People often ask in one way or another, “Should love change over time?” My response is always, “I certainly hope so!” Why do I say this? It’s fairly simple. I see far too many couples who settle for so much less in their love life. They may have initially fallen in love but after a while, it doesn’t seem to progress much beyond that. People get disappointed easily these days and, honestly, our culture is more about promoting romance – which is good – but we need more emphasis on love.
There’s no prescription for how long each phase takes. We all take our time in love, but it’s nice to see where you may be, where you’ve been and where you may be going. Wherever you find yourself, take this time to process each stage as an opportunity for personal reflection. You also may want to take a healthy assessment of your relationship or where you want to be.
So, let’s talk about this a bit more. It’s not like there are only three phases of romantic love, but if we were to group all the different kinds, I have found that they would fall under these three categories.
Falling in Love
Was it love at first sight? Or did you meet through mutual friends or online dating? If you’re not there yet, there are lots of reasons to be optimistic. But whatever the case, there is no doubt that chemistry plays a role in the early phases through dating and into love.
However, if you have arrived at this point, there is an undeniable attraction and good feelings when you spend time together. Be mindful that this doesn’t go too far into infatuation, where you can have a lot of short-lived passion or admiration of surface-level attributes. That can be fun, but if you’re looking to have a long-term relationship, it’s important to build trust and intimacy.
There is no timeline for falling in love, however as the process unfolds, don’t be afraid to ask yourself “Is this the right person for me?” All too often, I’ve seen couples who have settled for less than they deserve because they were too comfortable in their relationship.
Being in Love
There comes a point in all serious relationships, where you each become more relaxed, the facades and trying-hard-to-impress fall by the wayside and reality sets in.
You may discover the little quirks that were once cute are now annoying. You may find the once hot-and-heavy passion has died down and you may have sexual discrepancies. You may also find that there are going to be the inevitable conflicts that happen even in the very best of relationships.
During this phase, we experience less of the falling head-over-heels “in love” feelings. We feel more connected with our partner. Being in love gives us those warm and cuddly feelings. We feel cared for, safe, and appreciated.
If you’re trying to decide where this relationship is heading or happy right where you are, this is the time to cherish each other and build a relationship that brings you both great joy. That can take time, patience, courage, persistence, acceptance, trust-building and learning how to communicate well (and sometimes fight fairly).
Being able to successfully manage the inevitable bumps in the road is a good indicator that the relationship can evolve into something more long-lasting and stable.
Devotion found in long-term relationships and successful marriages are a sign of mature love. In this phase, two people are together because they want to be together, not out of obligation or infatuation, but because they are the person they want to spend their lives with. This relationship is marked by commitment, acceptance, deep connection, emotional support, respect, depth, and kindness.
Couples in the mature love phase have worked through most of their conflicts and power struggles (it’s not that they don’t argue, just the main issues most likely have been worked out), and have earned a greater degree of empathy, trust and understanding of each other.
Sex and intimacy certainly still exist in this stage, but not in the same near-delusional, mostly chemical way it does in the falling in love period.
The mature phase of love is a beautiful aspirational goal for any couple. Mature love is a secure, loving, stable phase to work towards, to cherish, to enjoy and to celebrate as the highest expression of romantic love.
Wherever you are in your relationship, I have worked with hundreds of couples to get the joy and satisfaction you both deserve. I always encourage individuals and couples to settle for more. If you would like to have a conversation to see if we could work well together, please feel free to reach out for a free 15-minute consultation.