The 5 Stages Of A Relationship That Every Couple Experiences

The 5 Stages Of A Relationship That Every Couple Experiences

The 5 Stages Of A Relationship That Every Couple Experiences

During a relationship, the five phases are as follows: the beginning, doubt and denial, disillusionment, the decision, and wholehearted love. All relationships go through these five phases, but not all of them do so at the same time. You should not think of these phases as a sequence of steps leading up to a final result, but rather as a series of seasons that we pass through in an endless cycle.




The phases of a relationship progress in a cyclical manner rather than linearly.
We frequently believe that all personal relationships follow a predictable path from the first meet-cute to euphoric infatuation, through a succession of minor difficulties and tribulations, and ultimately to a blissful state of happily-ever-after. 



But this is not always the case. It’s a gratifying story that we witness in movies, on television, and in music all the time. Rather than being a destination, love is a journey that has no end. If we expect to look back on our challenges and think, “Wow, we did it!” at some point in our relationship, we’re setting ourselves up for disappointment “That’s all there is to it! We’ve arrived! We were successful!” Because beyond where you are right now, there is another obstacle to overcome.



For better or worse, the phases of a relationship are not linear, but are rather cyclical in nature. Even those who have reached the fifth and ultimate stage of a relationship—Wholehearted Love—will eventually find themselves looping back to Stage 1 and having to start the process all over again from the very beginning. However, they will always be able to find their way back.




This Love Cycles model is based on my thirty years of experience as a couples therapist, during which time I have observed and studied couples at all phases of their relationship in order to discover common patterns. Find out about the five phases of a relationship, as well as the skills that couples need to survive each stage, in this guide.





1.The Bringing Together of Forces

The Merge, often known as the honeymoon period, is the initial stage of a partnership. It’s the initial, sweeping romanticism that frequently consumes a couple when they first get together, accompanied by an all-consuming pleasure in our partner’s presence and ravenous, passionate sex, to name a few characteristics. 



Often, individuals at this stage of a relationship believe they have met their “perfect match,” someone who is eerily similar to them and very compatible with their needs and desires. They have the impression that they want to be together all of the time, and boundaries are often crossed. The two seem to be merging, or at the very least appear to be eager to do so.





These feelings often override the logical portion of our brain. Researchers have discovered that the first stage of infatuation is characterized by biochemical changes in our brain—a cocktail of chemicals that initiate and sustain a feeling of infatuation, such as dopamine, oxytocin and endorphins—that occur during the first stage. In many cases, this brain glow leads to us being “addicted” to our relationships, causing us to overlook incompatibilities, red flags, and other problems.





What to do when you’re at this stage of a relationship.

Take advantage of this stage to the greatest extent possible—this is the stuff that makes dating so enjoyable and fascinating. Keep your emotions under control while still being aware of them. Take some time to study your feelings and your connection from a distance, and carefully consider whether or not this person is the greatest fit for you at this point in time. While under the influence of this biological love potion, get honest counsel from people who can ensure that you are not overlooking any really alarming red signals.





You should also take your time when making any major choices, since the Merge may cloud your vision and cause you to want to rush into circumstances that are not always smart or good for you in the long term. In general, don’t make choices based on the fact that you’re “so in love” with someone since it’s only a fleeting sense of infatuation that will pass.





2.Doubt and denial 

It is at the second stage of a relationship that we begin to really see the differences between ourselves and our partners, which is referred to as Doubt and Denial. With a thud, we are jolted out of our spell of infatuation, only to discover that the same characteristics that first drew us in have started to irritate us. (His dependability now seems to be inflexible; her generosity appears to be reckless; and their adventurous attitude now appears to be an unneeded danger.)




As a result of our encountering one other’s differences, we will, regrettably, encounter some friction. Power conflicts intensify, and we are amazed at how much our spouse has changed. A mixture of feelings of affection, estrangement, and annoyance may be experienced. After all, maybe we aren’t “ideal” for one other after all.





