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What Are the 5 Stages of Love, And How to Last Through Them?
Relationship Advice

What Are the 5 Stages of Love, And How to Last Through Them?

Depending on who you ask, there are 4, 5, or even 10 stages of love. Learn more about the key stages of a love and see how you can build intimacy at each stage.

Together Team
February 28, 2022

Romantic relationships are, undoubtedly, one of the most complex aspects of our lives. There are some stages of love that can turn your relationship into a source of happiness or misery, depending on how they are approached.

You can definitely make the best out of your relationship's ups and downs. 

In this article, you can learn more about them, in order for you and your partner to better navigate the natural stages of love and build a stronger connection.

How many stages are there in a relationship?

Scientific research shows various models for romantic relationship development. That’s why you may have seen some articles recognizing 3 stages of relationships while others talk about 5 or more. 

A staircase model of romantic relationships was first introduced by Mark Knapp in 1978, and it looks something like this:

Mark Knapp's staircase model for relationships

Mark defines the 10 stages of relationships as: 

  • 5 for growing together (initiation, experimenting, intensifying, integrating, bonding), and 
  • 5 for growing apart (differentiating, circumscribing, stagnating, avoiding, terminating).

These stages made it easier to understand the evolution of romantic love. However, new theories and models arose and redefined the proposed stages of love, based on the social and technological changes that occurred. 

The popularity of social media networks, for example, imposed a new way to look at romantic relationships. For digital courtship and romantic interactions, studies define 4 possible stages of a relationship: 

  1. before meeting face-to-face
  2. after meeting face-to-face
  3. casual dating
  4. exclusive dating

If we were to take a look at the various models put side by side, we’d observe that they are synthesizing certain ups and downs in relationships, specific to different levels of intimacy and life periods. 

The model of “5 stages of love” is now recognized as a rule of thumb, but keep in mind that there may also be more simplified or more detailed models.

What are the 5 stages of love?

The generally accepted model of relationship development are the follwing 5 stages of a romantic relationship:

  1. Honeymoon stage
  2. Commitment stage
  3. Disillusionment stage
  4. Lasting love stage
  5. True love stage

It’s important to note that these stages are seen as related to a life span. Here’s a closer look at each stage. 

Stage 1: Honeymoon stage

More commonly known as the “honeymoon phase”, this is the very beginning of your relationship when you are just meeting each other and falling in love. This stage is all about connection, physical presence, and infatuation. This is the heavenly period when you are feeling fond of each other and usually showing off the best sides of yourself.

This stage is associated with high arousal levels and the production of stress hormones. However, the emotional bond that is built during this stage is believed to serve as the foundation of what comes after the honeymoon stage.

Stage 2: Commitment stage

This is usually happening when you both decide that you want to make things serious with each other. In this phase you start feeling more comfortable. You also start showing some of the not-so-great sides of yourself, such as your bad habits, and you build intimacy.

The infatuation starts to wear off and it’s time for comfort and acceptance to take the stage. You two start having mutual friends, you may start sharing finances, and make more plans together. At this moment, you may move in together, step into engagement or marriage, or you can decide on having a child together.

These are all big decisions to be made and the pressure or the novelty of the commitment can lead you two into the next stage of love.

Stage 3: Disillusionment stage

This stage happens typically after a stability stage was completed, so you’ve established a routine, and have come to see each other’s good qualities and flaws. This is, often, the stage where some relationships end or encounter serious trouble. 

In this phase you may start doubting your choice. You may find yourself wanting to have more independence, you may judge your partner more harshly, and possibly feel like you want to end things. Conflicts could arise in this period and emotional withdrawal can occur.

At this stage, the relationship may start to feel like a big mistake and you may feel uncomfortable talking about your feelings. Think of it like the adolescence of your partnership, when your relationship tries to better define itself and gain a stronger personality. 

It’s true that this is a quite turbulent period and many couples can separate at this stage. Others can engage in couple’s therapy or different ways to work through the uncertainty. Only those in the latter category are likely to enter the last two phases of love, described below.

