The health and future success of a relationship can often be identified by assessing your relationship stage. Each stage of a relationship can signal compatibility or a continued divergence of ways, even if you’re not yet consciously alert to the direction your romantic relationship is taking.
Whether you’re faced with a romantic vacation, a decision to keep dating after only a date or two, or you’re wondering if you should take your relationship to the next level and make a permanent commitment, knowing which relationship stage you’re in will help you determine if things are headed in the right direction. While not all relationships go through every specific stage, most relationships can be broken into the five different stages described below, each one displaying differentiating characteristics. In this article, you’ll be able to explore the current stage of your relationship.
1. Determine if you’re still in the romantic stage based on the amount of time youâ€™ve been dating and your overall attitude toward the other person. The initial romantic stage typically occurs during the first few months of dating but can last up to two years. It’s characterized by the two of you seeming to be glued together, always holding hands, sitting thigh to thigh and staring into each other’s eyes, deeply.
You may feel weak in the knees when the other person is around and have the feeling that all is right with the world. It’s gooey, mushy love.
It’s not uncommon to have a strong physical reaction when your sweetie enters the roomâ€“â€“your heart may race, your face flushes and you see him or her in soft, ethereal focus.
You’re both on your best behaviour. During this initial stage, you may still run home to use the bathroom or make sure you’re perfectly coiffed before you see each other or to avoid letting on that you, too, make embarrassing bathroom noise and smells.
It’s not all roses. If you’ve neglected your friends, they’ll be keeping their distance from you and this may be permanent if they feel rejected. You also risk meshing too much with this other person and losing your own identity, either because you’re so intent on establishing “us”, or if you’re liable to co-dependency or you’re feeling vulnerable. Boredom can set in if it starts becoming clear that the initial spark reveals no common interests beyond lust.
Verdict for long term: Thereâ€™s nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward to impress or attract the other person, however, you havenâ€™t made it to the stage where he or she has seen the true you. In turn, you’re still discovering the other person and most likely you havenâ€™t fully discovered what this new person is all about. Now is not the time to throw yourself full on into a serious relationship. You like what you see so far, but give it time before you announce that youâ€™ve found â€œthe one.â€ And take care not to let yourself become so deeply enmeshed with this person that you cannot tell where you start and end; stay true to yourself.
2 Needing some independence from the other person? If so youâ€™ve left the romantic stage and have entered the power struggle stage where you’re both trying to establish your identity. If you’ve reached this stage, you’re displaying healthy behaviour rather than trying to insist the other person is your whole reason for being.
Idiosyncrasies or quirks may become annoying. Perhaps that adorable little quirk that attracted you to him or her initially has started to annoy you instead. You no longer see the other person as perfect but instead your relationship is becoming more realistic. How you deal with overcoming annoying quirks or habits may shape whether you can go forward with your relationship.
You may experience an increased number of disagreements or fights. As you begin to assert your independence, you may have a few more arguments. No longer are you joined at the hip as you were during the romantic phase, but instead youâ€™d like to see your friends once or twice a week. Arguments can stem from social issues to things as trivial but vital as cleaning the bathroom. How you handle the argument and understand that you’re simply getting to really know the other person is important in order to establish cohesiveness. If all you do is shriek at one another, things are not great.
It may become evident that one or both of you enjoy drama and get too caught up in it. This is a sign that your relationship is about a power struggle, not about mutual commitment. When fighting becomes the norm, not the exception, you’ve turned into a drama couple, thriving on crescendos of arguing and making up. This is unhealthy, stressful and doomed.
Miscommunication may occur. Miscommunication may possibly be the biggest reason for increased arguments. You’re still learning how the other person interacts and communicates, which can cause confusion in your relationship. For example, if you like to â€œget it outâ€ when you’re stressed at work to make you feel better, you may not understand why your boyfriend/girlfriend has been so quiet and distant. This can cause confusion and possibly annoyance, when in reality he or she prefers to bottle up stress at work, which may result in irritable behaviour instead. Moreover, in some cases, this can cause your partner to feel that they’ve done something wrong. Communication with clarity is absolutely key during this stage.
Verdict for long term: It’s good if you can learn to handle disagreements amicably and reach compromises that work. If both of you have a clear sense of who you are at this stage, the long-term prospects are excellent. On the other hand, if you’re prioritizing individual time over couple time, spending more time with your work colleagues and mates than with your partner and feel more like friends than lovers, then it’s probable that without making an extra effort that the relationship won’t last.
3 Are you feeling more Zen with the relationship and with the other person? When the stability stage settles into your relationship after youâ€™ve worked through establishing roles and independence, you begin to find peace and a rhythm within the relationship. This is when things fit into a groove, feel absolutely normal and you couldn’t imagine your life without this personâ€“â€“but not in a melodramatic way as in stage one, but in a calm, reflective and contented way. However, it could also be that you’re too comfortable with each other and simply assume things without talking them through or start disrespecting one another.
