5 Phases Every Couple Goes Through While Dating

Couple Close Together Laughing and Smiling

Whether a relationship is new or has been going on for a while, there are five distinct dating phases all relationships go through. Attraction, reality, commitment, intimacy, and engagement are the five stages that make up this journey.

Even though it seems obvious, all relationships—romantic or platonic—develop over time and undergo various changes as bonds are strengthened, and a sense of closeness develops. Both platonic and romantic relationships can benefit from understanding this.

During each stage, you and your partner will develop and change as a couple, giving you invaluable information about whether you are genuinely meant to be together for the rest of your lives.

You can determine where you and your current partner’s relationship stands and what to do next if you recently started dating by understanding the five phases and determining which stage you are currently in. 

We’ve divided the dating process into five key stages to make it easier for you and your partner to assess where you are in your relationship and, more importantly, whether it has the potential to develop into a long-term commitment. Keep reading to learn more about the stages and how each relates to dating and relationships!

1. Attraction

Attraction is the first stage of dating, and is crucial in deciding whether or not a relationship will develop into something more serious. When it comes to physical attraction, there is no “faking it until you make it” approach; it either exists or it doesn’t. Sadly, the butterflies you get in your belly when attracted to someone will not grow with time.

Many refer to the attraction phase as “the honeymoon phase” or “the love bubble,” which is the intoxicating time of novelty and bliss. And it’s the best stage of dating because you can’t stop touching each other.

You’ll spend a lot of time getting to know each other during this period before deciding whether to move things forward.  

2. Reality

The second stage, known as the “onset of reality,” can sometimes last for as long as six months. This is when you may become aware of your partner’s flaws and the things they do that irritate you, signaling the end of your idyllic “love bubble.” 

It’s not that you’ve lost interest in each other or fallen out of love; rather, it’s because the hormones have worn off, and you’re more in tune with your partner and the fact that the real world exists. When you spend more time with someone, you may notice traits about them that you had previously missed. Perhaps they chew loudly, which irritates you, or they leave their clothes on the floor rather than putting them in the hamper. These are harmless habits that we frequently fail to notice during the initial stage or do not even notice.

I’ve ended relationships because of how someone chews. Many couples end up breaking up during the second stage of their relationship. On the plus side, getting past this phase is a pretty good indication that your relationship is going in the right direction.

3. Commitment

The reality stage is followed by the commitment stage. At this point, you both say you want to be with each other exclusively, and you’ve grown to accept, if not embrace, your partner’s quirks and habits.

This stage now includes supporting each other’s aspirations, needs, and desires after you make the commitment to stand by one another no matter what. If you cohabitate, you will decide where to live and how to move forward with other future plans together.

4. Intimacy

The fourth stage of a relationship, intimacy, is characterized by nurturing the genuine love that has grown over the course of the previous year and stages. Contrary to what most people think, this relationship stage isn’t just about getting sexually intimate; it’s also about getting closer to each other.

When two people develop a deep and meaningful emotional connection with one another, they take the first step toward falling in love. People tend to let their guard down and communicate their most private emotions and thoughts to one another during this time.

This will be the first point in your relationship where you are genuinely open and honest with each other, revealing your deepest emotions and thoughts and gaining a better understanding of each other’s true nature.

5. Engagement

Now we’ve reached the pinnacle, when the couple is engaged and wholly smitten with one another. If you feel you’re ready to take things with your current significant other to the next level, you’ve arrived at the right point. Working together to build a successful and happy future with each other contributes to this level of commitment.

But keep in mind that just because you’ve reached this point and promised to be together forever doesn’t mean there won’t be any bumps in the road. You must be able to own up to mistakes, ask for forgiveness, and move on as a team if you want to get through life together.

Molly Davis
Molly Davis

Molly is an East Coast writer who lives on West Coast time. She’s been in the journalism field for over 20 years — newspapers are her first love but she’s finding digital media to be just as fun and challenging as print! When she’s not giving therapist-quality dating advice, she’s curled up watching movies, reading, or volunteering at local dog shelters.