Stages of a Relationship
Depending on what psychology book you read, the names of the stages in a relationship will be slightly different as will the time periods. However, there is one undeniable fact, there are definitely stages that all relationships go through. They are rights of passage and they are pass/fail. If you don’t pass one in a relationship, you’re going to need to deal with it in the next one. This can be very helpful for you because you can actually plan for these stages. Instead of just thinking in your relationship on a day-to-day basis. You can begin to think of it month-to-month and year-to-year. To avoid the pitfalls the hormones and patterns of thinking can lead us to, read on…
When we look at human nature and see that we all pretty much operate in these stages, we see how important it is to be patient in relationships and get to the real love phase before getting married. This is why couples that move in together after a month and expect to get married right away often don’t work, because they haven’t been through the stages and reached that level of love to show they they are ready for that level of commitment.
The Cloud 9
This is the one phase that most people will always get. The other phases can happen at different times, depending on what is going on in your life and how old you are. This one is still standing strong as the first stage though. It is the infatuation stage. You get butterflies when you think about the other person. You feel like you have just met an angel. You see all the person’s great qualities and are oblivious to their not so desirable traits. This is actually something that you are not really that in control of because it is a surge of hormones in your body. These hormones make you feel high, act differently and give you the desire to change the way you spend your time to make it work with the individual. This could last from 2 weeks to 2 years, depending on how much time you spend together. This feeling will come back after a wedding and that is called ‘The Honey Moon Phase.’
As the hormones stop producing, you can start to bicker over small things. As you get used to each other, see them in their less proud moments and get to know their friends and family, you can begin to forget what you thought was so awesome about them. This is where the negative starts to become highlighted and for the first time you may feel pain and anguish from your relationship. This kind of blends with the next phase but this will cause more annoyance as the second one can cause more serious fights. The bickering comes from feeling slightly annoyed by the other person and snapping at them, this can come from taking them for granted or maybe you’ve become codependent and spent too much time together.
Take time apart to focus on your hobbies and other friends. Take time to breath and remember why you’re grateful for each other. Do romantic things but keep a balance.
The Control Phase
The next phase is about creating autonomy in your relationship. You may begin to think about what you were doing before you started dating. This is where you may butt heads about life plans and try to make your goals a priority. You will each try to push your opinion of how life is supposed to be lived together on the other person. This is also where you try to assert your will and where a lot of people think it’s important to be right. This can end relationships if people don’t seek therapy or really work to get past it. This is often when you see all the things that you couldn’t see in the honeymoon phase and often when you start thinking that you are the victim.
Don’t fall prey to letting your expectations or ideas of how the relationship is supposed to look ruin what you have. Try to realize that both partners have a lot to manage and if expectations are unmet, talk about it and be flexible. Try not to become too rigid in your thinking and be willing to change up the routine. The more you get stuck in patterns, the less easy it will be to handle changes. Don’t get bogged down by stress, keep your life fun and exciting. Seek balance in health, love, work and play.
The Compromise Phase
If you make it past the power struggle phase, you will still have small relapses at time but for the most part you will learn to accept each other’s differences and learn how to choose your battles wisely. This is where you are able to look past the things you fought about before and start to see why you love them again. This can be a resurgence in your relationship and this might be when you get engaged or move in together.
Remember if you aren’t willing to change yourself, you’re never going to get to this stage. Many times people will move in together too quickly and then things blow up because they haven’t learned how to get along yet. Patience is a virtue and try to keep things in perspective so you don’t lose your cool for no reason. Find ways to manage your stress like yoga, running, meditation or tai chi.
The Second Guessing
This happens a few years into the marriage, usually around the 3-4 year mark but for younger people who live at a faster pace and are more impatient, it can happen faster. Hey even older people can be impatient. When you start to lose the excitement in your relationship and maybe start finding other people attractive or thinking about if you are really meant to be in the relationship, this is usually because your relationship has become dull.
In order to keep love alive, you have to fuel the fire. You can revamp your sex life by taking romantic getaways, getting couples massages, going on couples yoga retreats, talking to an intimacy coach or reading books to expand your intimacy. This is where you can get creative and just invite some fun into your lives. Don’t be a serious adult all the time or your fire will fizzle with a sad sounding wah woh.
The Real Love Phase
When you reach the real love phase that usually comes around the five year mark, you can expect things to get easier. You will be able to feel that unbreakable bond and you will feel like your back on cloud 9. This is the stable phase of the relationship. You know each other in and out and accept all the imperfections. You’re still in love with this human after all you’ve been through. If you’re diligent and your partner is diligent about your relationship health, you may not experience the extremes of these phases.
Finally, just know that life is ever changing. New situations ask for new perspectives and we will constantly have to check in with our reactions and efforts. As long as you never stop working on yourself and always try to show your love, just like you did the first month you were dating, you will have the best chances. Alas, what are we here for other than to love and be loved?