How To Last Through The 5 Stages Of Love
Updated December 23, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Tonia Cassaday
If there's one thing in life that's anything but simple, it's love. That's why there are so many relationships that end early and so many married couples who wind up divorced. Movies and fairytales make the entire experience look so easy, but it's a lot more complicated. While love is a natural thing to feel, most people don't know that love will eventually move through several stages. It evolves as your relationship and life evolves. If you or your partner(s) bail too early, you will never reach the final stage where many are able to find true contentment and a stronger connection than ever before.
I'm In Love, And I Want It To Last. What Can I Do?
In this article, we'll talk about each of the five stages of love, so you can navigate your way from stage 1 to stage 5 and beyond.
Love Stage #1 - The Passionate Beginning
The first stage of love, often called the "honeymoon phase," is what most people envision when they think of falling in love. This is the stage where you meet a potential partner and begin to have feelings for one another. Your heart skips a beat when you see them; you have butterflies in your stomach, and they consume your thoughts. More than love, this is infatuation. You experience intense, passionate feelings for the other person.
This is the stage in which you’re most likely to disregard or overlook anything negative or concerning about your potential mate. Their weaknesses seem nonexistent. Other people might see them, but you have no idea what they're talking about. You're wearing rose-colored, heart-shaped glasses. Plus, you're high on hormones like oxytocin, dopamine, serotonin, testosterone, and estrogen.
For most people, this is their favorite stage of love because everything just feels good. You can't imagine arguing or things taking a turn for the worse. If only you could stay in this stage forever! However, that is not realistic. For a relationship to last, you have to know your partner intimately, including all of his or her flaws and faults. That begins in the next stage.
Love Stage #2 - Things Start To Get Serious
As the five stages of love naturally progress, you move from the passionate, intense, fun stage to a more serious place. This is usually where you discuss and define your relationship on a longer-term scale and start to build a life together. The feelings of excitement and infatuation develop into something deeper. Things settle down, and a deep bond begins to form. Ideally, you'll start to feel secure and comfortable in the relationship. The two of you might not care about going out dancing anymore; instead you enjoy time snuggled up on the couch watching movies.
At this point, couples are usually getting married, moving in together, and starting to build a family. Your individual lives have merged into one. When couples hit this stage, they feel safe in the relationship. People think this is where true love appears because they have moved past the infatuation stage and built a deeper relationship. There are still three stages to go, though, and the next one is make-it-or-break-it time.
Love Stage #3 - Disillusionment
This is the stage where you start to feel disappointed by your relationship. This is also the stage of love where you may worry that you got it wrong or chose the wrong person. All of the things you overlooked in the past are constantly on your mind now. You may feel underappreciated and unloved. At this stage, some people feel as if they are falling out of love.
People in this stage may come to think that things have changed, even though they once loved their partner. Others wonder if they were ever really in love in the first place. This is the stage where many people consider leaving the relationship or wonder if the grass is greener elsewhere.
What most people don't realize is that stage 3 is part of the normal progression of a romantic relationship. Instead, they believe they are the only ones experiencing it and that perhaps they’ve made a mistake or things simply aren’t working anymore. Many couples don't talk about their feelings with each other at this stage, often out of fear, and they rarely talk to others about them either. That makes it harder for couples to realize that this stage is not only normal, but also something that everyone goes through in a long-term relationship.
When you reach this stage, you have a choice to make. You can do one of the following:
- End The Relationship - When you do this, you're going to establish a pattern. Every serious romantic relationship is going to reach this stage sooner or later. If you don't stick it out this time, you'll eventually wind up here again with a different person. Not knowing what could be on the other side, you’ll be more likely to repeat the pattern.
- Settle For Mediocrity - This is a popular choice for couples who don't believe in divorce or people who would rather be comfortable instead of starting over with someone new. They assume that this is just how their relationship is going to be, and they don't try to change unhealthy behaviors or patterns, nor do they try to leave. They simply find ways to coexist with their partner, even if it becomes unhealthy.
- Push Past It - Couples who are determined to last without settling for mediocrity learn how to push past the disillusionment stage. They figure out how to reconnect, better understand one another, and deepen their love for each other. This is when you realize that love is a choice and that you have to choose it every day.
