The first six months of a relationship are wonderful. There are flowers, candy and hundreds of emoji filled texts that are promptly read and responded to. You leave each other in the evening and video chat a few hours later.
You share your food, wipe each others mouths and walk down the street with your hands in each other’s back pocket.
You are happy and so in love with your companion. You can’t get enough of each other.
A year later you’ve broken up…
How You Start Never Matters
But you started off so well. The relationship was perfect. You were so sweet and in love with each other and somehow the passion still faded.
Statistics show that most relationships go from hot, heavy and passionate to “meh” in about 18 months. The feelings people associate with being in love—the butterflies and the longing—dissipate during this time and the couple begins to wonder if they should carry on with the relationship.
New research shows that relationships are actually more vulnerable to demise far sooner than the dreaded seven year itch. The most common time for a couple to split is right around the two year mark.
By then, you’ve most likely seen everything about your partner—their best and their worst physically and emotionally. You have started to get used to each other’s presence and the spark to stay passionate and playful has gradually faded in the relationship because you just no longer feel the same. Lots of couples end their relationship here.
What most couples who end their relationship there don’t realize is that this is just a phase. It’s a part of the process and happens to all couples.
The Five Stages Every Relationship Goes Through
The first mistake couples make is believing that when the “infatuated” feeling fades, it’s a sign that the love is fading as well. They think that when the butterflies are gone, it’s time to end the relationship.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
When it comes to relationships, experts agree there are five distinct stages. Every relationship goes through these stages. The ones that last successfully make it through all five, but most relationships get stuck and fall apart during stage three.
Stage 1: Passion and Romance
This is the honeymoon or infatuation stage. It is filled with lots of kisses and touching each other for no particular reason. It is when you are completely taken by your mate and are blind to his or her flaws.
It is the easiest phase to endure and very intense.
Stage 2: Getting Serious
This is still within the infatuation or honeymoon stage. You are still blinded by love but have the clarity to see that this relationship has long-term potential. This is when the relationship becomes exclusive and you begin making long-term plans with your partner.
There is still lots of hand-holding, cuddling, and you give each other meaningful nicknames. You begin to share yourself more intimately with your mate.
Stage 3: Relationship Plateau
Stage three is when the relationship becomes real. The blinders are off and you see your partner for who they really are. Physical touch like hand-holding, kissing and other forms of physical intimacy may be starting to slow down a bit. The butterflies are gone and your partner doesn’t seem as cute as they once were.
The hardest part about stage three is that you both begin to question the relationship: where is the passion we used to have for each other? is our love fading away? is he/she the one I can be with for a longer time?
Stage 4: Moving Beyond Infatuation
Once you’ve chosen to move past stage three and to stick with the relationship, you develop a deep and intimate bond. This is the time when couples really begin to merge their lives. Serious discussions concerning marriage, kids and finances ensue and plans are made to move the couple forward as a unit.
This is when the relationship is solidified and the couple builds a life together. Many couples make it to this phase and experience a long, healthy and meaningful relationship.
But there is one more phase…
Stage 5: Becoming a Team
Stage five of the relationship is when the couple becomes a solid team. The relationship moves past “me and you” decision-making and the team becomes more important than the individuals.
This is the part of a relationship everyone longs for but few reach. It’s the true love phase.
It’s when the couple has the best chance of making it to “happily-ever-after.” That’s not to say that there will not be challenges, hardships and bumps in the road. But it does mean that both parties are committed to staying and making the relationship work no matter what.
It’s the phase of full acceptance and unconditional love.
Breaking Through the Honeymoon Stage
Most relationships that end do so somewhere within stage three. Other relationships can last for years and never make it out of stage three, but the relationship is not healthy and neither partner is fulfilled.
The first thing you must understand when you began to feel disillusioned is that feelings don’t sustain a relationship. Feelings are unreliable because they vary and are subject to moods and external factors.
Think of when a family celebrates the arrival of a newborn. At first, all of the attention is on the new addition and everything is sweet and cute. After a few months of dirty diapers, spit up and random crying, the initial excitement passes but that doesn’t mean the parents don’t love the baby anymore.
A romantic relationship works similarly. It’s the struggling process that helps both partners grow and this process also helps the relationship grow into something better, something that will last. Giving up at Stage 3 is like declaring the death of a patient with a beating heart.
The duration of each stage is different for every couple. For some couples, the honeymoon stage may last for years and for others a few months. The important thing to note is the length of the stage has no correlation to the viability of the relationship.
When you reach stage three, you have the power to determine how long it lasts. Getting out of stage three requires you to make a decision. You must decide that your relationship is worth it and you must chose to go all in.
Here are a few things you can do to help move your relationship out of stage 3:
Recognize that questioning your relationship is normal and necessary.
Allow yourself time to assess whether or not your concerns are simply connected to a loss of passion or if you have legitimate concerns about your partner and the relationship.
Talk about your concerns with the right person.
Make sure that you share your concerns with your partner. Saying something as simple as “I feel that our relationship is getting a bit boring these days, I think we should do something about it,” could be the juice the relationship needs. It will start a dialogue and assist you both in actively addressing your concerns.
Sharing your concerns and seeking advice from others during this time is normal and acceptable, just be careful who you listen to.
Make a decision and then put in the work.
Once you decide that the relationship is viable, do something about it. Don’t make your decision and then hope things will get better.
Actively work to move your relationship further. Try new things. Do things your partner likes to do. Be romantic on purpose.
Relationships take heaps of effort. It’s time to put in the work.
It’s Not How You Start, It’s How You Journey Through
All relationships take time, energy and targeted, intentional effort.
It doesn’t matter how “lovey-dovey” cute and cuddly you are in the beginning. The honeymoon will end. And when it does you must work in order to make it last. Stage three doesn’t have to be the death of your relationship. You control whether to relationship lives or dies.
Will your relationship become a stage fiver?
Featured photo credit: Jordan Bauer on Unsplash via unsplash.com
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