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.
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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