The Four Stages of Any Relationship
Everything in life changes, nothing stays the same and that includes a relationship. From the moment we are conceived we go through changes. Those changes continue throughout our life. There is no stage in life where we stay exactly the same.
Our relationships go through certain stages of growth too. Clients often say to me “I just want to go back to the way it was in the beginning” and that is the goal. That is what they are measuring the success of their relationship with.
Measuring your relationship now to the way it was, in the beginning, is a fruitless goal. It will never be the same as it was in the beginning and it shouldn’t be the same. It shouldn’t be the same because over time you should have learned more about yourself and each other. You should know through experience what works for you and your partner and what doesn’t.
People believe if their relationship has changed and it’s not the same as it was in the beginning then they have failed or they’ll compare it to a rough patch. You’ve probably heard people talk about how their relationship is going through a rough patch when things aren’t working out for them. What they’re talking about is a stage they reach in the relationship when it seems like whatever they say or do feels wrong and conflict is on the rise.
To be honest, a lot of relationships don’t make it past this stage. The problem is people expect to have a relationship, get married and live happily ever after. Well, that’s kind of what young girls were brought up to believe right? Remember all those childhood fairy tales of Cinderella and what not?
The truth behind a real relationship is that it cycles through four stages which include the introduction stage where everything is new and special. The next stage is the comfort period when small cracks appear in the relationship. The third stage is the conflict stage where there are lots of arguments and the fourth stage is resolution.
Let’s take a look at the stages more closely:
1. Introduction Stage
Everything is rainbows and lollipops, infatuated, soppy, heart-pounding, breath-taking, love and lust. There’s plenty of sex in this stage because everything is new, there is no history of arguments or unresolved issues.
You focus on all the positives in your partner, you idolize your partner and everything they say and do equal love. You and your partner are on their best behavior and putting forward your best effort.
You both start to separate yourselves from your friends and if you had any personal dreams such as wanting to travel you would reconsider and start putting other things on hold because the relationship has your total focus.
This is a stage of pure bliss and fantasy. Everything seems passionate and exciting and these feelings are addictive. This is why people love to fall in love and why people reminisce about the ‘beginning’ of the relationship.
This stage is just a stage and these feelings don’t last. These feelings keep coming back, which is the best part however it is important to realize that not everything stays the same. Life changes momentarily, the weather changes, business changes, feelings change and love changes. This is just one piece in the pie of a relationship. The next stage is the comfort stage.
2. Comfort Stage
After the whirlwind of the fantasy and the uncontrollable feelings of love and excitement have settled down a bit the stage of comfort settle in. The sex finds a different level of closeness, it’s not so full-on and the hormones settle down. It gives you time to notice small things about your partner, which you didn’t notice in stage one.
The small things you notice might be the way your partner eats or how they treat other people or maybe even the way they dress. You start to notice the small things because you have more time and you start to observe things more clearly. That’s when you see the fine cracks.
Those small things were definitely there in the beginning but were overlooked through the rose-tinted glasses of love. Both of you start to spend time with friends again and pursue other interests. You start to merge the relationship into the life you already had. The next stage is conflict and arguments.
3. Conflict Stage
Stage three is the conflict stage. After the intense excitement and passion from stage one wears down enough for stage two to notice small things about your partner leads you to stage three of conflict and arguments. This is where all the little things noticed from stage two start to add up and you start to grate on each other’s nerves.
All those little things end up being a big thing and that’s when conflict erupts. People start questioning the relationship. Do I really know him/her? He/she was never like this before (yes they were!) Why am I in this relationship? Etc.
This is where all the little things noticed from stage two start to add up and you start to grate on each other’s nerves. All those little things end up being a big thing and that’s when conflict erupts. People start questioning the relationship. Do I really know him/her? He/she was never like this before (yes they were!) Why am I in this relationship? Etc.
People start questioning the relationship. Do I really know him/her? He/she was never like this before (yes they were!) Why am I in this relationship? Etc.
There is a lot of pain and suffering this stage because the illusion of having something special is now being questioned and threatened. People’s security is threatened and so is their happily ever after. Unfortunately, a lot of couples do not make it through this stage as the ideal version of their partner no longer matches the real version and people start to fantasize again.
Unfortunately, a lot of couples do not make it through this stage as the ideal version of their partner no longer matches the real version and people start to fantasize again on what else might be out there. Why should they put up with this? This is where people tend to give up and go in search of the excitement and passion that they once had and once felt and know that they could have again with the “right” person.
This is where people tend to give up and go in search of the excitement and passion that they once had and once felt and know that they could have again with the “right” person.
The problem with giving up at this stage is people begin to repeat the pattern all over again without learning anything new. Should they persevere, they would reach an awesome stage of personal growth and understanding. This stage takes a lot of patience, love and understanding.
This is usually where I come in to help people to learn how to understand each other and how to learn new skills of problem solving and communication.
This stage takes a lot of patience, love, and understanding. This is usually where I come in to help people to learn how to understand each other and how to learn new skills of problem solving and communication.
4. Resolution Stage
Stage four is the resolution stage. This is decision time. If people have gone through the conflict stage and want to get past the arguing and fighting then the chance of resolution is huge. Resolution is where people start to communicate and discuss issues, problems, perceptions, values, expectations, feelings and thoughts, goals and dreams.
They brainstorm solutions and work through their issues which can take them to a whole new level of friendship, love, respect and intimacy. They discover tools to work through their issues and they are equipped for future challenges.
Progressing through this stage allows for the relationship to move through all of these stages again and ignites the bliss of stage one except it is experienced with a deeper connection and deeper love as you learn new things about each other.
Communication is open and you’re looking through your own eyes which will always have that special tint as you look at your love, feel it through your body and hear reassuring, loving, positive self-talk, and feedback from your partner.
These four stages identify different times of your relationship and if you can reflect back on your relationship now you may be able to understand why certain things were happening during the relationship.
Even more importantly you will understand now that it is normal for there to be ups and downs throughout the relationship. It doesn’t make it a bad one. You just need to know if the good is outweighing the bad.
It doesn’t make it a bad one. You just need to know if the good is outweighing the bad. It’s ok to have conflict because if you work through issues honestly and openly it will take you to another level of love and understanding.
If people were really honest about their relationship with their friends and were able to open and share their experiences of failures and successes then we would all feel a little more “normal”. We would be able to express our fear and our concerns in a safe environment with the support of people we trust.
Love is a journey that starts with a small step and it takes courage, patience, time, energy and trust to keep taking steps to build the ultimate journey of togetherness.
People look for love and when they have it expect it to stay that way forever, however over time love will change from one depth to another. It may change from passionate to companionship or from friendship to admiration.
It can change in many ways throughout a relationship and it is perfectly normal. Love is the glue that will hold everything in place when the lust wears off either temporarily or for long periods of time, love will keep it together when conflict seems to be flooding the relationship.
Love is the glue that will hold everything in place when the lust wears off either temporarily or for long periods of time, love will keep it together when conflict seems to be flooding the relationship.