There are 10 distinct stages of relationships, and how you handle each stage will make or break your relationship success. The chances are good that you have already failed in both the beginning stages and the later stages, so if you want to make your current relationship or future relationship successful, it is important to understand where you are going wrong.
Stage 1: The Lust Stage
Gaining interest in someone is a stage in itself that could be considered part of the relationship. It is a lust stage where you take interest in someone and what you perceive they could offer you, and during this stage the hormones estrogen and testosterone take front and center stage to turn up the heat.
The only thing you need to do to make this work is pull out your list of must haves and deal breakers (you have one right?) and take a look at the person through a critical eye rather than a hormonal eye. Yes, they may get your juices flowing, but if they don’t have the qualities that you are looking for, or if they have all the qualities you want to avoid, then it is best to lust after them from afar. The lustful feeling will go away eventually and you will be glad that you didn’t get involved with someone who was not going to be a good fit for your life. But, if they fit your list, then you will move on to the next stage.
Stage 2: The Passionate Stage
This is a short stage, but it is important. It is the stage of a relationship where you have intense feelings for someone, so much so that you are willing to do things you normally wouldn’t do and devote all your free time to being with and thinking about them. This doesn’t have to be a sexual stage, although you will likely feel an intense sexual attraction.
The saying ‘love is blind’ was developed from this stage. All your partner’s annoying traits and habits fade into the background as you see their potential, their positive qualities, and their ability to make you feel amazing. The hormones that are being released are responsible for this stage. Adrenaline, serotonin, and dopamine are rushing through you making you feel alive and full of pleasure and keeping your focus on your new partner.
To make this stage work, just enjoy it! There’s not much work involved with you are feeling passionate and in the right place with the right person. You need to enjoy this because you will want to recall this stage later on in your relationship when things get tough to remember those little things that you thought were amazing about your partner in the beginning.
Stage 3: The Attachment Stage
At the beginning of this stage, things will get heavier in your relationship. This is where commitment comes in and you move forward to the couple status. You become attached, see each other in your futures, and start to think about long-term plans with your partner. You introduce each other to your friends and family – if you haven’t done so already, and you start talking about each other to other people as your boyfriend and girlfriend.
To make this stage work, you have to build a solid foundation of trust, communication, and intimacy. You have to talk to each other, really get to know each other, and develop a bond that is going to help you get through struggles that are going to arise later on in your relationship. In fact, every stage after this one depends on you developing those things in your relationship.
Develop trust: Don’t try to hide anything about yourself. Be open and honest with your partner, let them know what you are thinking and what you are doing, and don’t lie – at all. That will help you build trust without holes. If you are not honest and open, and you lie even in the slightest, there will be small trust issues in your relationship that will grow into bigger trust issues down the line.
Develop communication: Make sure you agree to be upfront and honest with each other through your relationship. If you start from the beginning, you will have an easier time later on talking through bigger issues that occur that could be a death sentence for your relationship otherwise.
Intimacy: If you do not want to have sex until later in the relationship, that’s fine. But cuddling, holding hands, and kissing can help you form a tighter bond that keeps your relationship running smoothly.
Stage 4: The Examination Stage
As you learn more about each other, you may find some things that make you question your future together. This stage usually happens around the first few months of the relationship.
If you have ever heard of the three month rule, this is it. The three month rule basically says that if you can last longer than three months, you are probably going to last for a while. But, if you are going to break up, it will be around the end of the second month. This is the stage where most people go through a breakup. Fears and insecurities arise in this stage, and a commitment phobe will bail in it.
To make it through this stage, you have to be committed to staying together. You have to see or paint a bright future, and you have to really feel emotional in a positive way about the potential you have as a couple. Because you have started out on a solid foundation of communication, trust, and intimacy, you have an easier time working through this stage and staying together.
Stage 5: The Belief Stage
In this stage of your relationship, you form some solid beliefs about each other. You decide what annoys you about your partner and you get clear on how you are different from each other. Your true colors start to shine through, and all those bad things that you used to hide from your partner (like going to the bathroom or being consistently late for functions) starts to come out. This is because you didn’t change yourself during the first 4 stages of your relationship, you just adapted a little to win over your partner and they did the same thing. Now that you have each other, everything can be let loose.
