The 4 Stages of Dating Relationships

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Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT has been a therapist for over 30 years, specializing in work with couples, families and relationships. She has expertise with clients ...Read More

There are 4 predictable stages or different phases of dating...

There are 4 predictable stages or different phases of dating that couples experience in a relationship. At each stage, there is often a decision (sometimes more thoughtfully arrived at than others) to move forward or to end the dating relationship.

Some stages take longer than others to accept and go through and some people take much longer at each stage. Unfortunately, some people don’t fully experience and process each stage of dating as an opportunity for personal growth or to make a healthy evaluation about the relationship or about themselves.


The four stages of dating relationships are:

  1. Initial Meeting/Attraction
  2. Curiosity, Interest, and Infatuation
  3. “Enlightenment” and Becoming a Couple
  4. Commitment or Engagement

Stage 1: Initial Meeting/Attraction

Dating relationships have to start somewhere, and stage one is the first step. The initial stage or meeting may take place over the internet, through friends, in a church or social group, at a party or bar or any one of a myriad of many different places.

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Different arenas for meeting allow for different opportunities for partners to get to know each other and see if there is enough curiosity or interest to take it to the next level which would involve arranging a second or third date.

A significant aspect of this stage is the role of hormones like dopamine and oxytocin. Dopamine, often dubbed the ‘feel-good hormone’, creates feelings of euphoria, craving, and motivation, which are typically associated with the early stages of romantic attraction. Oxytocin, frequently referred to as the ‘love hormone’, fosters feelings of attachment and deepens the emotional bond between partners, especially during intimate moments.

However, amidst this whirlwind of emotions, it’s crucial to maintain a sense of self. While the excitement of new romance can be overwhelming, retaining individuality and personal interests is key. It ensures a balanced dynamic where both partners can grow together without losing their unique identities. This balance is essential for the healthy progression of the relationship, laying a foundation for mutual respect and understanding as the couple moves forward.

As individuals navigate through the Attraction and Romance stage, understanding these dynamics can lead to a more mindful and fulfilling experience, setting the stage for the progression into deeper, more meaningful phases of the relationship.

Stage 2: Curiosity, Interest, and Infatuation

The second stage, also known as the attraction stage, is when infatuation is most pronounced. It is also where physical intimacy may occur.

Early attraction often involves the physical attributes of the potential partner, and include things like outward appearance, body type, interests and personality traits. At this stage, the attraction may not be too “deep” and each half of a couple is generally putting his or her best foot forward. Differences are not noticed or are dismissed with thoughts like “not a big deal” or “she will change”.

Couples generally do not have much conflict at this stage of the dating phase as each is really trying hard to impress the other person. Often (not always) there is not enough “is this the right person for me” but rather more “what can I do to make this person like me?”

This stage may last for 3 or 4 months depending on the individuals and their maturity, experience and self-understanding. Towards the end of this stage, and hopefully at other times throughout it, it is not unusual for questions of “is this the right person for me” to emerge. For women especially there may also be a desire to figure out where the relationship is headed.

Going slowly in making any decisions about a romantic relationship is more likely to be better than moving quickly (unless it is clear that the relationship is not a good fit).

Stage 3: “Enlightenment” and Becoming a Couple

During this stage of a relationship, hormones are calming down and reality sets in. Couples often go “deeper” in their connection. Trust is stronger and more intimacies may be shared at this next stage as couples take away some of their “best face” and allow themselves to act more naturally and relaxed.

Both halves of a couple will notice weaknesses and differences or flaws. “Cute” habits might become irritating at this stage. Some of those perpetual issues or differences such as free-spending or frugal, neat and orderly or sloppy and disorganized, interested in lots of time together or more involved in outside activities begin to emerge.

At this stage of the relationship, couples will take note of the differences and may even begin to complain or attempt to problem-solve.

As intimacy develops between the two people, more self-disclosure emerges, both verbally and nonverbally as couples act in ways that are more like how they are in their daily life.

