In this blog post, you'll learn why it's important to think of love as a choice. I'll also explain why it's normal for your relationship to change over time. You'll learn about the three phases of your relationship according to researcher Helen Fisher and other phases from my professional experience. You will learn how to best support your relationship in each phase.
Why is love a decision?
Why is love a decision?
Love is a choice, because couples choose to commit to that one person instead of all other potentially possible partners. And committing to a relationship is therefore always a conscious decision! Because you are choosing to accept the person with their flaws and strengths. Unlike "falling in love" which is not a conscious decision, it is just a deliberate decision to build a relationship and work on a lasting love. It is a process that requires effort, communication, and the determination to get through difficult times. That's what makes love a choice.
Tips to actively choose your relationship.
As I've already explained, being in a long-term relationship means consciously choosing to work on your love and relationship. On the one hand, you do this by officially being a couple. But on the other hand, it's also important to keep choosing your partner in small and bigger ways.
To actively work on choosing your partner in small ways as well, you can do the following things:
The five phases of a relationship
It is also important for every couple to know that love and a relationship happen in phases. This is because it will help you get rid of uncertainty about how your feelings will change. After all, it's normal to feel differently after some time in the relationship. The phases come from Helen Fisher's research, as well as my own experience working with couples. The researcher names three phases of love that can be distinguished from each other biologically and also behaviorally. The phases are lust, romantic attraction, and attachment. In addition, I have added two phases that I observe in couples.
Consider for yourself which phase your relationship is currently in. In addition, you can consider how you can best work with your partner, according to the phase, to further develop your relationship and achieve a deep connection.
These are the five phases of a relationship and love:
1. State of physical attraction and lust
According to researcher Helen Fisher, the first phase is characterized by a physical attraction to the preferred sex. This pleasure system motivates us to choose a potential partner. This system is controlled, among other things, by the hormone estrogen.
Relationship tips: Early in the attraction phase, pay attention to who you're dating. It is important that you talk about your needs from the beginning, address difficult behavior, and show yourself as you are. This is the only way to find the right partner for you!
2. State of romantic attraction and ecstatic infatuation
The second phase is the phase of romantic attraction. Your life is basically ruled only by your lover: You want to spend a lot of time with him and don't necessarily see his weaknesses. You're also flooded with hormones like dopamine, so you experience a rush of love that feels exciting, new and great. According to researcher Helen Fisher, in this state, your romantic attraction system is activated, which is biologically designed to bond you to a genetically matched partner and invest your energy in the relationship.
Relationship tips: Enjoy the rush of emotions! During this time you are usually overjoyed and hardly see any problems or difficulties in the relationship. Prepare yourself mentally for this to change. But first, enjoy the moment and spend as much time with your partner as you wish!
3. Attachment phase
The third phase, which the researcher names, is characterized by an active attachment system. It is biologically designed to bond us to a partner in order to raise children. This phase is characterized by emotional closeness, security, and comfort. The infatuation rush is also biologically cooled down and other hormones control your emotions and thoughts. The hormones oxytocin and vasopressin are especially dominant in this phase. You see your partner more holistically, with their strengths and weaknesses.
Relationship tips: In this phase, you get to know your partner better and better. Therefore, it is important that you take a lot of time to discuss conflicts, get to know your triggers and values, approach each other and support each other. Also, now that the initial infatuation has worn off, you can see conflict as an opportunity for growth. You can work on managing conflicts so that you understand and get to know each other better. To do this, you can work on the principles of open communication, for example. You can find more about this here in my article on couple communication.
From my personal experience in counseling additional phases
4. Crisis phase
In addition to the phases that Helen Fisher names, there is also a time in some couples when crises occur more frequently. These are also especially the couples who come to couples counseling. During this time, their attachment system is primarily in focus and the relationship has already become a "habit." At this stage, couples wonder if they are really right for each other and begin to doubt the relationship. Arguments may occur more frequently. To develop your relationship at this point, it is necessary to actively work on the relationship.
Relationship tips: At this stage, using self-help books or couples counseling to work on moving the relationship back onto solid ground and carrying it through this crisis can be helpful. It is also important to remind yourself that crisis periods are normal and occur in every relationship. Clarify what your shared values are and what your vision for the future as a couple looks like. You can also work on appreciating your partner and seeing him or her in a positive light. This is especially important in this phase!
5. Phase of deep commitment
This is the stage that couples reach after they have mastered the crisis stage. The relationship is characterized by understanding and empathy for each other. Both partners feel comfortable in the relationship and value the other.
Relationship tips: Even at this stage, there are certainly things you can still work on. Support each other in moving forward and continue to work on the issues that arose during the crisis phase. Think about what your vision for the future is as a couple. What is your heart's project, what is your future? How would you like to continue spending the next 5,10,20 years? The relationship may feel stable to you now, the roller coaster ride of emotions may have subsided for some time. However, I encourage you to never think of your partner as completely familiar and known. There are always things that you can discover new about your partner. Try to break the routine sometimes, to experience new things together, to try new things or to learn something new together. Continue to give each other space to bring new momentum into the relationship.
Conclusion on love as a decision and the five phases of a relationship
In the blog article, it became clear that it is important that you acknowledge the conscious decision for your partner. You can do some things to actively live this decision in your everyday relationship life, such as establishing appreciation in your relationship. In addition, your relationship goes through different phases. You have learned which relationship phases there are and what you can do to support your relationship in each phase. Thus, you can find the right starting point to work on your relationship together with your partner. This way you can create the relationship that makes you happy and fulfilled!
Would you like support in dealing with a relationship crisis or are you currently dissatisfied with your relationship? Then feel free to contact me!
Abrams, A. (2021, 09. July). Navigating the 4 Stages of a Relationship. Verywellmind. https://www.verywellmind.com/the-four-stages-of-relationships-4163472.
Fisher, H. E., Aron, A., Mashek, D., Li, H., & Brown, L. L. (2002). Defining the brain systems of lust, romantic attraction, and attachment. Archives of sexual behavior, 31(5), 413-419.
Killoren, C. (2021, 12 January). The 5 Stages of Love: How to Level Up Your Relationship. Relish. https://hellorelish.com/articles/5-stages-of-love.html