I'm In Love, And I Want It To Last. What Can I Do?
Love Stage #4 - Real Love
If you choose to push past the third stage of love, you will discover a form of love that is deeper than anything you could have imagined. This is when you know your partner's flaws, imperfections, and failures, but you choose to love them anyway, and they do the same for you.
To reach this stage, you will have learned that forgiveness is an important part of relationships. At this point, you've likely experienced both sides – forgiving your partner and asking for forgiveness.
During stage 4, you're working as a team like never before. Instead of only focusing on yourself and the love you want to feel, you focus on the other person. You want to help them reach their goals, and you find that you are a better person because you are together.
Reaching this stage does not happen by accident. By now, you realize that healthy love is not like a romantic comedy, and you aren't pursuing that kind of false love. You're together for the long haul--for better or worse. You've even lived through some of the "worse," so you know what you're committing to.
Love Stage #5 - You Start Making A Difference Together
When most people think of relationships or marriage, they don't think of stage 5. Or if they do, it’s associated with the couples who have been together for many decades and still hold hands while sweetly gazing at one another. At this stage of love, you've truly come together as a couple. You've learned how to make your strengths and weaknesses complement each other.
Scientists performed a study to see how much a draft horse could pull. When they had their results, they were curious about what might happen if they had two draft horses. Most people would guess that two horses would pull just twice as much as one, but scientists actually found that two horses working together could pull a lot more than double what one horse could pull, partially due to the simple knowledge that they had a partner and weren’t alone.
Your relationship is similar. When you and your partner work together, you can accomplish far more than what you each can accomplish on your own. When your relationship reaches this stage, you can make a huge difference in your community or in the world by finding an area or a cause that matters to you both.
Working toward a goal together gives you something else in common, creating another link between you two. The more experiences you share, the stronger your relationship will become.
Most Couples Don't Make It To Stage #5 Alone
The truth is that many couples don't make it past stage 3. They either give up on the relationship or decide to stick it out (without actually working through any issues) even though they're unhappy. They don't realize that they can stay together and make things better by pushing past the stage of disillusionment.
Happy couples have a secret – they've had help along the way. Many of these couples took advantage of relationship counseling at some point. Younger couples tend to think older couples who are still together must have been highly compatible. In reality, many couples who make it past stage 3 succeed because they invest in the relationship, listen to one another, and sometimes work with a qualified professional.
BetterHelp Can Help
Often couples need a little support to make their relationship great, especially in stage 3. Alone, couples may fight about surface issues and never get to the root of their problems. If you're struggling through the stages of love, a therapist from BetterHelp can help. Although couples counseling has been found to be 75% effective, only 19% of couples actually utilize it, and within that statistic, only 36% of divorced couples sought out couples therapy prior to divorcing. The reasons for this range from social stigmas associated with couples counseling, cost, and difficulty in scheduling in-person sessions. However, within this same study, it was found that online couples counseling is incredibly useful and eliminates many of these barriers.
Online therapy is discreet and convenient, accessible anytime, anywhere – including from the comfort of your own home. Whether you and your partner can’t take time to see a therapist in person, live rurally, or would prefer to receive therapy more privately, online couples counseling may work for you. Additionally, without the added costs of therapists having to rent out an office space or you having to commute to appointments, online therapy is often a cheaper option than face-to-face therapy.
Check out some reviews of BetterHelp's licensed therapists from people seeking help in their romantic relationships.
"Erin really helps me set goals for communication, and it's really crazy how much it's improved the communication in my marriage. She also asks me every week what I'd like to work on, so it's just really great to be able to decide and then to put it into action. Without her, I wouldn't even know where to start."
"I would refer Helen to anyone that would need to speak to a counselor. She listens and gives excellent advice. My husband and I are the closest we've ever been."
If you're currently in a relationship, do you know what stage you're in? If you're in the early stages, consider preparing for the challenges to come. Even when things become complicated, you don't have to throw in the towel. You can ask for help at any time. If you're in the trenches of Stage #3, there's hope for you, too. Your relationship can still thrive.
Finally, if you've made it to the other side, look for ways to support others. Don't be afraid to share your relationship story. It may help others learn how to nurture their relationships, so they, too, can make it to Stage #5.
