13 Stages Of A Healthy Relationship (2021)

9 min read

Howdy partner! You’re about to learn the 13 stages of a healthy relationship.

In my role as a life coach, I have spent an incredible amount of time studying romantic relationships and what makes them work. 

While it’s true that every relationship is different, I have noticed that all healthy lasting relationships tend to go through these 13 stages.

If your relationship is set to make it to a ‘happily ever after’, you’ll probably go through each of these stages first. 

Let’s dive right into it.

Stages Of A Healthy Relationship
Photo by Scott Broome on Unsplash

1. Introduction

The first stage is meeting each other. You might scoff, but it’s actually the stage which people most commonly struggle to get past. 

A common reason why a lot of people remain single is because they’re not meeting enough candidates. They’re not putting themselves out there!

‘Approach anxiety’ is an epidemic killing thousands of potential relationships per day. This phenomenon – where one person sees someone they’re attracted to but are too afraid to introduce themselves – is typically associated with men. That’s because society still expects men to make the first move in these situations.

But if you’re a woman and you spot an attractive man, who’s to say you can do nothing but wait, flick your hair and pray he talks to you? This is your romantic future at stake. Surely, there’s nothing wrong with taking it into your own hands?

Whether you’re a man or woman approaching a man or a woman, most people will take it as a compliment. That’s provided you approach them with honesty, empathy and respect. 

Don’t let your self-consciousness or fear of rejection stop you from experiencing the magic of the next 12 stages.

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2. Intrigue

Intrigue is the stage when one person ignites the other’s interest. They’re no longer the next person in a sea of background characters. There’s something about them that makes you want to keep getting to know them.

Intrigue can sometimes occur before the couple meets. Perhaps one person spotted the other performing on stage. In the case of celebrity romances, it’s common that both people are aware of the other before meeting.

Still, it’s only when the couple really talks that intrigue can build and develop into the future stages.

Sadly, a lot of people ‘play it safe’ when they first meet a potential partner. They give in to shyness or stick to smalltalk, instead of expressing their personality without filters. They keep to these boundaries, because they fear the other person won’t like their true self. In doing so, they often fail to stand out and prevent the intrigue stage from ever happening.

You’ll do a lot better in your search for love if 90% of prospects hated you, but 10% ADORED you. That’s what happens when you express yourself without filters.  

The alternative has 100% of people thinking you’re kind-of OK, but 0% excited enough to date you. This is the situation the stereotypical ‘nice guy’ finds himself in, and that’s why he always finishes last.    

3. Infatuation

Infatuation is the stage where the partner goes from interested to attracted.

This can happen the moment they lay eyes on you. 

However, in most cases, you’re going to need to showcase an attractive personality before anyone acts on their infatuation.  This is especially true if you’re a man hoping to attract a woman.

Still, the most important tip to make it to this stage is to FLIRT. You can be a really interesting and charismatic guy, but if you don’t flirt with this woman, she’s likely only going to ever see you as a friend. You can be a smart, funny, gorgeous woman but if you don’t flirt with a guy, he’ll often assume you’re not interested.

When you confidently flirt with someone, you will often become more attractive in their eyes. Before you weren’t even considered as a potential love interest. Now, you’re in pole position.

Yes, by instigating the flirtation, you make yourself vulnerable to a potential rejection. But, by NOT flirting at all, you make yourself extremely vulnerable to the other person saying ‘nice to meet you’, leaving and barely thinking of you again. Your choice. 

4. Courtship

Courtship is the stage where one partner pursues the other to explore a romantic relationship further.

Traditionally, this stage would begin with one person asking the other to swap contact details, so they can organise a first date.

Ever since the introduction of online dating, this could happen before the couple has even met. In today’s ‘hook-up culture’, it could begin after the couple met in a bar, went to one of their  homes and had sex. What a time to be alive!

Here’s a point I’d like to make about courtship. TV and movies are always dragging out this stage. The male protagonist is always doing a bunch of things to impress his love interest, before he asks her out. This is largely unnecessary.

