Everyone who’s happily attached goes through stages of a relationship, but you might mistake those stages as being linear. You find someone with whom you share incredible chemistry, but then who he really is starts to shine through and you enter into a more uncertain stage. Some relationships end here, others don’t.
If you make it through the uncertainty stage (we’ll give them more formal names shortly), you enter into an adjustment phase when the differences between you seem to stand out and you feel like you’re constantly negotiating something.
If you can survive the adjustment stage, you’ll find yourself ready to commit. You’re accepting one another for who you are and willing to hang in there. The next stage is acceptance. You’ve gone through a lot to get where you are, and you feel closer than ever.
The challenge is that you won’t stay in that acceptance stage because you’re both always growing and changing. You’ll cycle through these stages multiple times throughout a long-term relationship, regardless of what Hollywood tries to tell us.
Stages of a Relationship: Stage 1 – Early DatingThis stage is called the infatuation stage, the euphoria stage, the merge stage, and probably a dozen other names, but they all mean the same thing. It’s that first phase of a relationship when you feel the chemistry and you’re drawn to one another so strongly that common sense and reason often fly out the door. During this stage, your emotions are strong, often overriding any rational thinking you might normally do. You feel he’s your perfect match, a guy who’s very similar to you and someone you want to spend all your time with. According to scientific research, during this phase of a relationship, your brain shows decreased activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is the part responsible for the negative judgment of people. This means your brain has just handed you a pair of rose-colored glasses. While this can feel like a bad thing, research also says that couples in the study who stayed together for three or more years had the most decreased activity in this part of their brains. While you each have faults and you see them, they don’t matter enough to cause you to end the relationship. In other words, you look past them.
The Dangers of Stage 1While this is all well and good, there are some pitfalls to this chemical reaction your brain is having.
Ignoring Red FlagsFirst, you may ignore true red flags. You’re so in love with him that you see the red flags, but you don’t pay attention to them. Some flaws are no big deal and the ability to overlook them is fine, but sometimes there are bigger red flags that you should notice. He may be financially irresponsible, physically or emotionally abusive, controlling, or have any of a host of other negative behaviors. One or both of you explain these poor behaviors away and move forward. Of course, all of those I just listed are not good for a healthy relationship, so ignoring them is leading you down a bad path. To avoid this, ask your friends to meet him and give you their honest assessment. Listen to them because they have one goal – to protect you from yourself. They want you to be happy, so when they tell you something you don’t want to hear, remember that! Take off those rose-colored glasses for a few moments and ask yourself if what they’re seeing is true. Date with your head, not with your heart
Giving Up Your Outside LiveAnother problem that can occur in stage one is that you spend more time with this new love instead of on your hobbies and outside friendships. You begin to spend so much time together that your friends finally just give up on you coming to girls’ night ever again. While this seems okay, it’s not. He fell for a woman who was active and engaged with the outside world. He fell for you because you were busy and confident. A guy will enjoy this for a little while, but then he’ll begin to feel smothered. He wants to spend time with his friends, alone, but you’re always there. He can’t catch an evening to himself, and he may begin to feel smothered. A relationship can’t survive with the two of you slobbering all over one another all the time. The two of you need time apart so you can appreciate your time together. He needs to be away from you sometimes in order to be excited to be with you again. Avoid this by maintaining the activities you had before you met him. If you had Yoga on Tuesday nights, keep going. He’ll be okay, I promise. If you and your girlfriends did a girls’ night twice a month, keep going. Keep working on your hobbies and volunteering or doing other things that occupied your time before you met him. Of course, don’t spend every evening doing something. Make time for a date night with him too, but don’t plan to spend every day, from the end of work one day until you wake up to go to work the next together.
