The 7 Crucial Stages of a Relationship & How to Manage Each One

12 May

Every relationship is different, but every relationship falls into a similar structure when it comes to its progression. We all hit relationship stages at different times, but it’s fair to say that everyone goes through a similar pathway when it comes to the stages of a relationship.

Research has actually found that relationships can be split up into milestones and different stages. From these milestones, we can understand new ways of thinking and how the relationship is forced to adapt to these milestones.

Couple Embrace through Stages of Relationship

We’re going to be talking about the crucial stages of a relationship, starting with the dating and honeymoon period, to the more serious aspects of buying a house, having children and spending the rest of your lives together. 

1. Dating stages & the honeymoon period 

  • Timeline: 6 months – 2 years 

The beginning stage of any relationship. Everyone should know what the honeymoon stage of a relationship is, either through experiencing it, or simply by hearing about it. The honeymoon period is the initial dating stage, where everything’s new, everything’s exciting and you can’t keep your hands off each other. Your feelings for each other may be very strong and you may find yourself spending a lot of time with each other. 

This is arguably the most memorable stage of any relationship.

You may also find that you don’t pay too much attention to your differences, maybe because infatuation takes over or you’re too excited to actually notice. Much of your focus and indeed empathises will be on your similarities and the positives. In most cases, conflict is avoided at the expense of enjoying each other’s company. 

How long the honeymoon period lasts differs depending on each relationship, it can last anywhere from 6 months to two years!

In fact, studies show that couples who experience the honeymoon period are more likely to be successful in the long run.

Why? Let’s say something big happens early in the relationship, such as the woman becoming pregnant. Due to this life event, couples will place more focus on the pregnancy as opposed to enjoying the fun, jovial honeymoon period of getting to know each other and enjoying their similarities. By not sharing these enjoyable moments early in the relationship, it makes it difficult to resolve conflict later down the line.

The important thing to remember during the honeymoon phase is to enjoy it! Don’t put too much pressure on making big decisions just yet, focus on getting to know each other, be curious, be daring, focus on similarities and live in the moment. 

 

2. Marriage/Living together (without children)

  • Timeline: approximately 2 – 5 years

Once the honeymoon period transitions into the next stage, it’s probably fair to say you’re getting into a pretty serious relationship. It’s completely normal to feel as though things are changing – because they probably are! You may feel as though you’re spending less time together – not in a negative way, but because you’re comfortable enough to spend time away from each other and enjoy your own and other people’s company. You may also start going on dates with other couples and meeting each other’s family. 

Don’t be surprised or downhearted if you feel there’s less lust in the relationship, this is entirely normal given the amount of time you’ve been together. It’s not uncommon for you to encounter more conflict as well, but because you’ve now been together for a while, it should be easier to resolve. Your differences may start to shine through, and the sign of a healthy relationship is one that can acknowledge differences and get through them through communication. 

It’s important to remember that just because the initial feelings of lust and love you felt at the beginning aren’t as strong as they used to be, doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed. No relationship can sustain those levels of intimacy because what you feel during the honeymoon phase is simply a chemical reaction in your brain – it cannot last forever. 

Conflict isn’t bad and conflict is inevitable, you need agreements and differences to push the boundaries of the relationship and understand each other’s point of view and how you can work together to come to a resolution. 

 

3 (a)Having children as a couple 

  • Timeline: 4 – 10 years

Deciding to have children is arguably the biggest commitment of any relationship. This decision essentially means that you are no longer putting yourself or the needs of your partner first; but your children. Having children requires an extremely solid relationship foundation, or at least the potential to build a strong foundation (if the pregnancy was an accident or unexpected). 

At this stage of the relationship, more time is spent dividing up chores and tasks to make room for parenting. 

This can take its toll on both of you, and you may feel your romantic relationship is suffering because of it. This is why it’s important to find time to focus on yourselves and enjoy time together. 

However, it’s at this stage of the relationships that you’re more likely to run into conflict. Parenting is tough and tiring, your mental resilience isn’t going to be as strong as it usually is, and combined with the lack of intimacy, your relationship could start to feel very stressful and even isolating. 