How Long Do The Stages Of Love Last?
Stage 1, falling for someone, can last for a few months, or it can last up to about two years. But the head-over-heels in love phase is the most fragile of the 5 stages. Before long, you either break up or move into the phase 2 stage where a more serious relationship develops. The length of this stage is often about six months, but it could last longer. When the stage of disillusionment – stage 3 – sets in, you might take about a year sorting out your feelings for them and working out any problems between you. Stage 4, creating real commitment and a stable, peaceful relationship, may last about two years before you move on to the next stage of love – stage 5. Stage 5 can last for as long as you and your partner live and continue to choose each other.
However, there is no exact timeline for developing lasting love. Go at your own pace and avoid spending too much time worrying whether you are taking too much time moving from stage 1 to stage 5. You will reach each stage when you're ready for it, and you can think about negotiating the stage that comes next with your partner when it arrives.
How Do You Know If You're Infatuated With Someone?
Some say falling in love is nature's trick to get couples together so they that can have children, and the species can survive. But that first blush of love also feels great if you don't have any intention of having children or know you can't. And you can develop lasting love if you both decide to stick with the relationship. Recognizing that you've fallen in love may be the first step to eventually making your way to the ultimate level of love.
When we fall in love, we are bombarded by hormones. This affects our emotions, as well as our thoughts and behaviors. When we feel the “love hormones,” we're excited, happy, and thrilled to be near the person we love. The only unhappiness in stage one of the relationship may be an intense longing for them when you aren't together. But when they're with you, your feelings of love for one another make everything seem a little brighter and more fun.
Falling in love affects our thoughts. We're so in love that we may dismiss naysayers without even considering what they have to say about our love interest or the relationship. We may dress up to please our new love, listen to the music they like, or change many things to make them happy. These changes may only be temporary, but they make us feel closer to the person we adore. After all, when someone sees you and loves you, it's natural to want to boost that positive impression they have of you.
At this stage of love, you might be thinking you already have real, lasting love. But this stage is also very centered on what is happening in the moment. You want to know what they're doing, where they are, what they're thinking, and how they're feeling right now. Stage one can be a tumultuous time as your feelings bounce around from excitement that they're with you to sadness that they aren't.
How Does Passion Feel?
Passion is perhaps the most intense love-type feeling you will ever experience. Some people have described passion as a feeling of desire so strong that you feel your heart will burst, and your head will explode if you don't go after what you want. In relationships, passion can be the driving force that keeps you together as you find real, lasting love.
But lasting love doesn't have to mean that the passion eventually ends. Passion can continue through every stage of love. In the first stage, you may feel passion toward your image of the person and your idea of who they are. In stage two, you may be passionate about building a life with them. In stage three, even though you are becoming disillusioned with them, you may still have moments of physical passion. By the time you reach stage four, your passion has matured, allowing you to choose the best times and ways to express it. And in stage five, your passion may be for the goals you are working toward and your partner's contributions to them.
How Do You Know If It's Love, Not Infatuation?
For most of us, it's nearly impossible to reliably recognize real, lasting love while we're infatuated. Our hormones are clouding our thoughts and revving up our emotions, so it's hard to be objective. Plus, we don't have enough experience with the relationship and the other person yet to know with any certainty whether we will reach stage 4, creating a deeply loving, long-term relationship.
You know you're on the path to lasting love when you are ready to commit to sticking with the relationship through good times and bad. You also need to be able to look past your initial impression of them and see and accept them for who they really are. Finally, it helps to have enough passion for them and the relationship to push past all of the challenges to build and maintain a lasting love.
Can Love Fade Away And Come Back?
Yes. If you remain in love long enough, love can diminish for a while and suddenly blossom again. You may still be committed to the relationship but begin to feel bored with it. Then, often with no warning, you have intense feelings of love for them again. During the disillusionment stage, you might feel like your love is gone for good. And it might be. But if you decide to stay in the relationship and work to make it better, love deepens more often than not. Achieving genuine, lasting love is a real accomplishment, and it starts with a commitment to stay through closeness and emotional distance.
How Long Can You Be Infatuated With Someone?