Not Being Fully Honest with One AnotherI often equate dating, especially early on, as a marketing activity. You’re putting your best foot forward so you can impress this guy. If you met through an online dating site, you put up your best photos, maybe photos that were a year or five old. You only listed your good qualities because who wants to put up the bad ones? But this isn’t really you. We’re all flawed, and we all have baggage. We’re all afraid of being too vulnerable with someone we don’t really know, so we keep those parts of ourselves hidden. Of course, if you feel you’ve hidden your true self for too long, you wage a war with yourself over when is a good time to bring up some of those vulnerabilities and pieces of baggage. So, here’s what you do. Try to be as close to your true self as you can be on your first date. Don’t wear an outfit that doesn’t represent your taste just because you think it makes you look sexier. Wear something you feel comfortable in that doesn’t show off too much of your body but still leaves him appreciating you. Instead of hiding your baggage, unpack it slowly, in little pieces first. Always remember that just because you think something is negative in your life doesn’t mean he will. Baggage is different for everyone. You may have dated a few men who bolted and ran when they found out you have a three-year-old son, but that doesn’t mean the next guy will.
Having Unreasonable ExpectationsWhen you have low confidence and self-esteem, you may set unreasonable expectations in the early phase of a relationship. For example, you may seek a commitment from him way before he’s ready to make one. Guys take longer to fall in love In reality, you’re probably scared to death that he might see through you to your pain and vulnerability, so you make sure to dump him first. That’ll teach him for being too perfect! Some women meet a new guy and within a few weeks, they’re reading The Knot and dreaming about wedding dresses. Every time he does something that they feel is a milestone, they add to this vision of a lifetime relationship with him. If you find yourself doing this, it’s time to stop dating for a while. Take a relationship break and work on yourself. If your confidence is low, you’re attracting a type of man you don’t want and who may not be able to commit to you in the way you envision. Confident men don’t date women who lack confidence. They date confident women, so to attract a great man, you must first build your own confidence and self-esteem. I want to change my life!
You Have Sex With Him Too Soon
Sex too early in a relationship can kill whatever you have between you. Yes, a guy will ask to have sex, but that doesn’t mean you must say yes.
Have a boundary that says you won’t have sex with a guy until he’s proven himself worthy of you. Of course, if your beliefs say not to have sex until you’re married, let him know that. If he respects you and likes you enough at this stage, he’ll respect your boundaries.
When you have sex too soon, it is a low-confidence signal. It’s your way of saying you think you can’t keep him if you don’t have sex. That sex is all you have to offer.
This is not true. You are a wonderful woman, whether you see it or not. A good man will respect your boundaries and not try to crash through them.
How Long Does This First of the Stages of a Relationship Last?
Most believe that this first stage lasts about six months, some estimate it could last up to two years, but I don’t think that’s true. Really, it depends on the two of you. Nobody can predict how long any couple experiences one stage or another.
Your relationship is different from any other because you’re at different stages of your life than other couples. Another factor is how your relationship started, your personality traits, and how long it took you to fall in love.
I have neighbors who began dating during COVID. The man lives next door to me, and his girlfriend lives across the street from me. To add to the situation, his ex-wife lives about five doors down from his girlfriend. They all get along well, thankfully, so it all works.
When the man and his wife were married, they lived in the same school district as his current girlfriend. They knew one another. Their kids went to school together, so when they ended up being neighbors, they weren’t strangers. I would estimate it was about a year after she moved in that they started formally dating.
I don’t honestly know how long they stayed in this stage. They were very quiet about their relationship for quite some time, for obvious reasons. We have a close-knit neighborhood with quite a few busybodies. My point is that for them, this stage may have lasted a shorter period of time because they knew one another already. Some of the secrets were already out.
If you’re in this stage of a relationship, enjoy it. This is the fun stage when you’re learning about one another. Do fun things together. Enjoy getting to know one another. Don’t put the pressure of commitment on yourselves just yet. It’s too soon.
How to Get This Phase Back Later
Remember above, I said you’ll cycle through these stages of a relationship. How can you bring back this phase?
Continue to Show One Another Your Love
Never stop giving compliments or appreciating one another. Keep surprising him with his favorite coffee once in a while. Put a note in his laptop bag to remind him of something special you have planned.
