All relationships begin differently. Every couple has their own story. Maybe you were friends for years before you started dating. Or maybe the two of you connected by swiping right on the infamous dating, Tinder. Successful relationships can stem from a number of different instances and they all follow their own particular path. Still, there is a common pattern of stages that almost all long-term relationships follow.
These stages are categorized by the things you’ll say while you’re in them.
Many of them are positive, filled with infatuation and enthusiasm. These stages usually occur at the beginning of a relationship, when you just can’t get enough of each other. The later stages require the most time and attention, whether it’s with your partner or with other people in your life that your relationship has caused you to neglect.
It’s important to acknowledge which stage you’re in (especially during the tougher ones) and to understand that they are all normal.
1.The “I Told My Friends About You” Stage
As soon as you tell your friends about the girl you’ve been seeing (or hooking up with), and then go back and tell that girl that you told your friends about her, that’s when you know things are getting serious.
This is also known as the infatuation stage, in which you find yourself bringing them up during random conversations. You find yourself wanting to see them on your lunch breaks or at ridiculous hours of the night. This is also the stage when your friends might complain about how you’re spending your time. People in your life will start to miss you, but will hopefully be supportive of your newfound happiness, and wish to be involved.
2.The “I Want You to Meet My Parents” Stage.
Meeting the family is usually a big deal in a relationship. It’s a subconscious way of welcoming that person into our lives and making sure they fit. This stage comes along with a sense of comfort. You’re comfortable enough to introduce them, and know that they will be comfortable enough to be introduced (without feeling freaked out or pressured), to the people who matter to you most.
It also means that you want to seek validation that you’re with the right person. You’re interested in gaining the approval of the people whose opinion you value. While this stage is often a joyful experience, it can also spark a lot of anxiety for all parties involved. If you’re experiencing stress, it just means that you want it to go well.
If you’re lucky, and have found the right person, your family and friends will approve and be both loving and supportive.
3. The “I Love You” Stage.
It’s difficult to put a timeframe on this stage since we all experience love differently. It takes some people a lot of time to get there, while others throw the word around carelessly. My suggestion for this stage is to draw it out as long as possible. Don’t drop the “L” bomb the first time you feel it. Waiting to say, “I love you” will only make it mean more when you finally do.
4.The “It Bothers Me When You…” Stage.
For me personally, this stage has always occurred about nine months into the relationship. At this point, you’ve had enough time together to see that, as much as you hoped, your partner isn’t perfect. (Nobody is…not even including you…) It might be the first time they’ve displayed jealous or a lack of patience, or they’ve said something you don’t agree with.
If you find yourself in this predicament, it is absolutely critical that you address it. Right now! Before you go and vent to all your friends about it and self-sabotage the entire relationship. Most concerns, at this point in the game, are minor and only become larger if you ignore them.
Communication is crucial. You have to realize that, although you work well together, you are still different people. And that’s OK. Can you accept or learn to appreciate these imperfections? If the answer is yes, you should be able to navigate smoothly in and out of this stage into the next one in your relationship.
5. The “What Do You Want?” Stage.
This stage occurs after a year, or multiple years of being together. It’s when you find out if your goals match up. It’s when you start considering moving in together. It’s when you start discussing a future together and deciding if your desires in life coincide.
This the most pivotal stage of a long-term relationship. It will make or break you. Communication and absolute honesty is key when you are addressing the future. This is not the time to sugarcoat or lie about anything. If you do, you’ll likely find yourself unsatisfied in the future.
6.The “I Want That Too” Stage, also known as the “I Still Love You” Stage.
This is the most fulfilling stage of all. If you have reached it, take a moment to give yourself a pat on the back. You deserve it.
Long-term relationships are not easy. Just look at the increase of divorces every year. We are all different, and we live in a time of social media and online dating. Many relationships are destined to fail from the get-go, but long-term relationships are not impossible. Figure out what it is you want out of life, and then find someone who wants the same thing.
Once you’ve found them, learn their imperfections, and if you still love them at the end of the day, don’t let go.