The 5 Stages of Love: How to Level Up Your Relationship
Even in modern relationships, where things are often less defined, and more unconventional, solid and long-lasting relationships go through five distinct stages of love - falling in love, becoming a couple, disillusionment, creating lasting love and finding a calling as a couple. Many people are caught up in the idea of a fairy tale romance, but the truth is, there are ups and downs in all serious relationships, and it is necessary to go through some tough times as a couple in order to solidify your connection to your partner. It’s hard to sugar coat things like the disillusionment phase, but going through this together is completely necessary to level up your relationship.
The ultimate goal of most long term relationships is to find a shared purpose with your partner, and create a life together, so most relationships aim to make it to the final stage of love. The stages of love tend to progress in order, but that being said, a relationship can revisit a previous stage of love, spend years in a particular stage, or sometimes get even stuck in a stage forever. In order to move to the next stage of love, couples need to invest time and energy in order to level up their relationships. While all relationships are different, the stages of love tend to have similar characteristics in every serious relationship.
Here is an in-depth explanation of the five different stages of love, and a few tips on how to move between the stages so that you can level up your relationship:
Stage 1: Falling in love
The first stage of love, the falling in love stage, or the honeymoon phase, is pretty straight forward. This stage of love is defined by romance and attraction. You and your partner are getting to know one another on an emotional and physical level. During this phase, you see the best of your partner and are often unable to see their flaws. You enjoy spending time together, and you are often giddy. This stage of love often consumes all of your thoughts and makes it hard to do other things. That’s because this stage of love is totally ruled by your hormones. During the honeymoon stage, love actually IS a drug and your dopamine levels are high, making you feel happy and giddy. Falling in love is fun and exciting and often what people expect the entire relationship to feel like. But, as you get more and more comfortable with your partner, as you get to know them more and more and as the dopamine rush slowly wears off, these giddy feelings will subside and your actual relationship will be tested. This stage is often characterized by conflict avoidance, as you choose to only see your similarities and the good parts of the relationship, which is not sustainable.
The falling in love stage lasts different lengths for different couples, normally ranging anywhere from three months to two years. It is normally the shortest phase in a long-term relationship. It is possible for relationships to circle back to the falling in love stage, espec9ially after a conflict or a period of distance, but most of the time, this is the first stage in the relationship. And while it’s fun, it’s important to level up from this stage if you want your relationship to last. In order to move past this stage, and become a more serious couple, you will need to acknowledge your partner as a person (not an idealized version of themselves), with flaws and even things that drive you crazy. You will also need to confront your differences as a couple and learn to move past these differences through conflict management and resolution. Once you have mastered these things (or at least gotten your head around them), you are ready to level up to the couple stage.
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Stage 2: Becoming a couple
If the honeymoon stage wears off, and your and your partner both decide that you still want to be together despite the acknowledgement of each other’s flaws, then you are in the couple stage. This stage is often called the “getting serious” stage or the “settling down” stage. In this stage, your relationship tends to be more stable and less passionate. Even though it may be less passionate than the honeymoon phase, you and your partner are still connected by romantic love. The infatuation has worn off, but you are very much in love with/falling in love with your partner. In addition to cementing this deeper emotional connection, you and your partner both start to find yourselves within the relationship. As you become more comfortable, you start to let your guards down and you begin to understand each other more and more. As you find yourself in the relationship, you often feel more confident in your connection and are less caught up in spending every minute together, trusting that you can spend time apart and come back together.
During this stage, couples often move in together, or make some other significant commitments to one another to show that they are in it for the long haul. And while this is a huge step in every relationship, the commitment often comes with routine that can make the relationship seem less fun. We aren’t saying that routine is a bad thing, but during this stage, you and your partner start to run out of firsts to do together. You have experienced lots of life as a team, and will settle into a comfortable groove. With stability you sacrifice some of the spontaneity that ruled the honeymoon phase. As we mentioned before, during this stage, you will also start to notice flaws in your partner. These newfound flaws, combined with routine and the stress that often accompanies big life changes can lead you to feel disenchanted with the relationship.
