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A fulfilling romantic relationship is what many of us strive for. Going through life with our soulmate can be a beautiful thing. It can also be complicated. No matter how strong the love is between the couple, there are differences in each individual's personality, interests and goals. Even little things that may have been tolerated at the beginning of a relationship can become annoying as the couple gets more comfortable with each other. As odd as that may sound, there are actually four major stages in a relationship .
This definitely does not mean doom and gloom is expected with any potential relationship. It just means that there will be challenges from time to time depending on the stage of the relationship that you are in. Luckily, there are some easy ways to overcome conflicts and true love will prevail. There is no definite time period for each of the following stages. Some couples get through all of them rather quickly and with others, it takes more time.
Dr. Stan Hyman , therapist and coach, works with couples every day who are struggling in their relationship. Dr. Hyman has explained that "couples struggling with the process of growing a relationship need to understand that it is similar to parenting a growing child from birth to adulthood. All parents are challenged during this time." And he goes on to say, "Serious love relationships go through stages of development which parallel individual human stages of development, from infancy to maturity."
The euphoric stage is the falling-in-love stage. It's when we can overlook any and all faults of the other person. For this reason, there is very little conflict at this stage. A feeling of oneness is strong. In fact, the connection and chemistry are strong enough to bring about separation anxiety —you want to be with the other person all of the time. It's also probably the most likely time that a woman will receive flowers.
According to scientists , the brain produces dopamine and norepinephrine when we are doing something that feels good to us. Since high levels of these chemicals are released at the beginning of a relationship, a person tends to feel extra giddy or euphoric when falling in love.
This stage typically lasts around six months (but can go up to around two years). During this stage, it's probably best to not make any major decisions about the relationship. The time it takes to really get to know the other person is crucial for future success .
Human nature tends to be selfish. At some point, our individual needs and interests will be revisited and annoyances will not be tolerated as easily as in the first stage of love. Life also gets hectic with other responsibilities and commitments and it becomes harder to get that good quality one-on-one time.
Psychotherapist Samantha Westhouse, LLMSW , tells Parade , "In the first stage, you may have wanted to spend all your time with each other, but as you enter stage two, it's normal and healthy to want time separate from your partner.
If you start finding yourself defensive as your partner starts wanting more alone time, know it's not personal and it's actually healthy."
For the relationship to be successful, this has to be a time of serious communication and some self-sacrifice. While our needs are important, so are the needs of the one we love. Many strong relationships still thrive in this stage and a little bit of compromise goes a long way. When individuals can grow on their own and still maintain a strong connection as a couple, it is a good, powerful thing.
Once a couple makes it through the reality check and a stronger attachment is formed, then comes the crisis stage. At this stage, everything about each other is out in the open. Since you have become even more comfortable with each other, you really know each other's strengths and weaknesses.
Westhouse explains, "As you enter this stage, it's so important to have your expectations and dealbreakers. Many people at this stage may feel like they have invested a lot of time into the relationship and, of course, find it hard to end it.
If you want kids and your partner has been adamant about not having children, this may come to a breaking point in this stage."
At this point, couples will usually decide if this is the true person they want to be with. For many couples, this stage is also confirming when you are still deeply in love with the other person.
However, when couples are not in harmony, this could be the breaking point of the relationship.
At this point, a couple has learned to communicate with each other and knows how to weather any storms. It's a calm stage where the couple has respect for each other and has a feeling of security in the relationship.
"This is the most mature love," Westhouse explains. "Many folks in this stage that battle with instability in relationships may find this stage to be boring or signal to them that since it's not 'dramatic' like before, it's not real love. But that couldn't be further from the truth."
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