Happy, healthy romantic relationships do not simply happen. Instead, they endure a developmental process. They mature over time, and friction is inevitable. Additionally, every relationship is different, influenced by each partner's actions, values and personality. Both high and low points are to be expected, and maintaining an awareness of them will help you understand the changes taking place within your own relationship.
The initial period of a romantic relationship is typically marked by infatuation. A mutual crush develops, and as each person indulges in the other, passion and attraction thrive. During this time, the biochemistry in your brain changes, and your feelings for your new partner are intense, states psychologist Deborah Khoshaba in her article for Psychology Today titled, "The Early Stages of Falling in Love." She also warns that your usual priorities, such as work, school, family or friends, "may fall to the wayside" as you become more and more enamored with this fresh love. Your perception of the world -- not just your relationship -- will be influenced by the rainbows-and-butterflies feelings your new partner incites in you.
Transition to Reality
Infatuation does not last forever. Once the hormonal frenzy of a new relationship subsides, you may not feel quite as smitten as you were initially, according to science writer Anil Ananthaswamy in his article for New Scientist titled, "Hormones Converge for Couples in Love." Conflict eventually becomes inevitable. This is a healthy, normal part of relationships, although it can be uncomfortable and upsetting. Couples become aware of one another's flaws and find themselves in tense disagreement. This period functions as a test of the couple's ability to communicate, negotiate, compromise and generally solve problems. It is also common for each of you to distance yourselves from each other as you attempt to reaffirm individuality and establish a sensible perspective of the relationship.
Assessment and Evaluation
Once partners have experienced each other's attributes and imperfections, they are able to consider how the relationship fits into their lives. In her article for match.com titled, Four Stages of Romance, Laura Schaefer warns that this can be a trying time, wrought with emotional and potentially life-changing decisions. You may decide that you and your partner are incompatible, and that the pleasure you derive from the relationship is not worth its dysfunction. Conversely, you may find that you care very much for your partner as a whole -- with both positive and negative qualities. You might also be satisfied with the way you and your partner communicate and resolve issues together, and determine that the relationship has a strong foundation.
As partners come to realize that they can endure conflict and maintain their attraction to each other, they often grow closer and more comfortable than ever before. They accept each other's complexities and respect their differences, states therapist Teresa Maples in a guest blog for eHarmony. As you move into this period of your relationship's evolution, you and your partner may recognize and discuss the possibility of a higher level of commitment. This can mean moving in together, marriage, children or a business venture or other project. As with all relationships, yours will still need to be embraced and nurtured as you and your partner evolve together.
- Psychology Today: The Early Stages of Falling in Love: Deborah Khoshaba, Psy.D.
- New Scientist: Hormones Converge for Couples in Love: Anil Ananthaswamy
- eHarmony Blog: How Many Stages Are There in a Romantic Relationship?: Teresa Maples
- Match.com:Happen: Four Stages of Romance: Laura Schaefer
- Scientific American: Does Falling in Love Make Us More Creative?: Nira Liberman and Oren Shapira
- Noel Hendrickson/Photodisc/Getty Images