Your Guide to the 6 Phases of Being in a Relationship
Dating is really hard.
And we're not even talking about the logistics of finding someone who likes you, who you also have feelings for in return. No, dating is primarily hard because no one has any idea what's going on.
Dating, dating exclusively, in a relationship, hanging out—what does it all mean?! There are far too many stages to a relationship and far too little agreement regarding what each stage actually means.
Well, we're getting to the bottom of all this dating nonsense. Keep scrolling for your guide to the six phases of being in a relationship.
Stage One: Attraction
Every relationship starts with an initial attraction towards another person. This is the moment where you first develop feelings for someone and subsequently decide whether your crush is worth pursuing. It's important to note that "having feelings" does not imply you're in love with this person. More commonly, it simply means that you're interested in getting to know them more. Most commonly, you're probably just physically attracted to them—nothing more. Crushes are incredibly common, so nine times out of 10, things won't go anywhere, effectively ending your relationship at the attraction phase.
Stage Two: Declaration
While declaration sounds a little dramatic, it's also an accurate description of this next relationship stage. In order for things to move past the attraction stage, either you or your crush have to make your initial interest known. In this stage, one of you tells the other that you like them, opening the door into making your relationship something more. If you never confess your feelings, you'll probably never move out of the "attraction" stage.
Stage Three: Talking
After you or your crush have confessed your feelings for the other person, it's time to discover if you're actually compatible. Enter: the talking stage. In this stage, you and your crush have both expressed a mutual interest in one another, but you're still seeing where things go. The talking stage involves a lot of texting, since that's an easy, non-committal way to get to know each other. You haven't put any boundaries on your relationship, and you haven't even discussed where things are going to go—you're simply testing the waters to see if you're compatible enough to allow your relationship to grow into something more.
Stage Four: Dating
If the talking stage goes well, you then transition into the dating stage. In truth, it usually takes a long time and a lot of confusion before you transition from talking to dating, so be patient. At this point, you and your crush are spending a fair amount of in-person time together, you're going on full-fledged dates and you're in contact pretty regularly. You still don't have a defined commitment within your relationship, but it's fair to expect a conversation if they want to end things.
Unfortunately, this is also the stage where ghosting is most common and most painful, because you've invested a bit of time into this relationship. It's also the most frustrating stage because your feelings are becoming more serious, but you still can't expect all that much out of your partner, since you're not in a relationship.
Stage Five: Dating Exclusively
In our opinion, the dating exclusively phase is a little redundant, but hey—we don't make the rules. In the dating exclusively phase, you and your crush have decided to commit solely to one another. Other side flirtations or interests are cut off so you can focus on this one person. It's a step above dating and a step below a relationship, even though it pretty much makes you a couple. In truth, it's just a relationship without the label, which makes some people more comfortable before they full-on commit to the boyfriend/girlfriend stage. However, this is also the stage that's skipped most often, probably because it doesn't play a real role in advancing your relationship.
Stage Six: In a Relationship
Finally, after all that time and effort, you can officially consider yourself in a relationship. At this point, you and your crush have committed to only dating each other, and you can fully embrace the boyfriend/girlfriend label.
It's important to know that people can move much faster or slower through these stages, or skip entire chunks altogether. Every relationship takes its own course, but these phases can help decode your actions and feelings—as well as those of your crush—so you don't feel the need to move things along too quickly or too slowly.
On the hunt for more dating advice? Click HERE for 5 signs of a failing relationship people usually ignore.