The Five Stages of a Relationship that Every Couple Goes Through
Did you know that every couple goes through five distinct stages in their relationship?
It’s true. In fact, some couples move through these dating stages several times over the course of their relationship.
In this series, we’re going to explore these relationship phases so that you can understand how to navigate these each dating stage and building a successful and fulfilling relationship. Let’s look at what these stages are.
The Five Stages of a Relationship
There are five stages in each relationship. They are:
Merge or Infatuation
Doubt and Denial
Each stage has its own complications and challenges and if you are going to successfully navigate your relationship, you must know which stage you are in and how you should proceed.
Over the course of a relationship, it’s possible to visit the various stages of a relationship again and again. They are not linear like a magical relationship timeline. In fact, they are cyclical. It’s best to think of these stages not as a series of stepping stones toward a final destination but rather as seasons that we all move through in an ongoing cycle.
Some couples stay in certain phases longer than others. And some, unfortunately, never make it past the first few. A successful and fulfilling relationship is not easy; it take time, energy, and work on the part of both partners. It’s not easy but by understanding the pitfalls, you quite possibly can minimize the risks and build a strong foundation.
The ideal, romanticized picture of relationships is often portrayed in movies and television. It’s appealing to believe that an intimate relationship begins with the initial stage, the meet-cute or honeymoon phase, where we explore giddy, childlike infatuation. Next, it moves into a series of trials and tribulations until, finally, the couple finds a blissful state of happily-ever-after. It’s a satisfying narrative that neatly wraps up a relationship into enjoyable entertainment. But it’s not as easy as Hollywood makes it seems.
In reality, love is a journey and not a final destination. We shouldn’t expect to arrive at some point and look back at all the past challenges and simply say, “That’s it! We’ve arrived! We made it.” The truth is, there’s always another obstacle or challenge to overcome. And in between those challenges are great moments of happiness. It’s easy to let your guard down during those good times, but beyond where you are now, another hurdle awaits.
So what do these relationship phases look like and how should you approach them? Let’s take it step by step.
In the first article in this series, we looked at the merge or Infatuation phase. In the second article, we looked at the doubt and denial stage. Next we looked at disillusionment. In the last article we explored the difficult make-it-or-break-it decision stage.
In this article we will look at what happens with both partners commit everything they have to making their relationship work and emerge stronger and healthier in the wholehearted love stage.
Introduction: A Stronger, Committed Relationship
In the previous article, we looked at what may be the most difficult time for any relationship. It was the decision to buckle down and commit to fixing the problems or to end it all and walk away.
Not every couple will be able to save the relationship. Some will decide that it’s just too much work with not enough reward. The truth is, that decision may come at any point in the relationship. It may come during infatuation as one partner realizes that what they are about to get into is not what they really want. This may be the result of one person experiencing doubt sooner than the other.
Or the couple may decide to break it off once the challenges start to emerge. Maybe the fights and arguments are just too chaotic and not worth the trouble.
As we mentioned in the first article in the series, the stages of a relationship are cyclical and every couple will experience them differently and at different times. There is no timeline or schedule as to how quickly they move through them. In fact, very often, a couple may move back and forth into different stages.
Regardless of how couples experience this cycle, there will be a decision point. They will decide to keep working on the relationship or they will decide to end it. If they are successful, they will reach the last and final stage, the wholesale love stage.
In this article you will learn:
What happens in the wholesale love stage
How to create a strong, committed relationship
Why this should be the goal of every couple
How to stay in this stage and keep growing
What is the Wholesale Love Stage?
The fifth and final stage of a relationship is the most fulfilling. It occurs when your relationship is at its healthiest and most rewarding. Both partners feels valued, supported, and loved. They feel free to grow individually and as a couple. They accept the realities of the relations – with its good times and bad times, the flaws and strengths. They have given up the myth of a “perfect match” in favor of the belief that a good relationship takes constant work.
This is not to say that there won’t be difficulties. Even in this stage you are bound to have fights and arguments. But if you’ve made it this far, you’ve learned the tools and techniques to communicate effective and address behaviors and beliefs that may need to change. You have learned how to navigate difficult conversations without feeling threatened or attacked. And it also comes with the maturity to know that your partner isn’t perfect and sometimes you just need to forgive their mistakes.