As our feelings of disappointment become more intense, so do our physiological reactions to stress. According to our personalities and circumstances, we may desire to fight or retreat from the situation. Suppose you feel the need to battle for your ideals, which may translate into a need to have everything done exactly as you want it. The expectation that another person would be exactly like us is absurd, yet many of us are prone to asking, “Why aren’t you like me?” on some level, regardless of the situation.




What to do when you’re at this stage of a relationship.

A person’s ability to handle conflict is important at this point in time. Learn how to deescalate confrontations and confront relationship issues head-on while treating one another with kindness and respect. Power conflicts and disputes are natural aspects of a relationship; they are not always indicative of the end of a relationship or the failure of a marriage. Understand the difference between healthy disagreement and unhealthy control problems; the former may be worked through, while the latter may indicate that you should consider ending your relationship.





The second stage of a relationship is a wonderful time to learn about each other’s love languages since this is the period in which you are first beginning to notice the distinctions between you. There are five different types of love languages, and it is critical for each individual to understand how their spouse like to be loved.




3.Discontentment .

The Disillusionment stage of a relationship is the third stage of a relationship. This is the season of love in its winter incarnation, and for some couples, it may seem like the end of the road. Clearly, there is a balance of power in the relationship; problems that have been swept under the rug for so long are now blatantly apparent. A small number of individuals develop a permanent state of vigilance, and they are ready to go into combat at the first provocation. Other couples may gradually drift away over time, devoting less and less work to sustaining their relationship while putting more and more effort into their lives outside of it.





Our first experience of intense love is typically a distant memory by the time we reach this point in life. The “I” reemerges, and this is a condition that seems much safer than our previous joyful sense of being “we.” Some couples, on the other hand, may not be concerned about their commitment; instead, they may view this as a clear indication that things need to change.





What to do when you’re at this stage of a relationship.

Clear the air and make room for new ideas. Stop sweeping problems under the rug and avoiding difficult conversations; as exhausting as the repeated fights may be, sweeping them under the rug just creates a lumpy carpet with a lot of things to trip over in the future.




The relationship may be experiencing a great deal of negative energy at this point. To counteract this, make a habit of expressing love even when you’re angry. Can you be upset and aware that something isn’t working and that you need to speak about it while still going out to dinner and seeing a movie with your significant other?





As part of the Merge, the brain pays attention exclusively to the good and ignores anything that may contradict that point of view. During the Disillusionment stage, the brain is focusing on all of the negative aspects of the relationship. The things that are going well are overlooked, while the ones that are going poorly get all of our focus. Make an effort to counteract this process with an intentional practice of thankfulness.




 4. Making a decision

The fourth stage of a relationship is referred to as the Decision stage since you have reached a critical juncture. The employment of self-protective measures, such as leaving the home for hours to get away from each other after a dispute, and emotional breakdowns are all typical in this situation. Indifference and aloofness are also unacceptable.





You’ll know you’ve arrived when you start really considering leaving and even making preparations to end your relationship. You may be feeling ready for an exciting new beginning with a new person in your life.


When we reach this point, we must make a decision—whether to go, whether to remain and do nothing despite how unhappy we are, or whether to stay and really work on repairing our relationship.





What to do when you’re at this stage of a relationship.

When I encounter couples at this point in their relationship, I usually urge them to consider pursuing a different route, which is to decide to do some work before making a decision about their partnership. Many times, couples believe they want to be free of their relationship, but when they learn how to communicate properly, years of bitterness or alienation may be lifted off the shoulders of their partners.





Doing the work entails recognizing your own contribution to the breakdown of your relationship and making a genuine commitment to improve. With this last option, we will have the opportunity to learn the lessons that will help us become the best persons we can be while also giving our relationship the opportunity to develop and deepen.


Even if a couple decides to end their relationship, they may frequently do it in a healthy manner, wishing one another well and acknowledging their own role in what transpired.






 5. Complete and Unconditional Love

In a relationship, the fifth stage is Wholehearted Love, which occurs when our connection is at its healthiest and most fulfilling. Summer has arrived, and the fruits of a couple’s work are completely ripe and ready to be enjoyed, marking the beginning of their love story. A genuine individuation, self-discovery, and acceptance of imperfection in themselves and their relationships are experienced by couples who recognize that there is no such thing as a “perfect fit.”






