it, you may not have the insight into why you were upset or felt unfulfilled, so don’t wait more than a week to discuss relationship issues and build a plan to work through them.
7. Doubting stage
Ah..don’t most of you come across this stage when doubt starts to creep in? Mostly, this stage comes after many years of being together with each other in a relationship.
You might start thinking about your exes, your past relationships, or start comparing your present partner with another. Even suspicions could infect the relationship and the man could start looking for ways to find a cheating wife – the disturbance has the potential to lead to divorce!
In this stage, everything is related to your relationship. If you’re unhappy and hurt in your relationship – you tend to blame it on your partner for putting you through such trying times.
You might even start comparing your relationship with other couples, and other relationships. Remember, you can cross this stage of love in your relationship if you aren’t dull and boring.
8. The Stagnation Stage
In this phase, you are no longer going anywhere in the relationship. You are at a standstill. Think about a pond with algae on it. It doesn’t move; the water just sits there and grows more gross stuff on it. That’s pretty much what is happening during this stage. The coming apart is almost complete. Apathy may have even set in as well – on one or both people’s parts.
9. Avoidance Stage
Whether you’re living under the same roof or one of you has moved out, now you are truly separated.
You spent little, if no time together, and when you are together, there is little eye contact or real communication.
You are taking the first steps toward a permanent end to the relationship.
If you are in the avoidance stage . . .
The relationship has ended in all but the most formal ways. At this point, avoidance is a necessary coping mechanism and facilitates the end of the bond between you. You may find yourself confused and conflicted, and you may attempt to reconnect to avoid the pain of the separation.
Again, having the support of a counselor, as wells as a support system of family and friends, can help you have clarity and strength during this time.
10. The Termination Stage
In the termination stage, a relationship formally ends. If the couple is married, then the divorce is started or finalized. If you are just living together, then one or both of your physically moves out and makes the separation final. In a nutshell, this is when the relationship is emotionally and/or legally over.
Know that you know about the different stages of a relationship, you can better understand where you and your partner are as a couple.
Hopefully, you are in the first five stages of love, and your connection with your love interest is going strong. In these initial stages, it’s important to:
-Pace yourself and give the relationship time to grow.
-Be yourself rather than trying to impress.
-Learn as much as you can about one another before you become intimate.
-Pay attention to any red flags that might sabotage your connection.
-If you are in one of the coming apart stages:
-Take action as soon as possible to repair any rifts between you.
-Reconnect through dates, fun, and intimacy.
-Seek professional help with a counselor as soon as you sense a problem.