Shakespeare described the seven stages of man beautifully in his famous poem, similarly every relationship goes through its own set of stages, some relationships tend to skip a stage or two, but all of them typically go through them in some form or another. But unlike Shakespeare’s clearly demarcated stages, the stages in a relationship might not be so clear-cut and defined, and many times they happen so gradually and at a subconscious level, that they are almost imperceptible, and sometimes they can also revert to previous stages. But stages, they definitely go through.
The hunky-dory stage
Also referred to as the honeymoon stage, this is the heady stage when you fall in love with your partner, and everything seems hunky-dory, a stage when you whisper sweet nothings and gaze into each other’s eyes unmindful of other onlookers. This is for some the best stage in a relationship, because you are not really worried about the things that will crop up later and even if you do, you have the conviction that “love will conquer all” because your heart is full of hope for a rosy future.
Alas, like all good things this stage too will come to end, sometimes it can take a few weeks and even sometimes a year or two. But eventually it is not self-sustaining however much you would’ve thought it would be when you initially fell in love. And so you slowly slip into the next stage.
The “reality” stage
The “realistic” stage. A stage when things come down from the so called plane of love to sometimes “harsh” reality. In this stage, you slowly begin to see your partner for what he or she really is – with the positive and negative traits. You might have noticed them in the previous stage, but you always thought love would change him / her – love conquers after all. And when you see that it doesn’t change as easily, arguments erupt, fights break out or you might slip into moodiness or simply withdraw into your own shell as a form of punishment towards your partner.
In this stage the emotionally mature person has a stronger task at hand and will come out as the pillar of the relationship. But if the other person refuses the support, things will begin to get rocky. In this stage it’s important to lay issues out, to talk out openly and maturely and see how the differences can be sorted out.
“What next?” stage
If you’ve managed to tide over the previous stage as two mature individuals and ones who have vowed to rough it out and have sorted out differences, you might enter the stage sometimes also known as “dead zone”. This is the stage when you feel nothing really happens – after the heady love phase and the tempestuous “reality” stage, you enter a dull phase. Usually by now, several years have passed and maybe children have robbed you of your time together. You might still love the person, but the intensity might have diminished and many times there could also develop – subconsciously -- an emotional disconnect.
If this is led to continue for an extended period of time, it might even lead to one of those couples who live a domestically peaceful life, but one that is devoid of any true connection. Some partners seeking something more meaningful might even decided to go seek it elsewhere. On the other hand if you identify this stage for what it represents – the end of the relationship, you can work together to get out of it to get back the spark in your relationship.
You know you’ve entered this stage when you complement each other in a positive way, truly accept and also respect each other for who you really are, especially in the light of all the stages you’ve been through before. There are times when you might revert to any of the previous stages, but at the same time you also have the confidence that you can overcome them, because you’ve been there before. But come what may, in this stage, you also have the conviction that you are in it together as a team and as true life partners in good times and bad times.
When you look back into the story of your own relationship, can you recognize these stages and how you dealt with them? And where do you think your relationship stands now?