Key Relationship Stages and What to Expect from Them

Ah, relationships. The source of eternal joy mixed with pain.
Everybody knows about the honeymoon phase, and then the marriage is kind of accepted as the final stage of the relationship. But what else is out there? We’re curious just as you are, so let’s dive into the world of relationship stages, and find out what they are, what they mean, and how long they last.

What are relationship stages?

Relationships are not static. The first time you meet your significant other is not going to be the same as your time together a few years later. Unless the relationship is ended in the early days, it progresses through several stages. Each stage is marked by its distinct emotional, behavioral, and psychological dynamics.

How many relationship stages are there?

Now that’s the funny thing! Nobody knows how many relationship stages are really out there. We don’t have a universally agreed list of categories that all couples follow. And thank God, right? Imagine how insanely boring that would be!
Still, there are more or less agreed-upon phases that most romances will go through, at least the first half of them. So let’s look at the common framework of stages in a relationship.

Honeymoon phase a.k.a. the merge

This initial stage of the relationship is so much fun! It is heavily romanticized in pop culture, although it doesn’t really need it. Honeymoon is by its definition the phase where the new couple enjoys intense attraction, infatuation, and overall excitement about their relationship and life. The connection seems the strongest, the desires are hardly controlled, and the partner seems to be perfect and unable to do something wrong. Just remembering our personal experiences of honeymoon phases makes the hearts of the Flure team beat faster!
The honeymoon phase can be described as constant euphoria and idealization of the partner, where:
  • You spend time together doing romantic and goofy things
  • Just start to learn about each other’s personalities
  • The other person becomes the center of your life
  • You forgive and ignore potential red flags super easily
In terms of the timeframes, it’s really hard to tell. Some (overly pessimistic people, in our opinion) say that a honeymoon can’t last more than 6 months, but there are couples who report that they’ve been in this euphoric stage for well over a year, even close to two years.

Uncertainty or doubt phase

Once the initial euphoric phase wears off a little, some couples move on to the next phase which is often referred to as the uncertainty or the doubt phase.
Note: Not all couples will face this, some move straight to the next phase.
Remember this time when your partner’s little habits and routines first started to annoy you? Like, when they leave dishes in the sink for days or don’t wipe the bathroom floor after they shower, things like that. The uncertainty stage is all about those small, seemingly silly annoyances that we suddenly discover in our partners.
Typically, at this point in the relationship, the couple is likely to have mild arguments or miscommunications about those issues and annoyances, but they rarely turn into something big just because of the nature of the issue. Like, who would actually throw a huge fight about minor things? Psycho much? That’s also a perfect time to talk through your boundaries and find out those of your partner.

Adjustment stage or disillusionment

After the uncertainty stage, the couple moves on to the adjustment stage. Now that’s where the real trouble can begin, and many break up at this point too.
Don’t be too alarmed though! Just because some people break up here, doesn’t mean you will.
The disillusionment that often occurs here is associated with deep-rooted incompatibilities that aren’t as easy to sort, for example:
  • Cultural differences
  • Religious beliefs
  • Priorities in life (career, family, etc)
  • Stance on having kids
Your ability to discuss, negotiate, and agree on these matters will be key to whether you overcome potential deal breakers or not. Also, now is the time when the person’s not-so-great qualities might be shining through. We talk about silent treatment, gaslighting, pushing their anger deep down only to lash out at something else later. And this goes both ways. At this point in the relationship, you might learn something about yourself too, and it can be unpleasant.
By the way, that’s when you might realize that you’re dating a narcissistic sociopath because the timeline for the adjustment stage is roughly 2+ years since you first become an item. This means that enough time has passed for you to spot patterns, plus they get tired of acting and start to show their true self. So, don’t be alarmed, but watch out for signs!

Commitment stage

The commitment stage can start at different times, but you’d typically expect to see it after two years of the relationship.
At this point, the couple gets properly comfortable with one another, and they begin to see this romance as a long-term commitment. That’s when most differences and difficulties from the previous stages are dealt with, and the couple develops a strong emotional intimacy.
During the commitment stage, some share that their sexual desires seem to go away which can push the couple away from each other too. If you’re already in this position, there are things you can do to rebound your sexual attraction:
  1. Talk. Sometimes communication is a buzzkill, but it can be the savior too. You’ve been with your partner long enough to be able to speak about your sexual needs, preferences, and fantasies.
  2. Find out if there’s anything that bothers you two about the relationship. You don’t need to be on good terms to have great sex, but it helps your long-term intimacy if you guys resolve relationship problems that kill the mood and make you not want to be in the hands of your lover.
  3. Plan a romantic escape. Going away on a sexy trip together will not fix everything once and for all, but it can serve as a reboot. Just don’t take the kids, friends, or relatives with you!
  4. Try new things together. It can be something hot, like tango classes, or geeky and boring. The key is that you do this thing together for the first time. The joint experience and camaraderie that it creates will make you see each other from a different angle which, in turn, will help you get your horny back.

Acceptance stage

The final acceptance stage typically starts with the fifth year together. Here, the lives of the partners are fully merged, and they experience an unreal closeness. Couples that reach that stage often say that their lover is also their best friend, and, unlike in the earlier stages, they fully know what they’re talking about.
From now on, the couple can continue to strengthen their bond, grow together, and build a family. What you should keep in mind though, is that breakups still happen at later stages of the relationship. And when they do, it hurts a lot, almost as if you’re grieving the person. So, not to be a Debbie Downer, but you should always remember to have your own life. Don’t morph completely into the relationship, keep your individual hobbies, work, social circles, whatever it is that will keep your life more rich and fulfilling.

Final thoughts on relationship stages

Falling in love is not the same as moving along the relationship stages with your partner. Some elements of being a couple are literally perfect, but others – not so much.
If you’re currently going through a rough patch, we want you to remember why you’ve been attracted to this person to begin with. How successfully you’ll be able to weather the storm depends on your dedication, emotional availability, and willingness to communicate openly and sincerely. There’s no manual for how relationships need to be handled, but we believe that you’ll find the best way out.
And if you’re currently in the greatest of moods and enjoying your relationship beyond belief – great! We hope it will go on like this for you, and if you’re ready to take the next steps – they’ll soon follow.