The 5 Stages Of Love You Experience In Intimate Relationships

Photo: getty images
couple cuddling on the couch
Expert
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 personal relationships go through five corresponding stages of love based on the development of intimacy 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, and some are likely to repeat.

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

Intimacy in a romantic relationship is about a feeling of being emotionally connected and supported by your partner both mentally and physically.

The two of you share a special and unique bond together.

Real intimacy involves both parties feeling safe and comfortable enough to be vulnerable with each other with an agreement on fidelity and trust in the relationship.

That kind of intimacy in a relationship is the most important as trust is everything even to men. Even though men might have a more physical understanding of intimacy like physical connection, foreplay, hugging, and kissing, they still want someone who they can trust and a physical understanding of their partner's needs.

Take a look a look at the following 5 stages of love and 4 levels of intimacy in relationships to find out which stage your own relationship is currently in and what type of intimacy you think you have.

Five Stages Of Love

Stage 1: Infatuation

"OMG, I just met the love of my life. I want to marry this person. I can't believe we have so much in common. Oh, I should eat something. I think I'm going to throw up."

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, buying pajamas to match our bedsheets, and so on.

Infatuation makes your level of love hormones soar, producing a full-body euphoria that causes us to seek out their new love interest again and again. The infatuation will ebb and flow at different points It may get more intense or it may become less so. 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 long-term struggle, crawls in and we begin to land.

Stage 2: Landing

"OMG, they tell the worst jokes. I didn't think about them at all yesterday. I hope we're OK."

The landing from that fantastic flight can feel scary, as we begin to see things 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."

That moment when you look at the other person and think it's all been a terrible mistake? "I call it the first day of your real marriage," quips Real.

This is the day when the veil of infatuation lifts and the 20/20 vision of everyday living comes in. The landing can feel light and sweet, or rocky and discombobulating. But eventually, the clock strikes midnight and Cinderella must run home before the stagecoach turns back into a pumpkin and her dress returns to rags.

Oy, so bittersweet.

Stage 3: Burying

"I'm too busy to think about this relationship."

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 your crazy relatives.

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

The important thing to remember here is to "unbury" yourselves. Do something that allows real life to take a back seat for even a moment and allow the gentle, sweet intimacy of the early days of your relationship to resurface, bringing us to the next stage ...

Stage 4: Resurfacing

"Wow. I forgot how hot they are. I love this person so much."

Resurfacing happens when your relationship has reached a point of resolution: this person is a mixed bag, but so are you.

You start thinking how lucky you are to have someone in your life who always has your back. This stage usually happens after the two of you have resolved a major problem or have overcome anything that jolted you awake, such as a death in the family or even the birth of a child.

Stage 5: True love

"Oh, I have it really good. I'm blessed and love this person more than I could ever imagine."

This is what it's really all about, right? The part where we look across the dinner table, fight over the remote, and know we'll be with our forever person through thick and thin.

True love blossoms around year five, then the stages of love go back into rotation, sometimes rapid and sometimes slow, with intimacy ebbing and flowing for as long as the relationship lasts.

RELATED: How To Get The Man You Love To Be A Better Husband

Four Types Of Intimacy 

In the basic sense, the dictionary intimacy definition is simply "the state of being intimate." Despite its apparent simplicity, there's actually a lot that goes on in a relationship to make it intimate.

1. Experiential Intimacy

Experiential intimacy is all about the shared experiences that the two of you share, like private inside jokes or memories that have a special meaning for the two of you.

The different kinds of experiences the two of you create together are what make your connection and story different from everyone else and lead to you growing closer.

The two of you are able to create an experiential intimate bond that’s unique to your own experiences together. If the moment the two of you shared together was intimate and memorable, the same feelings attached to that moment will be experienced again while re-telling the stories.

You can increase this type of intimacy by making memories together and talking more about the things in the past that the two of you might have done that you forgot about and those feelings will come rushing back.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Hey You! Want more of YourTango's best articles, seriously addictive horoscopes and top expert advice? Sign up to get our free daily newsletter!

2. Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy is all about a vulnerable, authentic, equal sharing of both parties' thoughts and feelings and getting on a similar understanding of how each other feels for each other.

You’re able to share things that you might have not told anyone else like your deep thoughts or dreams or passions or fears and disappointments in life.

After sharing all that you should feel seen and understood by your partner and the same goes with them sharing you all that as well. There’s no judgment or denigration, only love and understanding.

It’s all about getting to a level where the two of you know and trust each other so much that you will always be able to confide in one another.

You can increase this type of intimacy by sharing to one another more of your hopes and dreams and random thoughts or such and see what the other has to say and get them to share the same with you and the two of you can connect more by being more open and introducing more communication into the relationship.

3. Intellectual Intimacy

Intellectual intimacy is about sharing the more specific beliefs and viewpoints that the two of you share or believe in separately without worrying about conflicts or judgment. There’s a mutual understanding that the two of you can have the same or separate beliefs and while making sure both of your opinions are valued.

This can be hard as things like politics and other personal beliefs can be very different, sometimes making it hard to come to an understanding.

However, an intellectual intimate relationship is able to do this respectfully as neither partners have the belief that one is “right” over the other. Allowing thought-provoking conversations in your relationship is a way to boost your connection and both mental and physical attraction for each other. 

You can increase this type of intimacy by sharing the new information you might have found out and want to talk about or just asking them for their opinion or knowledge on a certain subject, and maybe you can learn more about something just from your partner while strengthening your intellectual intimacy at the same time!

4. Sexual Intimacy

Sexual intimacy is all about the physical touch and attraction between each other and even though some deem this to be the most important type of intimacy. The other three are very important if you want a relationship to last, as you can’t just base a long-lasting relationship only on physical intimacy.

Sexual intimacy is important as physical touch is a love language itself and two people can become very aroused for each other and connected on a different level while having sex.

It’s also very important to have a sexual relationship with each other as it’s important to know what each other likes in the bedroom as knowing how each other prefers to be touched and how they like to make love. 

To increase this type of intimacy, you might want to try new things in the bedroom and explore different things that the two of you like that the other one does, and learn how far each other is willing to experiment.

Maybe one partner has a kink they never talked about — it's worth a try, and if your partner doesn't like it, find something else and move on. Most importantly, make activity fun for the two of you.

RELATED: 15 Signs Of A Healthy Relationship 

Zoe Rose Hicks, MA, LMFT provides interpersonal, psychodynamic counseling and therapy services for young adult individuals, couples, and families utilizing techniques that include dialectical behavioral therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and meditation.​