Navigating the ebb and flow of romantic relationships can be quite a challenge. We have been taught to assume that somehow real love will give us everything on a silver platter, that if it’s authentic, it’s effortless. That is the big myth that often surrounds and distorts how we look at love.
Reality tells us a different story. Building long-lasting, fulfilling and healthy relationships takes effort. We must be prepared to invest our time and energy to make it work. Being in love and being in a relationship can be two very different matters.
But how does it all start? Here are the 4 main stages people in long-term relationships traverse:
1. The Romantic Stage
This is the well-known honeymoon phase when we almost behave like addicts. Only that our addiction happens to be the object of our most intense desires. During this phase, we are flooded with dopamine. We forget about the world, about all the bad stuff, our worries, our inhibitions. Everything feels right in the Universe because we are finally loved and cared for.
Also, during this stage, there is an emphasis on what we and our partners have in common and an almost complete disregard of their flaws. But after a while, the euphoria wears off and we are left to deal with reality. Will we make it through? – it’s what many couples wonder.
2. The Power Struggle Stage
This is the make it or break it stage. It’s when disappointment rears its ugly head and we awake to our partner’s differences. It feels like what we thought was once cute is now getting on our nerves. We don’t seem to be able to communicate effectively anymore and everything has become a big black mess. How did this happen?
Well, most couples have found themselves in this situation. What matters is how we overcome the power clashes and establish our autonomy in the relationship without sacrificing the connection. During this phase, arguments will increase and we’ll become more and more insecure, wondering if we made the right decision.
But if we change our perception a little bit, we’ll realize this is in fact an opportunity to connect on a deeper level. If we don’t give in to traps like blame, guilt, shame, disrespect and dishonesty, then there’s a chance to get to the other side.
3. The Stability Stage
If you’re here, it means you have worked through each other’s differences and decided the fight is worth it. Congratulations! You have now reached a level of connection and intimacy that will fulfill you on a much deeper level. What you have is no longer a mere sugar-coated, dopamine-driven fantasy, but a mature and healthy union.
You may still argue of course, but they are manageable. You are more secure in how you feel about each other and about where you are going together as a couple. At some point during this phase, one may start feeling bored. Accept that this is part of the process and that routine is not for everyone.
4. The Commitment Stage
It has now become clear that you’re in this together for the long run since you managed to survive and accept your shortcomings. You are now ready to build a lasting relationship on the solid foundation you have. You feel much more secure and relaxed around each other and know you are on a healthy track. You have reached a level of balance, compassion, freedom, love and belonging.