The 6 Stages Of Dating Crucial For Long-Lasting Love
One of the common complaints I hear from women is how confusing the “stages” of dating are these days.
“There was no swiping, sexting, or dating more than one person back in my day.”
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“You’d go on a date, and if you had a good time, it was just assumed you were in an exclusive relationship.”
“None of this whole “what are we” chatter…”
I hear you, ladies. But times have changed. Now, people keep their options open when dating (and you should too). Everything happens at a slower pace, and nothing can be assumed.
The good news is, although every person and relationship is different, every relationship will go through the same stages of dating, which is vital if you want to build a solid foundation for a committed relationship that lasts.
So, if you’re a little confused about what the stages of dating are and how to act in the early stages of dating, this article will tell you all you need to know. These are the stages I walk all my clients through (I call them the 7 Little Love Steps) to help them find the man of their dreams and love that lasts.
Ready to dive in?
Here are the six different stages of dating
The awkward stage
Too many people go on a first date, don’t feel those initial “sparks,” and assume that means this isn’t the right person for them. Into the bin they go, along with all the other, “I just wasn’t feeling it”, guys. Although there will be passion and chemistry for some people on a first encounter, for a large majority of us, that chemistry will be overshadowed by a certain level of awkwardness. The “do they like me, do they not like me, what text would make me sound wittier, I hope I look okay, what should I say next, does he think I’m a total nutter, is he genuine or does he just want to get me into bed,” stage.
I want you to know that if you feel awkward on a first date, that’s natural. This man is a stranger. You’re trying to figure each other out. Both of you might be nervous or overthinking it. You’re wondering how the date will go. Will you have anything in common? Will you share the same sense of humor? What if you both run out of things to say and have to get your best friend to call you with a fake emergency or climb out of the window in the ladies restroom so you can bail from this sh*t-show?
All totally normal thoughts when you date someone new. Movies can give us the impression that first encounters are filled with fireworks, banter, and an unmistakable sign that this is the one, but real first dates will never quite match these lofty expectations. This is why, unless he turns out to be a psycho or one of your exes in disguise (also a psycho), I always recommend you go on a second or third date.
Most people struggle to convey an accurate picture of who they are at first, and everyone deserves a second chance to do that (including you). On a second or third date, you will start to feel a little more comfortable and relaxed with this guy and let your true colors shine. This is all part of Little Love Step #4—going out with different guys, exploring new connections, and deciding whether a man meets your love vision.
Tips for women:
- Lean into your feminine, playful side while dating (this is part of Little Love Step #1)
- Do something relaxing before a date to calm your nerves
- Be yourself but express your best, most positive self (nobody wants to hang with a Negative Nancy)
- Be curious—a date is all about getting to know someone different and having a new experience
- Always go on a second date if the first was nice, mergh, okay, mediocre, or fine.
- Get out of your comfort zone and explore lots of new connections
The damn you’re fiiiiine stage
As I mentioned, a rare few will skip that initial awkwardness and move straight to this sexy stage, while the rest of us have to walk through the fire first to earn it. Either way, you’ll eventually stumble into the “damn you’re fine” stage, which is another way of describing what we all know as the honeymoon phase.
Everything is new and exciting, and things are heating up real fast. You’ve got butterflies in your belly, you want to spend all your time with this guy, and when you’re not with him, you’re thinking about being with him. You can’t stop gushing about how awesome he is to everyone you know (his flaws are non-existent); you feel like a teen girl crushing on the Backstreet Boys all over again. You’re obsessed but in a not-a-crazy-stalker kind of way. The problem is all that lust can cloud your judgment and leave you fantasizing about what your kids will look like when you don’t even know this man’s last name.
Regardless, it’s often people’s favorite phase. But it’s just one of the early stages of dating and will inevitably pass. This is why you shouldn’t jump to call it quits when it does. As the lust simmers down, your love should grow. Plus, there are lots of ways to sustain these honeymoon highs as you progress through your relationship, as long as you’re both committed to keeping that fire lit.
Tips for women:
- Use your head and your heart during this stage to avoid being blindsided by lust
- Make sure you’re talking enough on every date to keep him focused on and interested in you, but don’t make it all about you
- Maintain some mystery—don’t lay everything out all at once
- Even if you like someone a lot, keep your options wide open (Little Love Step #5)
- Don’t chase anyone
The tell me more stage
“Tell me more, tell me more
Did you get very far?
Tell me more, tell me more
Like, does he have a car?
Summer loving, had me a blaaaast…”
Welcome to the third stage of dating: tell me more. In this stage, it’s a given that you’re both physically attracted to each other, but now it’s time to work on the emotional attraction.
You start to be more vulnerable in this stage, let those walls down, and open up about intimate parts of your lives. Your past, fears, secrets, insecurities, goals, and dreams. No holding back. You start to discover who this man is on a soul level and see him in a different light. And this intimacy is what it takes to deepen your connection and take it from lust to love.
If you have a history of things going swimmingly when you first start dating a guy but find he always pulls away or won’t commit, it’s usually because you’ve missed this step and have focused too much on the physical and forgotten about building an emotional connection.
