Getting a relationship to last can feel like a very difficult task at times. Some of us are able to cultivate a love that lasts a lifetime while others just can’t seem to make it work, despite seeming compatible with each other initially. What’s the deal?
Well, relationships constantly cycle through 5 stages – some stages are more pleasant than others. But if you and your partner are able to work through each stage as they come, your rewards are coupled growth and a strengthened bond. Get stuck in one of these stages, however, and you and your partner might just end up needing to call it quits.
Psych2Go presents to you, the 5 stages of a relationship.
1.Falling in Love
Otherwise known as “the addiction stage”. This is the most glamorized stage of the love cycle. It’s all that plays out in the movies, so it’s all some of us know!
Our own biological nature forces us to fall in love. According to Dr. Susan Campbell, Our brains release a load of chemicals designed to make us feel attraction. Oxytocin, Dopamine, and Phenylethylamine (a nervous system stimulant, and a very hard word to pronounce) form a concoction that gets you high as heaven on fatuous love.
This drug trip only allows you to see the similarities between you and your partner, as well as the traits that make them a perfect mate. What this high blocks you from seeing, are their shortcomings – their flaws.
This doesn’t necessarily have to be a bad thing; we all have flaws and traits we’d rather keep to ourselves until we’re more comfortable. If it weren’t for infatuation, we’d all be single!
Our love does eventually deepen after a period of opening up and becoming comfortable with one another. We eventually feel a deeper bond with our partner; we feel safe and treasured. Many people mistake this as the highest level of love that we could receive… but they would be wrong.
Infatuated drug-love wears off – Campbell ranges this wear-off between two months and two years – it depends on the couple. Deepened love lasts for a while after this, up until a couple’s 3-4 year mark. But then, we enter the danger zone.
2.The Reality Check
Otherwise known as “the love hangover” or “the disillusionment stage”. According to Dr. Campbell, this stage takes down an extremely high amount of marriages. In this stage, we begin to focus on our differences and flaws, rather than the ways that we are alike. The love we feel can get replaced with disappointment and anger.
We may begin to become annoyed more frequently by the little things. We may feel less cared for or loved than we used to. Before this stage it was okay (though painful to be parted) to let each other focus on work projects – now, choosing work over each other feels like neglect.
In this stage, we often make the mistake of trying to “change” our partners by means of punishment: arguing, aggressive behavior, and emotional withdrawal… the list goes on.
How can you successfully navigate your way through this rough patch? This stage is a time to focus on your communication – more specifically, your conflict resolution skills (see THIS article on how to argue effectively). Campbell’s guidelines for getting over this stage include:
- Accepting and appreciating your differences
- Sharing power, and realizing force won’t get you what you want
- Realizing that harmony without struggle doesn’t exist
- Accepting life as it is
Now is a time to remind yourself of your own personal weaknesses and shortcomings, and to focus on how your partner makes up for them. Remember what makes you a team!
If you can’t resolve your differences effectively at this stage, you may find yourself returning to it frequently in your relationship. Some couples stay stuck in this stage for years – never reaching the next stage – before calling it quits.
So you’ve finally figured out how to argue with – and not fight against – your partner. Congratulations, you’ve made it past relationship hell, and the love is back! The stability stage is stage 1’s older, wiser brother. In this stage, you have accepted each other for who you are, and no longer have the desire to change them (you were never going to be able to anyway).
In this stage, you have clear boundaries for each other, as well as mutual respect. This love is real; it lasts. You can now say with more confidence than ever before that you love each other fully for who you are.
Even in times of arguing or immaturity, it is understood that hurtful behavior is not due to one of you being mean or uncaring. Sure, you might fight and have your differences at times. But that doesn’t prevent you from feeling a strong connection with them.
Some couples do end their relationships at this stage, however. Stability can cause some people to be restless or bored. While it is common at times to miss the exciting infatuation of stage 1, some people start to wonder if they can get it back with a new lover. This can be the spark that ignites an extramarital affair. Our advice? Weigh what you have to gain against what you have to lose. While falling in love may be fun and exciting, the feeling doesn’t last forever.
If you’re looking to get married, this is the stage you’ll want to be in before you pop the question. Couples in this stage understand that while they don’t need each other (quick reminder that human beings can, in fact, live on their own), they choose to be with each other, flaws and all.
These people don’t miss stage one; the only real way to get back to it is to find someone else to date, and these people don’t want anyone else but their partner. Commitment is a true sign of sustainable love.
In the bliss stage, couples move beyond the inner workings of their relationship –they’ve got everything down packed by now – and out into the world around them. These couples tend to work together on projects. For some couples, this means starting a business or a charity together. For others, this stage means working together to grow and support a family. For these reasons, this stage is also often called the co-creation stage.
Couples tend to spend many years in this stage. But it is also important to remember to continue maintaining your relationship while investing this time and energy into their new passions!
Now remember, these stages are not linear, and bliss isn’t necessarily an end goal. Many couples feel these stages multiple times in their relationships, for months or years at a time.
It’s important to be able to identify what stage you and your partner are in, so that you can make healthy decisions on how to strengthen your relationship, rather than let any particular stage dull or deteriorate it. Good luck, readers!
In a relationship? What stage are you and your partner in? Have you had any issues of your own with one of the stages? Psych2Go wants to know! Leave a comment down in the comments section below.
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