Understanding the 5 Stages of a Relationship: How Couples Develop a Connection
Our new sexpert, Dr. Julie Elledge, explains how a couple’s bond turns into a committed relationship in five stages.
-Julie Elledge, Ph.D.
Somewhere between gazing deeply into his eyes over a romantic dinner and picking up his dirty laundry, dating turns into a commitment. But what makes a relationship committed?
Relationships build over time cycling through five stages. The intense energy, mood swings, and obsessive thinking that is associated with romance and dating eventually turn into a calm, secure comfort together that corresponds to settling down with a long-term mate. The theory, How Couples Develop an Intimate-Erotic Connection, explains the five stages and even helps couples to self-correct when they feel disconnected. Each stage builds upon the earlier stage and yet, couples recycle through the stages building, repairing and refreshing their commitment to each other.
Stage 1: Build Trust
All commitments begin with trust. In stage 1, couples build their emotionally intimate bond. You and your man demonstrate that you can trust each other, revealing more and more of your authentic selves. Exchanging both sexual and non-sexual affection, you show how much you love and cherish one another.
Stage 2: Heal Trust
With so much investment of intimate knowledge in each other, it is no surprise that couples will hurt each other. This doesn’t mean that it is intentional. We don’t always realize that we have touched a raw injury. It’s only natural to want to run away from the the responsibility of hurting your partner, but stage 2 calls for each person to be vulnerable enough to reveal the hurt and fear that triggers defensive reactions. To heal the trust in stage 2, you and your man must learn to speak to each other, revealing your, hurt and sadness without retreating into anger. To really heal, you will have to take responsibility for your actions giving rise to the words, “please forgive me.”
Stage 3: Increase Intimacy and Eroticism
Stage 3 is a little more complex. It’s the point in a relationship where you both take the step to deepen your intimate and sexual connection. You’re challenged to balance the reassuring emotional and sexual closeness of intimacy with sexual satisfaction, which often requires novelty, adventurousness, unpredictability – in other words, eroticism.