If you’ve spotted signs of intrigue and infatuation in the initial conversation, you’re usually all good to ask this person on a date. The confidence to do this so early is usually impressive enough in itself.

Here’s another more important point. Hollywood always shows men completing huge romantic gestures at this stage. In real life, a lot of people may feel this is too much, too early. It’s usually perceived as desperate and can kill any infatuation that did exist. Focus on getting to know each other and save the big gestures for future stages in your relationship.   

5. Romance 

The romance stage is where both halves of the couple admit their feelings for one another. Usually, they’ve been dating for a few weeks. Most probably, they’ll put a label on their relationship, stop dating other people and reveal to their friends they’re officially a couple. (That’s not to stay open or polygamous relationships can’t be healthy too, but we’ll avoid mentioning these for the sake of brevity).

This stage is often nicknamed “The Honeymoon Phase” because everything feels so new and perfect. Both partners have butterflies in their stomach whenever they’re together. Dopamine is flowing like wine at an open bar. You can keep your hands off each other. This person seems to have no flaws at all.

It’s a beautiful stage – so enjoy it. The mistake that many couples believe is that it lasts forever. 

The honeymoon stage does end for all couples. Rather than being sad about that, try and recognise that the future stages can be even more fulfilling.  

6. Familarisation 

This is the stage where both partners start to merge their lives into one another. They meet each other’s friends and families. They start considering each other’s plans before making their own.

One partner’s highs and lows begins to affect the other. Perhaps they even decide to move in together. 

In this stage, the couple begin communication about each other’s hopes and dreams for the future. Do both partners want kids one day? Do they believe in marriage? Where do they see themselves in five years’ time? 

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7. Conflict + Resolution

Conflict is inevitable in any relationship. If it doesn’t arise soon after the familiarisation stage, there’s a high chance that one or both partners are holding in some form of resentment. That’s unhealthy and will inevitably result in one partner eventually exploding. Either that, or they remain unhappy with certain aspects of their partner forever.

A more healthy way to deal with this is to bring up in a non-aggressive manner. Healthy relationships involve compromise, so hopefully your partner is willing to do so with whatever is bothering you. Of course, you should be willing to bargain around aspects of your behavior too.

A really troubling scenario is when the conflict arises over one person’s hopes and dreams for the future. Marriage. Children. Their future career choices. A lot of people aren’t willing to back down over these major personal life goals. 

These types of diasgreements can lead to the most painful of break-ups; one where you’re both deeply in love, but have realised you aren’t right for each other. 

Hopefully, your conflict surrounds more flexible boundaries, and you can reach your first resolution. Celebrate this! It’s a clear sign that you’re in a serious relationship. A lot of couples break apart at the first sign of a struggle… 

8. Emotional Intimacy

True emotional intimacy only really develops after these first seven relationship stages.

This relationship stage is most commonly defined as when you can truly be yourself around your partner. You could tell them anything that’s going on inside your brain, and know that they’ll love and support you regardless.

It’s the next level of romance. Even if the butterflies and the sexual urges aren’t burning as strong as they were once where, they’re replaced with this – and that’s a beautiful thing.

9. Stability

This relationship stage arguably arrives at the same time as emotional intimacy.

It can be defined as the complete absence of fear that your partner will break up with you.

You know you love them. You know they love you. You have a solid foundation to build the truly magical relationship stages. 

The sad thing about this stage is: it often involves one or both partners taking each other for granted. This is a mistake.  

If there’s any time to spoil your partner or make big romantic gestures, it’s now!

The difference is: you’re not doing it to make them love you. You’re doing it to show how much you love them.   

10. Commitment

This stage involves a grand declaration that you want to spend the rest of your life with your partner. Commonly, it’s a marriage proposal.

You don’t have to get married though. Maybe you decide to buy a house together, or start trying for kids. Perhaps you do all three. 

