Understanding the Stages of Dating
LoveToKnow (LTK): Why is it important to know about the five stages of dating?
Lori Gorshow (LG): Dating goes through stages. If you try to avoid one of the stages, problems may develop in the relationship which may result in you or your partner ending the relationship. When you recognize what stage of dating the relationship is in, you will understand what is called for or needed in order to move through that stage and onto the next stage. It is normal and common for partners to be in different stages. When this occurs, requires patience and understanding are necessary.
Stage One: Meeting
(LTK): What do people need to know about the first stage of dating?
(LG): The purpose of stage one is to determine if there is enough chemistry, commonality and interest to warrant dating. For some people, it may take a couple of meetings to determine if they want to date a particular person. What is needed here is to come across as someone who is interesting and fun to be with.
Stage Two: Dating
(LTK): What happens after two people decide they want to spend time together in a dating context?
(LG): Stage two is the romantic stage and usually lasts for two to three months. It tends to progress as follows:
- During this stage, the two of you want to spend increasingly amounts of time together.
- People often describe this stage as feeling physically attracted or infatuated with the other person.
- Because two people are having fun and really attracted to each other, they tend to overlook those cute idiosyncrasies of their partner in order to focus on the strong attraction and the positive feelings.
What is needed during this stage is to understand that without the infatuation stage a relationship could not move on to the next stage. So if you and your partner are on two different pages with regard to your feelings for each other, it is best for you to be patient and wait for you partner to catch up. Doing this demonstrates to your partner that you are caring, patient and supportive.
Stage Three: Differences
(LTK): What comes next?
(LG): Stage three is where differences between the couple begin coming to the surface. It is also where each partner will decide for his and her self, whether to continue the relationship. During this phase:
- The relationship now focuses on how the two of you work through disagreements, differences of opinions and ideas as well as different approaches to sex, communication and commitment.
- It is also an opportunity to both learn and use problem-solving skills with your partner. Arguing in a relationship is not the problem. The problem arises when couples don't know or use healthy skills to resolve conflict.
- Stage three is also an opportunity to build a deeper relationship with your partner as each of you recognizes that you are loved and accepted for being your true self.
- This is where trust develops in a relationship.
Stage Four: Independence and Interdependence
(LTK): Once partners learn to deal with their differences, how does the relationship progress?
(LG): Stage four is a when the couple learns how to be a couple and still maintain a level of independence within the relationship. For most couples, this stage begins to show up after the couple has been dating for longer than six months.
- During this period, the couple begins to incorporate their previous social relationships and interests into the couple relationship.
- For some people the fear of their partner wanting to socialize without them, triggers feelings of insecurity, or fear of an imminent ending to the relationship.
- If the partner with the insecurity does not address his or her own issues, the result may be an unintended break-up.
Stage Five: Healthy Commitment
(LTK): What happens when the relationship moves on to the fifth stage?
(LG): Stage five is where the individuals are willing to make a long term commitment with one another. Having successfully completed the four previous stages, the couple has built a foundation on trust, honesty and integrity. For some, this is marriage. For others, this means being in a monogamous relationship.
Implications for Dating Relationships
All relationships have a natural progression, as evidenced by the five stages of dating. According to Lori Gorshow, "the first two to three months in a new relationship are about getting to know a person enough to decide if you want to continue. Why does it take this long to decide? Partly because what we experience when we first meet is attraction. This attraction is surface-level affection otherwise known as infatuation".
Of course, not every relationship moves beyond infatuation - and infatuation doesn't last very long. Gorshow explains, "Sometime after the three-month mark, the excitement of the relationship slows just a bit. This allows us to begin to take off those rose-colored glasses and determine if there is more to this relationship than a lot of physical attraction."
That's when a deeper connection starts to develop. Gorshow explains, "If we feel that the person we're dating shares our values, similar interests and similar views on important issues, we begin to feel a stronger connection that moves us towards wanting to be more emotionally intimate. If there isn't a connection, the couple will break-up at this point. If there is a connection, the couple will naturally move toward dating exclusively".