Developing a relationship, romantic or not, is a lengthily task. Building trust doesn’t just happen overnight and let’s be honest, does the romantic idea of “love at first sight” truly exist? Yes, we are initially physically attracted or interested in individuals, but developing a relationship is deeper than expected and goes beyond what is communicated verbally. Instant attractions may go as quickly as they came. There are phases in which a relationship develops, seven to be exact. If you feel you are stuck in a little bit of a love slump, understanding the relationship phase you are in may be your golden key
1. The Perceived Perceptions Phase
Remember that ‘love at first sight’ thing? Your eyes meet in a crowded room, and you both smile at each other timidly. You are aware of one another and possibly physically attracted to each other. This phase is mostly characterised by your nonverbal communication with one another. If this is a positive experience (and you don’t feel like they are ‘that creeper in the corner of the room’ making eyes at you), action will be taken by either one of you. You make assumptions and form perceptions of one another based on physical appearance and other forms of non-verbal communication.
2. The Initiation Phase
You introduce yourselves. This is the phase where you try to make a great impression. It could even be a subtle wave across the room that opens the communication channel between the two of you (or three, no judging here!) You will observe all the socially accepted behaviour and norms and at the same time try to create an everlasting impression – one that sets you apart, sort of like a job interview. Even though you do share information, it is only basic and will contain your interests. The goal of this phase is to show your interest in the other person and leave a good first impression.
3. The Experimentation Phase
Although this phase sounds like it should be conducted in a laboratory, it’s actually all about two people deciding to find out more about one another. This is done through “small talk” and sharing personal information that is public knowledge (like what you would show on your Facebook page). You also want to play it safe and not reveal any extreme information that scares them away (probably not a good idea to talk about the cardigan you are crocheting for your cat.) One does not share very personal or sensitive information at this stage at all. This phase is useful to find stuff to talk about, giving others the opportunity to understand us from a distance, meet our social needs and gauge whether we want to take the relationship further. Let’s call this the ‘above the surface phase’ leave the DMC’s for later!
4. The Intensifying Phase
This phase is where the relationship levels up, it becomes more intimate and personal and you really get to know each other better. Individuals spend more time with one another, they care a lot more for each other and become more concerned for each other. You begin to trust in your partner at this stage and feel more comfortable sharing your thoughts and feelings with him/her – you both realise the relationship is gaining more relevance in your lives.
Both individuals in the relationship tend to frequently express their feelings to one another – verbally (I love you) and nonverbally (holding hands in public.) In romantic relationships, this phase is the one you never want to end, it is the happiest phase, everything seems fresh, intriguing, exhilarating and exciting.
This phase can be a little frustrating if you feel the relationship is ready for this phase but your partner doesn’t appear to feel the same way. Rememberthat people show affection in different ways. Relationships are about learning to read the other person, speaking openly about how you feel loved and appreciated and finding out how they feel loved and appreciated. This may sound like a familiar concept if you’ve ever read The Seven Love Languages (if you haven’t, I highly recommend it!)
Here are a few ways your partner may be showing their affection:
- Telling you exactly how they feel. This may be scary for you if you are not a very upfront kind of person. Understand they aren’t scaring you away! It’s the only way they know how to express themselves.
- Subtle hints such as joking about having children together one day, taking an interest in your interests, getting to know your friends better and even asking them for advice about how to make you happy.
- Testing you to find out if you will put up with them. Guys know all about the games us girls play sometimes to see if they are in it for the long haul.
- Introducing you as their partner to family and friends instead of ‘here’s this chick I’ve been telling you about’ – guys. Really?
- Giving you space to see if you come back, or call you. Whichever.
- Making you jealous. Do I really need to explain this one? ‘I thought you would fight for me!’ – ugh.
5. The Diversion Phase
This is the phase that determines what the future of the relationship will be, as the great William Shakespeare wrote it “to be or not to be – that is the question.” This stage is usually the deal breaker because both parties become more vocal and outspoken about their values and beliefs. Remember those social graces you had in phase one? Well, throw those out the window! This phase boils down to the fact that people are different and diverse, and these factors create conflict, but they can be managed and the management of our differences is the defining factor of if a relationship can stand the test of time or not. The key to this phase is respecting each other’s opinions, beliefs and feelings. And guys, just accept that we are always right.
6. The Integration Phase
This phase is all about two individuals strengthening their bond after making it through phase five – alive! This is where a couple becomes one, reliant on one another for everything, confiding in one another, and accepting one another as they are. The relationship has a sense of assumed continuity and complete trust. Trust allows both parties to be fully honest without having any fear of rejection – this person now knows more about you that anybody else on the planet (your best friend.) These kinds of relationships are very rare, and we will only have them with a very small number of people in our lives – make them count and work on them with everything you’ve got!
7. The Bonding Phase
This phase is about committing to your partner, and by showing the rest of the world that you are serious about that commitment. The bonding phase could be an engagement, a marriage, moving in together, having children, or even buying a home – it shows the world that you are serious.
What phase are you in at the moment? I’d love to hear if this resonated with you or gave you a little bit of clarity! Drop me a comment below or even forward to a friend that needs to figure this one out.