Infatuation often lasts about three months, but can last for as long as two years or even longer. When your hormones return to normal levels, you have a decision to make. Lasting love is a choice, and only when you choose it (often over and over again) can creating lasting love become a possibility.
Can You Really Just Stop Loving Someone?
You can stop loving someone, but often it doesn't happen instantaneously. Instead, it may be a longer process. Often, this begins to happen in stage 3 if this stage is not properly navigated. But if, as a couple, you are able to recognize and communicate through disillusionment, you have a better chance of staying together through it. You are aware that the disillusionment you are going through is a normal part of every relationship, so you may find it easier to weather the storms. Then, you can get through stage 3; stage 4, creating a lasting love, may be right around the corner.
If you stop loving someone, you no longer have that strong desire to be with them. You don't think about them as often as you did when you were in the throes of stage 1. And, you're likely no longer interested in building a life with them as you were in stage 2. If you stop loving someone in stage 4 or 5, it usually means that something outside of the relationship caused a shift that one or both of you couldn't accept or healthily work through. Still, if you find real lasting love with your partner, you will probably never forget that you loved and cared for each other if things don’t work out. The relationship lasted long enough that it will likely impact you for the rest of your life. The person we once loved may become an inspiration to us and even sometimes a friend.
What Does It Feel Like To Be In Stage 3?
The disillusionment of stage 3 can feel make you feel sad, angry, anxious, fearful, or disappointed. You may feel less loved, and you may feel less love towards them. The upsetting feelings and greater sense of disconnect you feel with your partner are the unpleasant side of stage 3.
However, if you approach stage 3 in understanding that this can be the gateway to lasting love, the positive side of this difficult time is that you have an excellent opportunity to know and celebrate your partner for who they really are and resolve any problems between you. People who love and continue to work towards love even when it feels weaker often go on to build a lasting love. They get past stage 3, so they can create deep, long-term love, enjoy the later stages, fill their lives with love, and feel a greater sense of connection and contentment within their relationship.
What Is The Sign Of True Love?
Although there are many factors involved in creating real, lasting love, the one thing that is a sure sign of true love is commitment. Whether you marry or not, you can't develop a stronger love if you both don't decide to love each other and do whatever it takes to stay together through each stage of love.
How Do You Know When The Honeymoon Phase Is Over?
After the initial falling-in-love stage, our feelings tend to become less intense. Daydreams of our lover or our perception of them will take on a less fantastical tone. We may feel happy when they are near, but we might no longer feel that rapid heartbeat or butterflies in our stomach when we see them.
Many people use the term "the honeymoon is over" in a negative way, indicating that all the fun and excitement of love are gone. However, no one can maintain level 1 forever. In fact, doing so would be incredibly unhealthy in a long-term relationship! And developing a real, lasting love has even more excellent benefits than the rush of hormones that you feel during the honeymoon phase. As the level of love progresses to stage 2, we still want to be with our partner. We still enjoy their company and want to be close to them. We want a stable relationship with them. What's more, the love in our relationships can bring us many months or years of fun and excitement that goes beyond the mere surface level physical reactions of love hormones.
How Do You Know If Feelings Are Mutual?
You may never know exactly how someone feels about you. Everyone expresses their emotions differently, and you might not speak the same "love language" as they do. But there are some clues that the other person returns your feelings of love. Here are a few questions to ask yourself or them as you try to understand their emotions better.
- Do they seek you out spending time with you?
- Do they send you text messages or call often?
- How do they talk about you when they're with others?
- Do they show respect for you?
- Do they include you in social groups?
- Do they make plans with you and keep the date?
- Do they seem happy when they're with you?
- Do they long for the love of the relationship when you're apart?
- Do they validate and support you?
Sometimes, the best way to know whether someone shares your feelings at any stage is simply to ask them. Let them know you want to have a serious discussion. Then, ask them how they feel. Share your feelings, too, and talk about whether you want to commit or continue your commitment to sharing real, lasting love.
Why Do People Marry?
Understanding love and marriage is a complicated task. People marry for many different reasons. Sometimes, they rush into marriage right away while they are just beginning stage 1. Other people get married because of a pregnancy. Or, they get married during stage 3 in a desperate attempt to patch up a failing relationship. Each of these types of marriages faces extreme obstacles. However, talking to a couple’s therapist may help in navigating through each stage.
