Even in the best of relationships, feelings change. It’s just a normal part of love. So normal, in fact, that psychologists like Dr. Jed Diamond have noticed a near-universal pattern in the way lovers’ attitudes towards one another change.
It turns out that every relationship passes through 5 distinct stages. Read on to learn about each one. We’ll also explore why most people get stuck at stage #3 and how you can move past it in your relationship.
5 Stages Of A Relationship
#1 – Falling In Love
During this stage, Dr. Diamond says partners project their hopes and dreams onto one another. Each believes the other is their ideal mate who will provide them with lifelong pleasure and companionship.
Hormones like oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin go wild during this stage, adding to the feeling of warmth and – well, love.
Sounds pretty blissful, right? Well don’t get too dreamy; according to Dr. Diamond, the ‘falling in love’ stage is a trick of nature to “get humans to pick a mate so that our species carries on.”
#2 – Becoming Partners
In this stage, couples move past the ‘infatuation’ characteristic of stage #1. They experience less of a hormonal cocktail and more of a close, practical bond. Stage #2 is also when couples begin to build a life together. They have kids, buy a home, line it with a white picket fence, etc.
In other words, they become one and the relationship is filled with appreciation and security. Most couples would be happy at this stage forever. But alas…
#3 – Disillusionment
As Dr. Diamond puts it, for many relationships stage #3 is “the beginning of the end.” Everything seems to go wrong. Partners begin to feel less secure and under-appreciated. All the illusions of perfection have worn away.
Most couples reach this stage and assume it’s abnormal. They assume they made the wrong decision in building a life with each other. That’s why most couples get stuck here. Instead of seeing stage #3 as an opportunity to grow further, they decide to either tolerate mediocrity or call quits.
The problem is, though, you will always end up at stage #3. Dr. Diamond himself went through 2 marriages before realizing stage #3 wasn’t the time to quit.
During his 3rd marriage, he called upon the old adage, “When you’re going through hell, don’t stop.”
People who keep pushing through this stage, in Dr. Diamond’s words, “have an opportunity to become more loving” and appreciative of their partner, not the projections placed on them in prior stages.
In other words, when you find yourself at stage #3, Dr. Diamond recommends pushing forward. Couples who do will find themselves in…
#4 – Real Love
Couples who work through the problems that arise in stage 3 learn a whole lot about themselves, both as a couple and individually. Dr. Diamond says this is when people begin to see a link between their past and the way they act towards their partner.
At this point, partners begin to help one another heal wounds. The love they thought had vanished returns, this time with maturity and a satisfyingly deep understanding of one another.
#5 – Combining Forces To Change The World
There’s nothing wrong with staying at stage #4. In fact, that’s where most couples who push past stage #3 remain. But couples who make it to stage #5 begin to see their love affect not just their life but the lives of everyone around them.
They may choose to write together, as Dr. Diamond and his wife are doing, or participate in community service. They might even choose to start a charity or scholarship fund.
Whatever they do, this stage is the ultimate culmination of several decades spent growing, both individually and together.
Wondering how to get to the next level with your partner?
Relationship expert and psychologist Erica Loop recommends treating your relationship as a marathon rather than a quick sprint. There’s no shame in spending a few years at any one particular stage.
Once you’re ready to move to the next level, Loop recommends digging deeper as far as what you share with your partner. You should also make sure to establish some degree of independence; agreeing with everything your partner does or says is a great way to stay stuck in a less mature space.