Relationships usually start out sweet. Both the man and woman put their best face forward and look forward to the moments they get to see each other. So why is the divorce rate in America at 50 percent? Well, although a relationship starts out sweet, it must make it through four different stages in order to last. No one should take these four stages of a relationship lightly. Its success depends on knowing how to navigate them for a strong future together.
4 Stages of a Relationship Built to Last
In this article:
Let me introduce you to what Dr. Wendy Walsh calls the 4 Stages of Love. I think a better name is the 4 Stages of Relationships.
These stages chronicle the 4 stages a couple goes through in their relationship.
1. Sexual Attraction
The Sexual Attraction stage is when your body has a biological response to the sight, sound, and smell of another person. This kind of attraction releases a bunch of chemicals and signals in your brain like dopamine and serotonin. Your palms get sweaty, your face gets blushed, your heart races and you get butterflies in your stomach.
These chemicals give you a ‘love high’ and make you do crazy stupid stuff. That’s because they stimulate the same part of the brain responsible for drug addiction and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
Basically, you get exposed to that sweet, that nasty, that gooshy stuff…and you love it! Now, you’re hooked, sprung, whipped, and your nose is wide open. And you can’t help it.
2. Romantic Love
Just like drug addiction, I’ve been told that your body eventually gets used to the high. It then creates a different kind of ‘chronic’ to get high on.
As the relationship continues, your body produces oxytocin and endorphins, which gives you a sense of peace and security about your relationship.
These self-deluding chemicals draw your attention and focus on all the good things about the person and not the bad. You see all their irritating attributes as ‘adorable’. You even begin to think you may have met “the one.”
3. Intellectual Decision
As the oxytocin-high wears off, you enter the Intellectual Decision stage of relationships. The sobriety you now have about who your mate really gives you a different perspective from the previous stages.
You now see your mate’s flaws on full display. And you have to make an intellectual decision whether or not to accept your mate and his/her flaws. Those who decide to stay do so by acknowledging the flaws, but holding on to the positive things that attracted you to him/her in the first place.
This is the most difficult part of relationships because it requires the most sacrifice and compromise. The close-quarter combat generally experienced in this stage reveals hidden flaws about how your mate deals with problems and handles stress. These hidden flaws might have been deal breakers had you known about them. Considering the stages of a relationship, you might have pumped your brakes harder before taking your relationship to the next level.
4. Mature Companionship
The Mature Companionship stage is part habit and part comfort. When it comes to stages of a relationship, this one is about sharing your lives together. You’ve made it past the Intellectual Decision stage and you have resolved to accept your mate, flaws and all, and stick it out.
Those in the Sexual Attraction and Romantic stages probably think they’ll be in these stages forever…and coast smoothly into the Mature Companionship Stage still high on the dopamine and oxytocin. But the high wears off when the realities of life, work, household responsibilities, children, and just regular ole relationship-stuff reveals character flaws in you and your mate. That’s when that sweet, that nasty, that gooshy stuff turns into irritating, frustrating, stupid stuff.
In some relationships, this reveal happens sooner rather than later. Some relationships don’t make it past the Intellectual Decision stage. They get divorced. Or they break off the engagement. Or the baby’s mother takes the kids, moves out, and decides to raise the children alone, without his involvement.
No matter what stage you’re in, it’s important to take time to communicate with your partner. When all is said and done, it will go a long way to helping you take your union to the next level.
BMWK – So what stage are you in? And how can you keep or regain the highs your felt in the Sexual Attraction and Romantic Love stages?
Up Next: Dating Advice: 5 Signs He’s Stringing You Along
Editor’s Note – This post was originally published on July 10, 2014, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.
With God’s blessings, we are in Stage 4. We’ve been together going on 8 yrs and married almost 2. With kids, work and everyday life, we are trying to keep stages 1 & 2 alive. Making it through stage 3 was tough, but with prayer and our relationship grounded with God’s blessings, we made it. This was a great article!
Heath Wiggins says
Thanks Kamele. Glad you enjoyed it. And congrats for making it to stage 4.
