From Captivation to Commitment: 5 Phases of Love Over Time

Red heart balloons floating in sky with sun in background.Marriage, relationships, and love will transform over the course of a lifetime. As individuals embark on a journey together, most do not understand how much their love may change. It will be influenced by many factors over time. In this article, I will discuss five phases in which love may be shaped, tested, and transformed.

5 Stages of Love in a Committed Relationship

1. Captivation

In the beginning of a relationship, most people can attest to being captivated by the other. If reciprocated, they will most likely be in a state of infatuation, mesmerized and enthralled with one another. They may feel a strong romantic attraction. The positive is accentuated, and the negative is often overlooked. Their thinking will be preoccupied with one another, desiring to spend as much time together as possible. This time can be marked with moments that feel electric. Sparks flying. Chemistry igniting.

What’s important to note is that as exciting as it may feel, this heightened stage of electric connection will likely not last forever. The relationship will begin to transition into a new phase. Typically, this occurs between one and two years together. Although the two will undoubtedly be attracted to one another, the infatuation wanes, reality sets in, and a couple will try and make sense of what their feelings are all about.

2. Courtship

Couples are falling in love. Those hoping to marry or commit long-term will begin examining their feelings and seeking answers to poignant questions: Can I count on you? Will you be here for me when I need you? Do you really love me?

Some people in the courting phase may choose to commit, become engaged, and/or marry. Couples will test their love to discover the strength of their devotion. They will explore and experience if the other truly has their heart. This is an excellent time to take a premarital class and learn what marriage (and long-term commitment) really entails.

3. Commitment

The next phase following engagement is where a couple will solidify their commitment and/or marry. Vows may be spoken as individuals come together, sometimes in the presence of friends and family. Some wedding ceremonies still use a rendition of traditional Western vows, such as from The Book of Common Prayer, and may use some form of the following:

I take thee to have and to hold,
from this day forward,
for better for worse,
for richer or poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish,
till death do us part,
according to God’s holy ordinance
and thereto, I give thee my troth.

Truth be told, most couples have no real understanding of how these vows will be tested during their marriage.

In their first year together, partners will begin to learn what it means to make the transition from “me” to “we.” Couples will be both stretched and strengthened. They are laying the foundation for a long-term commitment. A host of things may happen in this stage: friendship grows, emotional connection intensifies, and the rhythm for daily life unfolds.

The first year is smooth for some and challenging for others. If you feel like your marriage or long-term relationship is off to a rocky start, don’t wait: seek out counseling. Many couples will wait an average of 6 years before seeking help.

4. Children and Parenthood

In the next phase (for some relationships) comes children and parenthood. This transition is marked by moving from me, to we, to three. As wonderful as becoming a new parent can be, this season is marked by many unexpected variables: less sleep, more responsibilities, hormonal changes, challenges with work-life balance, less time/energy for intimacy and sex, and more conflicts as you discover all that a family of three means.

Certainly, children can be a blessing, and with each new addition, life may become richer. However, couples need to be aware that expanding the family can throw their union out of sync. Couples who enter this season of life often find it full, demanding, and taxing. Understanding the dynamics of this busy season can help you to find peace and balance.

5. Mature Love

This stage of a relationship is generally preoccupied with launching children, empty nest, retirement, physical and health challenges, and caring for aging parents. For many, if couples have a strong bond and have been emotionally attuned to one another, love may be strong. If, however, couples have not been emotionally connected, this can represent a trying time. Gray divorce is on the rise.

Reasons for an increase in gray divorce include that many couples have not been investing and working on their relationship. If couples have a strong friendship and secure emotional bond, they can work through challenges and have a fulfilling and rich marriage. Contrary to this, if couples have been overly focused on children or careers at the expense of their relationship, this can have a drastic impact. Having a healthy and happy relationship involves working on your bond throughout every new phase.

In conclusion, marriage, relationships, and love involve a series of transformations. Love is not static; it is alive and evolving. Attunement, emotional connection, and maintaining a strong friendship will most assuredly attest to a relationship’s sustainability over the course of a lifetime.

References:

  1. Gaspard, T. (2015, July 23). Timing is everything when it comes to marriage counseling. The Gottman Institute. Retrieved from https://www.gottman.com/blog/timing-is-everything-when-it-comes-to-marriage-counseling
  2. Holden, H. A. (1868). Book of common prayer. Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Company.

© Copyright 2020 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Angela Bisignano, PhD, therapist in Palos Verdes Peninsula, California

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