Keep making deposits in the emotional bank every day. Just because you may move out of this phase doesn’t mean you get to stop being nice to one another. In fact, as the challenges of the other phases kick in, it will be even more important to do these things.
Keep a Regular Date Night Routine
Date nights are crucial to happy relationships. I’m convinced of this. They provide you with an opportunity to reconnect after a busy week of other stuff.
They also give you the chance to discuss your relationship and your shared vision for where it’s going. How do you see your relationship advancing? What kinds of things do you want to do together? How do you see this playing out in the future?
Date night also gives you time to just be a couple. If you both have outside responsibilities, like kids, it helps you reconnect as a couple without those outside distractions.
I recommend a technology-free rule for date nights unless you have a job that requires you to be on call or you have kids with a babysitter. But you don’t sit there and read emails, look to see who liked your latest Facebook post or how many new followers you have on Instagram. Save that for later. This is your time to be together.
Spend Time Apart
I mentioned this before. It’s important for you both to have time apart, as well as time together. If you stay glued to one another all the time, it will get old fast and one or both of you will feel smothered.
This time apart allows you to maintain friendships, hobbies, and other activities you were doing before you met him. It also allows you to be apart so you can miss one another, which helps you remember why you’re together in the first place.
Practice Partner-Based Gratitude
There are reasons why you love having him in your life. Share them with him. This doesn’t need to be a daily practice, but you should strive for a few times a week. You can do it in different ways. You could write him a love letter and mail it to him, or you could write it in lipstick or dry-erase marker on the bathroom mirror. I suggested earlier sticking a note in his computer bag or in his lunch.
All of these pieces of appreciation are important and help maintain the bond between you.
Become an Active Listener
Many people think communication is all about how you speak to one another, but one person can’t be heard if the other isn’t listening.
Listening is perhaps more important than speaking because then your partner feels appreciated and heard. Many problems in relationships arise when someone feels unheard. He’s been trying to tell you for weeks that he needs more time to himself, but you just keep scheduling things to do together, ignoring his request.
Listening involves sitting quietly while your partner speaks. Don’t work on what your response will be. Ask questions where they fit. Nod your head to show you’re paying attention. Keep your eyes focused on him, although not to the point of being creepy.
Only after he’s done speaking do you consider what you’ll say. Don’t try to make it something to top his story. Maybe all you say is, “Wow, Gregg! That’s amazing,” or “Gee Joe, I’m so sorry about your dog.” It shows you were paying attention and that what he said mattered.
Don’t Let Your Sex Life Fall Off
The kids are young, and you have a puppy. You just got a promotion and he’s just started his own business. You’re both so exhausted by the end of the day that you just want to drop into bed and fall asleep.
Instead, I encourage you to relight the fire. Buy some new sexy lingerie or his favorite perfume. Find some couples’ games and have some fun. I know your life is exhausting, but sex is a powerful thing in a relationship. When it slows down, it’s a red flag.
Touch alone is a very powerful tool in a loving relationship. Just lying together in bed and caressing one another is a very deep and caring activity.
Do Things Together
There are many ways to do things together. You can do something as basic as preparing a meal together, or you can do something riskier like rock climbing, bungee jumping, and so on. You can also plan a vacation together or even go grocery shopping. Some couples find a hobby to share or they’re able to combine their individual hobbies into one they can do together.
These activities are outside of your regular date nights. They can be planned or impromptu. The point is to do something together.
The most effective way to deepen your relationship is to communicate. Ask your partner what he would like out of your relationship at this point. Does he want to experience something with you, or without you? Are there things he’s always wanted to do? Is there something he feels is missing from your relationship?
Relationship failure can often be traced back to poor communication skills for both partners. You don’t really know how to ask for what you want or need, either because you’re afraid to be vulnerable or because you’re afraid of being told no.
If you care for one another, you’ll work hard to make sure you’re both happy and your needs are being met.
Stages of a Relationship: Stage 2 – The Love HangoverThis is a difficult stage for many couples, and some divorces and breakups occur in this second of the five stages of a relationship.
