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
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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?
Editor’s Note – This post was originally published on July 10, 2014, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.