The five stages of a relationship

By: Skyler Russell

The merge (the honeymoon phase), doubt and denial, disillusionment, the decision, and wholehearted love.

Stage 1: The Merge (the honeymoon phase)

Often in this stage people feel that they’ve found their “perfect match”, someone who is compatible with them. They feel the need to always want to be together, and boundaries melt away. These emotions drown out the rational part in our brains. The first stage is marked by biochemical changes in our brain, a cocktail of hormones that trigger and produces more dopamine, oxytocin, and endorphins than usual. This can lead us to become “addicted” to our partners and ignore incompatibilities and red flags.

Stage 2: Doubt and Denial

This is when we start to notice differences between us and our partners. We begin to find the same qualities that seemed perfect begin to annoy you. Power struggles increase, and we marvel at the change in our partner. Feelings of love mix with alienation and irritation, making us believe maybe we’re not “prefect” for each other. As disappointment escalates, so do our responses to stress. You may want to fight or withdrawal from the relationship. Because this is the stage where you start to recognize your differences, this is also when you learn your love languages.

Stage 3: Disillusionment

This is when you feel your relationship may come to and end. The power struggles of the relationship have came to the surface. Some people become vigilant, ready to fight for the relationship, others may move apart over time putting less energy and effort into maintaining the relationship. There may be a lot of negative energy in the relationship at this stage, try to show affection even when upset to lighten the mood.

Stage 4: Decision

You are at a breaking point, emotional breakdowns, leaving the house for hours to get away from each other after a fight, and self-protective behaviors. When you start to seriously contemplate leaving you may feel for an enticing new beginning with a new person. We make a decision whether to stay or leave the relationship

Stage 5: Wholehearted love

When the relationship is the healthiest. Couples experience true individuation, self discovery, and acceptance of imperfection in themselves and their partner recognizing there is no such thing as a “perfect match”. Couples know how to listen well and lean into uncomfortable conversations without feeling threatened or the need to attack their partner. Couples begin to laugh, relax, and enjoy each other again. They may fall in love with each other all over again.

Photo by Jasmine Carter on


The last solar eclipse was August 21, 2017.

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