Love and relationships have no technical aspects to them. But do they have observant aspects? MANY! Observations, research, and several studies later, researchers have concluded that growing in love is a step-by-step process. To be precise, there are 5 stages of a relationship that every evolving couple undergoes. Now, you may not notice things progress in the way these studies show, but it mostly stands alike for couples around the world.
Talking about these 5 stages of a relationship doesn’t mean you overthink about which stage you’re in and if you missed a stage. We should embrace yet another psychological concept, Individual Differences! People differ, love languages differ, the levels of maturity differ, needs differ, and so on. So, don’t beat yourself up or pressure your partner into planning every stage. Let things happen.
Nonetheless, when witnessing anxiety about your relationship, knowing the 5 stages of a relationship will help you with answers about where you stand if you’ve missed a crucial stage affecting your relationship the way it is. At the end of the day, don’t make this the Bible for your love. It’s a study conducted over several couples, and it’s a generic observation drawn to benefit couples who want to commit with sincerity and want to keep worrying as far as possible.
It was Dr. Susan Campbell who enlisted her observation of the most predictable 5 stages of a relationship that most couples experience. Now, stages mean one step after the other, hence indicating growth, aka, evolution! You see how the 5 stages of a relationship work towards a relationship’s growth now, don’t you?
The 5 Stages of a Relationship
1. The Time for Mushiness- The stage of Romance & Attraction
That’s how a relationship begins, right? The first exchange of looks, the initiation attraction, the can’t wait to come close feeling, the why hasn’t he/she called me anticipations. All of this is the first of the 5 stages of a relationship, that we like to call, the time for mushiness, i.e. the stage of romance and attraction.
One can also call this phase the stage of infatuation, the feeling of attraction towards someone, but with no clarity on how long it will last. For some people, it could last for up to two years! But, of course, typically, this stage has an average life of about a few months, until couples decide to either part ways or take it to stage 2.
Observations for Stage 1
- Stage 1 is the time when the happy hormones, scientifically called oxytocin, endorphins, and dopamine work in full swing.
- Can’t get enough of spending time with each other
- You want to reconnect on call even after spending the entire day with each other
- Both partners avoid being entirely themselves- it’s the stage of impressing each other. So, it’s too soon to exhibit the flaws.
- Fights- they’re least to NIL. Couples avoid conflicts in this stage and tend to have the, “I guess you’re right” kind of attitude.
Things to do/not to do in Stage 1
- Keep an open mind. You don’t know which way the relationship will turn yet, and it’s best to stay prepared for the “if it doesn’t work out” aspect of a new relationship.
- Don’t be blind to the relationship red flags in this stage. It’ll be difficult to catch them once you connect on a deeper level.
- Refrain from saying the word “love” too soon. It’s all a liking until you’re taking a committed step ahead.
- Ask questions, answer questions. Get to know each other!
- Hasty decisions mostly do not work. So, be slow, in thinking, deciding, and confessing.
- No one can pressure you into feeling faster. Go at your pace.
- Last but not the least, enjoy the phase! The memories will last and cast a smile every time you revisit these moments in your mind.
2. Stage 2- The Moment(s) of Reality
Let’s face it- the love doesn’t fade, but we cannot forever live in the romance stage now, can we? We have to move on. We have to get on with our lives and careers. We have to give attention to our family and friends too. So, the real check of a relationship is in the second stage of the 5 stages of a relationship. In fact, it is one of the most significant stages of a relationship because it is now that you decide between ending things or taking it ahead.
The doubts, the denials, the confusions that remained buried under the sand now make their way up, because we don’t want to live in a fairytale. You’re finally in that phase when you want to express your anger or disappointment when you feel it. Fights become a part of the relationship, much like how it remains a part of our lives forever. The point is, the real “us” takes over the “formal” us in stage 2. It is undoubtedly the analysis or dip phase of the 5 stages of a relationship.
Observations for Stage 2
- One of the partners may show withdrawn or pursual behavior, deciding the fate of your relationship
- The flaws shine out
- Questions about the future of this relationship will trouble you
- Things might not be AS exciting as in stage 1
- You begin asking each other more existential and future-oriented questions
- You look for ways to fit the relationship with your old routine
Things to do/not to do in Stage 2
- Talk about your feelings. Yes, one of you may get hurt. But it’s better now than later when the feelings of hurt could be more extensive.
- Face the problems and conflicts as a couple. Life will continue to throw challenges at you. Assess if you’re able to solve problems together.
- Don’t fret about the arguments. That doesn’t mean the relationship has met its tragic end. It only means that you’re progressing into more comfort with each other and so you’re trying to find a space where you both co-exist.
- Asses the red flags now. Is it consistent? Is it too much to handle? Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. An argument is okay. But anger issues are not! Be wise in differentiating between the two.
- Understand each other’s love languages. See if your languages blend in with theirs and they’re willing to accept yours.
- Try to accept each other for who you are if there are no red flags. Personalities will always differ. With anyone!
