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Relationship Timeline: 16 Most Common Dating Phases of a Relationship

All relationships and dating timelines move at different paces, but these are the most common and accepted phases of a relationship timeline.

relationship timeline and dating phases

Think back to all of your relationships. They all started and developed, but perhaps some moved faster than others. Maybe you got serious before meeting each other’s parents, or you slept together right off the bat. These are the parts of dating and relationship timelines.

There is no right way to have a relationship. There are paths in a relationship that are most common or accepted, but these phases of a relationship timeline can be in any order and still work.

Each relationship goes through different stages at different times. And while some couples can stay in certain phases for longer than others, most will through these stages of a dating timeline at some point.

You may think it sounds silly that a relationship timeline exists, and well, it sort of is. But, knowing the phases of this timeline can help you ensure you’re on track and moving forward together rather than drifting apart or standing still. [Read: How to move forward in a relationship]

Why relationships need to grow and change

Your relationship will never be the same as it was when you first began dating. Even if you keep the excitement alive, as you get to know each other better you become more comfortable. You let your walls down, become vulnerable, and really connect.

This is a vital part of any relationship. No matter what relationship phase you’re in, your relationship will progress. It could be fast or slow, but it will happen.

You’re not supposed to stay in the same stage of a relationship. You need to grow and change as a couple. Without moving along the dating timeline, you are essentially coworkers in life rather than partners.

Relationships naturally progress as you move along the timeline in whichever order suits you. [Read: Relationship stages all couples go through]

The relationship timeline

If you look back on all your relationships, you may realize that not all of them followed this timeline. You may have missed some steps or you may have gone through them in another order.

That is all okay. No matter the dating timeline, each relationship offers you a unique experience. Sure, maybe the healthier relationships, or at least the calmer ones, follow closer to this relationship timeline. But in the end, every relationship is different.

Although these stages are crucial for getting to know your partner and introducing them to your world, you may not follow this timeline perfectly. This relationship timeline should be a general guideline for a healthy relationship, not an instruction manual. [Read: 34 ways to strengthen the bond in your relationship]

1. The initial interest

This is when you first notice that the other person is someone you want to know more about. You basically get a crush on them. This could be that first dating app message or when you start asking their friends if they’re single.

All those butterflies and feel-good vibes start rolling in. You aren’t sure what’s going to happen, if anything, but it sure is exciting. Nearly every dating timeline has this stage. [Read: How to know if you like someone – your hidden feelings revealed]

2. The first date

At this point, you’ve already spoken to them and decided you want to try things out. You may have been flirting or realized you are at the same point in your lives after texting a bit.

You know them well enough by now, so the first date has arrived. This is when you really get to see how you connect intimately and how your chemistry is.

3. The first kiss

This can happen right after the first date, or it can happen after a few dates. This will come at different times for every couple, but this kiss is a powerful and magical moment.

With this kiss, you see how compatible you two are physically, and your feelings will either grow stronger or dissipate. [Read: 15 secrets to make the first kiss memorable]

4. The first time

After you’ve been on some dates with them and you are happy with the way things are going, it’s time to turn up the heat in the bedroom. Now, this depends on many things like your age, comfort level, and preferences. So, this step in the relationship timeline may happen much later or earlier in your timeline.

There is nothing wrong with having sex on the first date or waiting until after marriage. No matter when you two decide to take this step, at some point most relationship timelines will incorporate intimacy.

5. Sleeping over

Sleeping over may follow the first time you have sex, but not always. Maybe you’re ready to sleep together but not to *sleep* together. Or, maybe you live far away and have work tomorrow. Either way, at some point you’ll probably have a sleepover, even if you’re not having sex.

This can be much more intimate and vulnerable than sex. Feeling comfortable enough to fall asleep and wake up next to someone without freshly brushed hair and teeth is a very connecting experience. This vulnerability can strengthen your relationship bond. [Read: Sleeping over – how to make things run smoothly]

6. In a relationship

Once you’ve had a couple of sleepovers and have spent a decent amount of time together, it may be time to make things official. Of course, not everyone needs a label, but this can be a good time to have that conversation.

Are you monogamous? Are you headed into the future together? Is this going to be long-term? What are you both looking for? If you’re on the same page, this might be when you become official and start telling people you have a boyfriend or girlfriend.

7. Meeting the friends

Now that you two are officially together, it’s time to meet each other’s friends. Depending on how you know this person, you may already know their friends. But, this is when you start inviting each other on double dates or to group outings.

You’ve been talking to your friends about this person, but now they finally get to meet. Now, maybe your first date was a double date and they’ve already met. Whenever this time comes is fine, but it should happen at some point on the relationship timeline.

