All relationships naturally grow and change over time – this is part of the fun and exciting journey of being in love! From browsing the best dating sites review to meeting up for the first time, to marriage and growing old together, all couples will experience relationship highs and lows.
Therapists and relationship experts recognize that there are several common stages that most couples go through at some point together. How couples adapt to and make room for these changes determines whether your relationship will stand the test of time. We lay down nine universal steps of a relationship that can make or break a couple.
What are the First Steps of a Relationship?
The first steps of romantic relationship growth begin in the pre-relationship attraction phase. This is the phase when you first begin to notice and initiate contact with the other person. The attraction phase is based on a cocktail of hormones and discrete signals that you and your potential partner send.
Usually, initial attraction is powerful and paves the way for desire, which encourages you to get to know each other and take the next steps. Remember to keep things open and playful in this early stage, and don’t rush to get too serious.
So, you meet someone you’re immensely attracted to, and you establish contact. Maybe you set up a date, and it goes well. What are the steps of a relationship after this? If your connection is continued, and attraction is mutual, most couples then enter the fabled honeymoon phase.
The honeymoon stage of a relationship is defined by infatuation and an almost obsessive desire to be together. Dopamine is extremely high in the brain during the early phases of love, and couples may feel a physical rush when together and an emotional slump while apart.
While blissful, it can all feel quite intense and overwhelming. Enjoy this phase for what it is, but remember that it is only one of the very early steps of a healthy relationship. Try not to confuse lust with love.
The merging phase is a vital relationship growth factor and sets most couples off on their journey into a secure and committed relationship. Once you reach the merging stage, it is a sign you have weathered the waning honeymoon phase and, rather than get boring, and your love has deepened and strengthened.
Merging refers to the process in which a couple brings together – or merges – their separate lives and is one of the most important steps of a healthy relationship.
For many couples, this stage involves moving in together, spending more time around each other’s family, getting more comfortable with each other’s routines, and deciding to start a life together. It is one of the more fun and enjoyable steps of a relationship.
Resistances phases in relationships refer to a period of adjustment after you’ve fully committed to each other. Although you know each other well by now and likely know your differences, you now have to put this knowledge into practice and live day by day.
Couples tend to fight more in this phase and learn each other’s argument style, boundaries, and trigger points. Remember, this phase is one of the perfectly natural steps of a relationship and will strengthen your bond. It is simply a period where you assert yourself as an individual in the relationship and draw your boundaries more finely so that you feel even more secure.
The contentment phase can last a long time, even more than a decade. The stage reflects the happy and content phase of a man and woman relationship. You have established good boundaries, strong trust, and patterns of living that suit you both.
You can feel both content and united as a couple and supported as an individual within the relationship. Even though this phase can be long and comfortable, it is still important to check in with your partner often and work on any issues that repeatedly crop up.
Even in the most blissed-out couples, there will inevitably come when everything begins to feel a little stale. The stagnation phase usually comes after long periods of routine or stress, such as child-rearing or a long-term busy career.
Couples can lose touch with each other during these steps of a relationship and lose sight of their love. This is a good time to try new things together to rekindle romance or seek relationship advice or counseling if necessary.
Unlike many other steps of a relationship, this phase is often a make or break moment for couples. Coming after stagnation, this phase demonstrates that a couple has reached the end of their rope – they either want a change in the relationship, or they want out.
This stage is about choosing to stay together or choosing to part. Partners often feel extremely distant and like they have lost connection. This is a good time to work on yourself, too, and improve your mental health and well-being; however, you can. If you are both emotionally prepared to put in the work, you can come back together again.
The reunion phase represents the return of trust and connection between couples who have drifted apart. These steps of a romantic relationship are hard to reach, and it takes dedication and outside relationship advice, to reach this phase.
If you do make it here, however, this is an enjoyable period of renewed love. It may never reach the dizzying heights of your honeymoon phase, but you may feel more open with each other, recover your sense of humor, or feel like best friends again.
This is the phase of total commitment and acceptance within your relationship and is usually the phase people associate with old couples who are still in love. Reaching this phase demonstrates your relationship growth factor and shows that you are truly dedicated to each other. You trust each other fully and will never lose this love.
Final Call: How many steps of a relationship have you experienced? Are you and your partner in a difficult phase right now? How do you cope with the problems that different stages throw up? Share your experiences in the comments!