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Relationship Stages: 10 Phases Couples Go Through By Months & Years

Whether you’ve been together months or years, you will have been through some relationship stages by now. What stage are you at now? What’s still to come?

stages of a relationship phases

Relationships are unique. And each person’s experience of love is never the same. You may have been in several relationships in your life, and all of them will have been very different from the one before. But, there are different stages of a relationship that all couples go through, irrespective of how it starts or where you are in your relationship right now. [Read: How to tell the difference between infatuation and love]

The relationship phases in your love life

Relationships, just like life, have their own stages and phases. It starts off with infatuation and goes through several milestones along the way. And these stages are like tests that check your compatibility with each other.

Go wrong anywhere along the way, and your relationship will take the brunt of the fall. 

Have you ever met a couple who seemed like they were going to stay together forever, but ended up breaking up a few years later?

Perhaps, in all probability, they went wrong during one of the stages of their relationship. [Read: Top 30 reasons for divorce that most couples overlook]

Why do relationships have phases?

Relationships need to build over time. Very few people meet someone and jump straight into the serious stuff right away. It’s better to allow your relationship to grow slowly and deliberately. That way, you get to know each other properly and you can move through the trials and tribulations of life together. 

Of course, we all know that at the start of a relationship everything is exciting and passionate. But, it’s also super-confusing. Some people love the starting point. Others hate it and want to get to a point where things are more settled.

As a relationship evolves, it’s normal for some of the heat and excitement to ebb away, but that doesn’t mean that it’s any less enjoyable or valuable. If anything, that’s when the good stuff happens – that’s when love starts to develop and lust starts to wane a little.

Understanding these relationship phases helps you to stop panicking when you notice changes occurring. Roll with it. Let things evolve naturally, and see where your relationship leads. [Read: 13 signs the honeymoon period is starting to wane in your eyes]

The 10 stages of a relationship all couples experience in their relationship’s timeline

Are you in a new relationship? Or are you in a seasoned relationship with someone you’ve been dating or married to, for several years?

It doesn’t matter how long your relationship has lasted, because all relationships will fit snugly in one of these relationship stages. Find your own relationship stage here, and it’ll definitely help you understand your love life better.

And once you figure out which stage you’re in, keep the next stages in mind so you’re prepared for the new change, and the next level of love. [Read: New relationship advice to have a perfect start]

Stage 1. The infatuation stage of a relationship – 0-6 months

When you first see someone you’re interested in, it’s intense. Your heart is racing, you can’t stop thinking about them, not to mention, you’re horny all the time. This is the infatuation phase, and it’s beautiful. There’s so much passion between you. It makes everyone around you sick. But you don’t care!

At this stage, both of you overlook any flaws and only focus on the good side. You find everything attractive about each other, and the not-so-attractive things? Well, you think they’re cute!

This is that warm and fuzzy period. It’s when you can’t keep your hands off each other and everything about that person makes you smile. You’re also likely to be looking your best every time you see them, because you don’t want them to see you looking anything less than that.

This is the famous butterflies phase or the honeymoon phase as it’s sometimes called. It’s fun, but it can’t last over the long-term without changing into something else. [Read: The early stages of dating and how to navigate the dos and don’ts]

Stage 2. The understanding stage of a relationship – 18 months to 3 years

In this stage, both of you start getting to know one another better. You have long conversations with your partner that stretch late into the night, and everything about your partner interests and fascinates you.

At this point, you talk about each other’s families, exes, likes and dislikes, and other innocent secrets, and life seems so beautiful and romantic. You have deeper conversations and spend more time intellectually learning about each other.

Though you’re still heavily attracted to one another, you can actually talk without being sexually distracted.

But at this point, you might also start to notice their flaws creeping in a little. Of course, they were there all along, you just didn’t want to see them!

After the first few months of being so incredibly infatuated with your new beau that you try your best to avoid any type of argument, you slowly start to notice that they’re not perfect after all. This is one of the phases of a relationship which basically decides whether you make it or you break it. [Read: 13 new relationship mistakes couples make all the time]

However, this phase is also healthy because the pressure is relieved. You no longer feel the need to be a picture of perfection and you can see that the other person isn’t perfect either.

Stage 3. The relationship stage of disturbances – 18 months to 5 years

This stage usually forces its way into a happy romance after a few months of blissful courting. The honeymoon stage starts to wane, and this phase of the relationship eventually finds its way into love.