How timely is this article! We will be married 7 years this year. I am trying to stay in Stage 4, but am struggling with falling back into Stage 3 at times. I know my husband adores me, but dealing with his flaws is starting to take a toll on my attraction to him. We do date nights often and have a lot of fun together. He is a great friend and companion, but I’m losing romantic interest. How do I get the passionate side rekindled?
I am open to words of encouragement/advice. Thanks BMWK for always keeping it real with marriage issues.
We are in stage 3. and we decided to love each other with our flaws. We are learning that true love is more then just a feeling. It is accepting a person for who they are and respecting our differences.
Always remember why and how you both fell in love and always reference those times (the little things) and re live them over and over as much as possible when you go out on dates. Remember who he is as a man (Your Man). Dance close and always look directly into his eyes when you talk to him and smile often.
Heath Wiggins says
I like these!!!
I was literally just pondering this same subject last night & here it comes up. I’ve been with my wife for 5 years & married for 2 of them & when they say marriage is rough for the first couple of years they weren’t kidding. Stage 3 has been a bit tough but it had never changed the love I have for my wife & I believe we are working our way into stage 4. I definitely feel that stage 1 & 2 have diminished some & I have been struggling on ways to bring it back. My question is, is it wrong for a man to want to feel ‘wanted’ or pursued in a sense instead of some what always initiating intimacy? Someone please help….
Nice article King! Great information! Love your introduction and the way you interpret things!
We’re at Stage 3 and she has decided to break up with me. She says she loves me and we get along well in everything, but she doesn’t feel the sexual attraction any more. This was after her ex has come back to apologise. I’m at a point of either pushing harder or letting go. I do not know what to do. She’s a virtuous woman and I want her back as my girlfriend. Please pray for us.
Pls help, can somebody tell me there is hope for us. Separeted for the 2nd time my husband stays with his mom and loves and seems to be committed to his family then our 4kids. There have been strainous relationship between him and our eldest son due to my husband neglect irresponsibility and unfaithfullness in our marriage. Iam deeply dissappointed this is my high school sweetheart, an intellegent men who has not done much with life. Ive studied as a result and have been able to secure a job as a lecturer as an F.E.T. while he has tried to provide for the children on irregular basis we cannot relay on him. I think I failed when we reached stage 3 wich I realized when I got my 1 st son.Being a women of faith I thought things will change 4 children down the line iam still struggling with this insecurity.Iam concern about my sons and about the model he is impressing on them. My bigger pain is this is what his father did to his mother and when I speak to her about she says its normal coz she went through it as well. So she incoirages him to stay with her and she treats him like a boy even infront of my children. When I try and talk the whole family become defensive and iam always left feeling like iam the one wrong and actualy dividing the unity of the family. Should I keep hoping I dont want to devorce him at least at this time iam not sure ican ever bring myself to do that. Should I keep hoping ?
From:People Are Talking Magazine.you allowed this
Man to take away your self-esteem and pride that’s
Why he has no respect for you.take back your life and
Let your son see you as a mother and not as a door-mat
For a man that doesn’t want her.it appears you love him
More than you love yourself. What women don’t know
Is once you’ve moved on like he has the game is on!
Never love a man more than you love yourself!
Heath Wiggins says
Thanks baby-girl! See you when I get home.
My husband and I just celebrated our 21st anniversary last month and I can honestly say I think we’ve passed these stages. Not saying that they’re not accurate because I totally agree I just think for us they don’t really apply to where we are in our relationship because we started off in high school and pretty much experienced it in the early years . But through prayer, open communication & being honest with each other we have a pretty amazing relationship which we owe totally to God and we’re truly thankful. I will say this fight for your marriage and don’t lose focus on why you married him/ her and remember what you vowed. Keep the faith and hold on.
Felicia White says
I enjoyed reading the article. We are heading to stage four even though stage three is about accurate. Work, children & personal flaws and making time to be alone is an Huge challenge because we don’t have much extended family we relocated 10 years ago to a different state. We are striving or at least acknowledging we need to make more efforts in stages 1& 2 again for now its in distant memory!
