Somewhere between gazing deeply into each other’s eyes over a romantic dinner and picking up his/her dirty laundry, dating turns into a commitment. But what makes a relationship committed?
Relationships build over time through five stages. The intense energy, emotional ups and downs, and obsessive thinking about each others that is associated with romance and dating eventually turn into a comfort that corresponds to settling down into a long-term relationship. In this article I explain the five stages and even helps couples to re-connect when they feel disconnected. Each stage builds upon the earlier stage and helps couples through the stages building, repairing and refreshing their commitment to each other.
This is the Hollywood version of love. It’s that gut wrenching, heart pounding feeling that you don’t want to get rid of. It’s the stage where each person puts their best qualities on the table. You like everything about the other person and you want to reveal everything about yourself. You pay more attention to what you have in common and you overlook the differences. You’re totally amazed by each other. You can’t even think about being with anyone else and you try everything possible to spend every moment with together. To you the other person is perfect and flawless. You have unrealistic expectations that this person will be able to satisfy all of your needs and wants.
You tend to think of each other constantly. This stage can feel like love, but it’s not. It’s just your hormones and emotions going crazy. This stage is full of laughter and excitement. This is the first stage of a committed relationship and can last up to two years. Although this stage is temporary, it’s necessary for the success of the relationship. It starts to build the road for the stages ahead.
People who are constantly jumping from one relationship to another are just trying to stay in this fantasy period and are unable to or don’t have a desire to progress to the next stages of the relationship. The feelings in this stage should be kept because they give you the drive to press on through the work of the future stages.
If the relationship has survived until this point, there is an interest in going further. . This is when reality kicks in. You no longer feel the need to be on your best behavior. You start to notice each other’s imperfections. It is a time when you establish boundaries. You start to see each other’s differences
This is where you begin to realize the other person is actually human. The more you get to know each other; you start to recognize flaws and shortcomings. You become more comfortable with each other. Those annoying habits that you looked over and called cute aren’t so cute anymore. But because there is still some residue from the Romance stage, you’re willing to overlook them. This stage causes you to slowly start to see the other person for who they really are. This is the stage, where your main focus is to learn how to communicate and resolve conflict effectively in order for the relationship to continue.
The Power Struggle Stage
REALITY CHECK!! This is the stage when your hormones and emotions have calmed down. You realize how different you are. It’s the period when the small things you once overlooked become a big deal and you begin to deal with the differences and adjust to reality. This is where the real work of a relationship starts. You start to have minor arguments. Both of you work hard to protect your turf and positions. You both try to establish boundaries while at the same time struggling for control of the relationship. Both want the other person to change, while they remain the same. This is when you must learn to solve problems, listen to each other, and build trust. The relationship will never work if you can’t get beyond this stage.
One of the key factors to a successful relationship is the foundation. A foundation is a strong stable base on which a building is constructed. When building a house, you must first set a foundation to build upon or the house will crumble. Meaning, your house is only as strong as the foundation you set. It‘s the same with your relationship foundation. In order to have a strong successful relationship, it is crucial that you have a strong foundation first. The foundation of a relationship can be said in one word: stability. Stability means to be firmly established.
This is the stage where you start to build a stable foundation for the relationship. You are now aware of each other’s personal world instead of just your own and you’re okay with it. It is finally clear you are not going to change each other. So you set clear boundaries.
This is where the real work starts. You start to establish a greater level of trust and love. The danger of this stage is that you can become too familiar with each other and you stop trying to build. You can start to feel that you have them already so you don’t have to work anymore. That’s so far from the truth! This stage is about growing and changing. . Just like a house, you have to continue building and working to get the relationship where you want it. You have history at this stage and it can be used to grow the relationship. Always refer back to the previous steps to help you to press on. If the relationship is worth having, it’s worth working for.
Commitment/Real Love Stage
This is the stage when both of make the decision to be together in spite of your faults, weaknesses and whatever other flaws you may have. You now have a genuine love for each other. You are no longer with your partner because you need them, but because you love them. There is no longer a power struggle. You and your partner are now a team. You genuinely love your partner, and you genuinely have their best interests at heart just as much as your own. They have become your best friend. You now understand each other. Theres no longer a power struggle. You still see new things about your partner’s habits or character in this phase. But since you’ve overcome many challenges together, you have grown to accept and support each other without restriction. You start to have similar life goals, and you share a vision for the future. Many couples decide to make a public commitment to each other in this stage to demonstrate their intention to continue their relationship. This is the stage in which your relationship becomes a true partnership.
In this stage you are wide awake, and conscious of the choices about yourself and your partner. Your choice is based both on individual differences and those things you have in common. You you have a clear idea of who you are and what you want as well as who your partner is and what they want. This is how you create a healthy relationship.
In this stage you choose the be together with awareness of your partner’s past, present state and you have a clear direction for the future. This stage fills your needs fulfilled of love, belonging, fun, power and freedom, all in balance. You don’t need each other, you choose to be with each other.
In order to have a successful relationship, you must have a complete understanding of all five stages. Many couples who’s relationships don’t last tried to take short cuts in the stages. They base everything off the first stage. Taking the time to work through all five stages will give you a better sense of understanding and comfort for the relationship.