In this fifth stage of a relationship, there is still hard work to be done, but the difference is that partners have learned how to listen effectively and lean into difficult discussions without feeling threatened or attacking one other.


Couples will also begin to play together again at this point in the process. They are able to laugh, relax, and really enjoy one other’s company. Each individual rediscovers themselves in ways that allow them to fall in love with each other all over again, and as a result, they may experience some of the exhilarating passion, pleasure, and sex that the Merge has to offer.





What to do when you’re at this stage of a relationship.

Take care of yourself. In the Wholehearted Love stage, the characteristics of two wholehearted individuals are driven by their shared qualities of generosity, wit, adaptability, and resilience, as well as their shared values of self-care and living a life with meaning and purpose. Couples are allowed to remain in this stage for as long as they are committed to one other.

The Best Way to Decide When to Leave a Sexless Marriage

Different degrees of sexual desire are one of the most common problems that show themselves in couples and sex therapy sessions. It is natural for couples to have differing levels of sexual desire, but if they do not learn to handle that difference jointly, they may have conflict or avoidance surrounding sex in the future. Sexually inactive marriage, which is usually described as having sex fewer than 10 times per year, is the extreme consequence of two individuals finding it difficult to navigate their sexual interests together.


Should you file for divorce if your marriage is sexless?

Some individuals may consider a sexless marriage to be grounds for divorce, depending on how important sex is to them and how much effort has been made into resolving the problem as a pair. Some couples have sex just seldom or never at all, and both individuals are quite content with this. No amount of sexual desire or activity can be defined as “normal” or “healthy,” so as long as it’s working for both individuals, there’s nothing to alter or be concerned about.


 In a relationship when at least one partner is dissatisfied with the lack of sex, there are a number of measures you may take to address the issue of unwanted sexlessness inside the marriage before resorting to divorce proceedings. As with so many other reasons for ending a marriage, it’s worth attempting to repair the situation first before proceeding.

First and first, it’s important to examine the causes for a lack of sexual activity in your life. 


If one person becomes sick, handicapped, or otherwise unable to participate in physical intimacy with another, this is a completely different situation than your spouse refusing to engage in sexual intimacy with you. Physical closeness may still be achieved despite changes in sexual functioning, even if it does not seem to be the same as it used to be. It’s possible that you might rethink your idea of what constitutes sex: If you just consider sex to be intercourse or penetrative sex, you are severely restricting the variety of sexual experiences you and your partner might be having together. 


In a similar vein, the changes we experience as we get older and when the weather changes may need us to alter our expectations. Even if such losses are painful, they may be endured and even augmented by other pleasurable sexual encounters in order to go on.

You should also examine whether or not the absence of sex in your marriage is linked to any other problems that you are experiencing together. Having sex is not always desired by couples who are struggling to be kind and supportive of one another, when their communication is dripping with criticism or disdain, or when they are at odds over other important issues in their life, for example.


 If you have other important issues to deal with before you evaluate your sex life, get those things taken care of first. In most cases, before sexual closeness can be established in a relationship, it is necessary to make adjustments in order to enhance your entire relationship health.


The rate of divorce in a sexless marriage.

There is no reliable data on the number of individuals who divorce due of a lack of sexual intimacy in their marriage. According to a 2017 analysis using General Social Survey data from 2002, 16 percent of married couples in the United States were in a sexless marriage (no sex in the past year). According to a 2018 study, more than one in every four partnerships is sexless. But there is no way to tell how many of these couples were dissatisfied with the absence of sex since we don’t have that information. As well as this, we know that about 50% of marriages end in divorce. However, no research has been conducted to far that links these statistics together.


Even if we had a research that showed how many couples divorced as a result of a sexless marriage, we’d have a hard time determining if sexlessness was the root cause of the problem or just a symptom of other issues. I can state that a lack of sex is a common theme in my counseling practice, and couples often worry if their relationship will be able to continue if this does not improve. Divorce is something that many individuals are really contemplating.