To make it through this stage, adopt the philosophy that you are both doing the best you can in the relationship and the little things don’t matter. For instance, just because you don’t like the way they eat doesn’t mean you have to break up with them. Moreover, just because they are not living up to some expectation you have does not mean they are no good for you. They are doing the best they can with the knowledge they have.
Stage 6: The Lack Of Fulfillment Stage
Unlike in the other stages of relationships, your partner is not going to meet all your needs at this point. There will be some things that your partner is not giving to you, and there will be some things that you are not giving to your partner. This will leave both of you slightly unfilled in the relationship, and if you don’t address these issues now, they are going to fester into sore spots that will affect your relationship negatively in the future. That will cause you to fight, feel bad, and possibly break up later on down the road.
To make it through this stage, you need to develop a way of talking about your relationship in a safe place where you can work through any issues that have creeped up. Experts recommend sitting down once a week and discussing your relationship. Reflecting on the week past, and which of your needs were not met, will help you fully explain to your partner why you feel like those needs were not met and what they can do about it, and vice versa. If you wait too long to talk about it, you may not have the insight into why you were upset or felt unfulfilled, so don’t wait more than a week to discuss relationship issues and build a plan to work through them.
Stage 7: The ‘Working On Our Relationship’ Stage
Now that you are clear on the things that are affecting you negatively, you can get to work. You will work on improving yourself in the relationship while your partner will work on themselves.
To make it through this stage, don’t try to change your partner. It’s impossible. They can only change what they want to change, and no bickering, fighting, or blaming is going to change that fact. You are discussing issues on a weekly basis at this point and if your partner is not understanding what you need, then you can bring it up in a different way at your next discussion. It may take a little while, but as long as your partner is hearing what you need and working on making the relationship work, then they will eventually make the changes they need to make themselves and you will get what you need.
If you partner is not actively engaged in this stage, then you must keep working on yourself. Some people find change uncomfortable, and it is only when they see the positive benefits in the relationship from your changes that they will start to make changes in themselves.
If you find that they are not making changes in themselves for a period of time that is too long, then seeking outside help is a good option. A therapist can help your partner see things in a new light that promote change in them and help you see things that promotes change in you. Therapists are trained to see problems that you may not see, offer solutions that you may not be able to find otherwise, and give you actionable exercises to practice after your session is over to help get the change that you desire.
Stage 8: The Bliss Stage
This is the stage where you are consistently working on your relationship with ease, and you have become a great team. Other people see how happy you are, you are grateful for the relationship you have, and you find comfort and support in your relationship that promotes happiness and bliss in your life.
This is another stage that is not hard to get through. You both feel like you are perfect for each other, and that propels you to easily do things that keep you perfect for each other. You will be able to resist doing things that may harm your relationship during this stage because your relationship has really become a top priority in your life.
Stage 9: The ‘Test Your Strength’ Stage
Eventually something big is going to happen that changes your relationship from blissful to struggle. It could be a having a kid, losing a job, experiencing a death close to home, or having someone interfering with your relationship. This stage can really weigh heavily on your feelings for each other if you let the stress get to you or handle the stress in completely different ways.
To get through this stage, you have to rely on your communication skills. Don’t distance yourself from each other. Instead, share your concerns, hear your partner’s concerns, and come together in a way that is beneficial for your future. This may take some compromise, but if you want your relationship to last the test of time, then you have to be willing to do it.
Stage 10: The ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ Stage
Once you make it through the rest of the stages of relationships intact, you will feel confident in your relationship and its future. In fact, breaking up won’t be an issue. You don’t have to get married, but you will be married in definition. You will most definitely face more issues that require strength on both your parts, but because you have gotten through it once before, you will have the ability to get through it again.
While this stage doesn’t take a lot of effort, it is important to remember to keep working through tough times and keep the communication, trust, and intimacy an important part of your relationship. If you stop working on your relationship at this point, you will head back to stage 6 and have to start all over again. But, as said, it won’t take a lot of effort and it will more than likely be natural for you to work on keeping your relationship healthy and happy. Enjoy it! Most people don’t make it through all the stages of relationships, so you should be proud of yourself.