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What are the 6 relationship stages?

Relationships go through different stages as they grow and develop over time. While every relationship is unique, most tend to follow a similar trajectory that can be broken down into 6 main stages. Understanding these stages can provide insight into where a relationship stands, where it might be headed, and what work needs to be done to keep it healthy and strong.

Stage 1: Initial Meeting

This first stage involves that initial encounter between two people. It could be two strangers meeting for the first time, old acquaintances reconnecting, or even two friends taking their relationship to a new romantic level. The initial meeting stage is marked by a sense of excitement and discovery as both people size each other up and determine if there is chemistry worth exploring further.

Some key aspects of this initial meeting stage include:

  • Getting to know basic information about each other
  • Determining initial attraction or interest
  • Discussing surface-level topics and common interests
  • Being on your best behavior and putting your best foot forward
  • Starting the process of seeing if you “click” and want to continue interacting

This stage can last for one brief first date or it may take several meetups before both people feel they know enough to decide if they want to pursue things further. The key here is determining that initial spark and mutual interest to warrant continuing down the relationship path.

Stage 2: Curiosity and Infatuation

If both people decide there is enough interest and attraction after that first encounter, the relationship typically progresses to the curiosity and infatuation stage. As the name implies, this stage is driven by fascination about the other person and an intense focus on all the ways you are compatible and everything you have in common.

Typical behaviors in this stage include:

  • Frequent communication – Calling, texting, emailing, and messaging back and forth
  • Wanting to spend time together as much as possible
  • Opening up and sharing information about your lives and past
  • Fantasizing about the future together
  • Overlooking or minimizing differences and flaws
  • Physical intimacy increases

This stage feels euphoric and almost addictive. Your brain is flooded with feel-good chemicals like dopamine that create a high every time you interact with the other person. Everything seems exciting as you explore the new relationship.

Stage 3: Building Intimacy and Trust

If a relationship has potential for long-term success, it will eventually transition from the uncertainty and thrill of infatuation to a stage focused on building intimacy and trust.

Some features of this stage include:

  • Sharing more vulnerable emotions, fears, and hopes for the future
  • Having in-depth conversations about important topics and challenging issues
  • Discussing differences and navigating conflict in a healthy manner
  • Relying on each other for support during difficult times
  • Expressing love and appreciating each other’s uniqueness
  • Slowly integrating your lives together

This stage represents a major shift. The focus is no longer on the thrill of the chase but rather on deliberately building a deeper connection. Investing time and energy into intimacy and trust is essential for creating the strong foundation that allows a relationship to last over time.

Stage 4: Stability and Commitment

With the solid basis of intimacy and trust established, relationships can now transition into the stability and commitment stage. This is where couples cement their devotion to one another with the mutual expectation of exclusivity.

Some major developments in this stage are:

  • Making your relationship publicly known and “official”
  • Meeting each other’s families and integrating into each other’s social circles
  • Making joint decisions about major issues like moving in together or large purchases
  • Discussing long-term compatibility factors like marriage, kids, religious alignment, etc.
  • Willingness to compromise and work as a team
  • Expressing commitment to stay together regardless of challenges

While this stage represents security in the relationship, it also involves navigating differences and disagreements that arise. The work doesn’t stop once commitment is established – effort is still required to intentionally maintain the health of the relationship.

Stage 5: Continued Growth

Relationships can’t stay stagnant – they are either growing or dying. The continued growth phase represents a relationship that continues maturing by actively investing in the connection.

Hallmarks of the growth stage are:

  • Discovering new things about each other and growing together
  • Facing challenges and setbacks together
  • Supporting each partner’s goals and dreams
  • Sharing new experiences and making new memories
  • Finding small ways to continue courting each other
  • Working together to handle conflict productively
  • Making time for genuine connection amid life’s business

Staying in this stage requires partners to fight complacency and routine and devote focused energy to nurturing their relationship.

Stage 6: Long-term Commitment

The final stage involves relationships that continue on to long-term commitment and potentially the rest of your lives together. These relationships have withstood the test of time and evolved through many ups and downs.

Attributes of this stage include:

  • An unbreakable bond and enduring love
  • Being life partners and helpmates
  • Truly knowing and understanding each other
  • Celebrating shared history and memories
  • Continuing courtship, affection and intimacy
  • Working together to handle challenges as they come up
  • A relationship that feels secure and committed no matter what

Arriving at this stage of total commitment is not guaranteed. It requires constant effort and investment from both partners over the years. But for couples who actively nourish their relationship, the reward is a love that endures for decades.


Understanding the typical relationship stages helps provide a general roadmap for what to expect as a relationship progresses. Of course, every relationship is unique and there may be overlap or variations in the stages. The key is to be aware of these phases so you can anticipate challenges before they arise and devote focused effort to nurture the relationship at each stage.

With active engagement from both partners, a relationship can smoothly navigate these stages, overcome pitfalls, and develop into an enduring, committed union.