There is an argument that a grand gesture of commitment isn’t necessary for a long-term relationship to be healthy. 

That’s true. It’s possible to commit to your partner with words alone.  

However, it’s also true that – in most cases – it’ll be lingering in the back of one partner’s mind why their other half really doesn’t feel like making this big commitment. This lingering doubt can cause serious conflict and insecurities in the long run. 

Perhaps that’s their problem. There are several logical reasons not to get married, buy a house or have kids. But the truth is: throughout our lives, society tells us that couples in love make these bold gestures – and it can be hard for people to fully let go of that idea.

(A final shout-out to couples in polygamous relationships. There are plenty of you who are completely comfortable with your romantic situation, and that’s fantastic.)   

11. Exploration

Although the stages of stability and commitment are truly wonderful, they can also bring monotony.

Many couples still desire adventure and new experiences, in spite of their loving connection.

So, there comes a stage in most romantic relationships where couples may feel the need to explore new activities that keep the relationship fresh. 

A relationship coach will often suggest this to bored couples. This shouldn’t be seen as a worrying stage, or a sign of a failing relationship. Instead, it should be viewed as a second phase of excitement that every couple will eventually have to work hard to discover.

This relationship state can come with its own struggles. Maybe one partner initially won’t listen when the other suggests it’s time to explore new activities. Perhaps one partner wants to spice up their sex life in way that makes the other deeply self-conscious. 

Still, with love holding you together, you should be able to move past this struggle and come out stronger on the other side. 

12. Co-Creation

Not all couples will feel like they want to have kids – and that’s fine. 

However, this is the biological urge we all experience. It’s the biological reason why men and women seek each other. It’s the biological reason we’re put on this earth in the first place.

Starting a family is the greatest challenge you’ll have faced together so far.   

Now, your own happiness is no longer the most important thing. Your child comes first. For sure, you’ll have to learn how to balance your romantic desires with your children’s needs. For some, it’s an eternal struggle.

However, the end result is a new type of love more powerful than anything you’ve ever imagined. 

13. Legacy

This is something that most men and women begin to focus on as they approach the latter stages of their life. What type of legacy do they want to leave on this world?

A couple in love can create a stronger legacy together. That’s for sure.

What type of family would you like to raise before you die? What type of lessons would you love to teach your children? How else can you potentially make the world a better place together?

This is a beautiful final stage for any couple to embark upon together, but it’s only possible once you’ve got the previous 12 stages locked down.

My deepest respect goes out to all the couples who make it this far.

What Are The Phases Of A Healthy Relationship?

  • Introduction
  • Intrigue
  • Infatuation
  • Courtship
  • Romance
  • Familiarisation
  • Conflict + Resolution
  • Emotional Intimacy
  • Stability
  • Commitment 
  • Exploration
  • Co-Creation
  • Legacy

Stages Of A Relationship For A Man

The stages of a relationship are very similar for a man. Perhaps the key difference is that a man can often become intrigued and infatuated from her appearance alone.

Stages Of A Relationship For A Woman

As mentioned, it might take women longer to become intrigued or infatuated with a man. Many women will wait until men start courting them. 

Normal Progression Of Healthy Relationship 

There is no ‘correct’ amount of time you should wait for a relationship to progress from one stage to the next. Everyone is different and as long as both people are happy where they are, what’s the rush?

If one half of a couple wants to push faster than the other, that can potentially be a source of conflict. Hopefully, like any other difference in thinking, you’re able to talk about it and compromise.  

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Any Questions About The Stages Of A Healthy Relationship?

Thanks for reading my guide about the stages of a healthy relationship. I hope these personal tips helped you out.  

No matter what relationship stage you’re in at this moment, you should now be able to see where you’re likely to be heading next. Each stage has their challenges, but I know you’ve got what it takes to overcome them together.  

If you have a question about any of these stages of a relationship, feel free to ask them below.

I would truly love to hear your feelings about this topic. 

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