Life has phases, and relationships are no different. It is normal to want to know where you fall so that you can be assured you’re headed in the right direction.
There are various interpretations of the different stages of relationship by months, and that speaks of our uniqueness as individuals.
Here we shall define five main steps of relationships and what each entails.
Before we dive in, remember that relationships vary, and some people might remain in one stage for a long time or never advance to the latter stages.
That’s why it is difficult to break down relationships by months. We shall, however, assume that the relationships described here are in an ideal world where people grow and progress monthly to reach the last stage.
Table of Contents
1. Attraction or Lust
All couples experience this stage because it is what has brought them together in the first place. The relationship is new, and you are getting to know each other.
Each party has its best foot forward and act as the ideal self. The couple has deep feelings for each other, with emotions as though this was the perfect person for them. It is why it is referred to commonly as the honeymoon stage or fantasy stage.
People can stay in this phase anywhere between three months to even two years. It is a dreamy stage, and some people change relationships to chase this feeling when they feel that reality is dawning on them. They will call the relationships quits when they begin to notice the other person’s flaws.
Things that were pushed aside with regards to a conflict will start showing up. They will blame the other person and move on to find someone else.
Those who stick though the end of the honeymoon phase enter the next stage. By then, you would have established if you like the person enough to move on to the next step. If it was lust, the relationship would die off when reality sets in.
Things to keep in mind: in this first phase, you’re high on dopamine, and that can lead you to make some wrong moves. You, therefore, ought to intentionally work to take things slow.
Your new partner doesn’t need to know about all your crazy ex that you have eight cats or you will shout the house down of someone touches your stuff. Aim to remain your authentic self when you’re together, but again don’t reveal too much about yourself.
It might overwhelm the person and cause them to run away even if they like you.
2. The awakening/ Struggle
Here is where you suddenly seem to notice that their chewing is not cute anymore; it is irritating.
This stage where reality checks in are also when you get to decide if you want to remain together or go your separate ways based on what you learn from each other.
It can last about six months or more, during which you would have made up your mind.
If you are in this phase and realize that you are not compatible, it is best to have that conversation with the person instead of moving to the next stage.
What comes out in this stage is the realization that you have some fundamental differences, and moving forward would be unfair to both of you.
An example being with someone who wants children soon and you wish to focus on your career first. Or you have different beliefs about spirituality or even your view of money.
Things to keep in mind: With the dopamine that once covered a person’s “sins” gone, it can be uncomfortable to be around someone human like you.
You will also notice your flaws with regards to how you react in relationships. Don’t use this stage to flex your power or get threatened when someone wishes to have more time alone.
Instead, use this as a positive growing experience and an opportune time to put to work all those articles that you read about how to make a relationship healthy.
3. Working stage and managing expectations
During this stage, you are experiencing a loss of sorts. You now realize that the honeymoon phase was what you wanted to remain in forever, but here comes reality to ruin the deep sense of love you felt for the person.
It is also where work begins. If you’re committed to staying together, you will find that you have to have difficult conversations about your differences.
This stage is not fun. It is about learning to compromise and to handle disappointment in a positive manner.
Here is where you are challenged to work on your communication skills. If you’re used to going off on someone when you’re angry, you’ll quickly learn that doing so drives an even deeper wedge between you to.
It means finding positive ways to deal with disagreements. It’s not all bad. If you decide to stick to it, look at it as the two of you building a foundation for the next stage.
Things to keep in mind: Here, you’re aware that the person is with you out of love and it could be easy to relax and not do the things that drew your partner to you in the first place.
If making lasagna when they were doing is something you did, don’t stop doing it. A lot of relationships disintegrate during this time because they stop putting in the effort.
When that happens, resentment begins to kick in. Therefore, remember to remain attuned to what your partner needs and love language because it is the small, thoughtful stuff that makes them feel loved and show you do care.
Once your foundation is built, you begin to gain a sense of security and stability. You know that your partner hates sports and would instead read a book, and you are okay with that.
The awareness of your differences are present, but not in a bad way. There is mutual respect for each other’s personhood, and you’ve learned to live with them.
In this stage of stability, you go back into phase one of romance, but it is now from a healthier perspective. You are both relaxed and now able to enjoy being around each other, flaws and all. Here is where you begin traditions such as date night and binge-watching your favorite series together.
There is also a lot of relaxed energy between the two of you because you now know each other, and no one is working to impress the other person.
This stage takes as many as two years, but if you’re both excellent communicators, you can get to stability sooner than that. You can also learn to navigate fights with such tools.
Things to keep in mind: The work never stops even when you get to space where you feel safe and stable within your relationship. There is still a lot of learning and unlearning that has to take place within your relationship.
If you grew up where people loved to talk for hours, and your partner prefers silence and cuddling as you watch something, you need to understand that it’s not a bad thing.
They are just different. Keeping that in mind removes a lot of the insecurities people tend to feel in relationships when someone loves different from them.
5. Commitment and true love
With the rates of divorce, few people get to this stage and remain there. A good number of them progress to this stage, but things that remain undealt with in the awakening and stability stage are what ultimately end up causing a rift. That is why it is essential to take your time before getting here.
You want to ensure that you are getting into a relationship with someone you want to grow old with. It takes maturity to choose to be with an imperfect person and love them as they are for the rest of your lives.
When you reach this phase, when you have arguments, you’re confident that the person is not going to leave you. That even changes the nature of the dispute to looking for solutions. In the commitment and real love stage, you have to find common goals that you can both work toward.
It could be buying a house or saving up for holidays. It’s special when you have things you achieve together as it fosters pride within the relationships. This stage of the relationships takes months for some, and other years. You just ought not to rush it.
Things to keep in mind: when you declare your commitment to each other and in public, some things are bound to change. You might move in together, get married, or have kids.
This stage does come with a lot of adjustment that might be exciting and scary at the same time. What you do have to remember is that your love for each other is what has you moving into this space.
You are a team now, and this is just one more thing you have to check off.
Why knowing the stages helps
We sometimes feel out of sorts when you are in a relationship and don’t know where we fall. However, with an understanding of where you are, you can assess our thoughts and feelings about your partner and the relationship itself.