22 June 2023
Is your relationship in a slump or are you just reading the room wrong?
As your in-house relationship expert and go-to gal on all matters sex and love (no-one has officially thrust this title upon me, but I’ve chosen to take it upon myself because it feels accurate), I’m here to explain the “five stages” of a relationship. Full disclosure, I actually first saw many couples and people talking about this on Tik Tok, and how they thought their relationship could have been/may have been over at a certain time, but understanding the changes helped them better understand their partner’s needs and got them through any rough patches.
The concept of the five stages are attributable to a number of different authors, psychologists and studiers of love, but is most often attributed to the work of Jed Diamond who introduced the concept in his book “the Male Menopause” but really crystalised it further in “The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages Of Relationships And Why The Best Is Still To Come.” The premise is that love is one of the greatest gifts that life has to offer (as I’m currently at in my peak lover girl era and I wholeheartedly agree…) but love fails very often, which oftentimes is because people don’t understand the stages of a relationship.
So I figured as a PSA for all of you with relationship woes, I would explain my learnings and why I think this is actually true. As much as I’m a “leave him at the first sign of anything bad” kinda girl, I think there’s some merit in actually working through issues instead of popping off (I find this easier said than done as a girl with a propensity to pop off…). And look, as much as I hate taking romantic advice from a random man, Diamond has been working as a psychologist and helping patients repair the most damaged relationships and restore trust in the most broken of places for over 40 years, so surely he knows something, right? Maybe this is also a PSA to myself and an active reminder that love is hard and may take work… Now, obviously, there is no one size fits all of every relationship, but as far as a blueprint may go, this is a good basic framework. So without further ado, here are the 5 stages of a relationship.
Stage One: Infatuation
This is the initial stage characterised by intense attraction and infatuation. We all know this stage, and fuck me, do we all love it… It often involves feelings of excitement, euphoria, and passion. The butterflies… the fanny flutters… It’s the phase where you think about them and catch yourself smiling at your phone.
During this stage, people may experience the "honeymoon phase" where everything feels perfect and idealised. You look a little past the initial icks and some of the red flags because you’re happy to be smitten.
Stage Two: The Power Struggle
Now, shit starts to get a little more real. Not that much more real, but as the initial infatuation settles, new couples may start to experience conflicts and power struggles.
Differences and disagreements arise, and partners begin to confront each other's flaws and differences instead of brushing things aside which is commonly done in the infatuation stage.
This stage tends to last a hot minute, often from the 4-7 month mark all the way into a year/year and a half.
This stage is crucial for establishing healthy communication, compromise, and finding ways to work through challenges. It’s where you find your mojo in regards to how you talk and how you love each other.
Stage Three: Stability and Commitment
In this stage, couples have resolved many of their conflicts and have established a sense of stability and commitment to each other.
You’ve done the base work to understand each other's strengths and weaknesses and have developed effective ways to communicate and resolve differences. Trust and mutual respect grow, leading to deeper emotional intimacy.
Stage Four: Cooperation
This stage is characterised by a partnership and cooperation between the partners but also potentially battling some feelings of stagnancy.
You need to start working together as a team, supporting each other's goals, dreams, and aspirations. They make joint decisions, share responsibilities, and build a life together. It involves really assessing your compatibility, your communications, resolving any issues for the future and how you work together as a team. Is the relationship healthy?
This is also where a lot of relationships tend to falter. It isn’t just razzle dazzle and excitement like it was at the start. Understanding that things change and priorities change is pertinent to understanding your relationship. The best thing you can do for yourselves in this stage is to be honest about your goals, and try to actively build a future together.
If both partners commit, emotional and physical intimacy continues to deepen, and there is a sense of shared purpose and long-term commitment.
Stage Five: Commitment/Co-creation OR the Break-down and Break-up
The final stage represents either the culmination of the relationship or the breakdown.
If you are in the co-creation stage, you have a shared vision for the future and are actively working together to co-create a life that aligns with each other’s individual and collective goals. The relationship is characterised by a strong emotional bond, mutual respect, trust, and ongoing growth.
If it results in a break up, the relationship has reached a point where the challenges and conflicts have become insurmountable, and the relationship has therefore broken down. This is often the direct result of stage 4
So, why does this matter?
Well, I guess it really depends on your outlook on things. As much as I’m a “if he wanted to he would…” and “you need to always give me attention” and “I get everything I want…” kind of girl, if you want something forever, then you really do need to put in the work. Things aren’t always smooth sailing and there are so many different issues that could crop up like cultural differences between you and your partner, infidelity or physical distance. Understanding that different stages of your relationship may call for different thought processes and reactions can make you more proactive as to how you approach any issues.
So go forth and conquer my chums…