Stage One: Meeting
The purpose of stage one is to determine if there is enough chemistry, commonality and interest to warrant dating. For some people, it may take a couple of meetings to determine if they want to date a particular person. What is needed here is to come across as someone who is interesting and fun to be with. 

Stage Two: Falling In Love
Stage two is the romantic stage and can last 6 months or more. During this stage partners wants to spend large amounts of time together. People describe this stage as infatuation. Because both are having fun and ultra attracted to each other, each tends to overlook the cute flaws of their partner and focus on the strong attraction and the positive feelings. 

Stage Three:  Reality
Stage three is when differences between the couple come to the surface. It is also when each partner decides for his or her self, whether to continue. The relationship now focuses on how the couple will work through disagreements, differences of opinions, as well as approaches to sex, communication and commitment. It is an opportunity to learn and use problem-solving skills within the partnership. Arguing in a relationship is not the problem. The problem arises when couples don’t know how to use healthy skills to resolve conflict. Stage three is an opportunity to build a deeper relationship with your partner as each person recognizes they are loved and accepted for being them self. This is where trust develops in a relationship. 

Stage Four: Independence and Interdependence
Stage four is a when the couple learns how to be a couple while maintaining a level of independence within the relationship.  During this stage the couple begins to incorporate previous social relationships and interests into the couple relationship. For some, the fear of their partner wanting to socialize without them, triggers feelings of insecurity, jealousy, or abandonment. This is usually not based in reality, and if the insecure partner doesn't address their issues, the result maybe a break-up. 

Stage Five: Healthy Commitment & True Love
Stage Five is when the individuals are willing to make a long term commitment with one another. Having successfully completed the stages above, the couple has built a foundation on trust, honesty and integrity. For some this is marriage for others this means being in a monogamous relationship. 

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Marianne Vernacchia, MFT
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