Every couple goes through 5 stages of relationship according to a study of hundreds of couples, carried out by Dr Susan Campbell,

Romance stage

Begins when we fall in love with someone.  It can last up to 2 years, then it ends as quickly as it began.  In this stage, we tend to ignore our partner’s flaws, we just don’t see them, our brain releases hormones, Oxytocin and Dopamine, that create love feelings, which make us feel good, but ignore what makes us feel bad.

You will only see what you have in common with your lover, the subconscious mind will hide your partner’s flaws.  You engage in many activities together, and there is a high sexual activity within the relationship.  You try to only show “good” qualities to each other and avoid disagreement and fights.  You think you have met “the one” or have a “can’t live without you” feeling.  Those love feelings can last from 2 months to 2 years.

This stage comes to an end once the going gets rough when couples see their visions and dreams are not going to be realised as they had hoped.  Some couples would break up when this happens, only to discover that the same things repeat over and over again in their next relationship.  Others will move on to the next stage –  Power Struggle stage.

Power Struggle stage

At this stage, the couple begins to realise that “you’re not who I thought you were” or “we’re not who we thought we were”.  They start to focus on their partner’s differences and flaws.  They feel disillusioned, disappointed, or angry.  They are not sure what are their partner’s emotional needs.  They don’t understand why his/her behaviours change after the “romance stage”.  One partner will pull away and withdraw, needing space …. and the other partner is needy, pursues and feels emotionally rejected.

In this stage, some people try to change their partner to be the way he/she was supposed to be or the way he/she promised to be.  For others, the belief that threat, force, manipulation, or domination, can get them what they want.  The power struggle becomes unconsciously a way of hurting their partner in retaliation for the disappointment one has suffered.

Couples can limp along miserably for years or the relationship can end abruptly because either or both partners are unwilling to confront aspects of themselves that may be too scary or painful to face.  The power struggle stage is the most common stage for couples to get stuck.  Many couples decide to part ways at this stage because they don’t know how to resolve conflict or seek professional help with couple counselling. 

The goal of this stage of a relationship is to be autonomous in your relationship while maintaining the love connection with your partner.

  • Accept and appreciate each other’s differences.
  • Recognise who you are and what you have as a couple.
  • Give up your fantasies of harmony without struggle and pleasure without pain.
  • Look upon each other as free and unique beings.
  • Give up being a perfectionist.
  • Surrender to life as it is.

If the relationship survives the power struggle stage, it moves into the “Stability” stage – a more accepting, more peaceful stage. 

Stability stage

At this stage,  the couple accepts one another as individual persons and they learn mutual respect.  They realise that they cannot change their partner and give up the desire to.  They learn how to manage their conflicts, rather than being upset by them.  They set clear boundaries, negotiate differences and define role expectations.

However, if the couple becomes too attached to the hard-won peace and stability, their relationship might stop growing and stagnate.  All growth involves risk, pain and uncertainty, it requires a change and steps outside the comfort zone.

Commitment stage

This is actually the stage when couples should marry and not in the infatuation period of the ‘romance’ stage. When you reach this level, you not only love, but you feel secure in your relationship.  You like each other, and choose to be together without needing to be together.  You are committed to your relationship, and realise as humans we all have flaws.

The Bliss or Co-creation stage

At this stage, the couple as a “team” moves beyond their relationship and their focus extends into the world; they may start a family, create a business or do some other project together. These stages don’t necessarily occur in a particular order.  Couples need to remember to continue to nurture and not neglect their intimate relationship while focusing outward.