The 5 Stages Of Love: Moving Through Relationships One Step At A Time

Updated September 7, 2023by Regain Editorial Team

New relationships can bring happiness and excitement to our lives, but like all growing things, they typically move through stages of development, each with benchmarks, emotions, and challenges. But each stage also has its joys and can bring fulfillment to our lives in unique ways. 

If you’re ready to embark on a long-term relationship or are already in an established relationship, it’s helpful to become familiar with the five stages of love. Understanding the stages not only provides insight into how relationships typically change with time but also into how the individuals in them change as well.  

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Make The Most Of Each Stage In Your Relationship

Stage 1: The Newlywed Stage

The “butterflies” we get when we see our partner or the thrill we feel just thinking about them are trademarks of the newlywed stage in a relationship. While it is possible to have unique versions of the stages of love, the newlywed stage often looks similar from relationship to relationship.  

These early stages are fueled by a surge of dopamine and norepinephrine in our system, accounting for those exciting feelings and making us want to spend every waking moment with our new love. Many feel bliss in this love stage, with a bond that may seem indestructible. It may seem like nothing can come between you as you continue your journey of love.

One of the issues surrounding the first stages is that people are often oblivious to (or don’t want to acknowledge) red flags and warning signs that may point to personality or compatibility issues later in the relationship. The bliss felt in this stage can become so overpowering that it makes any potentially negative aspect seem like a minor footnote.

In the early stages of love, you’re probably still learning about each other, and the relationship is often primarily based on attraction. Many people are so focused on the physical appeal that who their partner is as a person sometimes becomes a secondary concern.  

This stage can vary in length, too. For many, it’s a matter of a few months; for others, it can be as long as a couple of years. Of all the stages, most newly bonded couples report that this one is the most fun, but it is also the least sustainable. Some don’t want to advance past this stage or think that when things begin to change, something is wrong with the relationship. This can cause people to jump from relationship to relationship to experience the fun and joy that the newlywed stage brings.

This is also a time for focusing on similarities, and aside from living together or getting married, the newlywed stage is where you spend the most time with that new significant other. So much time is spent together that you may not even be able to imagine your life without them. Many couples also avoid conflict in this stage for fear it will ruin the bliss or drive the other person away at a time when the bond is at its most intense. 

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Stage 2: The “Settling In” Stage

The settling-in stage often doesn’t come at a specific time in the relationship, but you will know when you’ve seen it. This is the stage of love where the physical attraction may still be there, but now, you’ll likely become more aware of who your partner is as a person. For many, this is the phase of figuring out if you, as people, are compatible and not simply physically attracted. It’s about realizing some of those potential incompatibilities and deciding if they can be worked through or are too large to ignore.

When you and your partner learn about and begin to accept each other’s imperfections, it can lead to the foundations of a truly healthy relationship. Recognizing the behaviors or “weaknesses” in your partner doesn’t mean that you aren’t in love with that person anymore; it’s just that the “rose-colored glasses” have come off, and not everything about them seems so perfect anymore. 

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Make The Most Of Each Stage In Your Relationship

Stage 3: The Disappointment Stage

Even though it sounds dire, this stage is vital to a relationship’s growth. Couples are often forced to grow, either with or without each other, in the disappointment stage. Partners become aware of their differences and determine if it’s possible to work through them or if both parties are willing to try. 

For couples that can communicate healthily, this is where you can begin to see positive progress and advance to the next stage of love. In this stage, many couples aren’t comfortable with disagreements or may be scared to address them, so instead of getting conflicts out in the open, both partners can harbor negative feelings and resentments that never get expressed.

When couples become angry with each other over small things, and that discontent isn’t addressed, the small things may seem much more significant with time. Some couples may even entertain the notion that the relationship is beyond saving at that point and contemplate splitting up. 

Thinking of breaking up or getting a divorce is common, but to make it through, you may find that work is needed to resolve differences and move forward positively. This is where strong communication comes into play. Developing that communication, trust, and ability to work together as a team is how couples come together and grow as a couple and individually. Because of the potential for turmoil and communication issues at this stage, many couples find it beneficial to get advice from a couple’s counselor to help navigate emerging difficulties. 

Stage 4: The Stability Stage

Couples often endure a lot of strife to get to this stage, but getting here indicates strength and a solid foundation in the relationship. 

At this stage, you have a history with one another, understand the difficulties you face together, and hopefully have learned how to work through them effectively. Couples who’ve reached this point know that conflict and disagreement are normal in even the healthiest relationships, and you feel confident enough to work through them. Many couples report that in this phase of the relationship, a solid foundation of friendship and connection emerges to accompany the romantic love they have for their partner. In its healthy progression, this is the stage of “teamwork” and harmony.  

Stage 5: The Commitment Stage

Some couples don’t make it this far, but if you get here, you’ve likely grown to understand one another deeply and carry a vision of staying together long into the future. 

Beyond the relationship, many people also report greater individual maturity as the relationship develops and becomes more stable. At this point, you probably truly connect with the other person on every level. You can depend on them, trust them, and know that they will be there with you through difficult times. 

Takeaway

Every relationship is different and moves through stages of love at a different pace. The timeline for the five stages of a relationship doesn’t always develop as expected, and some relationships even revert to prior phases along the way. 

This is normal, and many couples have the tools and experience to handle conflicts and communication difficulties as they arise. Still, even solid couples choose to procure support from a third-party professional to build better communication skills, cultivate greater empathy, and learn how to cope with difficulties together. 

With the growth in popularity of online therapy, it’s easier than ever to take advantage of the benefits of relationship counseling. Online platforms like Regain connect couples with licensed, accredited relationship counselors who can help them navigate the sometimes-rocky terrain of romantic partnerships. 

Virtual therapy is often more convenient than conventional therapy with in-person sessions, especially for couples with busy schedules. It also provides greater accessibility to treatment for those living in areas without a nearby counselor or who have difficulty commuting to and from appointments. Online therapy is also often more affordable than traditional therapy without insurance coverage. 

You can talk to a Regain counselor from the comfort of your home or anywhere with a reliable internet connection via text, phone, online messaging, and video chat. In addition to its convenience and affordability, a large body of research indicates that online couples counseling is also effective. For example, an Australian study randomly assigned 30 couples equally to traditional or online couples therapy over six sessions. The findings suggest that each medium was effective, with participants reporting overall satisfaction with online therapy. Adherence to treatment throughout the study also remained strong. 

If you and your partner are ready to cultivate a relationship that stands the test of time, a Regain counselor is prepared to help you build a strong and healthy partnership.

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