In the following situations, you should consider ending your sexless marriage:




 1. Your spouse will not cooperate in resolving the problem with you.
Because there are so many barriers to sex in a relationship, there are many things you may need to discuss and alter in order to establish a sex life that you and your partner will both enjoy and benefit from. Before contemplating divorce, you should discuss your worries with your spouse, have an honest discussion about what’s getting in the way, and see if you can come up with a solution as a team to resolve the problem at hand. Many things you can do to improve your sexual relationship with your spouse, but it takes both of you to come to the table and discuss what needs to be changed in order for it to be successful.


Before you decide that your spouse is unwilling to assist you, make certain that you have completed all of your obligations on your side of the courtroom table. Bring your issues to the attention of the group in a collaborative manner, without accusing or humiliating. You may assist a spouse who has a reduced libido simply by being ready to investigate how you may be contributing to the partner’s difficulties. 


Have genuine interest in learning how sex might be improved for them and what they will need to access or develop their own desire for sex in the future. Instead of approaching sex with particular objectives and outcomes in mind, treat it as if it were a game, which may set you both up for failure.

If you’ve done all you can and your spouse still won’t speak about it or won’t work with you to increase physical intimacy in your relationship, it may be time to consider ending your relationship altogether.




2. Your marital problems have become so severe that there are other grounds to divorce you.
In certain cases, a lack of sex in a relationship may be a signal of more serious problems. Otherwise, if you can’t work through your differences, it’s the other problems that will be the actual cause of your dissolution.

For example, if the two of you engage in toxic communication cycles, such as blame, guilt, criticism, gaslighting, or abuse, this may have a negative impact on your sex life and perhaps put your marriage to an end. Similarly, if you and your spouse are unable to come to terms on financial matters or parenting, it is possible that your marriage will not be saved. If you have power conflicts, adultery, lying, or brutality in your relationship, it is possible that it may not last.. In all of these situations, your problems go far deeper than a lack of sexual intimacy in your marriage. Unless you confront and resolve the issues that are bothering you, you may find yourself contemplating divorce.




3. Your sexual preferences are so diametrically opposed to one another that there are no feasible means of having sex together, and you are unwilling to consider other means of exploring those preferences.
Couples may experience what is known as “erotic conflict” from time to time. Each individual has certain things that make them feel good, as well as a vision of the kind of sex they want to have and with whom they want to have it. Sometimes, what we want and what our spouse wants are mutually incompatible in their desires. For example, if one person is kinky and their other finds this to be a turnoff, they may have difficulty finding sex that they can both enjoy and share. Another factor that may interfere with a relationship is a person’s sexual orientation, particularly if they are not attracted to the gender of their partner.




In sex therapy, I am always attempting to assist couples in identifying areas of overlap in their wants (think of a Venn diagram), but there are times when there is none. Some couples opt to deal with this by engaging in fantasies and masturbation while still married to one another. Another option is to adopt a kind of open marriage, in which they may fulfill their needs outside of the relationship while still being married to their partner. However, if none of these alternatives appeal to you, you may decide to divorce as a result of your lack of sexual compatibility.




Is it possible to have a sexless marriage?
Yes. It is possible to solve the lack of sex between the two of you if you care about your spouse and respect your relationship, so long as you are both ready to put in the effort. Every day, we are bombarded with messages telling us that sex should be effortless and that there must be something really wrong with our relationship if we are having difficulty in the bedroom. 


However, the reality is that it is typical, if not universal, for a couple to have difficulties with sex at some time throughout their relationship. As a result of our problems, we have the chance to address issues, communicate with our partner in an open manner, and re-create your relationship and sex life to better fit our current needs.





In most cases, a lack of sexual desire is a sign of something else. When it comes to sex in long-term partnerships, it is natural to have various degrees of desire at different points in the relationship. As our lives progress, things alter in ways that make our sex lives increasingly challenging to manage. All of these are reasonable and typical reactions to stressful situations.


To remain in your marriage while still enjoying a sexual life together, you must be willing to put in the effort necessary to make that happen—and you must encourage your spouse to do the same. You are not alone in your difficulties, and your relationship does not necessarily have to end unless you really have irreparable disagreements between you and your partner.