The thoughts, the analysis, the what to do are a big part of stage 2. What happens next in the 5 stages of a relationship?
3. Stage 3- The Disappointment Stage
Disappointment? Well, yes. You’ve been hanging in for too long, and it’s finally time to make a decision. How long can you go on without actually knowing where it’s going. At this point, either it’s working out too well or it’s not working out at all. Stage 3 is that stage of the 5 stages of a relationship when the make or break happens. You’ve made observations over the past few months and it’s time to either part ways or commit to one another.
All the illusions of love seem to be set straight by the time you’ve entered this stage. Roughly it takes couples about 8-12 months to reach this stage. Of course, if one of the partners is someone who’s too sacrificing or afraid to break up, there’s a possibility that this stage could last longer.
Observations for Stage 3
- Passion, romance, attraction take a back seat
- The level and the number of arguments increase/decrease based on which way your relationship is progressing
- Thoughts of the future (being together or breaking up) take over your mind
- More reasons to argue/ meet each other
- Lack of communication/ Communication becomes effortless
Which of these directions your relationship is heading towards is for you to decide.
Things to do/not to do in Stage 3
- Take space from each other and rethink before you make the final call
- Talk about it and see if you’re both on the same page or if there is anything to work out or a misunderstanding to resolve
- Be empathetic and sensitive when expressing your feelings
- In the end, say it! No use holding back on an emotion that’s only going to bring you back to this discussion a few months from now.
Of the 5 stages of a relationship, it is this stage when you actually make an affirmative decision about which path you want the relationship to take. Together or break up? Did you stick in together or are you planning to stick in together? Read on!
4. Stage 4- The Stage of Stability
Once you decide to stay together after witnessing the very strong emotions in stages 2 and 3, if you’re still together, then you can look forward to some stability backed by maturity. Once you reach stage 4 of the 5 stages of a relationship, you’re a lot more confident about your selection and look forward to all the “relationship stuff” you get to experience now.
Reaching the 4th stage requires navigating through a lot of struggles, decisions, and settlements until you get the feeling that he/she is the “one.” You now feel like reinvesting your efforts into the relationship and bringing back some romance and spice things up to feel more alive. The dates, the movies, the dinners start feeling so much more blissful than before because the dilemmas are finally off your back!
Observations for Stage 4
- The differences now don’t bother you as much. You like each other for who you’ll are, and respect each other’s opinions
- There’s an effort to reignite spark the relationship with passion and romance
- You respect each other’s boundaries
- There’s talk about the future
- Being together feels comfortable. Hugs and cuddles feel warm
Things to do/not to do in Stage 4
- Stop overthinking at this stage. Everything that could be done and the decisions that could be made are done. Not, relax. Enjoy the bliss of being in a relationship.
- Don’t pressurize yourself or your partner about the spark. When you are able to be in the same room, the spark IS already there!
- Try holding hands often. It keeps the bond alive.
- ENJOY this phase before you enter the next and last of the 5 stages of a relationship!
5. Stage 5- The Stage of Commitment
Oh, my, God! Finally, after going through so much, after getting to know each other so well, you’re ready to enter the world of commitment, which surely will be a life-changing event for you. A stage where you are finally sure about the relationship and want to take the bigger steps together. That could be moving in for some and marriage for others. Either way, among the 5 stages of a relationship, this one’s the happiest!
If you reach this stage, pat yourselves on the back, because you’ve progressed to a level where unfortunately several others could not. It’s not a race. No. But, you should be proud of making a relationship goal of entering a committed relationship come true. Congratulations on making it to the last of the 5 stages of a relationship.
Observations for Stage 5
- There’s peace, joy, and relaxation with each other; even in the fun, even in the silence, and even when away at work
- Passion is even higher at this stage because it’s controlled by wholehearted happiness
- The bond and connection feeling makes you feel like on cloud nine
- The “I” transforms into a “we”
- There are talks about things you want to do “together” in the future
Things to do/not to do in Stage 5
- Feel yourselves once you’re in the last stage of the 5 stages of a relationship. Engage in productive conversations for the relationship.
- Don’t take the challenges to your heart too much. You’ve gone through a lot worse already.
- Be one when it comes to sorting things out.
- Include your partner in your decisions. You can no longer make major life decisions like a single person anymore.
- Ensure that you don’t take your relationship for granted once you’re committed, knowing that you already have each other. The effort should continue!
- While you’re making the effort to understand the 5 stages of a relationship, don’t forget that you need to grow individually in a relationship too!
These 5 stages of a relationship may seem or sound overwhelming, but they’re actually not. You see, when in the relationship itself, you don’t actually theorize the stages as we’ve done here. But, knowing these 5 stages of a relationship will help you with understanding where you’re at and what you can do or what you shouldn’t do.
Yet, don’t go by the rules of these 5 stages of a relationship, but don’t ignore them all too. Things differ for every couple. The exposure and lives we live now are much different from even a generation before. So, there’s no stress if things are a little different for you. As long as you’re open to a relationship that makes you happy, it’s all good.
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