Life is full of lessons, as are relationships. Through various stages of relationships, you’ll be faced with learnings, opportunities for growth, and the ability to do things differently than you did in the past. It’s when we can use the lessons of our past to improve our future relationships that wisdom results and real progress occurs.
Relationships will go through phases as a couple moves from dating to long-term commitment. At each of these phases, there is an opportunity to let go of past patterns and choose to do things differently to help the relationship unfold with more ease and fulfillment.
In this post, we’ll examine the typical phases of a relationship and what practices and behaviors are important to keep in mind as these phases unfold.
Typically, a relationship will have three main phases, which are:
Dating: The getting-to-know-you phase that is often full of infatuation, curiosity, and uncertainty.
Coupling: The phase in which a couple tries on commitment and shows up in the world as a united party.
Long-Term Commitment: The phase that might look like marriage, cohabitation, or making a deeper commitment through a ceremony or other meaningful exchange.
Depending on the couple’s needs, histories, attachment systems, maturity, and chemistry, the time spent in each phase will differ. You probably know couples who moved into phase two, or even phase three, very quickly. And, you probably know couples who spent years in phase one. In these phases, there are unique challenges to overcome, and choices to be made around dynamics like boundaries, priorities, self-care, communication, and balance.
If you’ve had a relationship stall in the early phases, you most likely have a lesson or two to apply to future relationships. Perhaps you struggled with healthy boundaries in a former relationship and the result was a feeling of overwhelm, depletion, or a lack of balance. Knowing that, you can apply the learnings of that situation to future partnerships and communicate your needs more clearly for better outcomes. Overcoming past patterns and applying lessons will allow your relationships to evolve into dynamics that are healthier and more fulfilling long-term.
Tuning in as a relationship progresses
While you can apply past lessons to a new relationship, you can also apply past lessons within the same relationship to future stages. For instance, if you struggled with communication early in your partnership because there was a fear of vulnerability, you can choose in later stages to more proactively address that challenge of your past. For instance, if you as a couple in the “dating” phase struggled with communicating the need for self-care or the need for time apart (a vulnerable form of communication), then you can chose to deal with this dynamic more proactively and apply this wisdom to ensure you keep this challenge top-of-mind as a couple. In this situation, you might set aside time each week to “check in” with one another about your needs and boundaries related to self-care and time apart to normalize the vulnerability necessary to communicate these needs and desires.
Once again, as you apply the lessons of your past to your future, you can more actively choose how you’ll address relationship patterns, both from your individual pasts and as a couple.
At Center for Shared Insight, we believe that individual therapy can help you be a better partner. It can also help you tune into the changing needs and desires that occur as a relationship progresses. Setting aside time to talk about both your personal and relationship challenges and help provide new insight and ideas to improve your partnership as it evolves. We offer a free consultation to get started.