Being in love is something that all of us are familiar with – if not first hand then through friends, family and the media. It’s also something that is multifaceted to say the least and that different people describe very differently. Love between two people varies depending on who those people are, and it also varies depending on the situation and on where those people are in their lives. You can love two people and find that your feelings for them were completely different even though you would describe yourself as in love in both cases.
Crucially the other way in which love varies is in how long you have been in love – there are undoubtedly ‘stages’ of love, and you’ll find that as you have been in love for longer and longer, the way you feel about the other person more and more. This is of course a result of having been with that person for such a long amount of time, or not, which affects the ‘excitement factor’. It’s also as a result of knowing the person better, and of growing into the relationship. Here we will look at some of the common ‘stages’ that new couples go through though of course these may be different for you.
The Cautious Stage
The first stage you’ll go through with a partner is being very cautious. This is the point at which neither of you really knows the other one as well as you could, and where you are still holding things back about yourself. We all have unusual habits and out-there views that we worry might be a turn off to some people and so in the early stages of a relationship we are likely to keep those bits off limits and not express them too much. At this point you will likely be very attracted to the other person, but you may feel that you don’t quite know them or that they don’t quite know you. Of course if this is a relationship with someone who you have previously know, been friends with, or dated before, then this stage might not last as long as it otherwise would or you might skip it entirely. While it’s fine to hold a little something back early on in your relationship – and in fact very much advisable – just be sure to let them know who you really are as well and not to create any false impressions of yourself – it will only lead to problems later down the line.
The Honeymoon Stage
This refers to that point at which you’ve overcome the initial nervousness but still find the relationship incredibly exciting. This is the stage that non-couples and friends of couples dread – when everything is perfect for the happy new couple and all they can talk about is each other. To be in this stage however is a great feeling and gives the world an extra bit of color – you won’t want to be away from your partner and everything they do will seem wonderful. Just make sure that you keep your wits about you somewhat still as it’s not overly healthy to think of anyone or anything as perfect and this can cause you to overlook some problems that you otherwise would have noticed and that are perhaps quite important. Otherwise, enjoy this stage while it lasts – but spare a thought for the people across the table from you when you’re using pet names and snuggling in public. There’s no set duration for the honeymoon stage, and while some couples will never seem to come out of it, for others it is a fleeting moment.
The ‘Comfortable’ Stage
The comfortable stage is the point at which things settle down. Suddenly things aren’t quite as exciting or romantic because well – you’ve been together now for one or two years. At this point you will find that you start to act a lot more yourself around your partner, and you will start to let some of your bad habits and more unusual sides show – and you’ll start to notice the same thing in your partner. The point is that at this stage you’ve become accustomed to having a partner so it’s no longer headline news and you can start to quieten down. For some people this stage is scary – they’re used to everything being new and exciting and if you were expecting a Romeo and Juliette style romance then this is when things might start to feel a little bland. This is what happens after the couples in the romantic comedies ride off into the sunset and things start to become more real.
If you have realistic expectations and if you can appreciate the ‘comfortable’ stage for what it is then you will find that actually in many ways this is the more romantic part. The simple reason for that is that when you reach the comfortable stage you are finally being yourself, and this means that you are able to relax in your partner’s company – to wear your pajamas and eat pizza in front of the TV, to break wind, and to whine when you’ve had a bad day or are just feeling low. At the same time this is when you will start to feel truly close to your partner – because no one else in the world will know you as well as they do now and vice versa. This means that they will be the ones you go to if you are in trouble, or if you need a shoulder to cry on, and it means that they will be the ones who will understand your jokes. You’ll have in-jokes, you’ll have history together and more. From this point your relationship can then go in one of two ways which we will examine here…
The Frustration Stage
At this stage in your relationship things start to lose their sheen. For some couples this stage will be fleeting, but for others it will often be what causes the end of the relationship. In the previous stage you learned to drop your guard – and so did they – and that means then that you are suddenly exposed to all of your weaknesses and all of your realities. That means that if they bite their nails, have a funny cough, constantly jig up and down at the table… whatever their bad habit might be – it can suddenly become highly frustrating.
Meanwhile your relationship has started to take a back seat and that’s when ‘life’ starts getting in the way of things again. This is when you start having arguments because one of you spends too much time at work or with their friends, and it’s when getting fired or losing a family member leaves one of you in an inconsolable mood that makes the other party feel as though they’re banging their head against the wall, or like they’re not with the person they thought they were with.
These are the realities of life and this is the reality of living together or of being in a long term relationship with that person. This is the most difficult stage, but it is also a test that yields great rewards – if you can learn to love someone despite their quirks, and if you can win them over despite yours, and if you can go through everything that life has to throw at you together, then that will bode incredibly well for the future and it will ensure that you are even stronger as a couple. The more you go through now, the more resilient you will be later in your relationship.
The Serious Stage
Once you’ve passed the last and most difficult stage then things change and you become accustomed to this relationship being your ‘reality’. If you find yourself at this stage then you will very likely find that you can no longer imagine what life would be like without your partner. At this point the two of you have become so intertwined that any number of difficulties living together are dwarfed by how difficult it would be if you were to separate. At this point things become more ‘serious’ and this is when you might want to consider marriage if you are the marrying type. At this stage in the relationship you are very aware of what life together will be like and you’ve survived many tests and challenges. But do bear in mind that the ‘stages of love’ don’t end after marriage, and you are likely to find that your feelings and situations continue to change and to test you – but at least you can face it all together.