You’ve probably fallen in love at least once in your life.
As you grow older, you come to the realization that falling in love is actually the easy part. It’s being in a relationship that can be quite challenging.
Relationships are not always easy. In fact, it takes a lot of work to cultivate them.
But this is how love grows and lasts. So how do you ensure that you start your romantic relationships on the right foot?
While every relationship is unique in its own way, there are typically five stages every couple goes through.
It doesn’t matter how you met or what your goals in the relationship are.
You will go through each of these stages.
And how you handle them will define the shape — or the end — of your relationship.
Understanding these stages as they happen can help you better navigate your way into a long-lasting and loving partnership.
The 5 Stages Of A Relationship
1. Attraction and Romance Stage
2. Crisis Stage
3. Working Stage
4. Commitment Stage
5. Real Love/Bliss Stage
Each stage is a challenge on its own. In fact, the first two stages often prove to be the most challenging to every couple.
Let’s take a deeper dive into the 5 stages of a relationship, what they are like, and how to handle them:
1. The Attraction and Romance Stage
This is what movies are made of.
In the first stage of a relationship, you are in complete euphoria.
You’re falling in love, and nothing can go wrong. Everything is perfect – from your first kiss to that electricity you feel around them. They can’t do anything wrong, and you can never find a single flaw in them.
In fact, you go around your day in constant high thinking about this person. And in a way, you are actually high.
Strong levels of dopamine, norepinephrine and even oxytocin are released into your brain when you are attracted to someone. These chemicals make you giddy and euphoric.
Your loss in appetite? And insomnia? All side effects of this little chemical haywire. This feeling can last from a couple of months to 2 years.
You better enjoy this stage while you can, because the next stages are where things get real.
The Good Part About Being in This First Stage
The great thing about this stage is that it’s exciting. There’s nothing more exhilarating than getting to know someone and discovering every amazing thing about them. You will see the other person in the best light. You should try to remember that. Remember the little things that made you fall in love with them in the first place.
Things To Watch Out For in the First Stage
All of these great emotions can make you throw caution out the window. And we can’t blame you. But just as much as you’re soaking the moment in, it’s also important to try to take things slow. Sure, you might start thinking of marriage and kids on the sixth date, but that doesn’t mean this person is “the one.” Remember, most of the time, it’s actually the chemicals on your brain that are talking. We’re not saying you should be entirely closed off, but a little logic and reasoning can keep reality in check and save you the possible heartache later.
It’s also typical to want to show your absolute best on this stage. So much so that you might find yourself not being true to who you are. Don’t pretend you like pineapples on your pizza just to please them. Be you. Don’t make yourself out to be someone you’re not so that another person might like you. If this is the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with, then they should love you for who you truly are.
2. The Crisis Stage
As we mentioned before, couples have a hard time going through the first two stages of a relationship. This is because of the contrast between the Attraction Stage and the Crisis Stage.
In the first few months of a relationship, everything seems to be going exceptionally well. However, the dopamine in your system eventually trickles out, and you start seeing things more clearly. Your love glasses are off. You start becoming comfortable with each other, and things are becoming all too real. You found the toilet seat up one too many times, or they said something inappropriate to your friends. The Crisis Stage is where your first arguments and relationship anxiety happen.
Most couples will go through this stage and sadly, will eventually break up. Suddenly, the other person is too annoying. And one of you might be having cold feet. Are you actually compatible? The Crisis stage is where you’re mettle as a couple will get tested. You’re suddenly struggling for power and seeking harmony at the same time.
The Good Part About Being in the Crisis Stage
It might sound tough, but if you manage to go through it, everything that happens in this stage will only make you stronger as a couple. It can also be a relief to finally show your partner the not-so-glamorous parts of who you are. Your emotional connection is also being developed in this stage. You’ll be seeing how each other reacts to challenges and you’ll learn how to communicate better.
Things To Watch Out For When You’re in the Crisis Stage
This is the perfect time to internalize. How are you reacting to the situation? And is your partner’s reaction something you can respond to well? Things may not always go smooth-sailing, but if you both have the communication tools to come out of this unscathed, then your relationship is made to last. And if you find yourself not willing to compromise or accept your partner’s flaws, then this might be the end for you.
