Dr. John Gottman, a famous psychologist who has studied the dynamics of marriage, wrote a book entitled Principia Amoris: The New Science of Love in which he explained that there are different stages of love.
These stages of a romantic relationship do not only involve falling in love “at first sight” but falling many times through the various stages of love.
So what are the different stages of love? And how can one fall in love so many times at each stage?
The stages of love according to Dr. John Gottman
We look at love and often think that there are probably just two stages involved: falling in love and staying in love.
However, according to an expert in love and relationships, Dr. John Gottman, there are three stages of being in love, and these are the following:
Stage 1: Falling in love/limerence
In this first stage of love, we are introduced to the term limerence.
This term is defined as the state of mind in which a person is in love which is manifested in the following physical symptoms: flushed face, increased heart rate, shortness of breath and psychological symptoms, which are: obsessive thoughts and fantasies, excitement to form a bond with the beloved, sexual desires, and also, fears of rejection.
Apart from these psychological/emotional and physical manifestations, our bodies are working even to the chemical/molecular level when we are in love.
Falling in love, also constitutes hormones and pheromones that makes us all the more attracted to our soon-to-be-partner.
According to the Alchemy of Love and Lust by Dr. Theresa Crenshaw, among the most important hormones that play a part in this first of the three stages of love relationships are the following:
Phenylethylamine (PEA) or the “molecule of love” is a form of amphetamine (yes, the drug), which is naturally formed in our bodies.
Oxytocin, more popularly known as the “cuddle hormone” is what makes us get closer to our beloved. When we are close, our bodies will produce more of it. Thereby, making us get even closer.
These factors of this infatuation stage of love make us blind to any red flags.
It gives us a blind sense of confidence towards loving this person we are attracted to.
These red flags are then eventually faced during the second stage of love which is, building trust.
Stage 2: Building trust
At this stage of love, there are many more questions that lovers face.
Building trust makes lovers answer love’s most initial and profound question: Can I trust you?
Dr. John Gottman continued to share that this question becomes the basis of why couples fight during his therapies and studies. He concluded that in order for love to flourish, the couples must know how to fight.
He also discovered the magic ratio which could be the most significant predictor of helping couples stay together during different stages of romantic love.
A 5:1 ratio of positive to negative is the likely predictor of success.
In this second stage of love, building trust is all about keeping your partner’s best interests in mind. It’s all about listening to your partner. When they feel bad, or when they are communicating their pains and their hurts, we stop our world to meet them in this struggle.
Stage 3: Building commitment and loyalty
The nurturing that started in the second stage of love continues at the third stage of love where couples continue to learn to commit and become loyal.
Nurturing either the love or nurturing the resentment and the ill feelings that one or both partners have for each other or for the relationship. At this stage, couples could either deepen love or betrayal.
One of the things that Dr. John Gottman looks at in this third stage of love is the power distribution in the relationship.
Partners might have difficulty in building commitment and loyalty if they feel that the relationship’s power balance is skewed towards the other.
Stages of love for men
For women, reading this article, it would also be fascinating to also deep-dive into the stages of a man falling in love.
Stage 1: During this stage, men pay more attention to the physical appearance of a potential partner.
Stage 2: As men enter this stage, men look for ways to please or woo a woman.
Stage 3. At this stage, men enter the vulnerable phase of attraction, where rejection can affect them deeply.
Stage 4. By this stage, the focus on making the girl reciprocate the feeling of attraction intensifies. He levels up his efforts to win the girl’s heart.
Stage 5. At this stage, the guy questions their level of attraction and chemistry and if they would want more to the relationship than its status quo, he will deepen the connection beyond the usual drill of dates and gifts.
Stage 6. This is a stage of reaffirmation. Now that the girl is also head over heels over the guy, he may step back to evaluate the situation, get his power, objectivity, and perspective back.
It usually comes as a huge surprise for the woman, as there is a lack of open communication about moving forward.
Stage 7. If he has decided to carry on with the relationship, then he is no longer afraid to commit. He stays decidedly loyal and believes the potential partner is the perfect fit for him.
Loving through the different stages of love
The alarming rates of divorce in the United States seem to suggest that a lot of couples begin to have trouble navigating the second stage of love.
After all, it is challenging to build trust.
There are so many ways that we can continue to love through the different stages of love. Such as in deploying the following mechanisms to making love continue to flourish through each stage, across all phases of love relationships.
Dr. John Gottman has suggested attuning to our partner, which we can do so by:
Having an awareness of our partner’s struggles and pains.
An understanding that there are always two ways to look at negative emotions.
Turning toward, instead of turning away from our partner’s needs.
Offering a complete understanding of your partner
Listening to our partner, non-defensively. Offering a listening ear with an open heart and an open mind.
And last, but not the least, is practicing empathy.
These stages of marriage or phases of a relationship expose us to the truth that there are a lot more factors that our bodies and emotions must need to meet for one to be in love with a person and even more factors for one to stay in love with a person.
Falling in love doesn’t just constitute the feeling, as now we know that hormones and pheromones also predict it; and staying in love isn’t just telling our partners “I love you” every day or every hour.
Love as we have learned from Dr. John Gottman is also fighting with fairness, keeping the ratio of positive to negative to the ratio of 5:1, and having empathy for our partners.
It would also be interesting to check out this collection of poems that traverse you through the delights, fragilities, dramas, and disasters that is the cycle of love.
To power together through the different stages of love is to always keep our partner’s best interest in mind while we also continue to grow as a person of our own during all relationship phases.
If you feel disconnected or frustrated about the state of your marriage but want to avoid separation and/or divorce, the marriage.com course meant for married couples is an excellent resource to help you overcome the most challenging aspects of being married.
Rachael Pace is a noted relationship writer associated with Marriage.com. She provides inspiration, support, and empowerment in the form of motivational articles and essays. Rachael enjoys studying the evolution of loving partnerships and is passionate about writing on them. She believes that everyone should make room for love in their lives and encourages couples to work on overcoming their challenges together.