The 12 Stages Of Relationship Development – Explained

stages of relationship development

From the first look that results in butterflies in your stomach to sitting together in your pyjamas and watching Netflix, a romantic relationship goes through its stages of development.

Relationship development definition is when you want to build up a connection through repetitive interaction. This connection can develop into a friendship, a professional relationship or a romantic relationship. But this connection can only be built through reciprocation.

It cannot happen that one person takes all the initiative and the other sits back and just want the relationship to work. Then it would remain a one-sided relationship that would eventually fizzle out.

In fact, one goes through steps in a relationship sexually too. You just don’t develop sexual intimacy in the very beginning. You have to have emotional intimacy first before you can have a sexually satisfying relationship and that also comes at a particular stage of the relationship.

Good? Bad? Only time will tell.

The relationship development stages are important for they make or break a couple. These stages are more like hoops you have to jump through via trials and tribulations.
Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

As your relationship goes through stages you also have to see how your partner is handling the relationship as you take it to the next level. Relationship Counsellor Aman Bhonsle says this is when you need to watch out for relationship red flags that can prove to be deal breakers.

A red flag is also a dead giveaway that the person lacks manners, empathy and kindness that would have an impact on your relationship with him.  “Red flags in a relationship with a man are often ignored by women because they want to look at the bigger picture that could include success, riches, looks and his Page 3 network. But the red flags can be deal-breakers in a relationship and if ignored could lead to serious consequences.”

12 Stages Of Relationship Development

Here are the 12 stages of relationship development every relationship goes through at some point or the other.

1. First glance/meet-cute

This is bound to be cute. Girl drops books, the boy picks them up, girl giggles at the boy’s joke and BAM! They like each other.

This meet-cute scenario is not with every couple though. You might have been friends first and have fallen for each other after years or months.

You might look at your friend differently and consider them as a viable candidate for a romantic relationship. This stepping away from friendship to gravitate towards a more-than-friendly relationship is common. This is the first stage of romantic relationship development.

Every relationship has a memorable beginning.

Related reading: We made it, despite being strangers in the beginning

2. Get some moves

Partners holding hands
Understanding the relationship you wanted with your partner

The initial months are important to shape what kind of couple you are going to be. Are you holding-hands kind of a couple, or no-PDA kind?

Whatever couple you turn out to be it is a reflection of how you are during your courtship period. If you hold hands on your first outing together, chances are you would do so in the later stages as well. This stage builds up how you portray as a couple to the world.

If your partner cringes at your casual touch then it’s a red flag you got to notice. Holding hands is a simple pleasure, if they are not enjoying it then you need to know why.

3. Become official

There is such a thing as coming out as a couple to your friends and family, who incidentally, has been teasing you both for a while now. ‘Yes, we are together’, ‘No, it did not happen because we were drunk’.

This relationship stage is mostly about getting queries from your close friends about how the love story started. As adults, we might not even have this conversation but as adults, this is more of a step to confirm that you both are on the same page. And that’s good.

Recognising what stage your relationship is in is very important. Your partner might have agreed to be exclusive but they don’t want to make it official as yet. That’s fine they might want to linger on the exclusive stage before telling the world but if this stage carries on for ever then it’s indeed a relationship red flag.

Related reading: Exclusive Dating: It Isn’t Surely About a Committed Relationship

4. Overloading on social media

Social media freaks will surely relate to this and how Instagram is a viable means of declaring you and your partner as a couple now.

A couple or more Insta stories, few status updates about the best qualities your partner has and you are ready to be seen as the new lovebirds on the block.

That’s fine. But your partner might not be comfortable in sharing all nitty gritties of your relationship on SM. You have to work on a balance and not look at it as a red flag that they don’t want to flaunt the relationship. Some people can be introvert and private, accept that.

Related reading: Couples and social media PDA: To share or not to share?

5. First of the many lover’s spat

Couple fighting
The first fight is a marker in a relationship

If we are looking at stages of relationships psychology then first official fight is a vital stage. The cause of the first fight can be totally flimsy Truth be told, the first fight seems like an important stage in relationship development because you get to know your partner a lot better now.

