The Stages of Relationships

Relationships are a part of our life that give us a sense of connection and belonging. They help make us feel strong when we’re weak and make life more meaningful. Relationships can include people from many different walks of life ranging from casual acquaintances to close friends and even family members.

Often the earliest stages of a relationship revolve around the exploration stage, where we start learning more about one another through conversations and experiences. Then we move into the bonding stage, where we begin sharing more personal details with our partner to build trust. This includes sharing feelings, emotions, finances, thoughts and words.

The intimate relationship stage is the next step, and it’s a big reason why people get in relationships in the first place. It can involve physical intimacy such as hugging and kissing, but it also includes emotional closeness and feelings of love and romance. Some people prefer to remain physically distant while others enjoy a deeper level of intimacy. Either way, intimacy is not a requirement for all relationships, and it can be healthy without sex.

The integrating stage is when two people’s identities and personalities fuse to form one person. This can be signaled verbally and nonverbally through referring to the partners as “us” rather than individually, or by presenting themselves as a single unit (for example, signing a credit card or opening a joint bank account). This stage is mostly seen in romantic relationships, but it can occur in any relationship type.