The Stages of a Relationship: 3 HelpfulSteps to Make a Couple

The relationship is a process in motion that goes through different stages. From fusion to a lasting relationship, an analysis of an obstacle course that requires openness and adaptability…

“To be in love is not a state but a future”, wrote the Italian psycho-psychologist Francesco Alberoni. Since this reference work, we no longer count the studies of couples therapists who insisted on the evolutionary model of the state in love. Whether they update three; four or six steps, these researches all agree to say that; from Love at first sight to rapprochement through differentiation, Love follows a chronology.

It is not a question of saying that all our stories of the heart take place according to one and the same scenario; each one arrives in the couple with his experiences, his fragilities, his strengths; and it is from the encounter between these two stories that the nature and the evolution of love will depend. Then, depending on how long it takes them to cohabit or have children, how much they care about their relationship, and how old they are, the partners spend more or less time on one or the other of the stages of the relationship. Similarly; the transition from one phase to the other is not definitive: there are times of regression, acceleration, stagnation…

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However, all long-term relationships go through identical stages. Based on the various existing studies, we have identified three. How are these steps key to a happy and lasting relationship? How do we move from one to the other? With what consequences?Analysis of the love story seen as a journey.


  • The signs: “you are the one I expected “; “we agree on everything”; “you and I are one” … today, any relationship, or almost any relationship, begins with a passionate attraction. It’s intense love, “symbiosis,” according to psychologists Ellyn Bader and Peter T. Pearson. For lovers, every distance is heartbreak and every shared experience is an opportunity to discover new commonalities: it seems obvious that we were meant to meet.
  • The advantages: this step is essential to the formation of the couple since it creates the complicity. The marriage counselor Françoise Sand adds that she is “one of the rare moments in existence where one can mature without pain”: she allows to go out of oneself; to discover aspects of life that one had not considered alone or that one was afraid of. Passion love gives wings.
  • Traps: this passion love rests largely on lures. Indeed, each one imagines that if this relationship is so intense; it is because the other corresponds perfectly to the image of the ideal partner that he carries within him. In other words, rather than seeing it in what it really is and globally; it becomes the basis of our projections. The expectation of him is so strong that we idealize him: his faults are denied in favor of his qualities alone.
  • The keys: absolutely enjoy this honeymoon, because it is as pleasant as it is ephemeral. It would last between two and three years, on average. After? The return to reality is self-evident and this reassuring fusion is gradually becoming suffocating and alienating. There’s a need for air.

The differentiation

  • The signs : “you are not who I thought you were”; “I do not understand that you would like it”; ” you do not know what I really think “… with the cohabitation, the sharing of daily life and the responsibilities to assume, the couple descends from its cloud to confront reality. While they saw only what united them, the partners gradually discovered their differences. The other reveals all the facets of his personality. Disappointment? Inevitably; since it is a question of saying goodbye to the idealized image that each one had of the other, but also of himself: the life of two makes us discover aspects of our own character, which we had never had the opportunity to understand and which the other helps us to perceive.
  • The advantages: this step is fundamental because it allows you to rediscover yourself, to reconnect with your own life interests and goals. Without this step, the fusion ends up being experienced as a straitjacket in which the personalities of each one are denied … until the crisis. On infidelity or a sudden departure, more than one love story ends before passing this phase.
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  • The pitfalls: it is not easy to break with your fantasy of love and accept to live a relationship that is not every day synonymous with pleasure. A sign of our attachment to a romantic tradition or of the influence of a society that makes hedonism a goal: we tend to think that the fiery of the early days is ” the ” definition of love. The other difficulty lies in the fact that this stage of the return to reality does not occur simultaneously among the partners: the one who still lives in idealization may think himself abandoned, less loved, while the other will not feel recognized in a relationship that has become suffocating.
  • The keys: To take the air is to know how to leave the couple to live their leisure activities, to serve their professional ambitions… it is to become ” one ” again, to define their territory that is not the same as that of their partner. To gain acceptance for this distance, communication is essential: the partners must dare to explain their desires, their needs, in order to avoid this differentiation being interpreted as a flight or a decline of love.

The rapprochement

  • Signs: “I want to build my future with you”; “what if we buy a house?”I’m ready to make an effort to make it work for us” … the previous step allowed everyone to redefine themselves, in their own eyes and in the eyes of the other. This phase consists now to measure the compatibility of their respective expectations and to reflect on the means that each is ready to provide to work at the foundation of their couple. It is no longer love understood as: “one + one = one” (the fusion), nor “one + one = two” (the distancing), but “one + one = three” : you, me and our couple. This third “couple” element will be born from the development of constantly updated joint projects; which, in the future, will give the relationship its dynamics and guarantee its sustainability. What do we really want for ourselves and for the relationship? What do we expect from our life together? The opportunity is all found to talk about marriage, children, home to buy…
  • The advantages: in this time of rapprochement, love truly expresses its desire for the future. Certain love serenity becomes possible. The lasting “contract” established between the partners will not prevent disputes; but at this stage, the feeling of love knows how to admit differences and makes you want to find adjustments to overcome them.
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  • Traps: consolidated by time and shared trials, this love tends to turn to friendship.
  • The risk: to sink in a happy cohabitation, but where the desire, the impassioned impulses would no longer have their place, and to tire either of the partners in need of a more sparkling loving state.
  • The keys: to sustain this solid love, the challenge is to get out of the comfort it offers from time to time. First, by regularly challenging established projects and working together to develop new objectives. Then, by sometimes pushing the tranquillity of her love to integrate passion into it: updating these insanity strokes that sublimated the first months of the relationship and daring to merge, giving up body and mind to her love… even for a weekend. It is in this subtle mixture between reason (building projects) and passion that the couple will give themselves the chance to invent a love as delicious as durable.

The crises to be crossed


The confrontation of tastes in decoration or cooking, questions of money raised by rents and bills to pay, incompatibility of habits or rhythms of each: cohabitation gives love many opportunities to live its first crisis.

The challenge is to communicate. At this young age of the relationship, partners often prefer to keep their dissatisfaction with themselves, for fear of vexing or disappointing. On the contrary, it is by expressing their frustrations and listening to those of the other that they will find the adjustments to be made to improve the conditions of cohabitation.


With the arrival of a child, then two, then… love loses its exclusive object, the partner. The crisis threatens when marital love is denigrated for the sole benefit of filial love.

The challenge: multiply her love and attention to her partner so that she doesn’t leave her couple without affection.


More children at home, more time-consuming work, partners face-to-face. In these “forced reunions”, the difficulty will be to relearn to a love well established to adjust its step on that of daily upset.

The challenge: it is for each one to take stock of his life, to clarify his expectations with regard to his new schedule, and then to confront them with those of the other. How can they coexist? What are the shared objectives? At the end of this assessment, a new couple of projects will not fail to appear.

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