Knowing what stage of dating a relationship’s at and where it’s going is important.
The answer to these questions help us determine such things as how intimate we should be with our partner and what plans we should start making for our future together.
Determining the seriousness of our relationship, however, can be very challenging and confusing.
The 3 Stages of Dating:
Lucky for us..
Laura Umphrey and John Sherblom, researchers from the Universities of Alaska and Maine (respectively), have simplified the process. In one of their studies, they found the keys to understanding your relationship development–there are three distinct relationship stages and this is what each stage looks like.
What is it: Casual dating is the first stage of any relationship. It is characterized by people just dating for fun without any expectation of commitment or exclusivity. It’s a “getting to know you” phase where we’re not likely to invest much in the relationship or worry about how we feel about the relationship as a whole.
Stresses: Because of the lack of commitment, we’re also more likely to worry about what our dating partner is thinking. Whether our thoughts are “what does she think of me?” or “where does he see this going?” we are uncertain about the future of the relationship. We may find it easy to be open about some things during casual dating, but because we haven’t developed a relationship of trust, we may also hold back and keep select information from our date.
Why Do It: While casual dating is not very secure, it is a great way to meet new people and explore our options. This type of dating helps us understand ourselves and our likes/dislikes when it comes to relationships. But once we find someone we really connect with, we might quickly find ourselves in the next stage:
What is it: Exclusive dating is when two people begin dating with the expectation that partners will not date others. This is more serious and sends the message that “I like you more than other people I’ve dated and feel like we have a special connection. I’m interested to see where this relationship can go.”
Stresses: We often begin exclusive dating relationships because we feel that we’re not likely to find someone we want to be with more than our new partner. We may still keep our eyes open to other potential partners, but we will likely find it more difficult to find someone we feel is a better fit for us. Therefore, commitment becomes an important part of the relationship. Because we’re interested in building a relationship, we begin to invest in the relationship more, including opening up a little more and sharing more about ourselves. However, we’re still uncertain about the future of the relationship, so we may still feel nervousness around our partner and worry about what they’re thinking and where they want the relationship to go.
Why Do It: Exclusive dating helps us feel loved and wanted by another person. Such dating also gives us an important support system for other stresses in our lives. Once we do build a satisfying relationship of trust with our partner, and connect at a deeper level, then we’re likely to enter the final stage of dating:
What is it: Once we begin a serious relationship, we’re sending the message that we’re happy with our relationship and want this one to last. We begin to think more long-term about the relationship and consider our options for the future. When we’re in serious relationships, we may find other people attractive, but we are not likely to think about others in terms of potential relationship partners. Since we’re happy with our current choice, we then begin to invest even more in the relationship. If we feel satisfied in our serious dating relationship, then we begin to discuss the future and make plans for making our relationship more permanent.
Stresses: When we feel a greater sense of commitment in our relationship, we are less worried about our partner wanting to leave, so we feel safer sharing more with them. At this stage, we may share some of our deepest feelings and fears. We feel more comfortable around our partner, so we might start to let loose and show some of our quirks more. However, with that disclosure comes a stronger fear of rejection and what the loss of the relationship would mean. We may fear a break-up and the emotional turmoil it would cause. Our lives may also be intertwined with our partners, making the prospect of leaving very anxiety provoking.
Why Do It: Social science research has long documented the benefits of serious and long-term dating. Those that stay in such relationships are often healthier and happier than people who only casually date or remain single.
So, which stage best matches your relationship?
We may not fit one stage perfectly. We may be very open with our partner and trust them completely, but still be looking for other potential partners. We may also realize that our partner is not in the same place we are. You will likely find, though, that your best chances at a satisfying relationship are if both partners are at the same stage and if you fit one stage very closely. So what do you need to work on?
Take our RELATE assessment to improve your relationship.
Read the original article here.