Do you remember the first fight or angry disagreement you and your partner had? For the first time ever in the relationship, both of you confront each other over a conflict, even though it’s sorted out quickly. [Read: The first fight in a relationship – 15 things you need to do immediately after]

At this stage, you’re starting to realize that you’re human and you’re not perfect. There might still be disappointments and conflicts. However, you start to work out ways to handle them by communicating in a way that suits the two of you.

For some people, however, this stage is one of the hardest because communication can be tricky.

This phase is where some couples will break up if they’re unable to work through it. [Read: 21 questions for a new relationship that will help you build your bond early]

Stage 4. The creation of opinions stage of the relationship – 3 months to multiple years

In this stage, both of you create opinions about each other. As the months pass by, both of you know what to expect from each other, and you make an assumption about your partner’s commitment toward the relationship.

You’ve been together for a while. You both are starting to understand who you both are, what your opinions are, and what you expect from the relationship.

For some people, they become disappointed when they realize reality isn’t what they imagined. For example, your partner may be less committed than you originally thought. [Read: 60 get to know you questions for a new romance]

Stage 5. The molding stage of the relationship – 1 year to multiple years

You have your own expectations from an ideal partner. And in this stage, both of you try hard to mold each other to fit your own wants in a perfect partner.

No one likes this stage, because this phase of the relationship is about subtly making your partner change their behavior or habits to suit your own needs and convenience.

But as annoying as this stage is, it’s a part of the relationship that is inevitable because it helps both of you understand each other’s expectations from the relationship.

This stage is a lot about give and take, and both partners constantly try to subtly convince each other to change their behavior towards the relationship. This is a power struggle, and one that can end the relationship if both partners are domineering. [Read: 20 big problems that push a couple apart or bring them closer in love]

Now, we don’t want to say you “fix” your partner because we all know that’s impossible to do. But, we would say it’s more of a molding. At this point, you’re working on the relationship and trying to improve certain aspects, such as behavioral issues, to have the best relationship possible.

During this stage of a relationship, you learn how to compromise and decide if this is something you want. [Read: How to make your partner better… or is it possible?]

Stage 6. The happy attachment stage of a relationship – 3 to 5 years

If the relationship survives past the molding stage, both of you may have changed equally for each other and understood each other’s expectations. In this stage, the relationship cruises along perfectly and both of you may be blissfully happy with each other.

Almost always, this is the stage when both of you feel like a perfect match. You may even decide to get engaged or get married. This happy stage is also the stage of attachment when both of you truly feel connected to each other and love each other intensely. [Read: How to get him to propose by reading his mind]

Stage 7. The stage of doubts – 1 year to multiple years

It’s been a year, or several years, since both of you have been in a relationship with each other. And somewhere along the way, doubts start to creep in. The intensity of the doubts depends on how happy both of you are in the relationship with each other.

You start to think of your past relationships, your exes, and other prospective partners. You tie your happiness in life with your relationship. If you’re unhappy, you blame it on the relationship.

This is when all the positive and negative traits of your partner solidify in the long term relationship. You come to learn what you can expect from your partner, and what you know for sure your partner can’t give you.

In this stage, you start comparing your relationship with other couples and other relationships. Would your relationship survive this stage? It definitely could, as long as your relationship isn’t monotonous and repetitive. [Read: How to be a happy couple that’s envied by all other couples]

Change is a long-term process that can take years. Of course, there may be aspects of your partner that you don’t like, and that’s normal.

In this phase, you examine those flaws and see if they’re flaws you can handle in a long-term relationship. During this phase, arguments are frequent, and the relationship’s survival depends on the couple’s willingness to work together. [Read: How to show commitment in a relationship and make them feel secure]

Stage 8. The sexual exploration or bust stage of the relationship – 3 months to 2 years

This is the phase of the relationship when your sex life starts to play a pivotal role. Both your sex drives may change or one of you may lose interest in having sex with your partner.

In this stage, you either give up on passionate sex and settle for boring sex once in a rare while, or constantly look for ways to make sex more exciting. If sexual interests start differing here, one of you may end up having an affair or shrink away into self-gratification.

But on the other hand, if you find creative ways to make sex more exciting, your relationship could get better and bring both of you a lot closer. This is the phase of the relationship when you could either keep at it like horny bunnies and make every other couple jealous, or turn into one of those couples who spend time together doing different things.

