The 4 Stages Every Relationship Goes Through

Every couple goes through these phases again and again — not necessarily in order.

In less than two weeks, my boyfriend and I will be moving. Moving is awful. It’s usually considered one of the top 5 most stressful life events a couple may face.

“We have to replace the water heater,” I told my husband.

“What do you mean?” he said looking up at me with his mouth open.

“I know. Replacing the valve didn’t fix the leak.”

He took a deep breath, exhaled, and then said, “Well, if it’s what we have to do.”

After my last relationship breakup, I still find myself sometimes bracing myself. Based on my past, I still sometimes half-expect my husband to scream at me, call me a “bitch, whore, tramp” or at least throw something at the wall. That would have been completely “normal” in my last relationship.

Thankfully, though, that’s not normal or even a one-time incident in my current relationship. Our relationship is convivial, respectful. It truly feels like heaven and its the best feeling ever.

Despite all of the stress of moving, we are currently in the phase of “Real Love” — the best one. It’s one we’ve been through before and will go through again. In a long-term relationship, every couple goes through this and other phases in a cyclical and recurring way.

#1. The Honeymoon Phase

We all know the honeymoon phase, which can happen at the beginning of almost every relationship but can also reoccur after other major life changes, such as getting married, buying a house together, moving in together, getting a promotion in the job, having children, children moving out of the home, so on and so.

In this phase, you’re banging (wink, wink) as often as you can. You think your partner is perfect, and boundaries? What boundaries? If you could merge into one flesh, you would. Eagerly. This is the period when your relationship feels utterly delightful, and you should enjoy it as much as you can.

But this is also a time to not let your emotions carry you away. Whenever this phase happens, enjoy it, but try to avoid making any big decisions.

It may also be helpful for you to get candid advice from those around you to make sure you’re not rushing headlong into something not in your best interest.

#2. Disillusionment & The Doubts

As much as we all want, unfortunately, the honeymoon can’t continue forever. Eventually, you’ll start to notice that your partner’s generosity seems irresponsible or whenever they eat cereal, it’s like they’re chewing on glass.

You may start fighting more and/or withdrawing. You might start drawing boundaries and focusing more on creating a space for yourself.

Couples who last through this do so by confronting their issues, making changes, and growing with each other instead of apart.

During this phase, try to remember that your partner isn’t only an irresponsible glass-chewer. You used to think they were pretty great when you were banging it out just a phase ago…

3. The Decision Time

Do you stay or go?

Now’s the time to decide whether you’re going to stick it out with your glass-chewer and work on fixing the relationship, staying and doing nothing, or hightailing it out.

Prepare for emotional breakdowns, indifference, contemplations of getting your own place or re-downloading the free dating app to have a fresh start?

While it’s always easier to leave in the short-term, healthy relating skills and thus healthy relationships get built in this stage. You’ll need to improve how you communicate, understand your role in what’s going on, and commit to a real change. If you do this, you can guarantee that things will improve.

If not, then at least you can part ways knowing you tried all you could.

#4. The Real Love Phase 

After going through that whole rollercoaster, you find yourself on the other side of the rainbow in the “Real Love” phase.

You’ve done some self-discovery, individuated, accepted your and your partner’s imperfections, and are working well together.

You lean into each other. You play. You bang. You enjoy this awesome person you get to share your life with.

REMEMBER: Be generous, practice self-care, and know that whatever phase you’re in, it won’t last forever, so enjoy it while you can. Every relationship is its own journey, and you’ll experience troubles. You might jump from “A Real Love” all the way back to “Disillusionment & The Doubts” but if you stick it out and keep working with each other, you can build a satisfying long-term relationship that can weather even the toughest situations, not there is always to start over again.


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Written by Sarah

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