Emotions like anger, rage, tears can be thrown around a lot and the first fight feels like a nightmare. How you choose to deal with it remains the sole question.

Do you like your partner when they are angry or is it something you don’t want to deal with? A lot of decisions are made during and after the fight.

6. Disenchantment

After the big fight comes the point when you are disillusioned with your partner. The flaws show, both yours and theirs. You realize your partner is not the perfect person you imagined to be. You question the future prospects of the relationship.

If the fight reveals whether you want to be with the person in spite of the flaws or consider this a red flag and let go of the relationship. Either way, this stage in relationship development clears a lot of questions in your mind.

Also how you resolve this conflict and how easily you are able to apologise to each other, will tell you how you will deal with your future differences. From disenchantment will come light that’s why the sixth stage of a relationship is very important.

Related reading: 8 fights every couple will have at some point in their relationship

7. Resurrection

The relationship resurrected after the first fight is much stronger than before. You learn your partner’s flaws, accept them and treat it as an integral part of the relationship.

The acceptance that comes with it bonds you two better together. In a relationship, resurrecting it means compromising for the sake of your partner.

A newer version may include you quitting smoking, or not being a workaholic. This stage of relationship is about moulding a better version of yourself; someone your partner vibes better with.

8. Could it be love?

Couple on a date
Could it be love

This stage of a relationship is possibly all about butterflies in the stomach and the songs that suit you so much. Sure, you have been together for some time, but have you said the three words yet? People in this generation resort to texting, ‘I love you’, on WhatsApp.

That is also good enough. Or you could go old school and confess face to face. Write in a letter maybe? One of the best stages of the relationship!

You feel love and it’s a warm fuzzy feeling. Despite the differences you have with your partner when you are together you don’t know how time flies and saying those 3 magic words can work wonders.

9. Second major disillusionment

This can come as a personal crisis in one of your partners. Something like being unemployed, or losing someone close. They might shut themselves off emotionally which can be hard on you.

This is one of the important stages of a relationship and how the relationship will turn gets decided here. Coming out of this stage requires being understanding and empathetic.

How your partner reacts to adversity will also tell you at what stage your relationship is in. They might ask you for emotional support and open up to you for advice and help. You could solve their issues together and make the foundation of the relationship stronger.

But if they clam up, keep stonewalling you for days and do not share their troubles or grief with you then it is a relationship red flag you need to take into account.

Related discussion: Do you always know when your spouse is getting into crisis mode?

10. Stronger intimacy

Intimacy comes in many ways. After facing a crisis together and understanding each other better, intimacy is improved. As you progress through stages of a relationship, you learn to be intimate even without being physical.

Experimenting with sex is an indication of it. You know what works for you and what ‘feels right’ and you are able to open up to your partner. This is when you plan out the dates according to your work schedule and keep intimacy on its toes.

Maybe you are scheduling eating out once a week in a fancy place or watching Netflix in your pyjamas, this is where your intimacy becomes more upgraded.

11. Better understanding and stability

This is a stage where you’re cancelling a date night does not get you in trouble. This is because your partner is more understanding. They know your work pressure; they know something might have come up.

The newly achieved sense of understanding usually happens in a long-term relationship.
You develop a sense of stability in the relationship and take comfort in it. In the relationship stages timeline this is the eleventh stage.

But if your partner refuses to understand your need to work late and insists that they would pick you up and take you to dinner, it’s a relationship read flag. You might think it’s cute that they are throwing a tantrum because they want to be with you, it could be the opposite. They are controlling and immature and are not serious about your career needs.

12. Unuttered trust

Trust being the groundwork for every relationship is crucial and forms the final pillar in stages of relationship development. Through all the 12 stages of a relationship you are building trust and in the last stage you know trust and faith are the two most important aspects of your relationship.

Previously, there might be trust in the relationship but jealousy and insecurity might have crept into your mind.

At this stage, you know you, partner, better than ever and can trust them with your eyes closed. There is no place for negativity in your relationship because you have seen it all together.

Complete trust in a relationship requires time but it is a sign your relationship is going to thrive. These stages of relationship development are subjective to couples. Some arrive to their relationship bliss faster while others work hard to achieve it. If yours have not arrived yet, fret not. You are getting there sooner than you think.

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