The parenting

The way you parent is likely going to derive from your own upbringing. There are instances where your parenting techniques may clash (when two different upbringings come together). In this case, communication is key to resolving any differences and coming to a mutual understanding. 

The takeaway from this stage is this, you and your partner have got this far, you’ve overcome every other obstacle life has thrown your way and triumphed. So, what did you do? How did you resolve the conflict in the early stages? Try to remember these techniques when you’re facing conflict. 

If you can’t seem to find a resolution to the conflict, you may want to see the advice of a professional, such as a relationship coach or counsellor. There are plenty of avenues to try to get your relationship back on track. It’s important not to be disheartened if you take this route; actively searching for a third-party resolution is a positive step towards bettering your relationship.

 

3 (b). Couple without children

Having children, generally speaking, naturally adds more stress to any relationship. No matter how strong you are as a couple, having children is a completely new experience that throws different challenges at you that you have never faced before. 

Couples who choose to not have children alleviate a huge burden of responsibility off each other and may find their finances in a far healthier condition. You have more time to enjoy each other’s company, be independent, try new things, travel and more.

However, there is an argument that suggests having children brings an entirely new dynamic into a relationship which in turn, forces you to change and adapt with your partner. This can be seen as a refreshing new task that keeps the relationship afloat. 

Without children, you just need to find ways to maintain a healthy balance between your partner and yourself. Find projects to do together, really delve into your interests and make them into shared passions, anything that alleviates the risk of the relationship stagnating. 

 

4. Stabilising phase

  • Timeline: 10 – 20 years 

Once your children have become older and more independent, you may find your responsibilities are slightly less demanding and you now have time to live without the constraints of your children. It’s likely you will have time again to partake in hobbies, activities and new challenges. 

You may have heard that your partner becomes more like a companion at this stage. This is because you have, by this point, faced almost every major milestone and triumphed. There’s still much to learn, but these thoughts aren’t as daunting as they once were and you may relish the challenges ahead. You’ve learnt how to problem-solve by this point, so conflict – when it happens – should pose no real threat.

This may be the quiet stage of the relationships, the point where you can sit back and relax. Sure, if you have children you may be roped into the odd taxi driver excursion or become a mediator as and when they need you, but by this point, they’re old enough for you to have a mature conversation with. 

 

5. Later phase

  • Timeline – 25 years 

This stage is all about your ability to adapt and make the relationship last for the rest of your lives. This stage, in an almost ironic 180 sense, can be seen as a new start; 

  • Your children are now old enough to look after themselves (if you haven’t had them, this problem is negated)
  • Taking back your freedom and looking forward to your futures together
  • Rekindling any lost spark in your relationship
  • You have time to create new goals and start new adventures

It’s likely you will now have time to do the things you were unable to do because of your children, so discuss this with your partner. However, despite this new lease of life, there may still be challenges to face, this may include:

  • Dealing with ageing parents 
  • Coping with work, health, friends and finances
  • Contemplating retirement 

You should be able to fall back on each other for anything, whether it’s emotional support, financial backing or anything in-between. You should be solid as a rock at this point, and while life will still throw challenges your way, you’ve overcome everything so far, so who’s to say you can’t face more?

It’s Natural to be at Different Relationship Stages, Enjoy Every Experience

It’s important to remember that whatever relationship stage you’re at, it’s important to enjoy each stage and try not to rush anything. All relationships go through their ups and downs and some stages may seem more challenging than others. Through communication and compassion, you and your partner should be able to face anything that comes at you, as long as you have each other’s back!

Are You Considering Speaking to a Professional Dating Coach?

Our dating team can help you to understand more about our date coaching process and will also be able to help with any questions you have. For more information or to book your private consultation, get in touch with our friendly team at Vida today.

 

by Rachel Vida MacLynn

Founder & CEO

Rachel Vida MacLynn is reputed as being a world-leading matchmaking and dating expert. Registered as a Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society, Rachel advocates a professional matchmaking approach based on psychological principles and professional consultation.More by this author

LinkedIn | The British Psychological Society |