The Positive Side of Medicine

The 5 Stages of Romantic Relationships

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The 5 Stages of Romantic Relationships
By Positivemed- Team Costa Rica
Edited By: Estephanie Dawson

Anyone who knows what is to be in a romantic relationship knows that there are some properties and attitudes that we must assume in order to develop a healthy relationship. This article will review the different phases of the romantic bond. The awareness of this process will enlighten as to the stage of romantic love you are in and where our partner is. These stages can last days, months, or even years depending on relationship dynamics. There is always the possibility of regression, or going back and forth between stages as well, they are not 100% linear. Try to identify yourself in this process and be aware of what’s coming!

• Election. In this phase cupid does his work. We are attracted to him or her. We might be attracted only to physical cues, men are more often attracted to physical aspects in long and short term, while women seem to prefer a more social and sincere type of man in long term relationships, while they often look to physical attraction in the short term. It can be like a crush, an earthquake, or some other impact we feel when we meet the other person. We are attracted to qualities we seek in our partners, and those qualities often seem very bright and intense.

• Idealization. In this phase we think our partner is the best in the world, there is nobody like her or him on earth. We idealize his-her virtues and tend to neglect or avoid seeing any imperfections. This is the phase of most deep love, where people can be more deeply in love with their partner, and can last for years. In this phase the rest of the world ceases to exist, and only being with our partner can satisfy us. It is evident that both persons are in a neurochemical high, induced by endorphins and oxytocin.

The 5 Stages of Romantic Relationships

• Pre-critical reactions. In this stage we start to realize and perceive attitudes and behaviors we don’t like in our partners. If in the idealization phase we were at a neurochemical high, in this phase, this high starts to decline, and the couple is back to reality. There is the possibility of feeling disappointment because we thought there was only one version of that significant other. We want that lovely, unique, and perfect person back! Anxiety may arise, and deception as well. This is normal. We perceive our partners limitations, virtues, and frustrations. Many people live this stage with intense reactions of resentment or bitterness.

• Crisis! In this period most of the arguments happen. There are often complaints about the inability of the other person to fulfill the ideal of our expectations. We thought of our beloved as the solution to our loneliness or void, now we realize it’s just a temporary patch. There is always the chance that some marriages or relationships can be in this stage for years.

• Restorative Phase. The fall of illusion is followed by a restorative phase where a person is able to look at the beloved one with certain doses of objectivity, he or she can see how frustrating the person is and can integrate both positive and negative qualities and dimensions, so the person is able to sustain a relationship with their partner.

Shared Projects: key for getting through these phases

Romantic couples must have some shared projects or dream to build together. They must define which projects are common to them, and make a compromise to fulfill these projects. Both must compromise. A shared project or dream doesn’t mean that everything must be done together. Each partner should have their own activities and projects, and create their own spaces while often doing things together as well.

Hendrick, C., Hendrick, S.S. & Alder, N. L. (1988) Romantic Relationships: Love,
Satisfaction, and staying Together, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 54
: 980-988
Sternberg, R. J., & Barnes, M. (1985). Real and ideal others in romantic
relationships: Is four a crowd? Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49,1586-1608.

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