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Monday, October 26, 2020

The 5 Stages of Love From Attraction to Commitment

Committed relationships usually go through five main stages from attraction to commitment.  Each stage has its own rewards and challenges (see my article: Is It Love or Infatuation?). 

The 5 Main Stages of Love From Attraction to Commitment

The 5 Main Stages of Love From Attraction to Commitment:
Many couples never make it passed Stage One or Two.  Other couples get stuck in one of the various stages prior to commitment for various reasons (to be discussed below). However, with commitment, patience and good communication, couples can make it to Stage 5 and beyond.

Here are the five main stages of love:
  • Stage One: The Attraction Stage: Most couples in a dating relationship go through this stage. Typically, it lasts anywhere from a few months to two years.  This is the heady, fun time in a new relationship. It's the time in a relationship when you're head over heels about your partner. There's a lot of chemistry between you--so much so that you feel "high" from all those endorphins coursing through your body. During this stage, couples tend to focus on similarities and ignore differences and potential problems (some people don't just ignore these problems--they don't see them because they're so infatuated with their partner). It's also the time when you spend a lot of time fantasizing about their partner.  You also spend a lot of time together and tend to have a lot of sex.  Since you're focusing on similarities, you also tend to avoid conflict (see my article: 7 Signs Your Relationship is Based on Lust and Not Love).
  • Stage Two: The Reality Stage: After the initial "getting to know you" stage where emotions, chemistry, and fantasies about your partner are prevalent, reality slowly begins to sink in. Rather than continuing to idealize your partner, you begin to see your partner and your relationship more realistically.  This is the stage where you see each other's flaws and the possible incompatibilities between the two of you.  The endorphins from Stage One tend to level off during this stage, and it can feel like a letdown. Whereas you ignored differences and potential problems during Stage One, now you see them and you might wonder how you missed them before. Many of the things you found endearing before might feel annoying now. This is often the stage when many relationships end for a variety of reasons, including: 
    • There isn't enough substance to the relationship to keep it going.
    • The couple discovers they're incompatible.
    • One or both people want to continue to have heady romantic feelings so they seek out other partners to go through Stage One again, and so on (see my article: Falling In Love With the Fantasy and Not the Reality).
    • And so on
  • Stage Three: The Disappointment Stage: If you make it past Stage Two, you're likely to enter into the Disappointment Stage.  This is the stage where the two of you begin to argue. You might argue about big things or little things.  Before this, you and your partner probably managed to avoid arguing, especially during Stage One. If one or both of you are uncomfortable with arguing and see it as a negative thing, you might end the relationship. But arguing isn't inherently negative.  If you can communicate well with each other, it's possible that the two of you can work through your differences and the relationship could be stronger for it. 
  • Stage Four: Stability Stage: If you can get through the disappointment of Stage Three, you can work towards having a more stable relationship. You might feel a little bored because you're no longer in that heady romantic stage, but having a more stable, mature, trusting relationship can be more gratifying and enhance your state of well-being. Not only have you accepted your own and your partner's flaws and differences and the inevitable arguments that occur from time to time, you now begin to see a long term future for your relationship. If you're unable to cope with the inevitable boredom that occurs at this stage, you might cheat in order to relieve your boredom and get "high" from a new attraction that's passionate (see my article: The Connection Between Infidelity and the Need to Feel Desirable).
The 5 Main Stages of Love From Attraction to Commitment
  • Stage Five: The Commitment Stage: The two of you make a commitment to have a long-term relationship.  You both have a vision of your future together--whether this involves marriage or living together. If you make it to this stage, your relationship has reached a more mature, enduring phase. You can endure the occasional boredom because you know that what you have is a deeper kind of love as compared to the earlier stages.
  • Beyond the Commitment Stage: If you choose to have children, you'll go through the Parenthood Stage with its own unique rewards and challenges. And if you continue to stay together, couples go through the Mature Love Stage where the children are living on their own independently, and you could be dealing with issues related to taking care of elderly parents.  
The Challenges of Navigating Through the Stages of Love
As previously mentioned, being aware of the Stages of Love can help you anticipate what you'll go through as a couple so you won't be surprised.

Many couples don't make it passed the first one or two stages.  Aside from the reasons mentioned above, some people lack the emotional maturity or they lack the desire for a committed relationship. 

For other couples, real and significant problems come up during the Reality Stage and they recognize that they're not really compatible or they want different things, so it makes sense to breakup.  But even couples who are willing to work towards a committed relationship can get stuck in one of the stages.

Getting Help in Therapy
If you and your partner are struggling in your relationship, you could benefit from working with an experienced psychotherapist who can help you work through your issues--whether you decide to stay together or not.

A skilled couples therapist can help you to understand your relationship dynamics so you can either work out your differences or to part amicably (see my article: What is Emotionally Focused Therapy For Couples).

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from an experience therapist.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist (see my article:  The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Therapy).

I work with individuals and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 or email me.