The general consensus is that sex in a relationship can become routine anywhere between three months to two years. But many people say around the six-month mark, things get a little boring. This is after the infatuation stage. You both decide to explore and experiment with sex, or it simply dries up. [Read: 19 naughty foreplay sex games for couples for instant horniness]

Stage 9. The stage of complete trust in a relationship – 1 to 5 years

This is the happy stage when both of you love each other and trust each other completely. But at the same time, the unbreakable trust in each other could also turn into taking each other for granted.

You have gone through enough experiences to know that you have each other’s backs no matter what happens. This is an amazing place to be in a relationship.

However, this stage solely depends on you and your past experiences. Some people take longer to develop trust, while other people can easily trust in new relationships. [Read: How men fall in love – The 7 stages of love for men]

In this phase of the relationship, both of you know the direction of the relationship and both of you are completely happy with each other and find it easy to predict each other’s behavior and decisions. But with stability in love comes the urge to take each other for granted.

As pleasant and blissful as this final stage of love may be, it’s still no excuse to take each other lightly or stop appreciating each other, because love is an intense emotion that can be rekindled by someone else at any time if you fail to express your romance to your lover.

Stage 10. The commitment stage – 2 years to multiple years

You have gotten to know each other on a deeper level and developed a deep level of trust. And now, you want to make a commitment to each other. You’ve found the person you want to be with, and you’re ready to take that next step and make it official.

Most couples get married around the two-year mark of the relationship. However, again, it depends on the couple.

This is also a growth phase. You decided to be together and continue your future with each other, and that’s beautiful. Now, you’re ready to continue growing. You have a solid and healthy base for the relationship, and you’re continuing to work on yourself and the issues within your relationship. [Read: What is commitment in a relationship and how to know if you have it]

How long does each relationship phase last?

We’ve given you an estimate in terms of the length of time each phase lasts, but it really depends upon the couple. It also depends on what’s going on in the relationship and around it. There is no ‘one size fits all’ answer here.

The biggest issue that most couples face is the lack of romance as the relationship phases move on. It’s not possible for everything to be as magical and sprinkled in fairy dust as the first phase. You’d be exhausted over the long-term!

It could also be that a lack of romance could push one partner into the arms of someone else. In that case you have to question what they’re actually looking for in a relationship. [Read: 30 naughty questions for couples to keep the sexy spark alive]

It’s vital to remember that the connection you have is far more important than a quick thrill. Perhaps this is one of the main reasons why relationships fail, because couples don’t understand that jumping on one another constantly just isn’t something you can keep up for more than a few months at a time.

After that, you start to develop an emotional connection that is far more valuable and far more important than anything lust-related. [Read: 21 secret signs of a bad relationship that predicts a bad future together]

What makes a relationship successful?

As we all know, some people don’t make it through the first date, while others go on to have happy marriages of 50 or more years. So, what is the difference? Why do some people make it to the growth stage and others fall apart a lot earlier? 

If you want to know how to make it through all the rough patches in a relationship, these are some things you need to have. These are the components of a successful relationship. [Read: 16 secrets to a perfectly happy relationship]

1. Working through conflict effectively

Most people don’t like conflict, and they try to avoid it. But it’s nearly impossible to avoid having disagreements in a relationship. So, what sets some couples apart from others? It’s how they handle the conflicts that matter.

Successful couples who make it through all the stages of a relationship know how to calmly, rationally, and lovingly resolve their conflicts. They don’t yell, name-call, and belittle their partner.

Instead, they act as a team and try to come up with solutions that work for both people. They see themselves as a unit – and not as enemies. [Read: How to stop fighting in a relationship and 16 steps to start talking instead]

2. Sexual compatibility

In the initial relationship phases – especially the infatuation phase – sexual desire is usually very high. Most people can’t keep their hands off each other and are virtually obsessed with having sex with their partners. But of course, that wears off and doesn’t last forever. [Read: Sexual compatibility – 13 sizzling ways to know if you have it]

So, in order to have a happy relationship long-term, both people need to be sexually compatible. That includes everything from how often they have sex to the type of sex they have.

Are they boy vanilla? Or do they both like kink? Either way, both people really need to be on the same sexual page.

