Stages of a relationship and how to set yourself up for long-term success!

It’s not unusual for a client to ask me about the stages of relationships because they want to know what stage their relationship is in. The more you know about the stages of a relationship, the easier it will be to set your relationship up for success in the long run. Many people assume that a relationship plays out in a linear manner, in which each stage is a stepping stone to the next, but that’s not quite how it works.

In today’s article, I want to explain to you how the stages of a relationship work and give you a survival guide for each one. The important thing to understand is that a relationship goes through stages that are actually cyclical. This means that there is a pattern that repeats itself throughout the course of the relationship, and it continues to repeat itself. It’s not the fairytale version that we’re all taught growing up. Healthy, long-lasting relationships don’t consist of just the honey-moon phase and then the boring-routine phase.

There are ups and down, challenges, powerful and wonderful moments, and learning how to navigate these stages can grant you access to an incredibly gratifying relationship in which you both operate as a team. If you’re familiar with our philosophy, then you’ve probably heard me talking about the importance of anticipation. The more you know, the more proactive you can be. The more proactive you are, the easier it is to protect your relationship from some of the most common problems! So, hats off to you for seeking out this article. This means that you’re already on the right track and have the right mindset for success in your relationship. So, let’s get started!

What are the stages of a relationship and why are they important?

different stages of a relationship

As I began saying above, most people think that relationships all just begin with that honeymoon period where you’re seeing the world through rose-tinted glasses. Everything is magical and you can’t stop thinking about your significant other, and it feels like your heart literally swells when you see them. A common misconception is that this period only happens at the beginning and once it’s gone, it will never return. Again, the stages of a relationship are not linear so this honeymoon stage can come back around and in essence, revamp your relationship! But I’ll expand on that a little later on in this article.

For now, I want to go over what the stages in a relationship actually are. The first stage is the honeymoon stage, but what precedes it is the getting-to-know-each other phase. This, as you can imagine, isn’t one that comes back into the cycle. This is when you meet your partner for the first time and start to learn about each other. Whether it was by chance when you were out one evening, through friends, through work, or even through a dating app, you meet him or her for the first time and start to exchange information. During this period you don’t know each other well enough so you focus on physical attraction, what they do for a living, whether or not they are charming, etc. If there is something about this person that catches your attention, then you will start to nurture the connection that forms. This is when you start going on dates and spending more time together. If you two are compatible, this is when you start to feel those butterflies and crave this person’s presence. It can start to feel like no matter what you do, you can’t stop thinking about them. It’s one of the more charming moments in life, and it floods your brain with dopamine! This is when things start to get interesting…

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Stages of a relationship that follow the honeymoon stage

phases of a relationship

When deeper feelings start to develop, things begin to intensify and this is around the time you start making things official. When you’re a couple, you start to combine your lives and this is when we see the honeymoon stage. It is no longer “me” and “you;” it is “Us.” You refer to each other as “My boyfriend” or “my girlfriend” and you feel a sense of glee every time you say it. It feels like you’re experiencing one of the miracles of life and you’re in awe of how everything lined up so that you two could find each other. It feels amazing how similar the two of you are. It could even feel like you two were made for one another and you’ve found your person.

The excitement of being in this new relationship makes life feel wonderful magical, and the two of you share deeper and more intimate information. This is what leads to the next stage: The Deeper Connection phase.

Stages of a romantic relationship: As you get closer

When you enter the Deeper Connection phase, you start to build your lives together. You’ll start thinking in more concrete terms about moving in together and you might even start to talk about your goals together. Is there marriage in the picture? Children?

You are still feeling that glow that your brain has created. It’s that surge of dopamine that makes you feel addicted to your partner and it, in essence, makes it very easy to ignore red flags or areas in which the two of you are not compatible. During this stage, I encourage you to fully bask in the glory that is your relationship, but I also encourage you to keep a level head and keep an eye on potential issues. At this point in the relationship, your lives are starting to merge on a much deeper level, but it isn’t fully cemented yet. I bring this up because this is often the stage in which you can still set boundaries that serve your relationship in the long run. In many of my coaching sessions, I see that a person ignored red flags at the beginning of the relationship and their feelings for their partner kept them from addressing the issue. And now that so much time has passed, it can feel like the issues in the relationship are set in stone.

