The 5 Stages of (Most) Relationships


When you're in a romantic relationship, it can be unpredictable. Will it last, or will it end in a breakup that sends you on a solo adventure?

Researcher Mark L. Knapp found that most relationships tend to follow a common framework. According to his model, relationships typically go through five stages as they develop. Not every

relationship follows this path exactly, but it can help you understand how relationships evolve and what challenges might come up.

We all know that relationships change over time. Whether it's with parents, friends, or romantic partners, there are different stages as connections form and are tested. But understanding the stages in romantic relationships can be tricky. While every relationship has its phases, what they look like and how long they last can be different for each couple.

Questions pop up, like when to get serious or if the honeymoon phase is a real thing. And does leaving that phase mean falling out of love? To make things clearer, we asked two dating experts, Bela Gandhi and Nora DeKeyser. Surprisingly, both had similar insights on the common stages of a romantic relationship, from casual dates to a serious commitment.

Now, let's break down each of these stages and consider some important things to remember as you move through them.

Stage 1: First Impressions (Initiation)

Imagine you're at your go-to café, and you bump into the same person once again. You exchange a friendly nod and, maybe while you're sipping your latte, you casually say, "Nice to see you."

It's interesting, as Mark L. Knapp explains, that when we meet someone for the first time, we usually follow a pattern. We say hello, try to understand them, and want to make a good impression.

1. Pay attention to the atmosphere. Where you are has a big impact on the kind of conversation you'll have. You're more likely to offer a formal, not-so-personal greeting in an office than at a casual bar during happy hour.

2. Timing matters. A quick "hello" while passing someone on the street is different from stopping at their table to chat about what they've been doing.

Stage 2: Getting to Know Each Other (Experimentation)

Now, it's time to dip your toes in the water. You might ask your co-worker if they've tried the new Thai restaurant downtown or seen the latest Star Wars movie.

This stage is all about small talk. Depending on how they respond, you'll figure out if they're open to sharing your interests. It's like a testing phase to see if future interactions are worth pursuing.

1. Watch body language. Keep an eye on the other person's body language and tone of voice. Are they turning to face you, responding with friendly politeness, or appearing disinterested and looking away? These subtle cues can guide your approach.

2. Prepare for more small talk. Small talk isn't just for new connectionsEven in long-term relationships, like with a parent or partner, it can be a friendly way to begin deeper, more meaningful talks.

Stage 3: getting deep ( Intensifying)

At this stage, you're ready to be open and emotionally connected with the other person. You start sharing personal secrets and spend more quality time together. In simple terms, you become more vulnerable. You might also create inside jokes, nicknames, and have more casual conversations.

1. Be patient: Building a strong connection takes time, so don't hurry it. Instead of planning big trips, start with smaller steps like inviting them for dinner.

2. Trust your feelings: You may do favors for each other, like giving rides or helping with moving. If the other person asks for a lot without giving back, it can harm the relationship.

Stage 4: merging together(Integration)

During this phase, you rely on each other more and start feeling like you're becoming one. This can happen in romantic relationships, as well as with best friends or close family. You do everything together, like watching the same movies, having strong opinions about specific restaurants, and even planning trips to distant places.

1. Keep your own identity: People may see you both as one entity, and you might use "we" a lot. But it's crucial to preserve your individuality by spending time with friends and continuing your hobbies.

Stage 5: formally committing ( Bonding )

In the final stage, mostly seen in romantic relationships, you make a public commitment to each other. This commitment can take the form of marriage, a commitment ceremony, or some other public declaration.

It's worth noting that Knapp's theory, developed in the 1970s, might not fit modern relationships. Today, many find that successful relationships don't always require marriage or exclusivity.

In polyamorous relationships, commitment doesn't always mean being exclusive. This stage involves making a long-term commitment, which could be marriage for some, while for others, it might just mean having a private talk about their intentions and commitment.

1. Public commitment can happen earlier: Big relationship events, like weddings or commitment ceremonies, don't have to wait until the final stage. They can happen at any point, but they don't guarantee long-term success.

2. No one-size-fits-all: In this last stage, you might feel pressured to take big steps like marriage or having children. It's essential to focus on what you both want for your future. As long as there's love and respect between you, there's no single right way to do things.


Every relationship is different, yet many of them go through five common stages. If you're unsure where your relationship stands in this model, don't worry. Relationships can progress at different speeds, with some moving quickly through the stages and others taking years.

When you meet someone new, it's essential to test the waters and trust your instincts. Remember, being a bit more open with those around you can help you build meaningful connections and find your support network in the long run.

Previous Post Next Post