In fact, you may have learned through your counseling how to have an argument or a fight. This technique is known as having a “fair fight”. You can disagree passionately about something but you learn how to not make it personal by attacking your partner. You learn to look for compromise and areas when you can agree rather than winning the fight. What good is it, after all, to win the fight if you lose the relationship as a result?
The main difference now is that when these arguments and differences do show up, it won’t seem like a major problem. Instead, it may seem more like a relationship tune-up. You need a minor course correction in order to stay on track. You won’t have resentment. Instead, you’ll appreciate that you and your partner can have a constructive conversation about things that may be troubling and quickly deal with them so you can get back to the good times.
And it’s worth the effort to get to this stage. You can begin to re-discover what made your relationship so exciting at the beginning. It’s a chance to revisit the fun times. You can play together, laugh, spend fulfilling time together, and regain some of the intimacy that may have been lost in the past.
The best part is that the love you rediscover at this stage is often deeper, more intense, and more mature. You’ve not only regained the fun spark you had at the beginning but you have a deeper appreciation for your partner because you’ve gone through the trouble of fighting for it. You realize the value of what you could have lost. You committed everything you had to making sure you didn’t lose it. You appreciate the relationship for what it means to both of you. Once you find out what is really important to you, you will be more careful about letting little things become big things and you’ll guard against the destructive behaviors of your past.
Most important, you’ve learned that you are not going to change your partner. And your partner isn’t going to change you. Instead, you accommodate each other and appreciate your strengths and weakness. You realize that you can balance each other out. You decide to love them for exactly who they are. You are more willing to forgive your partner’s mistakes and you learn to not let them bother you so much. You decide that struggling for control is not as effective as sharing the power. You have developed boundaries and a mutual respect for each other.
Remember that you have to work to keep the relationship alive. It’s easy to feel like you’re in a rut, especially if you are married and have children at home. Your routine becomes the same, day after day, when your only decisions are what television show to watch and what to have for dinner. Regular date nights are a great way to get out of the normal routine while showing your partner that you care about them.
The goal is to stay in this stage as long as you can. But also be careful. If you are complacent, you risk getting bored with the relationship, which can take you right back to the disillusionment stage. Be aware of the signs and avoid going backwards.
You can avoid being bored by continuing to create new shared experiences. Move outside your comfort zone and challenge yourself and your partner to grow in new directions, both individually and together as a couple. Spend time together but don’t forget that individual interests and time apart is just as important to be fully human. You exist as a person both inside and outside of your relationship.
What’s also interesting about this stage, is that many couples also start to focus their relationship outward instead of inward. This means that they are spending time and energy together but doing so in a way that benefits others.
They still actively work on their relationship but they get involved with projects to help the community. Some people engage in a hobby or volunteer with charitable organizations. They get involved in a cause they both care about. They are able to find a calling for themselves as a couple and in doing so, they keep the relationship interesting as they take on new challenges.
The work of your relationship will never be fully done. You must always be working on making your relationship stronger while avoiding the pitfalls and challenges of the past. Continue to find ways to maintain an emotional and physical connection with your partner and recognize the signs when you may be going backwards.
If you are lucky enough to be reach this stage, you’re lucky. Not every couple is able to withstand the challenges that so often derail a relationship. Appreciate your partner and what you have and don’t take each other for granted.
Here are a few things to think about as you continue to grow and mature in your relationship:
Congratulations. You made it. You should feel proud of where you’ve been and how far you’ve come.
Working on your relationship is never over. It will take a full-time commitment to stay focused on what is important and keep the relationship strong and fulfilling.
Recognize that there will still be challenges ahead but if you maintain the love and respect and continue to communicate effectively and honestly, you will be able to overcome them.
Continue to develop shared interests and activities but don’t neglect those things that help you experience your life as an individual.
Healthy, fulfilling relationships almost never happen without going through some dark times. It is in the moments of conflict and chaos that character is developed.
Steel is made through a process of heating metal until it reaches its melting point. When it cools, it is stronger than the original metal. In much the same way, a relationship emerges from the heat of conflict, transformed and stronger as a result. In order for this transformation to work, however, each partner has to commit to the process.
When the trial by fire is over, the result is a successful, fulfilling relationship with partners who are able to experience wholesale love for each other.
Thank you for joining us through this journey of the stages of a relationship. We hope you found it informative and we were able to answer some of the questions you had. We hope you can apply the lessons to your relationship and we wish you all the success and happiness you deserve.
Also, don’t forget to learn about 1,2,3 and 4th stages of relationships:
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