True love is a journey.
As unique as each couple’s love may be, they all have a certain rhythm and direction. I have come to see that all romantic relationships progress through the same five love stages of a relationship.
When I was younger, I didn’t believe it. I was a very confident university graduate in social sciences and had a boyfriend at the time. Our relationship was magical. In our fourth month together, I told him that we were meant to be.
I taught him about developmental stages of love in a relationships and explained that we were special in our love. We were totally different from all other couples. We were already at the mature intimate love stage within just four months of meeting.
I said we would never have the problems others face because we were so much the same. We got each other like no other two people.
Well, that relationship is no more, and I smile at my overzealous personality. I wanted to love so much, that I thought I could jump over the developmental stages and hurdles of true and lasting love. It was a humbling experience.
The decades have passed, and I continue to enjoy the freshness of working in the world of love. Love rolls through our lives with the wave of abundance and promise; this is when we are awake and fortunate.
Love is a thing that remains timeless. It has its own moral compass in how it moves forward in your life.
And while every couple’s story will be different, when it comes to the need for love, loyalty, attachment, and emotional intelligence, there is no difference — all relationships progress through the same five stages of love.
Here are the 5 stages of a relationship and how to tell which love stage you and your partner are in currently.
Love Stage 1
You both become intoxicated with each other. Cupid strikes. What happened? One moment you didn’t exist for each other. The next moment you cannot take your mind off one another.
Time stopped, and this moment lives on within you for always. It is branded into your very soul’s memory. You became like a teenager again, obsessed with being together. You feel drunk with adolescent energy inside of you, no matter what your age.
The major feeling you’re experiencing during this first relationship stage is limerence. Limerence is defined as “a state of mind which results from a romantic attraction to another person and typically includes obsessive thoughts and fantasies and a desire to form or maintain a relationship with the object of love and have one’s feelings reciprocated.”
This is why it feels like the outside world fades into the background. It disappears, and now it is only the two of you at last. It is the two of you and your private world. Hold on to the memory of this mighty power of romance for the rest of your relationship’s life.
The hormonal magic will shift, and with time, you will feel grounded and back in the world again. Glitches can occur, and feelings are hurt. You work at finding a way back to the way it was when you did not know each other so well. Here come he bumps.
Love Stage 2
You acknowledge to yourself and your partner that you love each other. You’re committed to taking your relationship to the next level. You are getting to know each other outside the bubble of romance.
You are adapting to unforeseen and unwelcome differences in each other and extending your awareness of the relationship stages you and your partner are going through.
At times troubling thoughts arise like, I know you and I do not know if I love you. Defense patterns and power struggles surface. The struggle of connection and disconnection and compatibility arises.
Warmth and exciting connections builds between the two of you, as well as the satisfaction of being with someone you enjoy and someone who enjoys you. You are discovering each others’ worlds. There is a sense of unity and connection.
So why the dissatisfaction now, after it was so good?
In the first stage of love, you put on your “best self.” But now you’re introducing each other your “whole self”. The trials and tribulations of your life surface in this second stage.
The everyday-ness of life is now very visible to both of you. You’re revealing your imperfect selves to each other. Ideally, in this stage, you are shifting into deeper and more mindful living.
You must be in the driver seat of your love relationship, and it takes a lot of awareness and work. Uncovering your blind spots is a long and courageous process. The most important element is that you both are safe, seen, and supported by the other.
Learn about how compatible you are. How committed you are both to the relationship’s well being? This is the stage of deeper discovery, do you “get each other” and are “you good for each other.”
Love Stage 3
The focus is now on building a successful future together. You made a commitment to build your worlds together for better or for worse, and you’re signing contracts that can bind you for life.
You’re purchasing major items together, carrying major financial risks. There’s an underlying trust as you become financial benefactors for each other.
You hope and trust that you will settle your differences in the process. After all, no couple is perfect. This is an adventurous and busy stage.
You are building your lives together and going for what you want. This is also a time of negotiations. You’re learning how to share the responsibilities of living together.
So how will you do this? Who does the chores? Who mainly “wins the bread”? Who keeps contact with extended families?
There are lots of adjusting as you turn “playing house” into “building a home”. If you’re young, you’re making major life decisions.
What will be your career? Where and how will you live? Will you have children?
Your relationship now has an accepted place in the outer social world. The couple and family image becomes more important.
You need to love and balance your outside and inside worlds. Learn to be generous with your loved one and yourself. You have experienced various degrees of success and failures.
So what is this all about? You both evaluate your relationship.
Love Stage 4
The evaluation process is unique to each couple. Your relationship is now in the narrow part of the hourglass. Will you continue as is? Will changes happen, or will the relationship dissolve? Here are two scenarios that can frequently occur during this stage:
The frequent question is, “What happened to the love and romance? Why don’t we communicate to each other anymore? What is this all about?”
You look across the table and wonder what to talk about. How do you love again like you once did? How do you bring back the magic you once had? How do you mend the disappointments and betrayals?
Dissatisfaction is now an impetus for change and deeper connection between the two of you, or a choice to let go.
Couples who have successfully kept a balance in their lives for each other and their dreams and responsibilities. They find this love stage is a time of rejuvenation and also caring for others. This is a nurturing time to get out and enjoy the fruits of your labor and your life’s circumstances and choices.
You’re finding exciting projects, friends to be with, and time and space to enjoy each other. It is a rich time.
For both scenarios, this is the time to regroup. You no longer need each other to have a family, build a career, start a home, develop a community. Time is now being focussed on the two of you. The focus is on how you get back the spark in the relationship that might have gone away. How do you support your adult children, if you have children? How do you support your aging parents and take care of your own health?
Go back on memory lane and remind yourself and each other what caught your eye about your partner. Love each other as though you just met. Treat each other in a most precious manner.
Gentle, soft, reassuring love is most rewarding. Become like teenagers fresh in love again. Hold on to each other and give the sweetness you desire from each other. If the spark is totally gone and it’s time to leave, leave with grace.
Love Stage 5
You can finish each other’s sentences. You know each other’s thoughts. Your love is from a life well lived together.
You smile at each other as though you are seeing each other for the first time. Your bodies know each other, and you have come to look more and more beautiful to each other. You understand the oneness of two.
You have gone beyond trying to figure each other out, or being right, or impressing anyone. You have no need for forgiveness. You have succeeded in letting go of what does not matter and hanging on to what does.
Life together is about empowerment, not about force. You unconditionally, completely, absolutely love each other as is. Why? Because you do.
You might ask: “Will you still love me, will you still hold me when I am 94?” The answer is always, “Yes.” This is intimacy.
May you be one of the couples who have this bliss!