You may have heard that there are certain phases of stages to relationships. Well, a lot of research has been put into what goes on in relationships, because we really want to know what is different about relationships that work well.
The 5 stages of relationships: which relationship stage is yours at?
This gives our own relationships a better chance at being fulfilling, loving and long-lasting. Each stage, or phase, has its own characteristics and risks. However at different stages of relationships we do find that often there are similarities in the experiences we have, and also the problems. Each of you has your own traits, thought patterns, beliefs, values and behaviours. You are two individuals, and each of you is responsible for your own thoughts, feelings and behaviour.
Having said that, read on to find out what stage or phase you might be in now, and what you can look for or focus on. The initial stage is the most memorable.
The stages of a relationship are cyclical, not linear.
During this phase you spend lots of time with your partner, to the extent that you may isolate yourselves from friends and family a bit. You engage in many activities together, and there is high sexual activity within the relationship.
There is also the tendency to not really notice or pay attention to the differences between you. The courtship stage generally lasts between several months and two years.
It has been known, however, to last up to eight years! Something that is really interesting is that, most often, it is only relationships that have gone through this stage that are successful. What does this mean? Well, take a relationship where the woman became pregnant early. These couples tend to have a much shorter marketing phase. So the take home message here is: Move slowly to get the most out of this phase. Market yourselves to each other.
Focus on the points mentioned above. For example:. By enjoying the similarities you have and going through this stage fully, you can naturally progress to the next stage. You will have learned how to communicate with each other, how to enjoy each other, and how to support each other. This will set you up for the next stages in your relationship. This is normal. However if you follow this track, you will go through an endless cycle ending and beginning relationships. Because the fact is that those initial strong feelings are largely a chemical reaction in your brain — one that simply cannot last forever.
2. marriage/living together (without children)
It is important to keep in mind that conflict is inevitable, and that love is not a feelingbut a behaviour. Truly loving someone can be seen simply as putting their needs before your own, regardless of how you feel at the time.
Money is often the first safe issue of difference. We often learn how to handle money from our family of origin, which means that we all have different styles.
1. stage of courtship (the “honeymoon phase”)
This means you will need to explore what works for you both. The choice whether or not to have children is often a focus of this stage, leading to one of the following:.
Congratulations, you now need to fit parenting as well as partnering into the same amount of time and space. As such it is normal to feel tired and even drained.
This stage also involves a decrease in mutual activities and an increase in care and task divisions. Often it is here that your individual differences become more evident and there is greater potential for conflict.
This is understandable since this is the most fatiguing phase. Extreme high romantic expectations can be an issue. As with stages, everything begins with your families of origin, as this is where you learnt your parenting style, how tasks should be divided, how conflict is resolved, etc. There may be a clash of two styles from two families of origin coming together. Remember that you have usually come through two stages to get to this point, so you have already overcome a lot, made choices and solved problems. How did you do this then? This is the foundation you can fall back on now.
If you are more tired now, instead of thinking and utilising skills and strategies, you may find yourself falling back on stereotyped coping strategies such as complaining and nagging.
Make the time to problem solve. Nagging rarely works. Communicate with each other openly, nonjudgmentally and honestly to find out what will work — what do you need from each other?
How can you support and encourage each other? If you are really struggling, it may be helpful to ask yourselves how much of a marketing phase you had. Slow down.
Be curious about each other, be fully engaged with each other, and build that strong foundation. Many of the above issues still come into play here, but not having children does change the game a bit. It can be easier in some ways, and more difficult in others. You may be great at communicating, strategies, and problem solving. However you may not have much to communicate aboutto work on together, or to change for. Without new energy coming into the relationship it can stagnate. It becomes a closed system, with no outlet, that can then become vulnerable or unstable.
Children automatically bring new energy into a relationship — without children you will need to do this in other ways. One way to do this is to ensure you maintain a healthy balance between the individual and the relationship.
Why is it important to understand the stages of a relationship?
Maintain your own identity, in addition to the relationship. You will find that, rather than being separate from the relationship, this will feed it — it brings in new energy. It gives you things to talk about and share, things to continue learning about each other.
In addition to this, it is important to have things you do, build and explore together. This will bring you together the way parenting children does.
1. stage of courtship (the “honeymoon phase”)
Have projects together. Work on something as a partnership that will challenge you to compromise, overcome and strengthen your ties. As your children get older and become a bit more independent — spending more time away from home — you may find there are less demands on you as parents. You may have more time and space for activities outside the family, for new discoveries, for individual challenges.
The patterns you have of relating to your partner have often crystallised by this stage, and become automatic. What have you learned? How have you changed? There may be some exploration. New interests, hobbies, roles. If there is a clash, use your history from the past three successful phases of your relationship. Remember that a relationship and its roles change over time.
Recognizing the five stages in a relationship
Flexibility and acceptance is what makes it work. This can be the quietest stage, at least until, if you do have children, they become adolescents. Then there can be potential tensions as a result of emerging differences in boundaries — suddenly you find you have to be referees, police officers, drivers, etc.
Engaging differently as parents often changes you as a couple. Take some time to explore your changing roles, expectations of each other, how you interact. This can be a new start. What are your goals and plans? Be future oriented. You may find that there is more time now to be individuals again. What do you want to move towards now that you perhaps have a bit more time to spend? Use each other as support, fall back on the strategies that you know now work.
And those are the stages of relationships. While not every couple will go through every stage, and some couples will come together at different times of life, this lifespan of a relationship model provides a kind of road map, charting a pretty likely path of any long-term relationship.
Hopefully this roadmap can enable us to travel towards a fulfilling, long term, committed relationship. For example: Put more emphasis on similarities. Try to avoid conflict.