We come to love, not by finding a perfect person, but by learning to see an imperfect person perfectly”- Sam Keen
Have you ever gotten tired of a relationship before? Have you ever looked at the person you are with… and be like, “I’m tired, I just have to leave this relationship?” I bet you have! Most times, we give up on relationships simply because we are oblivious of the stage we are in. We struggle with what we don’t know.
There are five stages of relationship that demand different levels of approaches, responses and maturity. Most people give up on relationships because they are unwilling to outgrow their previous approaches and mentalities to relationships.
The trajectory of relationships, most times, normally go from the excitement mode through the sweet, nasty, boring down to the complacent and irritational mode. No doubt, each stage of relationships would put a high demand on your commitment, compassion, emotional capacity and maturity.
Whether it is a relationship between couples or lovers, the stages are the same, only with some mild adjustments.
The Attraction Stage
This is the stage where you always have butterflies in your stomach. It is the stage where you are being controlled totally by the excitement hormones. You are totally obsessed at this stage. The physical (sexual) attraction is at its peak, making your palms sweaty, your face blush and your heart race in quick successions.
At this stage, you are constantly drawn to and attracted to the sight, sound and smell of the other person.
The Romantic Stage
This is also the stage where you are being controlled totally by the excitement hormones. This unique stage is filled with a lot of euphoria and exuberances and is ascribed with the age long expression, “love is blind.” Your endorphin level is unprecedentedly high at this level and you begin to feel a unique sense of peace and security about the relationship.
This self-deluding stage draws your attention only to the good things in your partner and blankets the bad ones. It is filled with a lot of costly assumptions and it is often called the “assumption stage.”
The truth is that most of the assumptions at this stage are wrong and can be very costly and many times, they cost us our relationships.
The Intellectual Stage
Leo Tolstoy said: “Nothing is so necessary for a young man as the company of an intelligent woman.” This is the stage where ‘intelligence’ and not ‘attractiveness’ is sexy.
Most people who are not compatible intellectually normally see relationship as hell at this stage. This is where the romantic love begins to normalise or wear off and you now engage more in intellectual discourse or intercourse. You begin to observe the flaws and inadequacies of your partner. All hidden flaws begin to encounter open intellectual bashings.
Those in the attraction and romantic stages probably think they would be in these stages forever, which is the most delusive assumptions in relationships.
This is also called the ‘irritational stage,’ because all irritations and frustrations peak at this stage. In fact, at this stage, couples or lovers begin to question and challenge their previous assumptions and confirm the veracity of their previous claims. It is a stage where you look at your partner and you may erroneously conclude that both of you have no future together.
Those who decide to stick together at this stage do so either by acknowledging the flaws or holding on to the positive things that attracted them to their partner in the first place. This is the most difficult stage of relationships, because it requires deep conviction, compromise and sacrifice to still stick to your partner at this stage.
Some of the challenges of the intellectual stage are the issues of comparism, insecurity, abuse, complexes (inferiority and superiority complexes), defensiveness, identity crisis, incompatibility and external interferences.
Each of them requires different approaches to manage, but they all require that the lovers or couples build a healthy self-esteem. Except in the cases of extreme abuse and irreconcilable differences, there is a great hope that making necessary adjustments, deep commitments and mutual respect can take the partners to the next level.
The Acceptance Stage
This is the stage where you would need to make a lot of adjustments; a stage where you would need to accommodate the other person’s flaws and inadequacies.
The acceptance stage shifts us from ‘assumption’ to ‘reality.’ This is where you need to strongly accept your partners, while helping them work on their flaws. In a conjugal relationship, the realities of life, work, household responsibilities, children and individual life styles determine how long this stage will last.
Bill Lemley said: “When nobody around you seems to measure up, it’s time to check your yardstick.” This is the stage where we need to totally abandon unhealthy and unrealistic expectations.
To live a productive and fulfilling relationship, we must progressively abandon unrealistic expectations. When we relinquish our unhealthy and unrealistic expectations of others, we begin to see and appreciate their worth. It would take many years for you to realise that true love is more than just a feeling. It is accepting a person for who they are and respecting the differences.
This is the final stage where you totally accommodate your partner and even sometimes overlook many things. It is a stage where you learn to make yourself a priority and see the strength in your differences.
Many times, relationships don’t make it pass the intellectual stage. This is where most break-ups, divorces and separation happen. You must be able to evaluate where your relationship is to know the approach that is needed.
The pertinent question to ask is this: What stage are you in? And how can you keep or regain the ‘highs’ you felt in the attraction and romantic stages?
Sometimes, dealing with your partner’s flaws could take a toll on your attraction to him/her.
Are you losing romantic interest in your partner? You can spur it back to life with ample date nights. Don’t stop the playful things you used to do while you were growing in love. Hug frequently and enjoy the taste of long kissing if you are married couples. Spice up your sexual life and bring in varieties as married couples.
If you are not yet married, respect boundaries and exchange gifts almost every time. Don’t wait for special occasions to show your love to your partner; make every moment count. Don’t just allow intimacy to happen; initiate intimacy.
Enjoy the attraction and romantic stages if you are still there, but you must know that a great level of sacrifice lies ahead of you. There is no perfect marriage or relationship; everything only gets better as we begin to work on them. Perfect doesn’t exist; it is what we all strive towards.
You must be willing to make adjustments and changes in order to make your relationship a fulfilling one.
Stop comparing your partner with others. Instead, cultivate the habit of appreciating your partner daily and give them space for improvement.
There is a common saying: “What you appreciate, appreciates.” Many times, we don’t know what we have until we lose it or it is found by another person that considers it more precious.
Stop taking each other for granted in relationships, as what you take for granted, gets taken.