The Dangers of Stage 2
You Focus on the Differences NowDuring this stage, the rose-colored glasses come off. You finally see the differences between you, instead of just the things that make you great together. It can feel like it’s hitting you hard, like an ugly wake-up call. Those same qualities that he has that you once thought were cute are now just annoying you. Maybe he’s an adventurous type, and that attracted you to him early on, but now it feels like he’s taking too many risks. Perhaps he first came off as generous, but now you feel he’s a spendthrift.
You May Engage in Power StrugglesAs these differences come to light, there’s more friction in the relationship. You may experience power struggles and feel dismayed at the differences you’re now observing. Sometimes you feel like you love him and at other times, you feel so irritated that you can’t stand to be around him. You must be careful during this stage not to fall into that my way or the highway mindset. Relationships are about compromise. There’s give and take, and the same person can’t always be the one giving or taking. The conflicts you’re experiencing aren’t about huge issues because you don’t yet have that deep commitment or know that much about one another, but they’re disagreements, nonetheless.
Life Becomes Too Stressful – Fight or Flee?If this becomes too stressful for you, your fight-or-flight instincts might kick in, causing you to either engage in arguments or want to flee the relationship. You might want to fight to defend your values or your point of view, which may translate into wanting everything to be your way.
Are You in Stage 2?One way to know for sure that you’re in this second stage is that you’re able to sleep easier. You aren’t thinking about him 24/7. You feel more comfortable doing your outside activities and hanging out with your friends now. Another signal is that while one of you is withdrawing from the relationship, seemingly shutting down your heart and pulling away so you can get some space, the other is pursuing harder. The pursuing partner wants more attention because she feels the growing distance. This partner might feel emotionally abandoned by the other partner.
How to Survive Stage 2Stage two is certainly survivable, or there wouldn’t be three more stages to follow. The challenge, of course, is to get the person who’s withdrawing to recognize the emotional abandonment their partner is feeling. And for the partner who’s ramped up their pursuit, to recognize that they need to pull back and give their partner some space.
Realize You Can’t Change Him – Accept Him Where He IsIt’s also important to recognize that you can’t change him. Just because he isn’t the person you thought he was doesn’t mean you aren’t compatible. If you love someone, you learn to love them where they are, not where you want them to be. James and Kira have been together for a couple of years now, but James just retired from military service and is battling some post-concussion issues. The doctors are saying he may have what they’re now calling a traumatic brain injury. James isn’t the guy he was when he left, and while they communicated during his time away, they were able to avoid many of the pitfalls of Stage 2. Now that they’re together, Kira is frustrated, partly because she doesn’t understand the changes in James, and partly because their differences seem to be coming to light now that he’s back. But Kira realizes that she loves James and is willing to do what it takes to understand what he’s going through, even though it’s difficult at times.
Learn How to Fight FairAn unfair fight is one where you yell and carry on without listening or giving the other person a chance to say their peace. When you see a discussion escalating into an argument, it’s time to step back from it. You can say something like, “I think we both need to take a few minutes to calm down so we can talk about this rationally. When you’re emotional, like when you’re angry, it’s very difficult to think logically or rationally. Your mind just can’t do it, so any argument comes from an emotional place, not a rational one. By giving you both time to calm down, you’re allowing for your rational or logical mind to come back into the picture. You’re also more likely to be ready to listen now that you’ve calmed down. During this calming down time, take some deep breaths to send a signal to your system that the danger is over. Alleviate that fight or flight response that kicked in. You may also consider taking a walk or going to the gym to work out. This also releases those fight-or-flight chemicals and allows you to burn off the angry energy. When you come back together, stick to the ONE topic you were arguing about. Don’t bring up something that happened between you six weeks ago. Also, avoid hurling insults and using foul language. Be calm and come prepared to listen as much as, if not more than you speak.
