What Is the Progression of a Romantic Relationship?

Early dating infatuation isn't the same as love.
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Relationships are as individual as the people who are in them, yet all relationships follow a general progression. In high school and college, most relationships end relatively early in the process, not because they are not valuable, but because you are probably not ready for lifelong love. Still, understanding the stages helps you figure out where your relationship stands.

1 Falling in Lust

The first stage of a relationship consists of falling in lust. This is what therapist Zoe Hicks states in "The 5 Stages of Intimacy in a Relationship" on PsychCentral.com. Nancy Wesson also states this on her own website, WesPsych. This stage encompasses the initial attraction and the first few dates. Your boyfriend seems perfect for you, and the two of you likely spend hours chatting. You probably feel as though you can do anything now that you have such a special person in your life. Although many people mistake this for love -- it is actually a biochemical process that takes place in your brain. This phase generally lasts for a few weeks or months.

2 Making a Commitment

Somewhere near the end of stage one, couples generally make a commitment to each other. A couple probably begins to date exclusively and makes loose plans for a future together. You meet each other’s friends and family, and become an important part of each other’s lives. During the second stage, which Hicks calls Landing in "The 5 Stages of Intimacy in a Relationship," real life intrudes. You begin to notice each other’s annoying habits. You might even begin to resent the things about your girlfriend you once found cute and endearing. This stage often lasts through the first year or more of the relationship, and many couples break up at this point.

3 Fear and Doubt

According to Hicks in "The 5 Stages of Intimacy in a Relationship," the third stage is known as Burying. On WesPsych.com, Wesson refers to it as Permanent Commitment. Although you are probably not thinking about marriage yet, it is important to note that this is the time when many couples do marry. This stage could also hit when one of you graduates and begins to move on with adult life. In this phase, real life concerns become more important than maintaining the relationship, and the relationship becomes buried under a mountain of daily chores. You rarely talk to each other about anything other than day-to-day existence. This is another time when couples often break up.

4 Falling in Love

Your relationship must make it through the tough second and third stages before you can begin to truly fall in love, according to both Hicks and Wesson. Stage four, known as Resurfacing, is when you begin to rediscover all the things you loved about your partner. You know each other on a much deeper level; you have made it through your struggles; and, you appreciate each other in a whole new way. Stage four naturally gives way to stage five -- known as Love. Most couples who reach this phase stay together for the long haul. However, it is important to know that couples often revisit earlier stages throughout their lives. Falling and staying in love is a lifelong process.

Lisa Fritscher is a freelance writer specializing in disabled adventure travel. She spent 15 years working for Central Florida theme parks and frequently travels with her disabled father. Fritscher's work can be found in both print and online mediums, including VisualTravelTours.com. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of South Florida.