The 7 Stages of a Healthy Relationship and Why They Matter

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Wondering which of the 7 stages of a healthy relationship yours is in?

Anyone who has ever been in a long-term committed relationship will agree with me that relationships change over time.

Relationships, like people, rarely stay the same.

We change, we grow and yes, sometimes we grow in different directions. But change and growth don’t have to mean the end of the relationship.

In this post, we’re examining all the various changes most relationships go through. We’ll listen to some of the world’s most recognized marriage experts and get their opinions. We’ll also look at what to do when things break down.

Specifically, though, we’re going to take an in-depth look into the 7 stages of a healthy relationship.

You CAN rebuild that passion you felt for one another when you first kissed. 

If you feel like your marriage is not at the stage you want it to be at, then do yourself a favor and check out this quick free video on how to Mend Your Marriage. It walks you through everything you need to know about saving your marriage and taking it to the next level.

Are there really 7 stages of a healthy relationship?

According to world-renowned marriage expert John Gottman, there are 3 relationship stages.

Every marriage or committed relationship goes through these. While I agree there are 3 primary stages, I would argue that there really are 7 stages of a healthy relationship.

When a relationship can’t transition from one stage to the next, that’s when trouble sets in.

So if we believe there are 7 stages of a healthy relationship, how do we know what stage we are in?  Even still, how do when know when it’s time to move to the next level?

What if our partner is doing things we feel are preventing us from getting to that next level?  If that is the case how do we “fix” it?

Why is it important to identify relationship stages?

I got the idea for this post after listing to Gottman being interviewed about relationship stages on the Neil Sattin podcast entitled Relationship Alive. You can listen to that interview in its entirety right here:

I don’t pretend to be as knowledgeable as Gottman or as insightful as Sattin.

Gottman and his wife Julie have literally spent 40 years doing clinical research and studies on relationships and if anyone knows about how to make or break a relationship, it’s John Gottman.

I’ve been married over 11 years as of this post.  I’m not the perfect husband. Nor am I the perfect blogger.

But I have made mistakes in my relationship.  I’ve seen what has worked & has made things better. But I have also seen damage from my actions and reactions.  And (luckily), I’ve seen what it takes to repair some of that.

What are Gottman’s three stages?

7 stages of a healthy relationship Middle Class Dad artsy photo of a couple at a dinner table looking miffed

1. NEW LOVE

This is the kind of love when we are just starting out in a relationship.  Passionate, spontaneous and bold.  We haven’t yet gotten comfortable walking around in our 5 year old underwear yet.

We’re showing them our best sides only and because the love is new; it’s exciting!  No arguments yet, intense feelings and affection.  Pure heart-pounding love.

2. BUILDING TRUST

The next relationship stage is where we start building trust.  We have accepted we’re in this for the long haul and we’ve started to let our hair down.  We’re starting to argue a little and explore each other’s personalities.  We’re testing the waters of trust and both parties probably are doing things to both make and break trust.

This where we look for and offer support.  Will my partner cut and run at the first sign of trouble?  Do they have the strength to stick it through the tough times?  Do they love me enough to put up with me when I screw up?

3. BUILDING COMMITMENT

The 3rd of the stages is where we have a solid foundation of trust.  Now we start working on commitment. Trust and commitment are 2 different things.  You also can’t have a completely committed relationship without trust.  Thus, the relationship stages end with commitment.

Commitment is making a conscious choice to put your partner above all other priorities.  To focus on appreciating what they do and who they are.  Focusing on that, rather than on what you think is missing is crucial for building commitment.

Why total acceptance of your partner matters!

When you mostly focus on what you wish our partner would do differently, you aren’t fully committed.  Been there, done that.

True commitment is about accepting this person for exactly who and what they are.  They may have (in your mind) bad habits.  Perhaps they have different eating habits.

I have a friend (recently divorced) who’s ex was always on them about changing who they were. This in spite of the fact that my friend was pretty much the same when they started dating.

When we don’t accept our partner exactly as they are we will never fully commit and that can cause serious issues in the relationship.

Why I love John Gottman

If you aren’t familiar with John Gottman’s work, definitely check out his website and follow his social channels.  But there’s no substitute for his printed works (of which he has many).

His book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work may have literally saved my marriage.  But for the purposes of this blog, I’m going to highly recommend his book What Makes Love Last.

It’s an outstanding book (as all of his are) and goes through how to build trust and avoid betrayal.   

You CAN save your marriage — even if your spouse says that they want a divorce.

You CAN rebuild that passion you felt for one another when you first kissed. And you can bring back that love and devotion you felt for one another when both of you said, “I love you” for the first time.

If you feel like your marriage is worth fighting for, then do yourself a favor and watch this quick video on how to Mend Your Marriage that will teach you everything you need to know about salvaging the most important thing in the world.

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