Remember, this is NormalWhat you’re going through is normal. It’s a stage of your relationship. It isn’t permanent. Nor is it a sign that there’s nothing between you. Your relationship isn’t ending just because you’re in the middle of a disagreement. Throughout your entire relationship, you will disagree. It’s how you manage those disagreements that make the difference between whether your relationship will survive.
Learn the Difference Between Healthy Disagreements and Control IssuesYou can work through any healthy disagreement, but if you find yourself in a constant battle for control, that might not be a relationship worth saving. What to do if your boyfriend is controlling Is my relationship over? Surviving Stage 2 is all about acceptance and tolerance of the issues that now rise up between you. Neither of you is perfect, nor is one of you always right and the other wrong. If you can learn to compromise, you’ll be more likely to succeed!
How Long Does Stage 2 Last?Stage two can last anywhere from a few months to years, depending on the couple. How long it lasts for you depends on a few factors:
- Your willingness to embrace change
- Your own childhood history and any attachment issues
- The quality of the advice you receive
- How willing you are to compromise and forgive
How do You Know When Stage 2 is Over?You’re ending Stage 2 when:
- You can communicate effectively about difficult topics
- You’re able to quickly repair the damaging effects of your disagreements
- You can heal old wounds and restore any broken trust
- You’re able to share the power, instead of struggling for it
- You can accept one another for who you are, instead of trying to change one another
Stages of a Relationship: Stage 3 – The Adjustment StageIf stage two didn’t kill your relationship, stage three might. Sometimes, this stage is defined by what some call the seven-year itch. This is another stage of challenging moments, which arise as your commitment deepens and you continue to learn about one another. The differences at this stage may have more to do with external factors like family differences, cultural discrepancies, religious beliefs, values, or morals. Those things are all starting to make a difference in how your relationship functions from one day to the next, so they’re rising to the surface. At this stage, you’re at a point of deciding whether these deeper differences are surmountable. Since many of these differences often dictate how you live your life, they can be a big deal. Up until now, you may not be living together or spending a lot of time together, at least not enough for these issues to surface, but you’re getting closer and they matter now. Sometimes, during this phase, you drift apart. Just like in stage two, however, this doesn’t mean the relationship is over. It simply means you need to communicate. What’s driving you apart? Can you resolve the differences or are they too important or too big to overcome? If you’ve learned how to resolve your differences well in stage two, you may find this to be a time of peace. You know how to work through issues and you’re carrying those skills forward to manage the new potential conflicts. During this stage, you realize that you can’t change one another, so you either accept each other for who you are or you split up. You develop mutual respect for one another that overrides the differences and helps you set and maintain your boundaries.
The Dangers of Stage 3
BoredomYou can lull yourself into boredom during this stage if you aren’t careful. Finding that peace is nice, but if you settle into too much peace, it’s no longer fun and challenging. Grow together and push one another to stretch your comfort zones. These types of activities help you build intimacy and make your relationship stronger. While many people mistake sex for intimacy, intimacy is actually about spending bonding moments together, building memories, and growing deeper in your affection for one another. When things get tough, it may be those memories that draw you back to one another.
Unhealthy Relationship HabitsIf you’re experiencing a lot of conflict during this stage, you can develop unhealthy relationship habits, like giving one another the silent treatment after an argument or completely ignoring your problems altogether. Exhaustion and frustration at the constant bickering can weigh on you, making you not even want to try. If you get to this point, you need to have a conversation about whether this relationship has what it takes. You’ve gone through a lot already and you’ve spent a good amount of time together, probably a couple of years at this point, so be careful about giving up too easily.
Becoming “I” Instead of “We”It’s easy to feel alone when there’s a growing distance between you. In this stage, you might feel as if you’re alone again, except with someone still sort of there in the periphery. The solution, again, is communication. At this point, it’s the solution to everything. If you haven’t yet developed healthy communication skills, it’s time to do so. Instead of both of you hanging out with mutual friends, you may find yourself spending more time with your friends and less time with him. Even if this relationship doesn’t work out, you need those communication skills for the next time. In that instance, evaluate what went wrong and how you can do your part better the next time.