Love and marriage in the later stages, stages 4 and 5, have a better chance of working out because the partners know each other better. Also, they've already stuck together through the end of the honeymoon phase and gotten through the disillusionment phase. In these later stages, people may get married for other reasons. They may get married to achieve greater intimacy, to formalize their commitment to their partner, because of financial, tax, or legal benefits, or because it feels like a natural progression of the relationship to them.
Marriage doesn't guarantee love. But when the commitment is real and loving your partner is made a priority, you have the ingredients to build a lasting love. If you are in an early stage, it's usually best to give yourself some time to think about the relationship before you marry. No matter what stage you're in, though, it's easier to build a lasting love if you know yourself and your partner well.
What Is Chemistry In A Relationship?
Discovering that you have chemistry usually happens long before real, lasting love. Stage 1 is where you find out whether you "click" physically, emotionally, and romantically. Chemistry is a strong sense that you share a special connection with someone right away. It's a compelling impulse that makes you want to see them again and again. Chemistry is not real lasting love, but sometimes, it can lead to it.
Can You Learn To Love Someone?
Often, we think of love, and we expect the partners to be in love with each other from the start. Sometimes, though, two people become a couple or get married without ever having the in-love experience. They might still develop a lasting love over time. And there may come a time later on when they feel excited and joyful to be around their partner. They may share love in stage 4 and even reach stage 5. Maybe their love doesn't stop at stage 5, but they continue to nurture their relationship for the rest of their lives.
However, love doesn't happen in any set way for everyone. Stage 1 can be the driving force to build a real, lasting love, but this isn't always true of this stage. You might learn more about each other and find out what it takes to love them well. Or, you might decide that the marriage is not for you and leave it to find love with someone else. If you are unsure of what to do or how to learn how to love your partner better, talking to a counselor is often a positive first step.
How Does Child-Rearing Fit Into The 5 Stages Of Love?
Whether we intend to have children early in the relationship or choose it later on, many relationships go through a child-rearing stage. It's separate from the 5 love stages, and it can happen in any one of them. Often, when we raise a child together, during that stage, our love deepens or falters. The strain and responsibility of raising a child can tear apart relationships that haven't reached the lasting love stage or haven’t fully worked through the disillusionment stage.
When we get to a higher stage, that’s typically the best time to think about having children as we are likely to have a much better understanding of ourselves and our partner than we do in earlier stages. Child-bearing age is usually limited by the woman's ability to have children safely, which tapers off around the age of thirty-five years. However, couples often adopt children when they are older than that, some find a surrogate, and others are still able to have their own children just fine. You can speak with a doctor to discuss any concerns and options.
If you are experiencing unhappiness in any stage, it may not be the best time to add children into the mix. But if you already have children or decide to have another child anyway, you still may be able to move past the turn-around of stage 3 to stage 4. When your romantic relationship is secure, you will find it easier to show unconditional love to your children. Then, you can reach a real, lasting love – not only a romantic love with your partner but also a deep, healthy parental love with your child.
Can A Broken Relationship Be Mended?
Some broken relationships can be mended, and some can't. From the moment we announce to each other that we're in love, we are setting the groundwork for the relationship we are building. If the foundation is unsteady, it will take work to properly fix it before we can advance to other stages.
So, what heals and rekindles feelings of love? A relationship in the infatuation stage may go through dramatic ups and downs at first. It might not take much to light the flame again. On the other hand, since you have little experience with the relationship, you might have a tough time getting it back together. If you’re having some trouble knowing how to proceed, talking with a counselor can help you get back to feeling better again.
In the later stages of love, we can often heal the relationship. You might say, "Someone told us about stage 3 before, but we never knew it would be this hard." Or, you might say, “We heard about how great stage 5 is, and we want to get there!” As long as you are both willing to commit to the process and try to understand each other better, you can do the work that is needed. With the help of a therapist, you can find out the deeper issues involved and decide what changes you and your partner want to make. When you commit to each other and do what it takes to mend things when they feel broken, you can share a beautiful, fulfilling love together.
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