What stage of dating are you in?
When you start dating someone new, the experience can feel wildly different than the last time you dated. This is especially true if you’ve been away from the field for a while.
But humans are predictable and our relationships fall into patterns. There are basically four stages of dating, after which you both decide whether to take the relationship from loosely defined to either married or “later”. Have you just started a new thing? Read on to see what’s in store for both of you.
1. Honeymoon stage
In the movies, this stage is where the two main characters meet by chance, and cue the fireworks and violins. In the honeymoon stage, you think your partner is perfect and are blind to their flaws—remember the rose coloured glasses cliché?
Although we like to think we’re attracted to people for their character or personality, in the honeymoon stage the main draw is physical. Chemistry is real—in a new relationship, the brain is flooded with oxytocin, a feel good hormone. This pushes the sexual attraction on, along with the obsession about the other person (and wilful ignorance of their flaws), and the feelings of falling in love. Even if you notice your new partner’s quirks, in this stage of the game you think they’re cute. And it usually goes both ways.
2. Deepening stage
The pure neuro-chemical attraction can last for up to a year a half, after which other emotions kick in, either strengthening or weakening the bond between people. But the deepening stage of dating can happen anywhere after the first month or two, depending on how much you see of each other and on your respective karmas. Here, although your feelings for each other are deepening and solidifying, some differences start to emerge.
As you both take off your rose-coloured glasses, more conflict will arise. This happens in every relationship—between friends, parents and children, co-workers, etc. But with a new couple, the conflicts feel more intense. If you’re still dating other people on the periphery, here’s where you cut them off.
In the deepening stage, the relationship starts to take up more time and space in both your lives. It’s a good time to vet your partner with family and friends.
3. Exclusivity stage
Exclusivity is an interesting time in dating. While it seems to cut down on external distractions (as in, other like interests), exclusivity means devoting more of your energy to this one fairly new person in your life. Here you commit to each other and set up monogamous or non-monogamous agreements.
The tricky part with this stage is when one person wants to enter it before the other. Deciding to prioritise each other and increase the safety and security inside the relationship is a big step, but without it you’ll languish in some vague friends with benefits area (or worse, fall back into the actual friend zone). Without the decision to go exclusive, there’s nothing propping up the relationship but a bunch of texts and bar tabs.
4. Intimacy stage
Depending on how fast you and your partner decide to go, intimacy will follow exclusivity. In this stage of dating you both let down your guards. It’s scary, but it’s also a relief—how many people can you show your true self to?
Intimacy can make some people feel vulnerable. Pretty much everyone alive has been hurt by someone else—to wilfully open yourself up might feel overwhelming. The solution is open communication. Emotional intimacy is actually much scarier than physical intimacy, and the payoff is slower.
When you both make the decision to open up and commit on a deeper level, you can start to plan for the future. Or, alternately, you’ll both come to realise the relationship is not meant to be, and hopefully part ways peacefully.
Do you need relationship help?
If you help starting or maintaining a relationship, contact Clinton Power + Associates for a FREE 15-minute phone consultation to discuss your situation and find out how we can help. Call us now on 0412 241 410 or book your free phone consult online.
Clinton Power is a relationship counsellor and Gestalt therapist with over a decade of experience helping individuals and couples move out of relationship pain and create great relationships. Get Clinton’s FREE report: 10 Tips for Moving Out of Relationship Pain, by clicking the button below.