Like all other things in life, relationships have beginnings and endings. What happens in between these two is one of the scariest and most wonderful things one can experience. Wonderful, because the newfound sense of belonging is second to none, scary because both parties involved are usually worried about doing something wrong and ruining the whole thing.
Many people have compared relationships to many things, ranging from flowers and trees to birds, wine glasses, even garage sales and oases in the desert. But there are some things that the vast majority of them have in common, no matter if they are between “common folk” like you and me or celebrity power couples living in the spotlight: they all go through a few distinct stages characterized by the behavior of those involved. Not all of these are agreeable…
A boy and a girl (or any variation of these), space where they are at the same time, a look, a greeting, a conversation – this is pretty much how any relationship starts. Some people speak of a “spark”, “chemistry” or something along these lines that appears between two people who “click”. Their conversations move beyond casual and perhaps become deeper, more meaningful, and more personal. The first contact between the two parties involved is followed by more, a bond forms between the two. Some of them remain superficial, others go deeper. Some of them come without the added benefit of romance, others do – and that’s when things start to get interesting.
The stage often described with the words “attraction” and “romance” is characterized by the “new relationship haze” – the two parties tend to ignore each other’s flaws and their differences, focusing on their similarities, enjoying every minute they spend together, and avoiding any potential conflict that may drive them apart.
It takes a while for the hormone-fueled infatuation stage to run its tracks before reality starts crawling back into the relationship. Sometimes, it’s gradual, and other times it’s not. This phase, usually lasting anywhere from a few weeks to half a year – is when the couple (I think it’s safe to call the two parties that by this time) decides if they really want to stay together.
By this time, the hormones are slowly getting out of your system, taking the pink sunglasses that made you see la Vie en rose with them. The two parties start noticing their partners’ flaws – things, behaviors, and habits they simply don’t like.
There are many relationships that don’t survive this phase – and it’s for the better.
No arguments, just hidden annoyances
Those who stay together beyond their reality check will then proceed to the next stage… one that’s decisive for the long-term survival of the relationship. By this time, the all-consuming flames of love subside to little more than smoldering, and the couples are trying to work through their differences to form a stable relationship. Unfortunately, their focus is on keeping things together rather than working out the true differences – the parties involved often keep their annoyances to themselves and try to avoid conflict out of fear from ruining the relationship. But, as the small green wise creature said in Star Wars, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering…
To survive this stage, couples need to communicate. And yes, sometimes this “communication” involves shouting, tears, and flying plates. Without communication – and the occasional arguments – this stage can be deadly to a relationship. With it, in turn, the couple can form a…
… that represents a safe harbor from the stormy waters of everyday life. This stage is relaxing and enjoyable, uneventful… and for some, it may even be boring. The parties involved have a history as a couple, and the love between them is mostly gone – ideally, replaced by a strong connection based on respect and trust.
In this stage, some may feel bored, and a bit nostalgic for the first weeks of the relationship filled with flames, hormones, and warm, tingly feelings. And some may wonder if they could feel the flames again… with someone else.
According to the experts, this stage lasts, on average, for two years, and the secret to successfully navigating through it is to keep the spark alive by spicing up your lives – together.
The finish line
The reward for fighting through all the previous stages is to become the “relationship goal” for others – a “happy couple”, as many call them. The couples in the final stage of a relationship will accept each other, flaws and all, when they don’t miss the romance and flame, the pink sunglasses and the thrill – instead, the two parties involved have a true vision for the future together. It is a mature relationship that, in a perfect world, can last forever.
Why is it important to know about these stages of a relationship?
The most important reason for you to know this is to save you from a lot of anxiety, guilt, and fear. Relationships begin with a flame that dies down in time – this happens even under ideal circumstances – and it’s nobody’s fault.