Relationships 101: The Best Questions for Couples At Every Stage
We know that all relationships are different, and while this is true, it’s also important to recognize that all relationships go through very specific stages as the relationship evolves and partners become closer to one another. The five relationship stages are romance, power struggle, stability, commitment and bliss.
The romance stage is what we think of as the courtship and the subsequent honeymoon stage. The romance stage is the first stage of any relationship and it is characterized by infatuation, a foolish type of love that lets us overlook the flaws of our partner or in the relationship. In the romance stage, it is common for people to hide parts of their true self out of fear of rejection by their partner. It is also common for people to avoid difficult questions about the future out of fear that you and your partner are not on the same page.
Following the romance stage is the power struggle. In this stage, the initial honeymoon period has worn off and you will start to notice the flaws your partner inevitably has that you were able to overlook during the romance stage. During the power struggle phase, you and your partner are likely to fight more as your grapple with each other’s whole, imperfect identities. This can lead to people pulling away from the relationship or become very clingy for fear of losing their partner. This stage can often lead to breaks-ups or divorce if couples are unable to compromise or fight constructively. If your relationship makes it out of the power struggle phase, you will land in the stability phase characterized by mutual respect, and an acceptance of your partner and relationship as real and flawed.
The fourth relationship stage is the commitment stage. In the commitment stage, you and your partner are committed to each other and recognize that you are choosing to be together despite all the human flaws. The final stage is the bliss stage, also known as the co-creation stage. In this stage, you and your partner are at ease in your relationship and focus on things outside of your partnership. This phase is often characterized by starting projects focused on giving back to the community or a specific cause. These projects are normally a team effort that naturally arises out of your relationship and your growth as a couple. This phase can further cement your connection to one another, but it is important to continue to prioritize your relationship, even as you turn some of your attention outward.
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As your relationship naturally evolves, it can be helpful to ask specific questions at different stages to help you and your partner navigate the different difficulties inherent in every stage of a relationship. Here are some questions that you should be asking at each relationship stage:
During the romance stage, it can be important to ask questions about the future, to make sure that you and your partner are on the sage page. Some questions include:
- Do you see yourself in a long-term monogamous relationship?
- Do you see yourself getting married one day?
- Are you interested in having children?
Asking these hard questions can either set you up for a successful future with a shared vision, or it can allow you to go your separate ways if you have major divergences in your future plans.
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During the power struggle stage, it is important to understand if your partner is willing to hunker down and fight for your relationship. Some important questions are:
- Are you willing to sacrifice certain things to save the relationship?
- Are you willing to compromise in order to move past your problems as a couple?
- Are you willing to be in a relationship after the fun, easy romance stage?
If you and your partner are not able to fight in a healthy way, or are not able to let go of things from the past, your relationship will not survive this phase. Understanding your partner’s commitment to the relationship will help it move from power struggle to stability.
It is easy to get stuck in the stability phase of a relationship, which can often lead to boredom. To avoid this, you need to know that your partner is committed to evolution. Ask your partner:
- Are you willing to keep getting outside of your comfort zone?
- Do you want to continue to have new experiences together?
Some relationships can fall apart if you or your partner feel stuck or unexcited. It is important to understand if your partner is willing to continue to grow with you as your relationship progresses.
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During the commitment stage, it is important to understand that your work as a couple is not done. Sure, you are committed to being together, but that does not mean that your personal growth or your relationship growth is over. To avoid falling into this trap, ask your partner:
- How do they plan to maintain your emotional connection to one another?
- How do they plan to continue to grow as an individual?
Having open discussions about how you will keep the relationship alive and fresh is a super important part of a mature relationship. Feelings of staleness are bound to happen, so having honest talks about ways that you are going to stay committed to love, happiness and growth will help you navigate these feelings.
During the bliss stage, it is important to understand that your relationship is never done changing and that you will always have to dedicate time and space to your relationship. Ensuring that you and your partner are on the same page about continued growth is an important part of this stage. Asking your partner things like:
- How will we continue to grow together?
- What are things we can do together for the rest of our lives?
- How do we avoid growing apart?
Can help you stay committed to each other and present in your relationship even as time moves on. This is the pinnacle of any relationship, but that does not mean that it is without difficulties. Staying honest and open about your feelings and needs in the relationship will help you stay committed and excited about being together.
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