A true relationship is not all about romance and cute moments, it is about two imperfect people in love refusing to give up on each other.
Just as the saying: no condition is permanent, every relationship goes through stages. The way we connect to our parents, our friends, and, yes, our romantic partners, go through some definite stages as bonds are formed, tested, and reinforced. These stages no matter how simple can make or break a relationship.
The first thing we experience as living things is a relationship; a bond so strong that even the separation of cords couldn’t break. Yet as partners transcend from being just casual dates to inseparable couples, they become so intoxicated by love that they are rather naïve in the affairs of romantic relationships.
While it has been established that romantic relationship goes through different stages, what they are and how long they last differ from couple to couple. After detailed research from relationship experts, these stages were generally grouped into 5.
1. The Merge
What God has joined together?
After successful dates and preliminary compatibility tests, this is the first stage of an actual relationship. This stage is otherwise known as the honeymoon stage. It includes the initial, oven-hot romance that regularly burns-through a couple when they first get together, an all-burning-through bliss in the presence of each other and unquenchable, energetic romantic activities. Most couples in this stage will feel as though they’ve found “the one”, somebody who is so shockingly comparable and connected to them. And as boundaries melt away, they believe they must be together and usually don’t care if the heavens fall in the process. They become a couple: inseparable or possibly feel urged to be so.
They become so intoxicated that they shut down the rational part of their brain. According to proven facts, this stage is marked by biochemical changes in the brain. The brain becomes overwhelmed by a cocktail of hormones that trigger and maintain a state of infatuation thereby enhancing addiction and ignorance.
How to go through
While you enjoy this delightful and intriguing stage of your relationship, be wary of your heightened emotions. Take time now and then to step back and observe you and your partner’s emotions and intentions. Don’t rush into making big and important decisions as this stage can do more damage than fog visions.
2. Double D
Jí! (Wake up)
This stage is the Doubt and Denial stage. The stage where the fog starts to clear and they finally start to notice or stop pretending not to notice the differences between each other. They realize that the same qualities they find so cute are not so cute after all. The smooth, unquenchable romance begins to have friction. Power struggles increase, and they are amazed by the differences they see in each other. Feelings of love mix with alienation and irritation and the realization of maybe we’re not “perfect” for each other after all start to bloom.
A lot of couples react to this stage differently depending on their personalities and circumstances. Some may want to fight while others may just withdraw and give up.
How to go through
The two major things that can get couples through this stage: Communication and Conflict management. Friction, arguments, and differences realization are normal parts of a relationship; they’re not necessarily a sign that love is ending or that the relationship isn’t working. They are a sign that the relationship is growing.
To triumph, Identify the difference between healthy disagreements and unhealthy control issues; the former can be worked through, while the latter may be an unchangeable path to break up.
This stage where you have your vision back is also a good time to understand and learn each other’s love language(s).
3. The Winter
The winter is coming here!
This third stage of a romantic relationship is the Disillusionment stage. Otherwise known as the winter season of love, one that may feel like the end of the road for most couples. Here, the friction that started blooming in the second stage has become fully grown; the differences the couple has consistently shoved under the rug are now glaringly obvious. While some couples aggravate the situation with aggressive confrontations, others will quietly move apart over time, putting less and less energy into the sustainability of the relationship.
At this stage, the once upon a time oven-hot romance has become winter-cold. The relationship is hanging merely by a thread and while some couples may question their commitment to the relationship, others may see the challenges as a strong message that things need to change. The winter stage is like the opposite of the merge stage where the brain focuses only on the challenges of the relationship.
How to go through
S p a c e!
Give each other space but communicate on things you both see differently. Stop avoiding and pushing problems under the rug. Pushing them under the rug just leaves a lumpy carpet with much to trip over. So talk, argue, and most importantly listen!
Regardless of all the misunderstandings and negative energy, do not stop showing your partner respect, love and affection. What’s love if it can’t stand the test of time?
4. Breaking or Making a point
This is a decision-making stage.
For the couples who couldn’t overcome the Double D stage, this stage is where they experience more emotional breakdowns, where leaving the house for hours to get away from each other after a fight, indifference and self-protective behaviors becomes a normal thing. Couples here may begin to seriously contemplate leaving and even make plans to break the relationship. They make the decision to leave, to stay and do nothing despite how miserable the relationship has become, or to stay and actually work on fixing the relationship.
How to go through
Couples at this stage are advised to take a time out. A time out before making a decision about the relationship. Many a time, when couples feel they want out of the relationship, all they need is a time out and effective communication.
Understanding and taking responsibility for each other’s mistakes can help to reform the already broken relationship.
And when there is no other choice than to part ways, do so in a constructive way, wishing one another well and understanding each other’s part in what happened.
5. Wholehearted Love
At this stage, the relationship is at its healthiest. It is the love’s summertime. Couples have experienced and overcome so many challenges that it feels rewarding to be together. They have come to the realization of true individuation, self-discovery, and the acceptance of imperfection in each other.
Couples also begin to experience a replay of the intriguing pecks of the first stage of the relationship as their love becomes renewed. They begin to fall in love with each other all over again. And with all of their experiences, they can laugh, relax, and deeply enjoy each other.
How to go through
As you enjoy yet another stage of oven-hot romance, caution yourself and know that there will be new challenges waiting somewhere in the distance. Be confident that you are well-equipped to deal with them when they come. And if you can, seek professional advice from time to time.
The stages of a relationship are not linear but cyclical. Even people who reach the fifth and final stage of a relationship—Wholehearted Love—will eventually find themselves looping back to Stage 1 to start the process all over again. The secret to overcoming these stages over and over again is to understand their transition.
As you pursue your quest to finding love and happily ever after, it is imperative to know and flee when a relationship has become toxic and abusive either physically or mentally. I wish you all the best and may the odds forever be in your favor. Cheers!