While this might sound like a bummer, coming to this conclusion is an important part of any relationship, and will move you into this next critical step, disillusionment. While this may seem counterintuitive, serious relationships level up to the disillusionment phase. To get to this phase requires both partners to honestly reflect on and evaluate their relationship in addition to their individual wants and needs.
Stage 3: Disillusionment
During this disillusionment phase, you and your partner still have a strong connection to one another, and are still in love, but you may start to feel trapped in your life. Whether it’s a stressful routine, bills, children or other obligations, your relationship just isn’t as fun as it used to be and you start to question if you made the right decision or if your relationship can last. During this phase, the masks are off and you have probably seen your partner at their worst. This stage is characterized by disagreements, and feeling taken for granted in the relationship. You may even feel so disillusioned that you start to forget what the initial stages of the relationship felt like! To be quite frank, a lot of couples never make it out of this stage. Making it through the disillusionment requires good communication, trust and commitment from both partners. It also requires partner’s to practice self love. Part of the disillusionment in this stage is the realization that your partner can’t fix everything for you or make you happy.
In order to get through this stage, partner’s need to practice self care and self-love so that their individual needs are being met. Taking responsibility for your emotions can be hard, but it is necessary in order to level up. In addition to self care and self-love, it’s important to continue to prioritize your time as a couple. Over the years, it’s easy to let your partner and your relationship fall to the bottom of your list, but if you actively fight against this tendency, or recognize when it is happening and try to correct your course, then you can save your relationship and level up. Evolving out of the disillusionment state will ultimately require you and your partner to set realistic expectations for your relationship. It’s important to understand that the honeymoon stage is not the goal of the relationship, and that you should be working towards mutual support and love.
Growing through this stage together will make you stronger and will prepare you to face anything that life throws at you. A lot of couples get stuck in this stage of love, feeling obligated to stay together because of children or prior commitment to one another. These couples are often unhappy, but also unable to move into the next stage, because they are not willing to put in the work to move past the disillusionment.
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Stage 4: Creating lasting love
Stage four in a relationship is all about stability and security. After coming to terms with the reality of your relationship in stage three, you and your partner are able to see each other as people, while recognizing that you want to be together, forever. After surviving stage three, you will be confident that you can weather any future conflicts, and you are committed to tackling life as a team. During this stage, your love has moved past the passionate love of stage one, the romantic love of stage two, the convenient love of stage three, into a love based on acceptance and compassion. This stage is similar to stage two in that you and your partner are in a comfortable routine. Some people refer to this stage as the “comfort zone” in a relationship, and most couples spend the majority of time in this stage.
While this is a stable stage of love, it’s important not to stay stagnant in this stage, as it is not the final stage of love. You and your partner should always be trying to maintain your connection to one another. If you get stuck in this phase, you may feel as if you are in a rut. Trying new things, keeping up date night and showing them that you still care about them after all this time will help your relationship continue to progress and level up to the final stage of love. At the end of the day, it’s important to create lasting love with your partner, but in order to keep the relationship alive, the relationship needs to be about more than just you and your partner. Once you are fully secure in your relationship to one another, explore causes that you both care about, or find ways to get involved in things outside of your relationship.
Stage 5: Finding your calling as a couple
During the fifth and final stage of love, you and your partner start to focus your energy outside of your relationship, rather than inward. Unlike stage three, when you spend a lot of energy on things that distract you from your relationship, this stage is all about you and your partner making the active choice to invest your energy outside of the relationship, into something bigger than yourselves. While it’s still important to continue to put time and energy into your relationship, you should also focus on finding your calling as a couple. You should note that it’s still important to maintain your personal hobbies and sense of individuality during this stage, but that you should also be looking to do more things as a partnership. This stage often aligns with empty nesting, retirement, or just a general decrease in obligations both for you as individuals and as a couple. Finding ways to continue to connect whether it’s a hobby, a volunteering opportunity, a cause you care about, or anything else, will keep your connection to your partner alive and well.
While this is the final stage of a relationship, it still requires maintenance! You can backslide into the disillusionment state if you fail to continue a meaningful connection to your partner in this stage. This stage is all about your future together as a couple, and making sure that you are both satisfied in the relationship. This is the culmination of every serious relationship, so while you work to maintain your connection, also enjoy the support, love and comfort you feel with your partner!
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