Couples Therapy

7 Stages of a Relationship

My name is Laurie Groh, and I'm co-owner at Shoreside Therapies. I specialize in relationships, communication, and transitions. One of the things I thought would be great to talk about today, as it's been coming up a few times in my recent sessions, are the stages of a relationship. It is instrumental when we are trying to figure out what is happening within a relationship.

Stage 1: Passion

Often, we think about relationships as what we see on TV, what we see in movies. And really, what we're seeing is just that first stage, the first stage of being passionate, being in love, thinking, "I can't be away from this person. They're amazing. I love everything about them, literally. I love everything about them." Right. That is that first stage. And one of the jokes I sometimes make with clients is if we were in that stage for an extended period of time, no one would get anything done. We would be in bed all day long with that person. And we also need to work and be with our friends and families. We do have to move out of that stage eventually. Now, this is just a rough estimate, but usually, that stage lasts about a year. Sometimes it can last a little longer, and you can sort of go in and out into that next stage. But virtually everybody gets out of that stage. And I think that's so important for people to know and understand that that can't sustain itself. It's a good thing for bonding, committing, and attaching to somebody, but we can't stay in that spot forever.

Stage 2: Discovery/Realization Stage

The next stage would be the discovery stage. It's the disillusionment stage where we start to see some things that we're not so fond of in the other person. It could be just about anything. Perhaps we think our partner talks too much or not enough, or maybe they're not giving us as many gifts as we would like, or they're not spending as much time with us as we would like. And that stage tends to be where some conflicts come up. Usually, at that point in the relationship, there's a choice to be made. Can you make it through it? Do you want to make it through it? That can be a considerable challenge. But basically, that stage is about determining what you want to do. Do you want to commit, or do you not want to commit? Now, suppose you choose not to commit. In that case, it makes a ton of sense to do that at that point because, when you are picking somebody that you want to spend maybe the rest of your life with or just a long term commitment, you want to be able to figure out, is there enough good stuff here for all of the bad stuff that's going to come out? That part is very, very important.

happy couple embracing

Stage 3: Commitment in a Relationship

The third stage is commitment. This stage is where a couple decides, let's be together for the long term, let's maybe plan a family and or let's get married. There are many different options for commitments, but one of the main things is that you're going to decide to be with that person. And that they're your partner. Now, again, there are a lot of different types of relationships. But ultimately, when you're committing to someone, that means that you want to be with that person and spend time with that person. All of the other stuff can be negotiated. But the main idea is that you're finding a partner, somebody you want to connect with for the long-term.

happy same sex couple

Stage 4: Power Struggles in a Relationship

The next stage tends to be power struggles. Again, it's a little bit going into the disagreements, figuring some of those things out. Now, this comes up again after commitment, because to be quite honest, committing is scary. You don't know precisely what you are getting yourself into. And we, as humans, like to have power, and we like to have autonomy. We want to have control over ourselves and sometimes over other people. But really, what happens in the stage is figuring out what the power dynamics are, what you can and can't do. What are some of those boundaries?

Stage 5: Growth and Stability

And then, we move into the fifth stage, which is growth and stability. This stage is the idea of having a common goal: looking at what you two want as a couple. This stage might be a point where you talk about what your life goals are. What do you want to see happen for yourself?

Stage 6: Romantic Love/Enrichment

The sixth stage would be the romantic love part. You would think the first stage was that, but stage six is where it expands much more. What would be the right word, enriching, would be the best word I could describe it, where it's not all roses, it's not this fantasy land. This stage is the part of the relationship where you see that other person for who they are, and you enjoy their strengths and maybe struggle a little bit with their weaknesses, of course. But seeing as this is who I chose to be with and what we will do here? Now you can put all your effort into it or disengage and separate and still live in the same house. But typically, what you want on that stage is that's where the commitment piece comes in handy because you can think about it like, OK, this is my life. This person is who I chose, a wonderful person. I might not like X, Y and Z. However, there are so many good things here, and I want to cherish them, and I want to respect them, and I want to be with them. And at that point, too, you might notice that you want to put a little bit more effort into the relationship.

Stage 7: Crisis and Recovery in a Relationship

Stage seven is a stage that actually can come at any point in the relationship. And that's the crisis and recovery stage. That can be any time when there's a big transition, any time there's trauma within the relationship or outside of the relationship you need to repair. The good news with this is that a lot of times, couples can fix it. And if you're in a space in your relationship where you do not feel like you're able to repair it on your own, I'm fortunate to say that we have many therapists at Shoreside Therapies that can provide couples counseling. A lot of our therapists work specifically with couples, which is different from individual therapy. You want to have a therapist with experience with couples because it's a different ballgame. If you are struggling with any of these stages or struggling with a crisis of trauma or resentment within your relationship, reach out to us at Shoreside Therapies.

Contact Laurie

If you would like to make an appointment with me feel free to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., text, or call me. Or you can set up an assessment or 15-minute free consultation.

Laurie Groh, MS, LPC, SAS

Laurie Groh, MS, LPC, SAS

(262) 227-5890

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