This is when the big question emerges even more strongly: “Where are we headed?“ Women have a tendency to ask this question before men, even though both may be wondering about the answer to this question. Pushing for an answer; however, may cause real problems in the long term relationship itself. Each person needs to listen to their own inner voice and wisdom. It is important to talk over their thoughts and feelings with their partner while finding ways to keep from “pushing” for commitment.

There is no need to rush through this important final stage, and every reason to go slowly.

Stage 4: Commitment or Engagement

At this stage in a relationship, couples should have a good understanding of their partner’s values, lifestyle, and goals for the future. There should be a relationship with each other’s family and friends, and this may be the start of a commitment phase.

Open and honest conversations should be happening as couples plan their present and future together. Questions about children, finances, careers, future goals and lifestyle should be discussed more fully. Differences are normal and couples with open communication will learn about themselves and their relationship as they note how they handle these differences with each other.

This fourth stage is also an important stage for couples to use to evaluate the relationship and their ability to be part of an emotionally intelligent relationship. Engagements can be broken much more easily and can clearly be a better decision than getting married and divorced.

How Does Dating Work?

Dating is a way for two people to start getting to know each other and figure out if they want to have a relationship together. It’s an important part of life, but it can be hard at times. During a first date, people may choose to do something fun together and talk about their interests and hobbies. It’s important to feel comfortable and be yourself during the meeting.

Sometimes people choose to date because they are interested in having sex, but other times they are looking for something more long-term. As the relationship progresses, couples may start thinking about their future together and make plans. You may meet a lot of people before finding someone special, but it’s worth it in the end. Dating means learning about yourself and what you want in a relationship. It’s okay if it doesn’t work out – you never know what can happen and who you may meet along the way.

What is Dating in a Relationship?

Dating is a time when two people come together to get to know each other better. A date is when two people decide to spend quality time alone together doing something they both enjoy. It’s a way to start a relationship with someone you’re interested in.

During this stage, individuals may have different expectations and feelings about the commitment. Some people may want a committed relationship that eventually leads to marriage, while others may be happy just having a girlfriend or boyfriend. Dating during intimacy stage means getting to know someone better, sharing life experiences, and creating a strong foundation and bond with another person.

It’s important to remember that the dating scene can be difficult at times, but it’s also a lot of fun. Couples meet and get to know each other, and sometimes they decide to move on to a committed relationship. Whatever the outcome may be, dating is an important part of life, and it means finding someone to share it with.

How to Progress from Dating to Relationship

When you’ve been dating someone for a while, it’s normal to wonder how to progress the relationship journey, from dating to a relationship. It’s a matter of time, feelings, and being ready to take the next step.

If you feel like you’re interested in a committed relationship with your partner, it’s essential to talk to them about it. Ask questions and listen to their answers to get a better understanding of where they’re at. Look for signs that they might be interested in the same transition, such as wanting to meet your family or introducing you to a best friend of theirs.

Remember that it’s important to agree on things before making things official. You want to make sure that you’re both on the same page and ready for the transition. If you’re not sure, seek advice from friends or family who know you and your partner well.

Ultimately, the transition from dating to a relationship doesn’t necessarily have to mean the end of fun dates and good times. It’s just a good sign that you both are interested in committing to each other and making things work. Relationships are important, and it’s good to bring up the topic when you feel ready.

What Not to Do in Early Stages of Dating

When starting a new relationship, it’s important to remember what not to do in the early stages of dating. It can be easy to get caught up in the excitement and rush of things the first few dates, but taking a bit of time can make all the difference.

One of the things to avoid is making assumptions about your partner or the various stages of a relationship. It’s important to communicate openly and honestly with each other, rather than assuming things.

Another thing to keep in mind during romantic dates is not to rush things. Take your time to get to know the person and enjoy the early stages of dating. Don’t put too much pressure on the relationship or expect too much too soon.

Lastly, it’s important to maintain your own rights and boundaries. Don’t compromise on things that are important to you or let the other person dictate your life. Remember to enjoy the dating process and have fun meeting new people.

Keep Reading By Author Sally Connolly, LCSW, LMFT
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