Without this step, you won’t have a solid foundation to support a long-term relationship.
Tips for women:
- Go on dates that allow you to talk and get to know each other more intimately
- Be willing to be open and vulnerable with him
- Ask thoughtful questions that encourage him to open up
- Don’t spend too much time together—strive for a healthy balance between connection and independence to allow your connection to evolve at the right pace
- If you notice any signs that he is emotionally unavailable, move on
The let’s take the rose-tinted glasses off stage
The honeymoon phase is long gone, and doubts start to creep in.
Did he really just order anchovies on his pizza?
Only the Fresh Prince can work a printed shirt like that.
I can’t believe he voted for Trump/Biden.
Are you feeling it anymore? Is this guy really for you? Are your values and beliefs compatible in the long run?
You’ve had your first fight, and it came totally out of the blue because you thought you were on the same page about everything. Challenges are cropping up all over the shop, and you’re wondering whether this is normal. It feels like you fell off cloud nine, and all you can see is a bunch of things you don’t like about him. You’re wondering, where did Dreamy McDreamy go, and who is this imposter?
Oh yeah, welcome to one of the most challenging stages of dating, the one where sh*t gets real, real fast, uncertainty sets in, and your finger is hovering over the eject button.
But before you bail, you need to learn to differentiate between healthy challenges, which are normal, and a relationship that is unhealthy.
A healthy relationship is one where you disagree from time to time, but you’re able to communicate with love and respect and work through it (or commit to working through it if it’s something that can’t immediately be resolved, like, your Grandma always asking him when he’s going to make an honest woman out of you…). An unhealthy relationship is one where you cannot communicate effectively, problems are continually swept under the carpet, and you feel alone.
When two different people join together, there will inevitably be times when you butt heads. We are all flawed and imperfect. What matters in this stage is you figure out whether you can navigate conflict together effectively and if you can see this guy in your future.
Tips for women:
- When you have doubts, ask yourself again if this guy meets your love vision (Little Love Step #2)
- Are you happy 90% of the time with this guy?
- Pay attention to how you both communicate—is it healthy?
- How do you navigate disagreements?
- Are we compatible? Is there a future here?
The putting a label on it stage
Next up on the dating stages timeline is when you finally sit down and have “the talk” and define the relationship. This is what I call Little Love Step #6: Setting boundaries for a committed relationship. It’s time to set clear, healthy boundaries, the first of which is commitment.
You’ve gone out there, dated lots of guys, and found one who meets your love vision. You realize that the more time you spend with him, the more deeply you fall in love with him. He’s your best friend. You can be yourself around him without censoring anything. You challenge each other to grow and be your best selves. It feels like you’re a real team. And although those initial sparks may be fading fast, you’d trade those any day for the comfort, security, and integrity of what you have.
This stage is all about taking things to the next level and committing to a future together. It doesn’t mean there won’t be challenges and setbacks along the way (there will be). It’s about strengthening your communication and working together to overcome anything life throws your way. Welcome to the heart of being in a relationship.
There’s no set timeline for this stage of dating since every couple is slightly different. But generally, if you’re looking for a committed relationship, commitment should happen within three to six months of dating someone. Any longer than this, and there’s a good chance he’s stalling and not ready for commitment.
Tips for women:
- Know your boundaries and communicate them clearly to him
- Instead of asking him “what are we,” (desperados) communicate what you want (this means the power stays with you)
- Set boundaries together for a committed relationship
- If you haven’t explicitly agreed that you are in an exclusive relationship, assume that you are not
- Don’t wait around too long for him to commit to you
The relationship alignment stage
The final stage of dating goes beyond commitment and centers on building a shared life vision together (also known as Little Love Step #7). You’ve taken the step to commit to each other, and you’re deeply in love. Now it’s time to continue investing in each other to strengthen your relationship and set it up to flourish for the long run.
You’ll probably go through some significant changes together like moving towns or cities, opening a joint bank account, and buying IKEA furniture together. Maybe you’ll adopt a puppy. Perhaps one of you will quit your job and completely change careers. Or maybe one of you will experience the loss of a loved one. These events will either make your relationship stronger or tear it down. It all depends on how strong you are at communicating and finding a healthy balance between tending to your own needs and each other.
Just like anything in life, the work is never completely done. It’s not a case of checking these stages of dating off your list then kicking back with a chilled glass of rosé and thinking, job done. This is why so many relationships fail: people get lazy! You can always learn more, grow, become a better partner, and deepen your bond.
Tips for women:
- Continue to make time for each other—don’t ever get complacent (think date nights, romance, getaways, silliness)
- Maintain your independence outside of the relationship and make sure you’re filling up your cup
- Communicate, communicate, communicate!
- Focus on building something together (a marriage, a family, a business, a community project)
It’s easy to get caught up in these stages of dating and forget to enjoy the magic of each one. Although some may appear “better” than others, each has its challenges and beauty.
If you’re looking to build a healthy, committed relationship that lasts, it’s essential that you go through all of these dating stages. It’s kind of like building a house. If you take shortcuts on the foundations, it’s only a matter of time before the whole thing will crumble.
What stage of dating are you currently in, and how’s it going? Tell me all in the comments below.