In my previous post, Growing Together. Staying Together., I discussed the idea of sharing activities with your partner to increase feelings of closeness.
In this post, I would like to discuss the relationship stages I mentioned in a bit more detail. There are a few different models proposed by various theorists in the area of couple’s counseling.
The model that I would like to go into is the one promoted by Knapp and Vangelisti (this model was originally coined by Bernard Murstein around the 1960s). I have chosen this model because I feel that not all relationships will go through stages and fit into a model. Their approach allows for flexibility and accounts for individual differences.
So what is that happens in relationships? Here are the stages they propose:
Stage 1 – Initiating Stage
This is when we first meet someone. We are trying to be on our best behavior. We will watch what we say and how we say it. During this time, we are very careful about how we present our personality. This is basically the stage in which we are evaluating each other.
Stage 2 – Experimenting Stage
At this point, we are starting to test things out. We might have initially ‘dressed to impress’ or only told the ‘nice jokes’. Now we may throw out different stories or display new behaviors to see how the other person reacts. We start to feel a little more comfortable at this stage.
Stage 3 – Intensifying Stage
Here, we start to share deeper feelings and thoughts. Things we might have been hesitant to discuss before, are now closer to the surface. We tend to see the person through ‘rose-colored’ lenses – its hard to find anything negative about them at this point! This might be the first time you utter the phrase ‘I love you!’
Stage 4 – Integrating Stage
Here is when you might begin to make more frequent gestures to show your affections for each other. The couple might now officially label themselves a couple. In this stage, Knapp and Vangelisti introduce the concept of intimacy trophies. These are tokens the couple uses to denote their affections and growing commitment to each other. This could be anything from a charm bracelet, exchanging house keys, to combining cell phone plans!
Stage 5 – Bonding Stage
In this final stage, couples ‘go public’ with their relationship. This can either mean they engage in social activities with others as a couple, announce their union informally, or invite friends and family to a ceremony that commemorates their union in a more formal setting.
How do these relate to your relationship? Where do you find yourself now?