How To Last Through The 5 Stages Of Love
Updated March 08, 2021
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.
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