How to Survive Stage 3Again, stage three is survivable or there wouldn’t be four and five. There are things you can do to help yourselves make it through.
Stop Avoiding Your ProblemsProblems don’t go away just because you ignore them. Especially when they’re problems between two people. They just get bigger and bigger until they’re too big to ignore, and often by then, they can be insurmountable. When a problem comes up, wait until a time when you’re getting along and then bring it up. Don’t choose another fight to solve this problem. If you sit down when you’re both already calm, it opens you up to logical and rational thought processes instead of emotionally charged yelling matches where nothing is solved. If something is too challenging but you want to work it out, consider couples counseling. An unbiased mediator can often see things you’re missing and is trained to look for cues in the things you say and your actions.
Remember to Show Affection Toward One AnotherWhen things are rough, it’s easy to forget to show your partner that you still love them, but it’s also more important than ever. You can have an argument that leaves one or both of you wondering how the other feels. Without any affection, that unknown can really weigh on you and cause more harm. Some people go by a never go to bed angry rule, and it’s a good one to use. That way you can still come together at night and comfort one another, have sex, or just cuddle. Even spending time watching a movie together can be intimate.
Be sure to Notice the PositivesIn stage one, it’s all about the positives of the relationship and failing to see the negatives. Stages two and three can focus more on the negatives, so be sure to remember the positives. Be appreciative of the things he does for you. This is how he shows his love for you. Also, try to do things for him. Even small gestures like baking his favorite cookies or cooking his favorite meal can go a long way to showing appreciation. When you feel like all of your focus is on negativity, make a mental shift and work through some positivity instead.
How Long Does Stage 3 Last?There’s no predicting how long this stage will last. If you developed good communication and problem-solving skills during stage two, it might not be a contentious stage at all. You may find that peace I mentioned earlier, but remember that peace comes at a price too if you aren’t careful.
Stages of a Relationship: Stage 4 – The Commitment StageThe commitment stage isn’t about marriage per se. In fact, you could already be married by this point. The commitment is more about knowing that you’ve overcome your differences and learned how to communicate well enough to solve problems and avoid massive arguments. Commitment is about making a choice every day to be with your partner. You feel like you don’t need one another, but you want one another, for better or worse, as they say. Now, you experience a balance of love, power, fun, belonging, and freedom. You’ve decided that the bad is outweighed by the good. While you have differences, you’ve learned how to live with them or you’ve made conscious choices to change yourselves to accommodate your partner.
The Dangers of Stage 4
Sex and Intimacy Fade AwayIf you continue to nurture and place importance on your sexual relationship, this won’t happen. Keep things exciting in the bedroom. Share a fantasy or yours or his and act it out. Explore sex toys and games to keep things exciting. Passion doesn’t just happen after stage one. It takes effort to keep that attraction alive. Bring back sexual tension in your relationship
Staying Together for the Wrong ReasonsBe objective about why you’re still together. It’s very easy to stay together because of the kids or because it’s easier than starting over. Don’t allow guilt over splitting up outweigh the common sense of ending something that just isn’t working. It’s easy to settle into a routine of complacency, but that’s not engaging, fun, or fair to either of you.
Believing That Your Work is DoneNow that the relationship has settled in, it’s easy to think you can coast now. Wrong! A good relationship is one that you’re always working on. You’re always doing things together to build intimacy. You’re challenging one another, maintaining an air of mystery, and you’re doing things together. At the same time, you’re giving one another space and pursuing a few interests of your own outside of the relationship. Just don’t think you’ve reached a point when your relationship doesn’t require any more effort. You never reach that point!
Forgetting to Maintain Your Emotional ConnectionAn emotional connection isn’t sex. Emotional connection is, in part, about trusting one another. By now you should have a high level of trust in one another. It’s when you both feel this trust that you feel safe sharing more baggage and vulnerabilities if you haven’t done so yet. If your partner shares something like that with you, be careful with it. Think of it like an egg. You should hold it carefully and give it great consideration. He’s given you something and he temporarily feels as breakable as that eggshell. Don’t belittle him or laugh at what he shares. If he shares something like that with you, it’s a good idea to reciprocate. Show that you trust him with your deep dark secrets too.
