The Phases Of a Relationship

Written by on June 1, 2012 in Relationships - No comments | Print this page


Relationships are dynamic and ever evolving.   The psychologist Robert Sternberg described 8 different types of love.  He said that passion, intimacy, and commitment make up the Triangular Theory of Love.  In a review article by A. De Boer, three different phases of love are described.  Each stage is marked by distinct neural and hormonal features.

Phase 1: Being in Love

This phase lasts for about 6 months and is characterized by high passion and excitement.   Cortisol (the stress hormone) level is elevated.  You can’t stop thinking about him/her and is excited to get to know him/her and want to be around your love.  I may sound pessimistic, but don’t let your guard down too much. A lot of people will be on their best behavior as they try to win you over and solidify the relationship.  This may also be called the “honeymoon phase.”

Phase 2: Passionate Love

This second phases commences after several months to a year.  You feel safe, calm, and balanced (Starka, 2007).  Levels of several neuroendocrine factors that are initially high have returned to normal by this time.  Take a look at my blog called “The Scientific basis of Love” to delve a bit more into these factors that gives us this amazing, euphoric feeling we call love.  Passion remains high, but intimacy and commitment are still developing.  The hormones oxytocin and ADH are the major players during this phase as strong pair-bonds are formed.  By now, you should have a good sense of how your partner is.  This is when some people will let their guard down and also be more relaxed and are no longer on their best behavior.  Their “true self” will take form and you will either be turned off by it or love him/her even more.

Phase 3: Companionate Love

There is a fragile transition between Phase 2 and 3.  Some couples may never reach this phase and will break up while others who have been together for 20 years still say they have high passion.  This phase, however, is marked by decrease in passion, whereas intimacy and commitment remain high.  So it looks like it is different for different couples.  This phase is quite similar to friendships.

Whatever phase you are in, don’t take your love for granted.  Many people start getting too comfortable in phase 2 with thoughts that “he/she won’t ever leave me” and you don’t put as much effort into the relationship anymore.   Before you know it, that person is fed up and packing up his/her bags.



About the Author

M. Yu

M. Yu is a single, working professional who lives in New York City. She has eclectic interests, ranging from cancer research (her day job) to traveling to writing for the Relationship Category on QLR. She has an active dating life and views every life experience as a learning lesson. View all posts about healthy relationships.