10 Relationship Stages Every Long-Term Couple Goes Through

While no two relationships are the same, many couples experience similar stages that correspond to the age of their relationship and its challenges. For many couples, things are rosy keen in the earlier stages but take a turn for the worse as the initial euphoria wears off. If one thing is for sure, it’s that relationship take work. Just because you’re going through a difficult stage doesn’t mean the relationship is over, but conversely, these stages come and go, so the good ones aren’t meant to last forever either. What determines the success of your relationship is how you navigate each of the stages together.

  1. The Awkward Stage You know that stage when you both like each other but are too scared to make a move? Yep, that’s the awkward sage. It doesn’t look the same for every couple. Some duos may have already hooked up, whereas others have barely said a few words to each other. But what’s memorable about this stage is it’s when you’re both figuring out the other person’s feelings and what you’ll do about it.
  2. The “Are We Dating?” Stage After it’s been confirmed that both of you like one another comes the awkward phase in which you’ll question your official relationship status. As the two of you get to know each other better and spend more time together, it’ll bring you closer together and also closer to that uncomfortable conversation when you question the exclusivity of your relationship. We’ve all been there!
  3. The Honeymoon Stage This phase comes around the time the two of you decide that, yes, it’s official. You’ll be head over heels for your significant other, so much so you’ll question whether it’s possible to ever feel this way about another person. You’ll crave spending all your time with your lover and will miss them terribly when you’re apart. The relationship will appear perfect in both of your eyes, even if your loved ones can see the problems arising between the two of you.
  4. The First Fight Stage Whether you fought over something big or small, most couples can remember the moment their honeymoon phase was shattered by their first fight. Even if the subject of the argument was inconsequential, nothing compares to the gut-wrenching feeling of realizing your relationship, and more specifically, your significant other isn’t perfect. While it likely won’t take the two of you long to make up, how you work through the issue will set the tone for how you deal with larger challenges later on in the relationship.
  5. The Partnership Stage While you may no longer get butterflies in the pit of your stomach when hanging out one-on-one, the partnership stage is special in and of itself. It’s when you begin to see how compatible you are with your significant other. You no longer see each other as just boyfriend and girlfriend. Rather, you’ve found a life partner. You’re no longer lovers but are a team. You see the way in which the other person compliments your life and vice versa. Many couples begin to hit big milestones in this phase, whether it’s moving in together or even tying the knot.
  6. The Crisis Stage What goes up must come down, as they say. This phase comes after your relationship has been on a high for what seems like forever. Between the honeymoon stage, partnering up, and navigating your first fight together, your bond likely feels unbreakable… until it doesn’t anymore. The crisis stage comes when you first begin questioning if the relationship is made to last. Maybe a major betrayal has created feelings of doubt, or you both feel as though you’ve drifted apart. Either way, you can feel your relationship heading into a crisis.
  7. The Deep Affection Stage You can enter this stage ever after going through what feels like a crisis in your relationship. As much as the highs have brought you closer together, so have the low points. You’ve likely been together for years, but even after all of the dark times you’ve weathered together, you’ll begin to see everything you’ve overcome as a testament to your love. Your feelings will feel deeper than ever before and you’ll be more committed to the relationship. You’ll question if it’s possible to ever love another person like you do for your significant other.
  8. The “Where Are We Going” Stage Every relationship feels stuck at some point. Perhaps the weight of your unresolved issues is taking a toll on the relationship, or you have different opportunities and priorities pulling you in different directions. Whatever the case, this is the phase in which you begin to question if the relationship is going the way you want. While the relationship may have worked for you at one time, maybe it’s not doing the same now, and that’s completely okay. It’s important to reflect on the relationship and weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.
  9. The Denial Stage After reflecting on the status of your relationship, perhaps you’ve come to see it’s more of a hindrance than anything – but that doesn’t mean you’ve come to terms with it yet. Upon realizing the relationship has run its course, many couples slip into a denial phase where they ignore their problems until the last minute. It’s easy to pretend like things are copasetic when we’re not ready to fully let go of something so important in our lives. While this is normal, proceed with caution. Failing to address the overarching problems won’t strengthen or mend the relationship. Rather, it will leave the two of you unhappy until you decide on the right step to take to mend or end the relationship.
  10. The Uncertain Stage This stage usually comes for couples after they’ve acknowledged and come to terms with the issues present in the relationship. No one is sugar-coating things anymore. Rather, it’s all laid out on the table. The uncertainty comes from deciding what to do. In some cases, a couple believes it’s in their best interest to break up. Other times, they decide there are ways to try and repair the damage. There’s no saying what’s the best thing to do since it depends on everyone’s personal situation. But make sure to trust your gut. Do whatever is in your best interest, even if that means admitting the relationship has run its course.
Alexandra is a freelance writer in Montreal, Quebec. She enjoys shopping as a sport, Buffy the Vampire Slayer re-runs, and being a plant mom.