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Relationship Stages That Most Couples Will Go Through

Head and shoulders photograph of Suzannah Weiss
A happy couple smiling at one another while at a festival
The exciting thing about being in a relationship is that it probably won't be the same in a year or even a month from today because relationships evolve over time. If you're just starting a relationship, knowing the stages of a relationship can help you understand what to expect.

If they've been dating for a while, couples may go through a rut and assume that this means there's a problem in the relationship when it's really just the normal waxing and waning of passion. Understanding the stages in a relationship can prevent you from being unnecessarily alarmed if this happens and can help you keep your love strong the whole way through.

The ways in which relationships evolve are not all negative. Often, relationships get stronger over time, and excitement and passion can increase if both people put in the effort. Here are a few common stages relationships go through and how to make the most of each.

» Wondering if it’s more than just casual? Here are signs your relationship is getting serious.

Different Stages of a Relationship

What are the different stages a relationship goes through? It will vary from couple to couple, but here are a few common stages.

» Want to spice up your relationship? Here are our top picks for the best relationship apps.

The Honeymoon Phase

When people talk about early passion that often fades as time goes on, they're usually referring to the honeymoon phase relationship. This phase typically occurs during the first six months to two years of a relationship when two people are getting to know each other and forming a relationship. Usually, it's an exciting time because everything is new, leading to partners seeing each other through rose-colored glasses.

Couples who have been together longer can recreate elements of the honeymoon phase by spending time apart, taking trips, and going on adventures together to create a sense of thrill.

Important Considerations

This phase may begin while people are still using dating sites to get to know many different people. It may be tempting to delete your dating app profiles as soon as you feel this infatuation, but you can extend the honeymoon phase by taking your time before making a commitment.

The Attachment Phase

After the honeymoon phase, partners may take a step back and assess whether or not the chemistry remains and whether both people’s values and goals align. Without as much emotional influence on their judgments, they may be better able to assess whether or not they are with the right person. This is known as the attachment phase.

What is attachment love? Once two people get into a routine with each other several years in, they form what psychologists call an attachment. An attachment is a close connection that involves expectations of regular contact and support on both sides. Attachment is not necessarily the same thing as love, which is more about deeply caring for someone, rather than feeling a desire or need to be with them (but there is a lot of overlap).

During the attachment stage, people often have a deeper and more intense love for their partner. This stage brings greater calmness, security, and comfort, along with a desire to protect each other and the sense that you two are a team.

Important Considerations

This is a time when some of the excitement may die down, so it's important to make an effort to continue growing together and learning new things about each other.

If you want to rekindle some of the excitement of getting to know each other for the first time, you can use one of the best relationship apps to connect with your partner in new ways.

» Having doubts? Here are the right reasons to date someone.

The Crisis Phase

Five to seven years in, a couple that has been together for a while often goes through a crisis, whether that is sparked by cheating, a major disagreement, difficulties with parenting, or something that jeopardizes the relationship.

How couples handle a crisis will determine how strong their relationship is going forward, so it's important to practice good listening and communication skills.

Important Considerations

How your partner behaves during a crisis reveals a lot about them. If you don't make it through this phase, it doesn't mean your relationship failed; it means you succeeded in discovering what does and doesn't work for you.

You will know when to start dating again by asking yourself what you've learned from the relationship and how you'll take those lessons to your next one. If it doesn't work out, you can always use apps like Zoosk or EliteSingles to find your next partner.

The Deep Attachment Phase

Attachment styles in relationships matter in the long term.

After several years, couples who can survive a crisis often end up experiencing a deep emotional attachment to their partner. This profound love stems not just from attraction and compatibility but also from facing hardship together.

If you have reached this stage, the chances are high that your relationship will last a lifetime.

Important Considerations

During the deep attachment phase, your relationship will stabilize, but that doesn't mean it's time to stop putting in an effort.

Make a point to continue getting to know each other, trying new things together, and working on your relationship.

Who Usually Pulls Away From a Relationship in the Early Stages?

Some people wonder which gender mostly pulls away in the early stages of a relationship. The truth is that the tendency to pull away is less about gender and more about attachment style, which is essentially how someone forms bonds. Our early relationships with our parents, caregivers, siblings, and peers shape our attachment style. There are four main types, evenly distributed across all genders.

» Not sure about what you need? Here’s the dating vs. relationship breakdown.

Secure Attachment

People often wonder: “What does secure attachment look like?”

Secure attachment in adults means that they generally feel confident in their ability to form lasting relationships and don't excessively worry about losing a partner. They can show affection and put their feelings on the table while also taking time and space for themselves.

Anxious Attachment

Those with an anxious attachment style in relationships tend to be worried about losing the people they care about and will often go to great lengths to keep them in their lives. These people may have trouble saying no and may sacrifice their own needs for a partner's.

For example, one anxious attachment trigger may be if a partner doesn’t respond to a text as quickly as they usually do or if they seem distant during a conversation. Anxious attachment style symptoms include asking for reassurance that a partner loves you or is attracted to you, calling multiple times until there is a response, and assuming a breakup is imminent whenever there is conflict.

Anxious attachment, also known as anxious ambivalent attachment, usually stems from childhood issues with a caregiver who was inconsistent. In other words, the person’s parents (or other caregivers) sometimes met their needs but sometimes did not, leading them to wonder whether the people in their life will be there for them.

» Struggling with your partner? Here are signs you're not ready for a relationship.

Avoidant Attachment

People with an avoidant attachment style are afraid of becoming too reliant on others. They often prefer to spend time alone so that they don't have to deal with the unpredictability of relationships and may push partners away so that they don't get pushed away themselves.

Those who exhibit avoidant attachment are sometimes classed into those with fearful avoidant attachment, who want to be close to others but become distrustful of them, and those with dismissive avoidant attachment, who dismiss intimacy altogether due to the distrust they harbor toward people.

Dating dismissive avoidant attachment-oriented people can be challenging, as there is no formula for how to make an avoidant feel safe. An avoidant attachment relationship may require patience as someone learns to open up, and it also may require the other person to reassure their avoidant partner that they aren’t going anywhere.

Disorganized Attachment

An anxious and disorganized attachment in relationships can cause turmoil. Partners with this attachment style have a combination of anxious and avoidant attachment styles. At times, they may chase a partner, and at other times, they may run away.

» Just got out of a long-term relationship? You should know when to start dating again.

As you might guess, people with avoidant or disorganized attachment styles usually pull away at the beginning of a relationship. They may be afraid that if they get close to somebody, that person will hurt them. They may also want to appear to care less so that they feel like they have more power.

If this sounds like you, just be conscious of when you might be avoiding your partner or hiding your feelings and make an effort to be vulnerable and get close to them even when it feels scary.

» Time for you to move on? Check out our top 10 picks for the best dating apps and websites.

Head and shoulders photograph of Suzannah Weiss
Suzannah Weiss is a feminist writer, certified sex educator, and Brown University graduate in Cognitive Neuroscience and Gender and Sexuality Studies. In addition to writing for Top10.com, Suzannah written for major publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan. Weiss' writing about feminist issues and sexuality has also been discussed on The Today Show, The View, and C-SPAN.