Love

There Are Only 4 Stages Of Love — How To Know Which One You're In

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couple in love touching foreheads

Dynamic and ever-changing, relationships present people with some of life's greatest challenges, personal growth and beautiful rewards.

As couples date and begin to form relationships, they find themselves passing through various typical stages of love.

People consciously and subconsciously test each other, scaling from one stage to another, trying to get it right. Sometimes, it's two steps forward, one step backward.

Each of these stages comes with positives and negatives. Yet, despite the negatives, people continue to try and get it right, make their love last, with the hope of creating and maintaining a healthy relationship — all this while understanding, accepting, and honoring individual differences.

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Enduring couples are willing to do the work to make their love last, with the hope of creating and maintaining a healthy relationship, while understanding, accepting and honoring individual differences, boundaries and shared goals over time.

Four stages of love and how to know which stage you're in

1. The honeymoon — or "lust" — stage

This first stage of love can initially last from two months to two years. Think champagne and rose-colored glasses! You and your partner will likely oversee any habits or traits in the other that could be potential annoyances as eccentricities or "quirks" instead.

Every side of each other is the good side and both of your hormones are in overdrive.

The "feel-good" neurotransmitters that are fired off at a rapid rate during this stage of love act almost identically the same way that illicit drugs do — increasing attention and focus, dispositions leaning toward obsession, a strong and powerful desire to be with our new love every waking moment and thinking of nothing else but each other.

It's difficult to get any work done. You're high on love! All is well and wonderful in your world.

You can't help but constantly wonder about the dreamy new object of your desire, "Where have you been all my life?"

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The downside? You might have neglected other relationships in your life to spend time with your new partner — sometimes to excess. An overly enmeshed relationship prevents the maintenance of your own identity and can breed issues of codependency in some.

Boredom may occur if you realize that there are no common interests beyond the initial feelings of lust.

Then, after months of going full speed at 80 mph, there's a sudden stall and the whole thing comes to a screeching halt. The drugs have worn off and you slide your hand behind your ear only to realize your rose-colored glasses already fell off at some point between joyriding and veering off the highway into new territory.

You are no longer high on love and you have moved into the "growth stage."

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2. The power struggle, leaning-in and growth stage

The illusion has been dismantled and is replaced with anger and disappointment. Perhaps there was a miscommunication about setting expectations around something important to at least one of you.

Or, this is simply a time when you finally begin to see each other for who you really are as human beings with separate personalities beyond the relationship itself.

That means you may also be faced with quirks that will annoy you, habits that can be frustrating, interests that bore or confound you and any number of other idiosyncrasies or unexpected baggage you have to figure out how to live with if you want this relationship to continue.

This is a challenging time for couples.

Sometimes we try to change the person back to who we thought they were or create them to be in our mind.

Arguments or disagreements may increase and miscommunications occur due to different communication and attachment styles. The clarity in how you communicate is vital at this stage, as this will determine if the relationship can survive.

Some couples don't survive this stage. In fact, many break up due to ongoing fights, believing their differences outweigh the potential benefits their relationship could yield or other reasons.

To prevent this, prioritize accepting and appreciating your differences. Learn to share power. And be secure in the knowledge that your relationship doesn't — and shouldn't — always depict a picture-perfect fantasy of constant harmony, so don't chase this fantasy either. Recognize the strengths of your relationship and build upon them.

In addition, take this time to reinforce clear boundaries. Make mutual respect a fundamental aspect of your relationship.

In turn, the relationship will deepen and embody something more substantial and realistic, far better than an idealized concept that tries to stuff real-life love in a TV-sized box. (And, spoiler alert: it'll never fit, as long as TV life doesn't accurately portray anything about real life and real love.)

This stage aims to strengthen the bond between the two of you, despite whatever adversity throws your way, while also establishing your autonomy. Real love is about two whole people coming together to share their love.

