The Normal Stages a Relationship Goes Through

If you look through the Love Questions on the Site, you'll see that quite a number of them deal with people who think that their relationship is "wrong" because it's no longer full of the passion and heat of first-love. Nothing could be further from the truth! All relationships go through stages, and only the FIRST stage involves that head-over-heels in love feeling. Read more about the way that relationships evolve over time.

The Passion of New Love
Ah yes, this is the love that romance novels are written about. Did you ever wonder why romance novels end when the hero and heroine finally get together and marry? It's because that's the exciting part! Humans are evolved to try to pair up with other humans. They get excited about the chase. The "capture" of that new, interesting person - the person whose presence makes your heart thump, and whose mere touch sends your body a-quivering. New love means you can't sleep at night. You think about your lover constantly. You want to always be with them. You don't want to be apart. This is THE person for you. Many people get married during this stage of overwhelming passion and romance, thinking it will be this way forever.

Mature Love Sets In
If your body really kept up that new-love passion for its entire life, you would burn out pretty quickly! Plus your pocketbook would become empty as you spent every last dime on flowers and phone calls. The point of all that new love hype was to get you two TOGETHER. Now that you are together, it's no longer necessary. You've already proven to each other that you love each other. You don't have to keep proving it. Now your love is shown by dependability, trust, honesty, the things that are REALLY meaningful. Flowers die, but knowing that your boyfriend will be there at 2am when your car breaks down makes all the difference in the world. A dinner out at a fancy restaurant is nice, but any gigilo could pull that off. What's truly special is when you two have your own private meal at home, with your very favorite dishes, your favorite wine, and share the memories of your best times together.

For people reared on MTV and romance novels, this can be unsettling. You mean that every day isn't about fresh bouquets of flowers and passionate speeches of undying love? Nope! It's about the things that really matter in life - being a best friend. With all the ups and downs and hardships that life has, having a true best friend that is dedicated to being beside you through life is about the best thing you could possibly hope for. So cherish it!

Acutally, This is Pretty Good ... If Only He/She'd Just ...
Stage three in most relationships is the settling down with the notion that "this is rather good after all!" It's the reconciling that life *isn't* about non-stop romance, but it is about constant, meaningful tenderness. But as you start to get comfortable with that idea, the little things that were "cute" in the beginning of the relationship now start to grate on you. Yes, it was "cute" that he went out every Friday night with the guys, but now you'd really like to be able to go to the movies with him instead. Yes it was "cute" that she was completely inept in the kitchen, but sheesh, you'd just like a non-burned meal every once in a while! Those little grating annoyances can start go be like water torture ... drip ... drip ... drip ... until finally you explode in anger over something that really wasn't that important.

The important thing here is to realize that every one of us is an individual, and we each have good AND bad parts. Yes, your partner has some annoying traits. We ALL do. Undoubtedly some traits of yours annoy your partner. And since your partner has had that trait embedded into him (or her) over MANY, MANY years, the chance of you just saying "change!" and it working is slim. Yes, your partner may say he/she wishes to change! Yes, your partner might really try! But it's not that easy. If it were, we'd all be model-thin, nobody would smoke, and we'd all be incredibly rich. Life just isn't like that. If something is a part of you, it can be really, really hard if not impossible to alter it.

Remember, that annoying trait has probably always been part of what made up your partner. And in the past maybe you thought it was cute, or maybe you didn't even notice it. The *only* thing which has changed is your perception of it. So while in some cases you can try to gently help your partner change (i.e. feed you both more healthy foods if your partner is overweight, offer fun outside activities if your partner is out of shape), you also have to accept that this is one of the strange-but-true aspects of your partner. It shouldn't be something you constantly beat your partner up about. It shouldn't be something that you badmouth your partner about in company. You have to love ALL of your partner, and that includes accepting that he/she is NOT perfect.

We're Happy Together
After you've been with your partner a while, you truly are best friends. You've made it through good times and bad times. You trust each other that you won't run off if things get bad - you know you're in it for the long haul. You've seen each other at your best, and you've seen each other on those rumpled mornings when you feel completely awful. Yes, you know you're both not perfect. But what you are, you accept with love and affection. Your relationship isn't about rushing to look fancy all the time - you like each other just the way you are normally. It's also not about yelling and screaming and name-calling. Those are all ways to demean a person. You wouldn't want to demean your best friend! If you start to get grumpy about something, one of you will back off and talk about it later. You grow to learn when one of you is upset about a topic and to work around it.

Congratulations if you've reached this stage - this is what real love is all about!

How To ... in Love