Fortunately, nothing is set in stone, but the more time passes with a pattern being set, the harder it is to undo it.

Phases of a relationship: the wakeup call

You know, the term “phases” fits much better than “stages of a relationship” because relationships go through phases – like the moon does. The more unpleasant phase is called the “Wakeup Call” phase, and this is when you start to see the flaws in your partner and the flaws in your relationship. It can feel like someone is lifting the veil from over your eyes, and you realize that there are things about your partner and you simply do not like. For example, his punctuality makes him look too predictable, or her humor gets on your nerves. As you can imagine, this is the stage during which many relationships fall apart. One or both of you might start to pull away from the other, or there can be disappointments, disillusionments, disagreements and fights.

It is not uncommon for there to be a period of tension between you and the one you love, and this is usually the time when people reach out to us for help. Before we go any further, I want to mention that if you are in this period and you’re worried about your relationship falling apart, I highly encourage you to read this mega article on how to save your relationship. I also recommend checking out the product we’ve created that is designed to teach you how to bring attraction and that feeling of connection back into your relationship. To check out this product, just click here.

So, in the wake-up call stage, we can start to sense that our partner is different, and it can be challenging to recognize the person that they were at the beginning of the relationship. There are more power struggles, and though the feelings of love are still present, they’re now combined with a sense of frustration.

This is when communication becomes more important than ever. Please read this article on communication for in-depth tips and tools that will teach out how to manage conflict in the most productive way and ensure that your relationship can come out on top. I see many people respond to this disillusionment by either withdrawing or becoming more confrontational and combative. This will depend largely on your personality, but neither option helps the relationship to thrive. The important thing is to face issues and work as a team to find solutions. It is absolutely normal that you two would have disagreements, and learning about these disagreements is a perfectly natural relationship stage. I don’t want you to experience conflict or a difference in opinion and expect the worst. You two are not mirror images, and it’s okay to see things differently.

The real issue is if you happen to disagree on some of your core values or your non-negotiables. That is a different topic and it warrants serious, transparent conversations between you and your significant other. This requires you to have a very clear understanding of your personal wants and needs.

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Different stages of a relationship: Making a choice

stages of love relationship

This is the period during which things start to become more challenging. You have gone through the wake-up period, a bright light has been shined on the cracks and flaws in the relationship, and now the time has come for you to make decisions. At this relationship stage, you’ve reached a fork in the road. Either you make the decision to work through your problems, or you go your separate ways. At this point, you probably aren’t on good terms with your significant other, you’re spending lots of time apart, you might even be avoiding each other. You might catch yourself being extra defensive and there might be an element of hostility in the air between you. Or, on the other hand, you might be feeling anxious and tired in regards to the relationship.

So, what do you do?

Well, there are two options. You take a step back and analyze the relationship, look at your non-negotiables, assess whether or not your partner is capable and willing to make an effort to work out the kinks, and whether or not you’re willing to put in the effort to do it… You analyze how you feel about the prospect of being without your significant other, and whether you would be happier on your own or with someone else. You take a serious look at the potential you see in this relationship, you weigh your options, and you make a decision. Either you stay, or you go.

When someone comes to me at this point in their relationship, I encourage them to take a step back to hone in on some tools. Very often, a person will want to leave their relationship simply because they don’t have the tools they need to nourish the relationship. Again, this is where communication comes into play. It is crucial to take your time with this decision making process so you don’t end up with terrible regrets. As you can imagine, many people who are struggling with this period feel so overwhelmed by their frustrations and their emotions that they simply pull the plug. Later on down the line, they are overcome with a sense of regret when they realize that maybe they acted too hastily, and that they miss their significant other.

While it’s true that it’s never too late to repair a relationship, it is significantly easier to do so when the two people involved are still together. I also notice that many people panic when they reach this stage of the relationship because they don’t realize that it’s perfectly natural. Yes, it is perfectly normal to reach a point in a relationship in which you realize that your partner isn’t as perfect as you once thought he or she was! The key to success here is to understand that this doesn’t mean that the relationship is doomed. In fact, your differences can help both of you to grow as a couple and as individuals if you put in the effort to work as team.