At this stage, you both understand and freely accept each otherâ€™s differences and even if you may not agree, you acknowledge the need for this. Now you know that your boyfriendâ€™s singing in the shower grates on your nerves, you can laugh and go into the other room instead of wanting to smash him every time he attempts to hit a high note. At this point you can anticipate what makes the other person different or even a little annoying or annoyed by your own actions and can adjust your behaviour accordingly. Both of you make room for each other’s quirks; indeed, you may even defend these quirks to outsiders if need be, even if they drive you nuts in private.
There is a risk of increased boredom with the relationship. You may have a pattern that isnâ€™t overly thrilling. While you know everything there is to know about the other person and can get past certain aspects that annoyed you in the past, you may fall into a pattern that many couples find themselves doingâ€“â€“a boring routine. Monotony of movie night on Friday and dinner at your favourite restaurant every Saturday may provide fertile ground for taking your eye off the relationship. Although this stage can be peaceful it can also be boring and treacherous for many couplesâ€“â€“and this boredom can lead to infidelity or apathy toward the other person.
A risk of traditional role assuming. This is the stage when tradition can take hold even after a wild courtship. In this case, there is a risk of placing one partner in a weaker power dynamic, which will eventually lead to feeling oppressed and unhappy. Avoid this by never assuming anything just because of each other’s gender or personality traits. Both of you deserve to be equals.
Verdict for long term: This stage is a danger zone for relationships, especially if things get too mellow or so bland that one partner feels it’s okay to up and leave. If you’re taking one another for granted or simply assuming the other will always be there, this is too Zen and risks tripping up when one of you feels left out or too much like a piece of the furniture. If you’re moving apart from one another, then this is a sign of trouble. And where boredom or apathy has set in, if you donâ€™t shake it up and work on the relationship, you could find yourself alone. On the other hand, this comfort zone period is a litmus test of future compatibility whether times are dull or exciting; if you’re still comfortable, content and delighted by this person’s company even in the dullest of moments, and you have mutual respect for each other’s growth and changes, this person could be the one.
4. Decide if this is the kind of relationship that could last for your lifetime. You’ve seen it all and you’re still togetherâ€“â€“this is the commitment stage. Couples who have made it to this stage, which can take anywhere from one to 10 years, have most likely made it through both good and bad times. Theyâ€™ve seen the other person at their very best and total worst, but still continue to love, respect and crave the other personâ€™s company. At this point, couples may consider making this relationship permanent either through marriage or other formal commitment.
Are you connected through the past, present and future? Can you envision how your past and current relationship status could propel you into the future? Have you built a solid history with the other person and want to see where this life could take you?
Can you picture your life without the other person? Try to objectively envision life without him or her and what your life would be like. Does the other person make your life better and if so, how?
Do you view the other person as a true partner? From finances to romance, do you see the other person as the total package? Someone who shares the same values and views about important aspects of life such as family, finances and lifestyle? Are you both on the same page with the possibility of parenthood and could establish a true partnership if you were to bring a child into your family?
Verdict for long term: Reaching this stage is a good indicator that you’re going to be compatible long term. Unlike the romantic stage, when committing would have been a simple case of “marry me” and “oh yes!”, this time you’ve been through the power struggle, the boredom and the warts and all revelations and you know this is someone you can commit to. It’s a healthy stage as you’re both wide awake to each other’s good and bad points. Problems can occur if one of you is ready to commit but the other is not; in this case, you may slip back to the power struggle stage, or choose to live together and keep living out the stability stage instead. It’s likely to be long term the moment you both choose to be a team.
5. Have you moved beyond the relationship and you’re looking to start a family? If so, you’re in the co-creation stage, which means that you’re in a committed monogamous relationship and want to broaden your love by bringing a child into your lives.
You have already nested and established a permanent home. Although you may still enjoy the other personâ€™s company, the â€œwild, adventurousâ€ days of being a couple may be over. You seek thrills and excitement through becoming a parent and want to share your love with a child.
You have moved beyond the relationship. The relationship has become bigger than the two of you. You share the same opinion and philosophy about child rearing and have committed to provide a loving home.
Verdict for long term: The verdict is good if you stay committed to one another and don’t neglect to keep nourishing your relationship in preference to outside interests and the children. This balance can be difficult. Raising children is hard work (emotionally, physically and mentally) and sometimes can expose an already weakening relationship, especially if the power dynamics cause one partner to feel overly responsible for child-raising. The prospects are good if both of you acknowledge the challenges and work on them together, and accept wholeheartedly that this phase of your life lasts for around 20 years, after which, you may actually re-enter the romantic stage again when your children leave the nest.
6. Be aware that the relationship stages can fluctuate or be cyclical. You are not necessarily confined to a linear progression through the stages and at any time, a relationship can fall back into a previous stage due to stress, changes, new family members, transitional periods, big events, etc. For example, as noted in the previous steps, an empty nester may fall in love all over again when the children leave, while a person who is ready to commit to someone who isn’t, may fall back into the power struggle stages. What is important is to recognize the relationship stage you’re at, as this can help you to find the coping skills to work through challenges and to find solutions that take you back to healthy interactionFollow Love Venture on WordPress.com