Wouldn’t it be great if there was a kind of road-map for relationships – from the initial infatuation stage, through the ups and downs of commitment, and eventually winding up at the sitting-on-your-porch in rocking chairs in your old age?

The good news is that Dr. Susan Campbell has come fairly close to creating just this – her ‘5 Stages of a Relationship’ model is a great way to track where we are in our relationship and understand the challenges we’re likely facing.

After decades of research, Dr. Campbell has identified five distinct stages that most couples go through in their relationship – with ‘going through’ being an important term. You see, according to her model, we actually need to experience each stage to continue onto the next (kind of like a video game), and there are no shortcuts to the final stage! So without further ado, the stages are:

Romance Stage:

This is where we are obsessed with our partner and blind to any likely red flags. Advice for us during this stage is to still pay attention to our other relationships like friends, and also be mindful of potential red flags – even if we think our new partner is absolutely perfect.

Power Struggle Stage:

This is where things start to get tricky – we are now aware of our new partner’s flaws, and we can be facing conflict and communication challenges now the rosy glow has worn off. Advice for this stage is to work at finding your sweet spot for communication and accept conflict as normal and healthy.


Stability Stage:

Phew! We got through the rough patch, and now things are starting to settle down. Careful though – advice for this stage is not to fall into complacency just because things are looking up, and keep some good boundaries in place to maintain friendships and independence.

Commitment Stage:

This is where you really ‘choose’ each other as a partner – acknowledging that you are both flawed and accepting that this is totally okay. This is a nice stage that sometimes accompanies big life decisions like marriage or moving in together – and it is useful to keep in mind that mutual respect is key during this time – making sure that, even if life is busy and stressful, contempt can be like poison to a relationship.

Co-Creation/Bliss Stage:

This is actual couple goals; where your relationship helps you go out into the world and create something meaningful – as you are stronger together. Advice for this stage is to still keep up your independence with friendships and solo hobbies, and also to remember that even the most respectful and loving relationship needs to be maintained and recalibrated at times.

We hope this has been helpful to you – whatever stage you are in your relationship, Relish can offer step-by-step guides on opening up communication, navigating tough convos, and more with our award-winning relationship training app. Try free for 7 days.