The Five Stages of Relationships

How do we all survive rough patches in relationships? Sometimes it can be really tricky to carry on after a massive argument. What happens when it feels as if the magic has gone? How on earth does anyone keep going once the first rush of love fades? Well, perhaps the tough times are simply a result of entering a new relationship stage. Relationships change over time and knowing this can really help when negotiating that path. Realising that things probably seem tricky just because you’ve entered into a new phase is a great way to stay positive when things get tough. We probably all know the feeling you get when you first fall for someone and that often seems like the main goal, but there are other exciting things ahead.

Shiny and new
This is the romance stage, when you’ve just met and everything seems so very perfect. You’re both the happiest you’ve ever been, can’t stop talking to/about each other, and are probably quite high on endorphins! You can’t see a single thing wrong with your lover and fully expect the relationship to last forever… which it might, as long as you can successfully negotiate past this initial stage. When it ends, you’ll both come back down to earth with a bump.

End of the honeymoon period
And now reality hits you both. You are getting to know each other more but aren’t quite on your best behaviour all the time, so all the little flaws start rearing their ugly heads, making you realise this amazing person is actually human after all. As Sarah Schultz wrote in her article about the 5 Stages of Committed Relationships, “this phase can be confusing and discouraging, since you’ve just experienced so much openness and connection in the Romance Stage. However, at this stage, your main job is to learn how to communicate and resolve conflict with this person effectively”. Wise words indeed.

The power struggle
This is the stage where trouble often strikes! Every problem seems huge – every annoyance is immensely frustrating. You can often think of breaking up because it can seem too hard to deal with, but this is actually where you really need to learn to communicate any problems to each other in order to successfully manage your differences. Don’t forget – we are all essentially different. Many couples turn the constant arguing into a way of life, but learning to deal with things and make compromises is the only way to successfully move on from here.

Settling down
If you manage to make it this far – and many people don’t! – this is a time of friendship and stability. This is where you finally let go of that shiny new-relationship fantasy and realise that what you have now is different, but also very special. Things may seem predictable at times, but that’s a wonderful thing to be able to rely on as your connection and friendship deepen and you also start to relax. There’s a level of trust that you’ve built up by now and that should give you a confidence boost.

In for the long haul
This is where the real commitment happens. You can see each other’s flaws and, what the hell, you just don’t care. You’re with this amazing wonderful best friend who farts and snores and cracks terrible jokes, but you love them unquestionably anyway. You and your partner have looked the future in the face and know for certain that you are going to be marching towards it together and, marriage or not, it feels wonderful. Not many couples get this far, but knowing the route can sometimes help.

This article was first published on BitchBuzz in 2011.

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