Navigating a romantic relationship can be a complex and often emotional journey, full of ups and downs. There are different stages of a relationship, each with its unique challenges and opportunities. As a highly sensitive person, you may find that you experience these stages more intensely or feel overwhelmed by the emotions that come with them. Vancouver counsellors at Constellations Counselling have helped many clients understand and navigate the various stages of a relationship.  We’ll start with some common stages found in romantic relationships. 

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Stage One: The Honeymoon Phase

The first stage of a romantic relationship is often referred to as the honeymoon phase. This is the stage where everything feels new and exciting, and you may feel like you are on cloud nine. You may spend a lot of time getting to know each other and enjoying each other’s company. You may feel like you have found your soulmate and that everything is perfect.

However, it is important to recognize that this stage is not sustainable forever. Eventually, the honeymoon phase will come to an end, and you will need to navigate the challenges that come with it. Some examples of the honeymoon phase include:

• Going on dates and exploring new places together

• Feeling a strong emotional connection and intimacy

• Feeling like you are on the same wavelength

• Sharing new experiences and trying new things

Stage Two: The Power Struggle

After the honeymoon phase comes the power struggle. This is the stage where you may start to notice differences between you and your partner. You may start to feel like they are not meeting your expectations or that you are not on the same page. This can be a challenging time, and it is important to communicate openly and honestly with your partner. Some examples of the power struggle include:

• Disagreements over values and priorities

• Struggles with trust and commitment

• Feeling like you are not being heard or understood

• Differences in communication styles

Stage Three: Stability

If you can successfully navigate the power struggle stage, you may find that you enter a stage of stability. This is the stage where you start to feel more comfortable with each other and your relationship. You may start to feel more secure in your connection, and you may start to see your partner as a long-term partner. Some examples of stability include:

• Feeling more secure in your connection

• Feeling more comfortable with each other’s quirks and flaws

• Building a stronger emotional foundation

• Working through challenges and disagreements together

Stage Four: Commitment

The final stage of a romantic relationship is commitment. This is the stage where you and your partner have made a conscious decision to be together for the long haul. You may be talking about marriage or long-term commitment, and you may start to plan for your future together. Some examples of commitment include:

• Making plans for the future, such as buying a home or starting a family

• Working together to overcome challenges

• Building a deep and lasting emotional connection

• Feeling like you have found your life partner

While these stages are common in most romantic relationships, it is important to remember that each relationship is unique, and everyone’s journey will be different. Additionally, it is important to recognize that not all relationships will progress through all four stages. Some relationships may end before reaching the commitment stage, while others may skip the power struggle altogether.

As a highly sensitive person, you may find that you experience these stages more intensely or feel overwhelmed by the emotions that come with them. It is important to take care of yourself during each stage of your relationship and communicate openly and honestly with your partner about your needs and boundaries.

Dr. Nicole LePera, also known as The Holistic Psychologist, offers valuable insights into the stages of creating healthy relationship whether they be romantic, platonic, or familial. Her research shows that there are six stages that people go through as they establish a secure and healthy relationship. These stages are:

Doubt: Doubt is the natural first stage of moving towards a secure relationship. This is where we start to question whether the person we are with is the right match for us. Doubt is part of discernment, and it shows that we are putting more effort into who we choose to go into partnership with. In this stage, it’s important to have open and honest communication with your partner to ensure that you are both on the same page and working towards the same goals.

Grief: Even when we’re with someone we deeply love, there can be a grieving process. This is especially true for highly sensitive people who may feel a sense of loss when they transition from being independent to being part of a couple. We’re losing a feeling of independence and sometimes releasing the fantasy of finding the “perfect person.” It’s important to acknowledge these feelings and work through them together with your partner. This can be done through open communication, empathy, and compassion.

Power Struggles: At different periods, our abandonment wounds might come up. This creates pushing someone away even when we want them close, shutting down, rebellious behaviour, or relationship sabotage. This is a crucial stage where we begin to understand our attachment style and how it can impact our relationships. It’s essential to recognize these patterns and work through them together with our partner to establish a healthier attachment style.

Boredom: This stage is most prominent in those raised in chaos, unpredictability, or unstable home environments. We can confuse predictable, steady love with a lack of excitement or passion. It’s important to remember that passion is not just about the physical aspect of a relationship, but it can be found in deeper emotional connections as well. This stage is an opportunity to explore new things together and find ways to reignite the spark in your relationship.

Fulfillment: This stage is where we start to feel a sense of fulfillment in our relationship. Our nervous system is healing and adapting to a person we can depend on. We’re learning to navigate life together rather than as an individual and facing challenges together, recognizing the benefits of sharing life with someone. It’s essential to communicate our needs, desires, and goals to ensure that we’re both fulfilled in the relationship.

Security: This stage is where we feel deep feelings of mutual trust, appreciation, and respect. A healthy dependence and bond based on mutual evolution and freedom. This stage is where we establish a strong foundation in our relationship and feel secure in our partnership. It’s important to maintain open communication, continue to explore and grow together, and appreciate each other’s unique qualities and contributions to the relationship.

Understanding the stages of a romantic relationship is essential for establishing a healthy and secure partnership and can help you navigate the complex emotions and challenges that come with it. By recognizing the different stages and working through them together, we can build a strong foundation based on mutual respect, trust, and love. As a highly sensitive person, it’s important to take the time to understand your own attachment style and work through any patterns that may be impacting your relationships. If you need help navigating the stages of a relationship, a Vancouver counsellor at Constellations Counselling can provide you with the tools and resources to establish a secure and healthy relationship. Art therapy can also be a valuable tool in exploring and working through emotions that may arise during these stages. Remember that establishing a healthy romantic relationship takes time, effort, and patience. 

*The information on the stages of a romantic relationship is based on the works of various psychologists and relationship experts, including Robert J. Sternberg’s Triangular Theory of Love, Susan Campbell’s Five Stages of Relationships, John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, and the research of Mark Knapp and Anita Vangelisti.