Every couple's love story is unique, but all follow certain predictable paths. Love has its ups and downs. The more prepared you are for the stages of dating, the more you will be able to keep your equilibrium if you hit a rough patch. In the game of love, there are prizes at every stage.
Becoming a Couple
In the first dating stage, people move from seeing themselves as two individuals to seeing themselves as a couple. They must get over the initial hurdle of being strangers, or if they are already platonic friends, they must make the transition to becoming romantically involved. In this stage, couples tentatively start to get to know each other better, often by going out on structured dates that provide an opportunity to slowly reveal more about themselves.
In the second stage of a relationship, couples feel an intense attraction. This is the stage that inspires poets and songwriters to sing the praises of their beloved. Oxytocin, the "love hormone," flows through their veins. They may be unable to concentrate on work or on anything else other than thoughts of the other, who may seem to be an ideal person without any flaws. This stage typically lasts for three to six months.
When the intensity of the initial infatuation starts to wear off, doubt creeps in. The person who had seemed so perfect, at first, is now revealed as an ordinary human being with annoying habits and other flaws. Couples must decide, at this stage, if they can accept each other as they are. After having "lost their heads" in Stage 2, couples are now able to use their heads to help guide their hearts.
If couples make it through the doubt stage, they will emerge with a new commitment to each other, one based on both their emotions and their intellect. As the relationship progresses, they will increase that commitment and start making plans for their future together. First, many couples will agree to be exclusive. Then they may decide to live together or to get married and to have children. Couples will be most successful at this stage if they rely on their own hearts and minds and not on external pressure.