Denise j Charles says
I believe that these stages often overlap and do not necessarily occur in as a distinct a way as suggested here, they do exist but then there is so much we can do to build on the positives of a particular stage to ensure that we magnify its strengths while minimizing the “fall out” inherent in that stage. For example, while we will eventually get over the headiness of the romantic stage where dopamine is at work, it is what happens here that provides a reference point or a “relationship memory” which distinguishes the relationship from others and causes us to want to preserve it even though it will change. When sexual attraction, is no longer automatic that is something we can work on and stimulate because we will definitely still need this special “glue” as the relationship enters it’s mature stage. So we need to pull from each stage what is needed for the next, to ensure relationship continuity.
Remember that intimac yis not about sex . It is the closeness in the relationship. A special bond. It is not wong for you to need to feel wanted. Also men it is in your nature to hunt! 🙂 she will appreciate your efforts if done correctly and then give you that need!
Heath Wiggins says
Stage 3 and I am just not sure we will ever get to stage 4. We have been together 20 years, married for 7. I just feel like I am done and really don’t want to try anymore. Don’t feel like this is my marriage just his, full of double standards, no compromising on his part, just mines. I need a break, I need space but he won’t hear of it. If we are not together, he is calling me on the phone, CONSTANTLY, even at work. I truly thought things would change when we got married, I wanted him to see that I loved him and I was going to be there and that he didn’t have to hold on so tight. Did not get better, just got worse, because now I am HIS WIFE…Stupid of me to think getting married was going to make it better. Just sex all the freakin time, no communication, no connection, just SEX. He feels that that keeps us close and I just want it to be over. He does not trust me and I can honestly say, I have never stepped out of my relationship or marriage, no phone numbers, in appropriate conversations, no looks, nothing in all 20 years, but he treats me like I have. I don’t remember the last time he told me he loved me or the last time I told him I loved him, because if I said it, I would be lying. I don’t even think I like him anymore. I do not get butterflies when I see him coming as a matter of fact, my spirits drop. We don’t smile when we see each other and our kisses are forced. He doesn’t spend time with our daughter and never encourages her, only criticizes her. She is 16 and she need positive attention from her father that will lift her up and make her feel worthy. So controlling but he doesn’t think so. Once again he just say that he is protecting his marriage, but it is pushing me away. I am the main bread winner and I don’t mind, sometimes. I would like some back up every now again or just to have him say, I got you, you are not alone. He hates my job because I work for a construction company around men, but I work in the main office in HR not in the field, but he doesn’t care. I conduct myself in a way that I am not too close to the employees and they know that I am married. It doesn’t matter, because all the things that I do is never enough. I just want to make sure that leaving or separating is the right things. I don’t want regrets, but right now, I just feel so HOPELESS….
KB why should you feel regret for: wanting to be trusted, wanting
Some space, not being able to socialize with your co-workers and
Jealous because you work around a lot of men. Who needs that
Much control from our mate? And that’s what he’s doing to you
And you are ALLOWING him to do to you. What made you think
He would change once you married him? After we marry them
They really think they own you!! You need to take back your life
And be happy!! He won’t change! From: People Are Talking Mag.
Because your mate doesn’t make the first move
Doesn’t or shouldn’t bother you.it could be shyness
Or afraid of being rejected.women fear rejection also.
From: People Are Talking Magazine
You’ve got to be kidding me!! Why would you stay with a man
That treat you that way? He must have taken all your sell-esteem
He treats you that way because you ALLOW him to.I would have
Left him in the wind the first time he derespected me.take your life
Back and set an example for your daughter! From: People Are Talking Magazine
Don when it’s over it’s over she didn’t just say it in action she said
It in words. If she went back to her ex it’s where she wants to be.
I’m sure it’s hard for you, But, “this to shall past” You will get over
Her. If she comes back you will always wonder if she’s thinking
Of her ex while she’s with you. From: People Are Talking Magazine