AffairsThis is the stage where affairs can happen. They’re more likely to occur if you haven’t navigated stages two and three very well. Your intimacy and trust have already fallen off and you don’t feel connected. You may be staying together out of convenience or for the kids. One of you has pulled away and the other is now seeking either sex or the emotional connection you just read about. Women will seek an emotional connection. Men will seek sex. You can avoid this, again, by being good communicators and by recognizing that a good relationship takes work. Understand the natural rhythms your relationship goes through. It ebbs and flows, just like anything else. When it ebbs, that’s when you need to be a little more vigilant, paying attention, showing appreciation, and communicating so both of your needs are met.
Stages of a Relationship: Stage 5 – Best FriendsBy now, you’ve gone to hell and back and you’re still together. At this stage, you’re happy together and recognize the struggle you’ve gone through to get here. You’re closer than ever, probably considering one another to be best friends. The closeness you share now feels irreplaceable and your relationship feels like it’s on solid ground.
Characteristics of Stage 5
You Take on a Big Project TogetherYou may decide to start a business together or to build your dream home. You might share a hobby or be passionate about a cause you give your time and money to. You’re a cohesive unit now and you show that by working together on things. The world now sees you as one, instead of two.
Your Communication Skills are ExcellentYou’ve learned how to communicate, and this is part of why your relationship is where it is today. Both of you understand that talking things through before they get out of hand is a much better plan than letting things sit. You may even be one of those couples now who doesn’t always need to communicate. You go into a coffee shop and you just know what he likes. You decide to stop on the way home to pick up dinner and you don’t have to ask him what he wants because you already know.
You Rely on One AnotherBecause you’re best friends, you can share the ups and downs of daily life. You get the promotion or you don’t; regardless, the first person you want to tell is your partner. If you don’t get it, he’s there to comfort you. If you do, he’s there waiting to celebrate. You’ve built an unshakable friendship, trust, commitment, and joy in being together.
The Dangers of Stage 5Of course, there are pitfalls to any stage, but not as many as there were.
You Shift into AutopilotThe worst thing you can do to a relationship is put it on autopilot. Each day looks exactly like the last. You’re cycling through the same twelve meals, getting up and going to bed at the same time. Even sex has become routine. This is not the way to keep your relationship healthy. Routine is easier on your brain for sure, but you want to challenge your brain. Change things up. Try new meals. Watch some sex videos or get some sex fantasy books to read together. Don’t allow each day to be just like the last. Do something to keep things lively and fun.
You Live Parallel LivesInstead of being a unit, you drift into being two people who live under the same roof. You’re driving kids to gymnastics and dance class while he’s coaching soccer and baseball. You go to work all day, come home, and throw something in the microwave. He eats on the road between work and practice. You might come together in the evening and fall into bed beside one another, but the distance isn’t inches, it’s a canyon. When conflict arises, instead of using those communication skills, you avoid one another. You’re both busy anyway and you use that business as an excuse to stay away from one another. You can become depressed if this happens, and it’s a prime landscape for an affair or two.
You Invest Too Much in Outside LivesBalance is key in your relationship. It’s great to have those outside activities, as long as you aren’t using them to live those parallel lives. You can get so invested in outside activities that you never spend time together, one-on-one. To avoid this, maintain your weekly date night schedule. Be sure to put some sort of rules in place for how much time you’ll each commit to outside activities. You can also do some of them together, which increases your time together. The goal is to continue to nurture the great relationship you’ve spent years building.
Stages of a Relationship: Final ThoughtsAs I said in the beginning, these aren’t linear stages, meaning once you get to stage five, you can cycle back to one of the other stages. Ideally, you’ll cycle between five and one, because those are the two stages when you’re the most excited and energized by each other. Your ultimate success relies really on one or two things:
- Your communication skills
- Your desire to work through things together