What is the secret to lasting love? How do people have marriages that last over thirty years? The answer to those questions remains in the stages that love goes through. Like anything else, love has stages of development and evolution. Societally speaking, most movies display the first stage of love, which we are all familiar with– the infatuation stage. Movies portray that you meet your “soul mate” and there is a magical happily ever after. Movies never show the next stages of love, and so we are left with this idealized idea of what love is supposed to look like. Sadly, when most enter relationships they are let down once reality sets in that romance is nothing like the movies, no matter how much we want it to be.
The first stage of love is infatuation. This is also called the honeymoon stage. It’s the early days where you are still getting to know each other, and have all those chemicals like oxytocin and dopamine running through your body. The infatuation stage is actually similar to being high on drugs. In this stage, you constantly think about the other individual, you think they are perfect, and some even believe they’ve met their soul mate. The saying “love is blind” is very accurate during this stage. This stage is all about the positives, and hormones are leading your actions at this stage. The infatuation stage can last up to two years depending on the couple.
The second stage of love is becoming a couple. This stage is where you join together and get serious. This stage is where hormones are starting to fade and you’re starting day to day routines, you may even have moved in together or might be engaged. You still love each other and find life together satisfying, but the excitement has faded. Life together is more real, involving finances, responsibility, and life changes such as moving, marriage, kids. Your bond in this stage is very strong, and sex is more meaningful than those initial days where it was more about infatuation than love.
The third stage of love is disillusionment. This is the stage where you start questioning whether you’re with the “right” person. You look at your friend’s lives and they are in different places or having more youthful fun, and you might think that you’re missing out because you are married with kids and have responsibilities. This stage is where those little quirks you once loved are starting to annoy you. You possibly feel taken for granted. Both of you might start to become more withdrawn, staying at work later. We look at the person we chose and think, “is this the same person I married?” This stage is where we long for the infatuation days of excitement and lust. This is sort of a depression stage for love. Most couples stop their relationships in this stage because they truly think they chose the wrong person or regret doing things they never did.
The fourth stage of love is lasting love. If you made it past the depression stage of love with all the real-life obstacles, then this is the stage where you realize the great qualities your partner does have. You no longer put them on a pedestal and accept them flaws and all. Stage three was where you saw all the flaws in your relationship, but stage four is where you accept the flaws and embrace them. This stage is where you and your spouse work through the issues that may come up and continue to work on improving the marriage. You love each other deeply and unconditionally. This love is based on acceptance and understanding of one another.
Stage five, the final stage, is working as a team. By now you two have faced obstacles, learned and accepted each other for your strengths and weaknesses. This stage is all about coming together as well as owning your individual strengths and weaknesses. You both may want to work on improving something around you, like, a cause you both are passionate about. You may want to reignite an old passion you two had like music. This stage is about acknowledging your similarities and differences and learning to be a team and also encouraging each other with individual interests.
Most people give up in the depression stage because they mistakenly think that the realization that their partner is not perfect means that they chose wrong. Society creates an ideal of what “true love” is. True love, in reality, is growing together, learning about each other, seeing the flaws and accepting them, and both of you building each other up to be better versions of yourselves. Love is a journey, not a destination, so enjoy the ride! Don’t get tripped up because something went wrong. That is just a chance to see how you and your partner can come up with solutions and overcome obstacles.