There’s no shame in walking away. In fact, you’ll do both yourselves a favor by giving yourselves a chance to find the right partners for you.
3. The Working Stage
So you’ve conquered the Crisis Stage.
You’ve clawed your way out of the gutter, and now you find yourself in perfect harmony. You’ve developed a routine as a couple. Someone cooks and the other one does the dishes. Everything is calm, and you find yourself in love with this person — in the way that counts.
The Good Part of the Working Stage
You fully accept each other. And instead of trying to change them, you work your way around their flaws. This stage is like a nice long road trip without any bumps along the way. But be careful, this blissful domesticity might just be your downfall.
Things To Watch Out For in the Working Stage
Because the working stage is so peaceful, you might start feeling complacent. And this is where the trouble comes.
Just because you’ve found a harmonious rhythm with your partner, doesn’t mean you should be taking them for granted. Don’t stop going that extra mile to make them feel special. It doesn’t have to be all the time. But it’s vital to remind each other of your love.
Otherwise, you might find yourself losing your way.
4. Commitment Stage
You choose to be together.
Even when the going gets tough.
Even when it might be hard sometimes.
You recognize that your partner is a whole other person with their own set of flaws, dreams, goals, wants, and needs.
But you choose them anyway.
This is what the Commitment Stage is all about. It’s all about consciously deciding that this person is the one for you. You might think the Working Stage was good, but the Commitment Stage is where you truly feel like you belong to this person.
This is usually when couples make huge steps in committing to each other – moving in, marriage, or having kids.
The Good Part About the Commitment Stage
Quite similar to the Attraction Stage, the Commitment stage can also be very exciting – only better. You feel like you’ve achieved something remarkable and that your work is finally done. You’ve found your life partner. But it’s also the beginning of something grand. You’re committed to building a life together and no matter what kind of life you have planned, whether it involves getting married or having kids, the excitement of braving the storm with the person who will never leave you is amazing.
Things To Watch Out For in the Commitment Stage
You might feel like you’re on the finish line, but you can never be more wrong. The road ahead might not look like the one from behind, but it’s still riddled with challenges of its own. Only this time, it’s a whole different magnitude. Your work is never done. Both of you are growing and evolving so you will always have to rediscover each other. You might have all of the chops to have made it out, but the party never stops.
5. The Real Love Stage
This is it. This is what everything was for.
All the sweat, hard work, blood, and tears have leas you here. Finally, you are a team. Your relationship is no longer the center of your world. Instead, you go outside of your relationship and create something beautiful.
The Real Love Stage is where couples work together on an ultimate goal or project.
This can be anything creative that means a lot to both of you, or something practical like your dream home. But to a lot of couples, it’s about starting a family. And although there are constant challenges that will test you, you have everything you need to make it through. You’ve learned from your past mistakes. You remember the great times fondly and the bad times make you realize it was all worth it afterall.
Conclusion: The Takeaway
Relationships are a journey. But so is anything else in life.
True love isn’t something that just gets handed to you. And these five stages prove just that.
It’s important to know which stage you are in so that you’ll know how to get through it. If you find yourselves in a loop, constantly arguing about the same things, then you’re probably still in the Crisis Stage.
Focus on communicating better. If you’re feeling stagnant, where everything seems fine, but it feels like you’re not moving anywhere, then you’re most likely in the Working Stage. Figure out your next goals as a couple.
Ultimately, being aware of where you are a couple is the key to moving forward.
New eBook: The Art of Resilience: A Practical Guide to Developing Mental Toughness
Resilience and mental toughness are key attributes to living your best life.
They determine how high we rise above what threatens to wear us down, from battling an illness, to dealing with challenging emotions, to carrying on after a relationship has ended.
In this eBook, we outline exactly what it means to be mentally tough and equip you with 10 resilience-building tools that you can start using today.
Sign up to Hack Spirit's daily emails
Learn how to reduce stress, cultivate healthy relationships, handle people you don't like and find your place in the world.