So, how you manage your differences and those annoying quirks often shape how the relationship moves forward (or may just as easily fall apart).

The relationship can become stronger if each person is willing to keep the lines of communication open and be receptive to self-improvement for themselves and their relationship's sake of their relationship.

That way, they can handle disagreements amicably, at least most of the time, and enjoy falling deeper in love into the "stability stage."

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3. The stable — or complacent — stage

When a couple moves into this stage, there's a greater awareness of each other's behaviors, differences, and annoyances. Both have worked through establishing roles and independence and have mostly moved away from the power struggles that once monopolized the relationship.

Disagreements are just that —disagreements. They do not necessarily turn into arguments. But if they do, they are manageable.

Generally, the relationship has more peace and an established rhythm and flow. You may even be able to see a future with this person.

However, danger does lurk in the water during this stage, as there is an increased risk of boredom with one another or boredom due to seeing the rhythm and flow as routine and rote.

In turn, this may lead to apathy or even infidelity, not necessarily because that person has complaints in the bedroom — but because they miss the thrill of it all and feel the need to chase something that seems thrilling and full of the passion they feel is lost in their relationship.

People often start taking the other person for granted and no longer put work into the relationship or any effort to impress their partner or do kind gestures and favors. They believe they can rest on their laurels. This is where they're wrong.

Some people start to drift away from their partners rather than toward them. Yet the paradox is that, despite whatever boredom or routine of the relationship, it is peaceful, safe and secure.

It has deepened from lust to overcoming adversity and achieving lasting love and becoming a solace each person should enjoy because of its rarity, virtues and positivity.

People can feel grounded and safe and take personal time from the relationship in healthy ways, without the relationship feeling threatened.

If you can change your view of what may seem boring to that which is comforting and has a positive, stabilizing presence, then the relationship can continue to grow.

Even when things slow down and excitement and adrenaline subside, if you can continue nurturing your relationship and your partner, putting the work in to see it through and be supportive toward each other, there is a good chance of making it to the "commitment stage."

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4. The commitment stage

At this stage, you have mastered how to manage the bad times and embrace and celebrate the good times.

Despite the bad, you rise above and prefer the other's company. And one fundamental distinction has become clear: You don't need the other person in your life — you choose to be with this person.

There is a balance between power, freedom, love and belonging.

Some questions people ask are: Can you see yourself with this person long-term? Do you have shared interests and goals? Does this person add positivity — rather than suck it away from — your life? Is this person the total package? Do you work as a team?

Are you compatible as life partners?

These questions are a reminder that relationships need continued work, attention and commitment.

Learning to recognize and embrace the stages of love can help both individuals and couples better navigate the expected twists and turns of a relationship, especially if they want to take the leap into marriage.

Understanding and preparing for the challenges that relationships bring can help people identify the triggers and learn to be proactive in tackling obstacles they anticipate and work through them instead of having ongoing blow-out fights and, ultimately, giving up.

This will help create the bridge that connects the two individuals for the long haul.

Communication is key. How will you communicate about your differences? How will they be managed? Can you talk about your differences in a way that encourages healthy communication strategies and understanding and honoring both your similarities and differences?

Relationships are challenging and tricky at times.

People are complicated. Sometimes a little more time together can help determine your future. Navigating through the stages of love is not a linear process. For example, a life transition (empty nest, child) can put a couple back in the "growth stage."

In fact, most couples will cycle through all four love stages several times, depending on how long they commit to each other and how much work they're willing to put into the relationship. Some couples may go through the "honeymoon stage" several more times than the "power struggle stage," and vice versa. Every relationship is unique.

But by now, you can likely understand why there's a good reason why they call relationships a rollercoaster.

If needed, consult with a marriage or relationship therapist. Having a third party to help you navigate your relationship challenges — whichever love stage you're in — could be the key to helping your relationship thrive.

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Dr. Kristin Davin is a Clinical Psychologist specializing in marriage, divorce, dating, and relationships.

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