Relationship Advice for All Stages of Life: Relationships, although sometimes perceived as mysterious, often follow a predictable pattern over time as individuals move towards commitment and long-term partnership. Dr. Susan Campbell conducted research on hundreds of couples over several decades and developed the “5 Stages of a Relationship”, which provide a framework for understanding the progression of a relationship and the challenges that may arise when committing to share one’s life with someone.
Even if you are not familiar with relationship progression or psychology, the stages of a relationship may still sound familiar to you. The romance stage, also known as the honeymoon phase, is a common experience in the early stages of a relationship. However, after this phase, it is normal to have a “reality check” and realize that your partner is a human being with faults and imperfections like everyone else. The later stages of a relationship involve reconciling your infatuation and love for your partner with the recognition that they are not perfect.
Relationship Advice for All Stages of Life
The Loooove Stage
This stage is typically the first phase of a relationship and is often depicted in the media as the “honeymoon phase.” It is characterized by intense feelings of infatuation, love, and excitement as the couple gets to know each other. However, it’s important to note that the romance stage is not meant to last indefinitely and that relationships require effort and work to continue to grow and thrive. Additionally, it’s possible for relationships in later stages to revert to the romance stage for various reasons.
The romance stage is marked by a strong emotional connection and a desire to spend a lot of time with each other. It’s common to feel a sense of “euphoria” and an “addiction” to being around a new partner due to the release of the bonding hormone oxytocin. However, it’s important to keep a clear head and not let infatuation prevent you from recognizing red flags in a new relationship. As the romance stage tends to be one of the shorter phases of a relationship, it’s important to enjoy it while it lasts, but also prepare for the next stages of the relationship as the infatuation fades.
The excitement and fun of finding someone who we like and who likes us back can be intoxicating and contribute to the euphoria of the romance stage. However, it’s important to recognize that this stage is not meant to last indefinitely and that relationships require effort and work to continue to grow and thrive. As the infatuation of the romance stage begins to fade, it’s normal to feel anxious or panicked.
However, it’s important to remember that this is a sign that the relationship is progressing and moving into the next phase. Moving out of the romance stage can provide an opportunity for deeper bonding and getting closer to your partner. While it’s important to enjoy the carefree and intense nature of the romance stage, it’s also important to keep a clear head and not let your attraction prevent you from recognizing any red flags in the relationship.
Stage of Power Struggle
The power struggle stage is a phase in a relationship where individuals start to consider whether their partner is right for them and what changes, if any, might be necessary in the relationship. During this stage, the “rose-colored glasses” have come off and individuals may start to see their partner’s flaws, baggage, and annoying quirks.
This realization can make the power struggle stage one of the most challenging phases in a relationship. Not only do individuals become aware of their partner’s flaws, but they may also become self-conscious as they recognize that their partner is discovering their own flaws. The power struggle stage is characterized by vulnerability, patience, and the ability to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Unfortunately, for many couples, this stage can lead to a break-up due to feelings of disappointment and frustration. Some couples may try to return to the romance stage by trying to make their partner go back to how they were at the beginning of the relationship, while others may end the relationship altogether. However, it’s important to recognize that the romance stage is not meant to last indefinitely and that relationships require effort and work in order to continue to grow and thrive.
To get through the power struggle stage, couples must learn to communicate effectively, give up on the idea of perfect harmony, and embrace their differences. While this can be tough and may feel like a lot of work, the ability to get through this phase can be a transformative experience. Since all relationships go through this phase, it’s important to be aware of what to expect and how to prepare for the challenges that may arise.
Stage of Stability
After navigating the challenges of the power struggle stage, a relationship may enter a phase of relative calm and stability. This may occur naturally or as a result of intentionally re-negotiating dynamics and accepting that it’s not possible to change one’s partner. With clear boundaries and mutual respect, a fulfilling relationship is still possible. Some couples may even find that they experience a sense of love and intimacy similar to the romance stage, as they rediscover the positive attributes of their partner.
If you’re in this stage of your relationship, congratulations on successfully navigating the power struggle stage! While many couples are happy to be out of this phase, others may miss the combative and fiery nature of the conflicts and view the stability stage as a defeat or a sign that the relationship has become stale. Everyone has a different perspective on stability, so whether you welcome it with open arms or fear that things have become “blah,” consider these tips to help you navigate this phase of the relationship.
The commitment stage is a phase in a relationship where individuals choose to commit to each other fully, despite their imperfections. This stage does not necessarily have to do with marriage or having children, but rather it is a point at which a couple has worked through any questions or doubts about whether their partner can change, how to navigate conflicts, and whether it is worth it to stay in the relationship. Relationship experts often suggest that this is a good time for couples to get married, as they have a better understanding of the complexities of a relationship and are more aware of their partner’s flaws.
However, marriage is not the only way to show total commitment to one another, and some couples choose to be life partners or common law spouses instead. Regardless of the form it takes, this stage is typically described as fun, empowering, freeing, and exciting as the couple has gone through a journey together and has a new appreciation for each other and a sense of being loved in a new way.
The final stage of a relationship is one where individuals have arrived at a point where their relationship helps them to create something meaningful and impactful in the world. This may involve raising children in a conscious way, starting a community project, or being of service to others. The focus of this stage shifts away from the individuals and their relationship and towards the broader community. If you’re in this stage, it can be helpful to reflect on how you got here and the things that helped you move through the previous stages. It’s important to remember that even though you have “arrived” at this stage, there is always more work to be done to maintain and strengthen the relationship.
To avoid complacency, it’s important to have regular check-ins and open discussions to keep the dynamic between you and your partner in balance. It’s also important to remember that not all relationships will fit perfectly into this model, but it can be a useful framework for understanding some of the common challenges that arise when we invite someone into our lives. Ultimately, a lot of joy and satisfaction can come from accepting our partners as they are and finding a way to work together to form a respectful, caring, and loving relationship.