3. Same values and morals

At the beginning of a relationship, you are mostly just focused on sexual desire and having fun with your new partner. But if you want your relationship to last a long time and be deep and committed, then you are going to have to have the same morals, values, and worldviews in life.

The areas in which you need to be compatible are things like religion, politics, honesty, integrity, and much more. While it’s possible for a liberal to date a conservative, they might not understand each other. The same thing might be true for a Muslim and a Christian.

Not that it’s impossible, but you’re more likely to have a successful relationship the more similar you are in your views of the world. [Read: The signs of relationship compatibility to test your love match]

4. Similar personalities

As the saying goes, “opposites attract.” Well, do they really? They might initially attract each other, but this might not last very long. When two people are opposites in personalities, they might wish that they didn’t have so many differences.

For example, if one partner is an introvert and homebody, but the other one is an extrovert and social butterfly, that could create problems.

The extrovert won’t understand why the introvert won’t go out and socialize with them. And the introvert might be hurt that the extrovert always wants to go out with their friends and leave them behind. 

If you want to make it through the main relationship phases, you have to understand the other person’s personality. [Read: 30 traits that make you a typical type A personality]

5. Same relationship goals

Some people just want to have a fling or friends with benefits situation. And if both of these people genuinely want this, then the relationship will do just fine. But if one of them wants that situation but the other one is looking for marriage and children, then that is unlikely to work out.

That’s why it’s important to talk about these desires early on in the beginning stages of a relationship. You don’t want to go years and then suddenly discover you want completely different things from this relationship, do you? No, of course not. [Read: Couple goals – 27 fake and real things you want in a relationship]

6. No abuse

Unfortunately, some people think that abuse is a natural part of a relationship. Perhaps they grew up in a household where their parents were abusive toward each other – or just one *the abuser and abuse*. If that’s true, then they might attract an abusive partner too.

But successful relationships have no room for abuse. There is mental, emotional, and physical abuse. All of them are very detrimental to the people in the relationship.

So, you have to be able to stand up for yourself and watch all the negative behaviors that both you and your partner have to make sure the relationship is loving. [Read: Narcissistic abuse – 16 subtle signs a narcissist is abusing you]

7. No toxicity

While abuse is naturally toxic, you don’t have to have abuse for a relationship to be toxic. It could be that way for a lot of reasons.

For example, maybe someone is prone to withdrawing and withholding love or sex from their partner whenever they get angry. Or, maybe one of them plays video games 24/7 or uses drugs or alcohol on a regular basis.

All of these things can lead to problems and drama in a relationship. It’s incredibly difficult for a relationship to survive when it is toxic. [Read: The 15 types of toxic relationships, what causes them and how to get out]

8. Love and affection

When you have love and affection in your relationship, then it is much less likely to be abusive or toxic. It’s important to know your partner’s love language and for them to know yours. This will keep both of you happy.

Saying “I love you,” giving compliments and gifts, touching your partner, doing nice things for them, and spending quality time with each other are all great ways to keep the love alive in a relationship long-term. [Read: Love and affection – The magical spark in long-term relationships]

9. Genuine friendship

At the foundation of any successful relationship is a solid, genuine friendship. It’s important that you are each other’s best friends. When that happens, it is much easier to go through the relationship phase successfully.

Don’t let your past influence your current relationship

For the few that make it to the final relationship phase, that’s the forever goal. However, does it mean that the relationship truly will last forever? Not always.

Every single relationship has its problems. It’s vital that you don’t try and compare yours with anyone else’s.

Again, this is another problem for couples, because they start to wonder why they’re not doing and feeling the same as another couple. The reason? Because you’re not the same people.

Relationship phases differ for everyone to some extent. Your experiences will be different because of your unique personality traits and the history you’ve lived through. [Read: How to keep a relationship going when you feel it slipping away]

Your past experiences will always influence your relationships in some way. But the key is to avoid these influences becoming negative. In the second and third relationship phases, when most of the conflict and upheaval occur, past baggage can cause major problems in some relationships.

It’s vital that you remember your new relationship is totally different from anything you experienced in the past, and that your new partner is not your ex.

[Read: The 17 secret ingredients to a happy, monogamous relationship]

Look at these relationship stages as stepping stones to a better future, one that’s filled with a lot of love and happiness, just as long as both of you remember to keep love alive all the time.

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...