7 Phases Every Serious Relationship Goes Through That Are Oh-So-Relatable
All couples are different, but there are some big phases every serious relationship goes through, no matter who you are. Everyone who's been in a serious relationship can relate to things like having the "What are we?" talk — or at least some form of it — and meeting each other's parents or core family members. And then there's the whole "getting comfortable" with each other part...and how quickly you can become almost a little too comfortable together. (Listen, all couples wind up establishing weird habits together, don't even try to deny it!) Your relationship journey is unique to you and your partner, of course, but most people who find themselves in serious relationships go through a lot of the same big milestones together, like saying "I love you" for the very first time.
From making your relationship official to figuring out your future together — and all the silly and serious moments in between — here are the major phases you'll go through in a committed relationship, especially if you wind up staying together forever. If you're already with your person, you'll know these stages all too well — and if you aren't, well, you'll know what to look forward to.
1. Making Things Official
The first step to a relationship that's serious is making it an official relationship with a capital "R." For some couples, this means having a conversation about where you stand and what you want, while for others it might happen pretty naturally without a huge conversation. In any case, this phase is about establishing that you're in a committed relationship, however that looks for you and your partner. You'll know you're in this phase when you feel secure with where you stand — and most importantly, when your heart feels ready to take a big leap of faith. (No risk, no reward, right?)
2. Spending All Your Time Together
Now that you've established that you are both in this thing together, you're going to find yourself spending pretty much all of your time with one another. This is the part where it becomes less about going out on dates (although going out is still fun too!) and more about staying in together. Think of this phase as peak Netflix and chill time — you're probably going to spend most of this phase in sweats, binge-watching a show that you picked out together, and ordering dinner in. And as an added perk, you probably also won't be able to keep your hands off of each other — this is basically the honeymoon phase, after all.
3. Saying Those Three Little Words
OK, so, you've spent the last few months getting to know each other and spending the majority of your free time together. You've opened up about major things in your life, bonded over your shared experiences, and learned a lot about who your partner really is. And your heart? Your heart is in this. Like, deeply in this thing. You get butterflies just thinking about the big L-word. Congratulations! You're in love. And when you tell each other "I love you" for the first time (and consider this your permission and encouragement to say it first! This is your relationship and you make the rules!) it's going to feel so, so right.
4. Meeting Each Other's Families
You know things are really serious when you start meeting each other's families. Sometimes this phase is no big deal — maybe your family is super easy-going and you know they'll welcome your partner with open arms. Sometimes it's more emotional than that — it all depends on your respective relationships with your families. In any case, expect to spend time preparing each other for what your families will be like, and expect a little bit of awkwardness. (It's kind of hard to make it through this phase without any — but at least you might get some funny stories or inside jokes out of it!)
5. Getting Really, Really Comfortable
There comes a time in every relationship where things get a little weird. Not as in the vibe between you is weird — at this stage, it'll be stronger than ever! More like, you and your partner will start to develop habits that you both find totally adorable, but others would probably deem pretty strange. It comes with the territory of falling in love and spending so much time together that you break basically all of your usual comfort boundaries. Symptoms of this phase include coming up with silly nicknames for each other, laughing a lot in bed, and not caring if they see you after three days without a shower. By the time things get particularly advanced, you might even feel like you have your own language that only the two of you understand.
6. Moving In Together
If you're in this relationship for the long haul, it's likely that at some point you'll decide to move in together. The apartment search is actually a pretty good test of your compatibility and strength as a couple — if you can make it through the daunting process of finding a home together and survive a hectic trip to IKEA together to get said home relationship-ready, you can make it through just about anything. And once you're living together, you'll spend even more time together — which means all that adorable, loving weirdness you started experiencing in phase five is only going to get stronger.
7. Planning Your Future
Like I said, every relationship is different, so your future together could look like just about anything. Maybe you want to get married, or maybe you don't want a wedding but still plan to spend the rest of your life with your partner. Maybe you want to have kids someday. Maybe you want to travel the world or start a business together. Your options are basically limitless. This phase isn't about any one particular future direction — it's just a matter of you and your partner planning one with each other, knowing you're going to grow together. If your life feels like a puzzle and all of the pieces are finally starting to fit together, you're definitely in this phase.
No matter what stage you're at in your relationship, there's so much to look forward to — weirdness and all.
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