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There Are 5 Stages Of Intimacy In Relationships — And Here's How To Know Which One You're In

Photo: Unsplash: Hian Oliveira
5 Stages Of Intimacy In A Relationship & How To Tell Which Love Stage You're In
Expert
Love, Self

All those ups and downs are leading to something. Could it be love?

We've all heard of the five stages of grief according to the Kübler-Ross model: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

Believe it or not, grief and intimacy mirror one another — the intensity, the dullness, the gains, and the loss.

Although there are no typical couples, all types of relationships go through five corresponding stages of development related to love and to intimate and emotional connection.

And just like with grief, whether you are dating or already married, these stages don't always happen in the same, particular order.

RELATED: People In The Strongest Relationships Share These 5 Types Of Intimacy

Take a look a look at the following five stages of intimacy in dating, love and relationships to find out which stage is your own relationship is in.

1. Infatuation

"OMG, I just met the love of my life."

"He is perfect. I want to marry him."

"I can't believe we have so much in common."

"He is great in bed."

"I cannot wait to see him again."

"Oh, I should eat something. I'm going to vomit."

Oh, the sweet, syrupy stage of infatuation. It's so wonderful and so difficult to resist. Hormones and logic rarely coincide, so we find ourselves doing things like checking email 12-24 times an hour, not eating, going to get our nails done at midnight, buying pajamas to match our bed sheets, and so on.

Infatuation makes your dopamine levels soar, producing a full-body euphoria that causes humans to seek out sex again and again. To wit, brain scan studies show that brain activity during male orgasm is remarkably similar to brain activity on heroin.

Your brain cannot, biologically, maintain that high of infatuation; you would fry.

The infatuation will ebb and flow at different points. The sex won't always be that good; it may get better or it may get worse. But all those lovely feelings are that of a first swim in the cool, crisp pond of falling in love.

How many movies could we watch about that? Billions. It's pure poetry; love magnified; a revisit to the warm womb of security. Then the negotiation between security and autonomy, that life-long struggle, crawls in and we begin to land.

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2. Landing

The landing from that fantastic flight can feel scary, as we see things a lot more clearly.

Nationally recognized family therapist and author Terry Real says, "I go around the country speaking about 'normal marital hatred.' Not one person has ever asked what I mean by that. It's extremely raw."

In an interview for Psychology Today, he shares, that "Sooner or later, there comes a moment in all relationships when you lie in bed, roll over, look at the person next to you and think it's all a dreadful mistake ... 'I call it the first day of your real marriage.'"

This is the day when the veil of infatuation lifts and the 20/20 vision of everyday living comes in.

"Wow, she is neurotic."

"OMG, he tells the worst jokes."

"I didn't think about him at all yesterday. I hope we are OK."

The landing can feel light and sweet, or rocky and discombobulating. But eventually, the clock strikes midnight and Cinderella must run home before the stage coach becomes a pumpkin and her dress returns to rags.

Landing! Oy, so bittersweet.

RELATED: 14 Romantic Things To Do As A Married Couple That Deepen Emotional Intimacy

3. Burying

This stage happens when all the to-do lists of life come toppling into the relationship. Before you know it, conversations focus on things like who's doing the laundry, your boss, or the crazy mother-in-law.

During the burying stage, other things — like, oh, life — begin to encroach on your beautiful oasis of a relationship. Burying is not always bad; it's a sign that the relationship is real and weaves into your everyday existence.

The important thing to remember here is to "unbury" yourselves.

Take tango lessons, go relive your first date, go have sex in public, buy some sex toys, tie yourselves to bedposts, or grab the whips. Do something that allows real life to take a break and the gentle, sweet intimacy to resurface, bringing us to the next stage.

RELATED: 5 Signs You Have Maaaajor Intimacy Issues In Your Marriage

4. Resurfacing

Resurfacing is the stage where you turn to your partner, and say to yourself, "Wow. I forgot how hot he is," or, "She is stunning," or "I love him so much."

Resurfacing is a relationship resolution: "She is a mixed bag, but so am I," or "He sits on the toilet for an hour reading comics, but I pluck my chin hairs."

You start thinking things like, "I can't wait for our next date," or, "I can't believe I have such a sweet person in my life who always has my back."

A massive problem that you two resolved, a great date, an especially good night of sex, almost losing the other person, or good couples therapy can all trigger resurfacing. Anything can jolt us awake, a death in the family or even a birth.

RELATED: 7 Powerful Ways To Reignite Sexual Intimacy In Your Marriage

5. Love

This is what it's really all about, right? The part where we look across the dinner table, fight over the remote, or go on a great trip to Chinatown and think, "Oh, I have it really good," "I'm blessed," or "I love him/her more than I could ever imagine."

Here, the sex is (usually) better than it's ever been.

True love blossoms around year five; the rest is a rotation — sometimes rapid and sometimes slow — of the other stages.

RELATED: How To Be A Better Husband Or Wife — And Bring Back The Emotional Intimacy In Your Marriage

Zoe Rose Hicks, MA, LMFT provides interpersonal, psychodynamic counseling and therapy services for young adult individuals, couples, and families specializing in Depression Therapy, Anxiety Counseling, Couples Counseling, Marriage Therapy, Relationship Counseling and more, utilizing techniques that include Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Meditation.​

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