Meeting each other’s friends really lets you see a new side to your partner and pushes the dating timeline along. Without this step, there might be a red flag lurking around the corner.

8. The honeymoon phase ends

Up until now, you’ve been in the honeymoon phase and may be in it for a little while longer. But after a few months, this stage dwindles. The intense lust and passion slows down, and you’re left in a comfortable norm.

There is nothing wrong with this and the honeymoon stage may come and go. But usually at this point, you find comfort in each other rather than nerves. [Read: How long does the honeymoon phase last?]

9. Getting comfortable

When the honeymoon phase ends, you get really comfortable. This is when you get into a sort of routine with them.

You may stop getting up before them to brush your teeth to kiss them good morning. Maybe you even fart in front of each other or talk openly about your IBS.

Essentially, you are no longer afraid to scare each other off because you are in deep enough to trust each other with even the less-than-attractive parts of your life. You know them really well, you’re happy with them, and you feel great being yourself around them.

10. Meet the parents

Usually, you would be dating for a while before you get to meet the parents. Of course, this changes with age. In high school, college, or if you live with your parents, this will happen sooner and that’s fine.

Meeting the parents isn’t a quick “hi,” but rather sharing a meal and really talking with them. This step in the dating timeline lets you know if you fit into each other’s family lives. Can you see yourself spending the holidays with these people?

If you’re not close with your parents, this may not come until much later. But if you have any sort of relationship with your parents, this is a big step in a relationship. [Read: Definite signs it’s time to meet the parents]

11. Things get serious

By now a decent amount of time has probably passed. It could be months or years. For some, it could be weeks if things are progressing quickly. At this point, you’re talking about the future. You’ve probably said “I love you” and you feel safe with each other.

This would be when you start discussing the future, and topics like if you both want kids or marriage. This would be when you talk about what you see down the line and make sure you both want the same things before getting even more serious.

12. Discuss moving in

After about a year or so of dating, it’s usually time to discuss living together. This can change depending on if you’re in a long-distance relationship or what your budgets allow for.

However, it’s definitely something that shouldn’t be rushed into. Living together means you don’t get the breaks from one another that you’re used to. This is when you start to see the little annoyances or ways you differ that you didn’t see before.

Talking about it before doing it is an important step to ensure you are both willing to put the effort in to go through that adjustment. [Read: 16 signs you’re ready to move in together]

13. Moving in

Since you’re in a serious relationship and have discussed moving in, it’s time to pull the trigger and actually do it. You’ll be moving in together!

This is a big step in any relationship timeline. Not only are you making a big move emotionally and physically, but you are also likely combining your finances in some capacity.

Moving in together requires a lot of trust and compromises. If you can do this and feel content and even excited with each other you are in a good place. [Read: 15 things to know before moving in together]

14. Engagement

Some people will get engaged before moving in together, others won’t want to get engaged at all. Either is totally fine!

An engagement is a promise of marriage and your future lives together. It is not something to be entered into lightly. It should also only happen after you’ve discussed your future.

Do you want kids? What does marriage mean to you? What sacrifices are you willing to make? How will you handle the difficulties that will surely arise? What about moving or having your parents move in with you?

15. Marriage

If you’ve made it this far, marriage is obviously the next step after an engagement. But, if you plan on having a wedding bigger than going to the courthouse, there is a lot of stress to come.

Working through the stress of marriage together can be hard or it can be exciting and even fun. Unlike what many people say, not a lot of things change from engagement to marriage.

You still live together and share your lives, but now maybe one of you has a different last name and you’re both wearing rings on your left hands. [Read: Surprising truths about the first year of marriage]

16. Life beyond

This is when you live happily ever after. Of course, it’s not always that simple. This is by far the longest stage, and your relationship will go through ups and downs. This ends the dating timeline and is the final step of the relationship timeline.

This doesn’t mean you stop growing together and changing, but now you are in it together. This isn’t the end, but the beginning of so much to come.

The rest of the stages in your relationship depend completely upon the couple. This would be when many people have kids if they haven’t yet and want to grow their family. You may end up needing couples counseling, or you may end up being completely happy forever.

No matter what, you’ve made it this far, and your relationship timeline is complete. Now comes the rest of your lives together!

 [Read: Relationship milestones and when they should happen]

It’s hard to say exactly what a relationship timeline looks like. Certain things may shift around depending on the couple, but most of these steps will happen throughout a relationship to help a couple grow together.

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Preeti Tewari Serai
Preeti Serai
Preeti, the founder of LovePanky, is an eternal optimist and believer in the beauty of love and life. With an exhaustive experience in love, relationships, and ...