Stage 4: Lasting love stage

Communicating and working together through the 3rd stage will lead you to what is really a deep connection. If the former stage was the adolescence period of your relationship, this is your relationship stepping into adulthood confidently. 

You’ll feel your relationship is settled and fulfilling. You still see each other’s flaws and cracks, but you are now able to accept them and manage them together. Both you and your partner are seen as whole human beings in your relationship, you both feel accepted and encouraged. 

At this moment you can feel both independent and in the relationship, as the context needs it. Doubts can arise and can be easily soothed, as well as troubles and fights. You both communicate better and experience an unprecedented closeness to one another. 

Stage 5: True love stage

Even though the connection and emotional bonding of every stage are “real”, this stage is more about the intensity and depth that your relationship has acquired by this stage. At this moment you two feel unbreakable, trust each other, and feel completely accepted and loved. 

For many couples, this stage comes later in life and it is similar to the lifetime love that we see in novels or movies. There are people actually living this kind of love, but after a long journey of power struggle, attraction, doubt, emotional connection, and challenges.

We’ve said previously that this stage is possible to achieve in your relationship if you choose to work through the good, and especially, the bad times. But, what exactly do we mean by “work through it”? Let’s go into that a bit further.

How to last through the 5 stages of love?

Because each of the 5 stages of love has its particularities, it’s important to approach each of them accordingly. Here are some strategies to use in each relationship stage in order to keep your mental health in place.

  1. Honeymoon stage

In this stage, the most important thing to do is…enjoy the moment. Even if your relationship is meant to last or not, meeting someone new and interesting is all about having fun and experimenting. Because at this moment you are still more focused on independence than unity, you should enjoy this time. 

Let yourself be and embrace the thrilling feeling of new love. It is believed that relationships that have a proper honeymoon phase are more likely to resolve conflicts in the future. 

  1. Commitment stage

Get as clear as possible on expectations. Communication is going to become very important for stages 2 and 3 of your relationship, so use it as well as you can. Not having your expectations addressed can lead to open conflicts, which can even end the relationship at this stage. 

It is useful to first have a look at your expectations individually, then discuss mutual desires and see what is and what is not realistic. Having this discussion (or discussions) sorted out early can make a great difference in the later stages of love.

  1. Disillusionment stage 

Communication becomes crucial at this stage and it can be paired with calm and objectivity. All three can be exercised in couple’s therapy or group interventions, which you may be considering if you see your relationship at a point of possible break up.

First, it’s important at this stage to know that it is quite normal and it happens in the majority of relationships. Breath in, breathe out, and talk to your partner about what you feel and how they can help you better manage it. 

You may choose to word your feelings similar to this: “Lately I’ve felt quite unsettled towards our commitment and I feel unsure of my feelings. I know I want to work through it and see what this is about. For the next couple of days I think I’ll need you to give me some more space or we can go see a specialist.”

  1. Lasting love stage

At this stage, you may feel like your job is done and it mostly is. What you can do to make the most out of it is to step further into personal growth. You can use the newly fueled relationship to start a new mutual project, to travel the world, to help your kids build up their life, or to start a family business. 

You can think about giving your emotional experience a physical form, which can be one of those described above. 

  1. True love stage

At this stage, your love is deeply rooted and inspirational to others. You can use your experience to model the relationships of others and help them achieve a similar love. The best way to make the most out of this stage is to live it fully and let it spark motivation in other couples too.

5 Stages of Love: What to Bear in Mind

From beginning to end, your relationship passes through several stages of love, which are experienced in the majority of relationships. Generally, there are 5 stages recognized in the development of romantic love: honeymoon stage, commitment stage, disillusionment stage, lasting love, and true love. 

Communication, intimacy, and staying calm can get you through all of these stages. When in doubt, you can contact a good couple’s therapist to help you go past challenges and tension.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Together Team

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