When you do so, you will find that these challenges will have brought you closer together and you will begin to feel those butterflies for one another again. This is the best part. When you two overcome obstacles, you are rewarded with a sense of closeness that feels even stronger than it did before. In essence, you will have proved to each other how much you care about this relationship, what you’re willing to do for it, and how resilient it really is! This is why I urge people to not be afraid of challenges. They’re a natural part of life and they’re a natural part of relationships. If you fear them, you won’t approach them with a productive frame of mind.

Now, if you can take a step back and calm your mind, and remind yourself that this is normal, you take the pressure off of yourself and off of the relationship. That way, you approach the situation with a solution-oriented mindset and it becomes so much easier to work through whatever challenges have presented themselves.

Stages of love relationship: Coaching story

To illustrate my point above, I wanted to share Sara’s story with you. She had gotten in a relationship with them and that she knew was the love of her life. They met through a mutual friend at a birthday dinner, and it was one of those things where they instantly connected. She told me that it felt like meeting someone she already knew. They exchanged numbers and started talking on the regular, sharing details about their personal lives, their passions, their past, their goals… They found that they had a very similar sense of humor and that they had many shared interests. The more they spoke, the more evident this became, and Sara started to feel that sense of bliss that so often accompanies the start of a beautiful relationship.

In time, they went from dating to making things official and for a long while, they were living on cloud nine. As time went on, however, reality started to creep in. Sara started to realize that her prince charming had a bit of an ego, that it was hard for him to admit when he was wrong, and… would talk with his mouth full. She started to notice more and more things that made her begin to doubt whether or not they were a good match. This became especially apparent when they started fighting about trivial things and tensions started to rise. He was spending more and more time with this friends and less and less time with her. This was making her feel insecure in the relationship and he was interpreting this reaction as neediness, so tensions only continued to rise.

This is around the time that she contacted me. As we began working together, she was telling me that she didn’t know where things went wrong and she was convinced that her relationship was doomed. Fortunately, we were able to go over some very important elements that keep a relationship strong.
Once again, proper communication plays a major role here, but there is more to it. A relationship requires a solid foundation and a solid foundation consists of cultivating a fulfilling personal life, taking care of yourself physically and mentally, making sure that you’re sharing activities with your partner that feel new and fresh. Part of the magic of a new relationship is just that: the newness. As I was saying above, many people mistakenly assume that the honeymoon period just disappears and there’s nothing you can do to bring it back. The truth of the matter is that there are PLENTY of things that you can do to bring the honeymoon period back into the relationship, and in fact, you absolutely should be actively keeping it alive! It’s really all about cultivating a gratifying personal life, practicing productive communication, and maintaining a sense of freshness in the relationship. These three things can help you to navigate through the stages of a relationship while allowing you two to become closer through each phase.

In Sara’s case, we needed to work on cultivating a sense of gratification in her personal life. We ensured that she dedicated ample time to her goals, hobbies, and social circle. A common phenomenon in relationships is that when everything is all bright and new, people lose sight of their personal lives and ambitions. It works for a while, but in time, the relationship begins to suffer as a result of it. In this case, Sara’s boyfriend had started to allocate time to his personal life again, but she hadn’t. The result was tension between them, but as soon as she started to do the same, her sense of self-confidence was given a boost, she was able to find more balance in the relationship, he was given the opportunity to miss her and crave her presence, and their desire to be closer again helped them to start working on practicing better communication as a team.

When you get through this, you reach the more mature stage, which is called Deep Love. This is when you know that you can and will fight through any obstacle that life throws at you, and you will come out stronger as a result. This is a period that is incredibly gratifying, but it’s important to understand that you can still experience the other phases of a relationship!

Stages of love relationships and setting yourself up for success

The stages of relationships are cyclical, not linear. You can go through different seasons more than once in your relationship, and understanding this will set you up for long term success. As this article comes to an end, let’s summarize these stages one last time:

1. Pre-honeymoon stage
2. Honeymoon
3. Deeper connection
4. Doubts/ Disillusionment (when many relationships break)
6. Making a decision
7. Deep love

If you would like one on one guidance to help set your relationship up for long-term success, I highly encourage you to reach out to us for a coaching session. This way, we can ask you specific questions that will help us give you the best action plan possible. Join the Happily Committed Project and transform your relationship in a meaningful and dignified way.

I sincerely wish you all the best in life and love!

Your coach when you want to know the stages of a relationship,

Danny