It’s a question we’ve all pondered in different ways. Is it the first flirty feeling when you bump into a person you’re intrigued by?
Or is it the first physical contact between two people? And what about the third phase – when you realise you’re in love with someone.
The “There’s Only You” Phase.
This very first stage is always full of love and pleasure. We enjoy each other immensely. The sex is great. We find ways to spend maximum time together.
Pretty much everyone loves this phase. We feel so close and loved and merged with our partner. This phase is termed as “oceanic love” phase of a relationship by psychologists. Usually, it lasts six months or so. After that, this phase starts fading away.
The Me/Us Phase.
We can’t stay in the “There’s Only You” phase. No one can, however much you think you want to. We have to get on with our lives! The next step can be called the “me/us” phase. We start to separate a bit as a couple in this state and get back to our own goals, purposes, and projects.
We begin to deal with our individual needs instead of just “whatever, as long as we’re together.” We want the toothpaste to be rolled up a certain way, spend time with our own friends, and we want to watch our tv shows, not just the ones our mate enjoys.
This phase is normal and natural, and it is also where a lot of relationships start to run into difficulties. The small fights that often grow bigger start here. Arguments about “you don’t spend enough time with me” and “why are you so cling-ey?” tend to arise, along with feeling like we need our own space or that there is too much space. We wonder why we didn’t see these issues before, and we worry about our long term compatibility!
Many relationships break up during the year or two of this phase because we miss the oceanic love phase, the close merging/loving that we felt during the start of our time together. We tend to think our partner is either not good enough/compatible enough or that they don’t really love us anymore. Something is missing, and we either blame our mate for “losing interest” or ourselves for the extra ten pounds we’ve gained.
Value Each Other’s Dreams
During this phase, one thing to remember is that each person needs to get on with their goals and interests. That way, you can each bring a fulfilling life to your relationship, rather than always try to get fulfilment from the relationship. If we don’t separate some from the oceanic love phase, we will end up as a cling-ey merged mess. A key to thriving during this period is to support your mate in getting their needs met. Support their interests, goals, and work efforts, and ask them to make allowances for what’s important to you.
The Companionship Phase.
The third period of relationships can be called the “long term companionship” phase. If we’ve survived the me/us phase, we now are settling into companionship routines. What do we do together as a couple, and What do we enjoy apart? What is expected of us by our mates, and are we okay with this? Do we want the quiet times with our partner, or are we still looking for never-ending fireworks and deep conversation from our lover?
Stretch this period out over the years, and we often feel like the love is mostly gone; we’re just going through the motions. Our lover can become more like our roommate. The hot passions of the oceanic love phase can become a distant memory.
So, given these relationship phases and the obvious issues that go with them, how do you keep the love alive? How do you keep the passions between you thriving, just like in the early days? Those are good questions that we all often end up admiring as we settle into the routine of work and family and kids. The first simple answer to this is that you don’t.
You don’t try to keep the “There’s Only You” phase going. It was there for a while as you mated; it helped you merge and form a team; now, it is gone and in its place is the potential for long term partnership. It won’t have the same emotional bliss you felt when you first fell in love. You’ve made a good first move if you manage not to get that back.
Another great thing to concentrate some time on as a couple plays. Have some play in your relationship every week, do a date night, and do some things that you enjoy as a couple. You don’t need to play all the time as you did initially, but you do need to play some to thrive as a couple!