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How Love Changes Over Time: The 3 Phases of Romance

It’s normal and even healthy for relationships to change over time. Love goes through stages, growing and maturing and changing as you do. These three “stages of love” will help you see how love evolves over time, and give you insight into your own relationship.

“Love at first sight is easy to understand; it’s when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle,” said Amy Bloom.

Most couples start with sizzling hot chemistry (stage or phase one of love), drift into comfortable attraction (stage two), and settle into a deep emotional attachment (stage three). Many relationships move from the stage of passionate intense love to a quieter, more stable and mature type of love. This third stage of love isn’t (or shouldn’t be!) a reason to leave your partner…it’s just a normal part of being in a long-lasting love relationship.


Are you worried about the stage of love you’re in? Perhaps your relationship changed from connection to disconnection, closeness to distance. Is your husband or boyfriend emotionally or physically difficult to reach? One of the most important tips on how to love an emotionally unavailable man is to avoid trying to change or “fix” him. Change takes a lot of hard work and dedication. Your partner can’t change unless he is aware of his distance and accepts that it’s a problem. He won’t – can’t – change without first accepting that he’s emotionally unreachable. This isn’t a typical stage of love for most couples, but it’s not unresolvable. It just takes effort, energy and commitment.

Love changes, and the happiest couples change with it. Below are the three phases of love, plus tips for reconnecting with your husband or boyfriend.

By the way, one of my favorite “relationship books” is ScreamFree Marriage: Calming Down, Growing Up, and Getting Closer. In it, Hal Runkel shows couples how learning to stay calm, in the face of common marital conflicts, is the key to creating and enjoying a deep, lifelong connection. It’s an awesome book for couples who scream loudly or silently throughout their day. If you’re struggling to get out of a difficult, painful or distant stage of love you’ll find this book helpful.

Love Phase 1: Romantic feelings and chemistry

Romantic love is driven by testosterone and estrogen. Mating is the evolutionary purpose of this stage of love; it creates strong physical attraction and sets the stage for emotional attachment. In this phase of love, endorphins soak your brain and you’re immersed in intense pleasure. Your partner is perfect, ideal, made for you.

In the romance phase you feel exhilarated and even “high” (similar to the feeling you get after eating gourmet dark chocolate or enjoying a great workout. Endorphins!).

Love Phase 2: Physical attraction and power struggles (the “lovesick” phase)

In the second phase of a romantic love relationship, you may lose your appetite, need less sleep, and daydream about your lover on the bus, during meetings, in the shower. In this stage of love, the hormones dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin are racing through your body and brain. You’re also trying to shape your lover into your ideal partner – which is where the power struggles come in (and where the book How to Change Someone You Love might come in, too!).

In this relationship phase, you’re becoming more realistic, and you and your partner may argue about things such as which friends to spend time with or whether you should listen to country or rap music in the car. The infatuation is wearing off, and a strong emotional attachment begins to set in.

If you and your partner keep drifting in and out of this stage of love – perhaps breaking up and getting back together – you may question your relationship. Will your feelings pass, or has your love died? Read 3 Ways to Cope With an “On Again Off Again” Relationship.


Love Phase 3: Emotional attachment or unconditional acceptance

A mature, healthy love relationship involves commitment, partnership, and even children. In this phase of love, you’re aware of both positive and negative traits in your partner, and you’ve decided you want to build a life together – and perhaps get married. Confrontation is most likely to occur in this stage of love (though if you’re authentic and honest, it’ll also happen in the second phase). You and your partner will either stay committed to a healthy love relationship or decide to call it quits.

This is my favorite stage of being married! I love the comfort and ease of being with my husband much more than the initial dating, wedding, and marriage adjustment phases of love.

4 Tips for a Loving Relationship

If you aren’t sure about your level of commitment, read 7 Ways to Know Your Relationship is Worth Fighting For.

Focus on the things you can control in your relationship

Your attitude, your behavior, your words, and your energy are all things you have control over. If you want something to change in any phase of a romantic relationship, focus on your own attitudes or actions – not your partner’s (I know this contradicts the book I featured above, but it really is a fascinating read!).

Vent in healthy ways (in all phases of love)

Learn healthy ways to express your disappointment, anger, or frustration. Be honest and authentic, and kind and loving in all stages of romance. Psychological research shows that the happiest couples are true to themselves.

Remember the first, most romantic phase of love

Relive your feelings of lust and  attraction for your partner. Think about the traits you were once attracted to, and work to revive those old feelings. Don’t forget who you fell in love with. If you’re struggling with your relationship, read When He Says He Doesn’t Love You Anymore.

Take responsibility for both your positive and negative feelings

Your husband or boyfriend can’t “make” you feel anything.

phases of love
How Love Changes Over Time – The 3 Phases of Love

If you feel unfulfilled in your life or overwhelmed by relationship problems, look at your dreams and goals. Are you pursuing the life you were meant to live? Are you following your heart? Develop your personality, mind, and spirit. Figure out what will make you happy in this phase of romance, and start creating the life you were meant to live.

Love isn’t just a vehicle that brings happiness and contentment to your life (or frustration and anger!). Love is a living, dynamic creature that changes, grows, and needs attention…and you must nurture it.

Are you unhappily married or feeling stuck in your relationship? Read 5 Ways to Find Happiness in a Loveless Marriage.

What phase of love are you in? Feel free to share your thoughts below. And don’t forget Amy Bloom’s words about the stages of love: “Love at first sight is easy to understand; it’s when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle.”

Is your relationship in trouble? Get 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage from relationship coach Mort Fertel. It's free and helpful, no strings attached.


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10 thoughts on “How Love Changes Over Time: The 3 Phases of Romance”

  1. Just wondering after being married for 21 years and had been cheated on by the husband 2 times last time being about 7 years ago and now we argue all the time cause i dont show him love and affection like i did when we first meet. How do i get over this or is this normal for people to run out of the love and affection phase?

  2. I’m in the part of my relationship where he barely talks to me , he barely calls and text. The three magical words are no where to be heard from him anymore for the last few months. He doesn’t call me by names anymore as in baby, etc. He doesn’t want to hangout , meet up or make plans and for valentine’s day its a waste of his time or he will call his friens home to spend time on this day

  3. I’ve been with my partner for nine years! I’m reading to move into the whole buying a house and making a family mode but he isn’t. I don’t know how much longer I can go on waiting for! Is this a sign that we should move on in our own directions!

  4. Yeah I get that love changes over time and there are different phases of love. But how do you know if you’re in a normal slump or if your relationship is over? My wife is changing, going through some emotional stuff that is making her withdraw and pull away from me. Part of me thinks this is a normal stage of our marriage, but part of me wonders if things will ever be the same. So how do you know if a relationship is worth fighting for?

  5. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    I think hearts are broken in all phases of love because we’re human, weak, and unreliable. Love changes because we’re not perfect.

  6. Love is the only game that two can play and both can win.But if love is so great then why are hearts broken?Maybe the answer is because without despair and all the bad things in the world,good things can never exist.

  7. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    Although, sometimes relationships don’t end…they drag on for far longer than is healthy for both partners. That’s not necessarily the BEST phase of romantic relationship, but it happens!

  8. Nice post :)

    Having been in different romantic relationships over the years, I have came to notice that relationships usually go through stages, and that they end when one of the partners, or both, are unable to provide the necessary qualities needed to move into the next stage.

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