10 Relationship Stages Every Couple Should Understand

10 Relationship Stages Every Couple Should Understand

When you meet someone and fall in love, you probably think that you will ride off into the sunset and live happily ever after. At least that's what all the Disney movies and romantic comedies tell us, right?

Well, as we all know, this is not always the case.

If you're wondering what stage your relationship is at and whether it's "normal" or heading towards disaster, then there's some research to help you figure out what to do. There are 10 basic relationship stages that you can go through.

With that said, let me start by saying that there are many different types of relationship stage models, but I'm going to focus on just the one developed by Dr. Mark Knapp because it's a classic, well-accepted theory. 


  1. What are the stages of a relationship?
  2. Why is it important to understand the stages of a relationship?
  3. Last thoughts

What are the stages of a relationship?

According to Dr. Knapp, there are ten different stages in a relationship. At the same time, certain things happen at these stages.

Although there are ten different stages, they are divided into two distinct phases: the joining phase and the separating phase.

Let's start with the "Together" stage:

Consolidation phase

Relationships have to start somewhere, right? Obviously, not all relationships start the same way. Some couples may meet on a dating app, while others may meet through friends or at work.

Regardless of how a couple starts a relationship, there are several distinct milestones in the reunion phase.

1. Stage of initiation

This stage occurs when you first meet someone. It is an exchange of pleasantries and facts about oneself. This is a completely new stage of "acquaintance". At this stage, your attention is mainly focused on superficial attributes, such as appearance and how the person presents themselves.

2. Stage of experiment

If you get past the initiation stage (and many don't), you will move on to the experimentation stage. Some people don't go that far because they find something they don't really like in the first step. When you experiment, you delve deeper into the interests and values ​​of the other person.

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3. Amplification stage

This stage is sometimes called the "bliss" stage. The reason for this is that things start to get more serious and intense. You have learned enough about each other that you now want to share deeper and more intimate information about yourself with another person. Feelings begin to develop and there is excitement about the relationship.

4. Integration stage

Now that you are officially a couple and have feelings for each other, during the integration phase you will begin to juggle your lives. You develop routines and habits as a couple. Your family and friends also begin to recognize you as a whole. In other words, you have moved from "me and you" to "us".

5. Bonding step

Because you now see yourself as a single entity and not as two individuals, the connection phase is usually where the real commitment happens. You are both very confident in the bonds you share, so you will either live together or get married. Everyone has their own way of showing affection, but, nevertheless, this stage involves certain formal obligations in the eyes of society.

Decay phase

We all want to be happy and live happily ever after, but for many couples, that just isn't the case. Whether you're married, living together, or just dating, the separation phase happens to most of us at one time or another.

Here are the stages of the decay phase:

6. Stage of differentiation

Being crazy in love and walking on Cloud 9 won't last long. Even in the happiest relationships, life isn't always perfect. But if you've entered a differentiating stage, then you're probably heading for a break. This is the time when you start noticing differences, incompatibilities and cracks in your device.

7. Stage of description

This stage is only a continuation of the stage of differentiation. You move further and further apart, you set boundaries for yourself, communication breaks down, and you become less and less close (in every sense - emotionally, mentally and physically). You begin to see yourself as a person more than before. The toilet is falling apart even more. There will be many accusations, defenses and insults.

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8. Stage of stagnation

At this stage, you are not moving anywhere else in the relationship. You are standing still. Imagine an algae pond. He doesn't move; the water just sits there and grosser things grow on it. This is exactly what happens at this stage. The breakup is almost over. Perhaps even apathy set in - in one or both people.

9. Stage of avoidance

This stage involves avoidance—physical, mental, emotional, or all of the above. One of you may leave the house, which will lead to a real separation. Or perhaps you still live under the same roof but no longer talk or interact. You are like two roommates who don't really get along so you try to avoid each other as much as possible.

10. Completion stage

At the final stage, the relationship formally ends. If the couple is married, then a divorce begins or ends. If you just live together, then one or both of you physically move out and make the breakup final. In short, this is when the relationship is emotionally and/or legally over.

Why is it important to understand the stages of a relationship?

Relationships are difficult for many people, but they don't have to be. In most cases, it is people who make life difficult because of their negative emotions and behavior.

Many problems arise because people are not very familiar with these different phases of a relationship. The more mindful we are, the easier it is to repair relationships when problems start to appear.

Last thoughts

It is important to note here that if you find that your relationship is in a phase of disintegration, you do not need to give up hope. You can always go back to the "Together" stage. It takes work and commitment from both people, but you can resurrect a relationship that seems to be headed for disaster.

Knowing what stage your relationship is in will help you build relationships more actively. However, some relationships cannot be fixed and should be let go. It's up to you and your partner to decide where yours is, so you can both find the happiness you deserve, with or without each other.

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