Relationships go through 5 critical stages that may make or break them.
I don’t want to belabor the subject, but every relationship changes and evolves over the course of time. Each stage of our lives, from our relationships with our parents to our friendships to our love partners, goes through a series of phases as connections are established and tested. As a result, why does it seem that the phases of a romantic relationship are more difficult to discern than other stages?
The fact remains that every relationship goes through various stages, but precisely what these stages include and how long they endure varies from relationship to relationship.
When is the ideal time for a couple to start taking things seriously? Is it true that there is a honeymoon period? Is it possible to fall out of love after you’ve passed through the honeymoon phase? In order to offer some clarity, we contacted two dating gurus, Bela Gandhi and Nora DeKeyser, for their thoughts on the most typical phases of a love relationship. Their responses are provided below. In a surprising turn of events, both ladies had similar notions about what to anticipate when a relationship progresses from casual dates to a more serious commitment.
The Embarrassing Stage
However, although some accidental meetings result in immediate chemistry, there is usually an uncomfortable period before the first date—and even during it—that must be worked through. The most difficult aspect may be wading through the lukewarm seas of “do they like me, do they don’t like me.” Finding the confidence to even contact the other person, writing witty texts—while thrilling, the very first stages of a prospective relationship contain some of the most difficult obstacles of all to overcome.
Another challenging aspect of dating is going on a first date, which DeKeyser describes as “inevitably tough” and “an unavoidable initial step in dating”: “Both parties are anxious, overthinking, and afraid it would be ‘another’ wasted date with someone they don’t connect with.” It may not work out precisely the way you had hoped, but according to DeKeyser, “Always go on a second or third date since most individuals don’t give their best impression on the first few dates and don’t represent themselves completely. After this stage, things become less uncomfortable, and you may finally begin to feel comfortable in the company of the other individual.” The most important factor in achieving success is open communication.
The Attraction Stage is a stage in which others are drawn to you.
If you’ve made it beyond the unpleasantness at the beginning of a relationship, you’ll be entering one of the most exciting phases: the attraction stage of a relationship, often known as the honeymoon phase. According to Gandhi, this is a beautiful time during which “you are illuminated like a chandelier around this individual.” It is your desire for your spouse to “fall completely and madly in love with you” that you notice all of their positive characteristics.
The honeymoon period is simply that: a period of time.
But how can you tell whether you’re moving out of the honeymoon period or if you’re really falling out of love with someone? Eventually, DeKeyser predicts, “everyone will come out of the honeymoon period.” “However, not everyone will experience a breakup. It is inevitable that the honeymoon period will pass, but love should continue to develop. In the short term, honeymoon is characterized by a high level of excitement, sexual arousal, subtlety, and somewhat obsessive “lust”—all of which may become addictive after a while. Love is characterized by a sense of security, collaboration, profound closeness and trust, as well as a sense of shared ideals.”
In order to better understand the difference between the two, Gandhi explains: “Falling out of love will most likely imply that, despite the fact that you really care and love your spouse, you recognize that they are not the ideal person for you emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.” “You trade in 24-7 desire for a secure, comfortable attachment—and it’s worth its weight in gold,” Gandhi says of the transition from the initial attraction period to the subsequent attachment phase.
The Uncertainty Stage is the stage in which there is a lot of uncertainty.
In fact, the process of falling in love is almost easy, even automatic at times. Making the transition from being in love to considering long-term exclusivity, on the other hand, is a frightening, though exciting, step to take. This is the point at which the relationship enters the stage of uncertainty. Some people doubt the sincerity of their feelings for this individual; others wonder whether their beliefs and lifestyles are compatible with each other.
“The most important factor in achieving success is open communication,” DeKeyser adds. “Before going on to more serious phases of a relationship, find out precisely what your spouse expects from a partnership. Which values do they hold dear, how do they want to spend their lives, and how do they wish the partnership to develop in the future? Working on the relationship is a choice made by both sides, and you have chosen to work on the relationship as a result of the great emotions you had during the phases of love.”
As you begin to see your relationship through a critical lens, you will encounter the greatest number of difficulties at this period. “Challenges really bring couples who handle them properly closer together,” says DeKeyser, “because it teaches the two of you that you can get through the difficult times together and trust each other via communication.”
So, how can you tell the difference between a problem and a relationship that isn’t working out? As DeKeyser points out, “the best way to determine whether or not you are in an unhealthy relationship is whether you feel alone.” “Is it possible for you to keep your feelings hidden from your partner? Why? Is it because you’re not being open enough, or because your spouse is someone who doesn’t want to put in the effort to work through the difficult issues? Consider the reasons why this issue isn’t being addressed openly, and then work to eliminate the root of the problem.”
The Stage of Intimacy
If you and your spouse have made the decision to commit to each other, you have reached the intimacy stage of your relationship. However, although the term may conjure up images of physical intimacy, this stage is more concerned with vulnerability in general. It’s very difficult to be vulnerable with another person and to share aspects of yourself that aren’t perfect with them in an open and unambiguous manner.
In the words of DeKeyser, “this is the aspect of dating that is authentic and real.” “This is the time when you are getting to know your spouse as they really are—you are witnessing their vulnerabilities; you are being vulnerable with one another. You’re beginning to realize that what you have is more than just ‘fun, thrilling, and attractive.’ It is a sense of belonging and trust that binds you together.”
Following the completion of their relationship on a fully open level, couples are able to go to the last stage of commitment in a relationship: the partnership stage of commitment.
The Establishment of a Partnership
The definition of partnership for a couple may be broad and varied. A long-term, exclusive relationship may include a number of things, including moving in together, getting engaged, or just making the decision to be together. DeKeyser provides the following explanation: “This is the point at which you understand that you and your partner are best friends and lovers. You are life partners to one other—you may spend hours, days, weeks, and months side by side with this person and you will only improve each other and feel as if you are a single unit as a result of your interactions.”
The time it takes for a couple to reach the partnership stage is different for every couple; there is no set period of time during which they must be together. “If this person makes your relationship simple, if you are compatible, and if you like spending time together, it seems like a solid basis for becoming serious,” Gandhi adds. She does, however, caution that “If you are dissatisfied in your relationship more often than you are pleased in it, it is most likely unhealthy. Every connection requires effort, but the effort should not be taxing; in fact, a successful relationship should be rather effortless.” It is possible to have an unlimited amount of happiness in your relationship if your foundation is strong enough.