by Zara Mohammed, Relationships Columnist
Published in Relationships on 10th January, 2020
Love can feel very confusing. There are so many different kinds of love that it is easy to get muddled as to what exactly it is that you feel for someone in your life.
This can cause problems in our relationships because we don't understand why we have reacted or behaved in certain ways.
Let us explore in this article everything you need to know about love, and try to answer the big question - What is love?
In this article we will discuss:
So let's get started!
Many people swear that love at first sight is a real thing, and some of these people have been happily married or in a successful relationship with the person that they fell in love with at first sight for many years.
But does that mean that it's possible for two people to meet and at first sight know and feel that they are meant to be? It's a very interesting question that is made even more interesting by new evidence suggesting that yes this could indeed be true!
We see the familiar romantic scenario over and over again in films, we read fictional stories about it in literature, and we hear real life love at first sight stories in the news, at dinner parties and through our friends. Notions of an instant attraction or spark initiating a whirlwind romance that grows and flourishes into a lifelong, unbreakable bond.
It is something we all desperately want to believe in, but at the same time can be very cynical about, because we live in a dating world that is cruel and harsh, filled with pressure, obstacles, rejection and disappointment after disappointment.
We are all nervous wrecks underneath all of the uncertainty of modern dating, and so the thought of falling in love at first sight is like a dream come true. It just sounds so perfect, so natural, so... easy!
Here are some of the findings from the study:
Now that we have covered love at first sight, you may be wondering - what is romantic love? And is it the same thing as love at first sight? Well it can feel very similar, because romantic love often feels involuntary, you crave someone, and in the early stages of romantic love it is very common to feel like you are losing control.
People have described being in love as having a thirst that is only quenched when they are with the person. This is the kind of love that can make you do strange things and behave out of character. Falling in love can feel like you are going mad.
Here are some of the most common names that romantic love comes under:
You can probably see that all of these have something in common - they all sound like they belong in a steamy novel or blockbuster film.
The love that we see depicted in stories are always of this kind because they look and sound so enticing, dreamy, and altogether wonderful. The truth is that in reality these feelings can be difficult to deal with, and they can end up causing confusion, hurt and pain.
In the early stages of romantic love the following symptoms are reported:
Romantic love on paper, and in reality is extremely uncomfortable. But we desire it anyway. That is because falling in romantic love is part of the bigger picture of love.
So let us carry on now to look at all of the different stages of love in order to get a more complete picture of what love is.
I have narrowed it down to 5 different stages of love in a relationship. This should give us a clear idea of what love is and how it develops. Every relationship is different of course, and not every relationship will go through each stage.
Sometimes we may skip a stage, and sometimes our relationships end before they reach the more developed stages. It doesn't mean that we haven't experienced love in those relationships, or that those relationships were underdeveloped.
This is the phase where we may experience love at first sight and the beginning stages of romantic love. We usually love this phase because it contains all of the fun elements of getting to know someone and feeling all of those feel-good hormones.
Maybe we are just dating at this point, but this phase can last for a significant amount of time, even a few years. Some people only ever have romantic relationships and go in and out of relationships that never progress further than romantic love and attraction.
If you are one of these people then the reason you may find yourself going in and out of relationships is because although this phase is fun, unfortunately it is not sustainable.
Here are the key clues that you are in phase one of your relationship:
You may not notice your relationship transitioning into stage two because it tends to creep up on you. It can also happen suddenly though. The typical duration of the reality stage is 6 months.
This is because this is usually how long it takes for couples to decide that they don't want to be together anymore, or that they do. The only way of moving on to the next stage is to be able to accept each other's flaws.
Here are the key clues that you are in phase two of your relationship:
I hate to disappoint you, but stage three is in fact the disappointment phase. Yes, there is a disappointment phase in your love journey. But it isn't the end of the road! You are just realising now that reality has well and truly set in, that things aren't exactly what you thought they were, and perhaps you are feeling a bit deflated.
This is the stage where couple who are deciding to stay together will spend their time working through any difficulties in order to get to a place that feels more stable.
This is a really important time for you both as you will be learning a lot about each other, how to communicate, but also about yourself and what you need in the relationship. You are both learning to be yourselves whilst simultaneously being together, and appreciating each other and your differences. It's a tricky one.
Here are some of the challenges that you may face:
The only way you can move through this stage and progress to develop the love that you share is to develop strong communication skills, mutual trust, and the ability to work as a team.
This phase is like the calm after the storm, and it feels like it will be plain sailing the rest of the way. You will have developed a mutual understanding, know enough about each other to work through any problems that arise, and generally you are feeling pretty relaxed and comfortable with each other and your relationship. The stability phase in a relationship roughly lasts about 2 years.
Here are some of the signs you are in stage four of your relationship:
The final stage of your love journey is the coveted commitment stage. It is less common than you might think for couples to genuinely reach this stage. This is true even for married couples that have been together for years.
But if you do manage to progress through all five stages of love in a relationship then you are truly an unbreakable team and a mature couple that can face anything that life throws at you. Your love is now fully sustainable and matured. It really doesn't get any better than that.
Here are the signs that you are lucky enough to have reached stage five in your relationship:
Love is a complicated, challenging, and painful journey of uncertainty, emotional struggle, and constant questioning about your decision to commit to a single person.
But we all want true love, and that is exactly what it is. Truth can't be challenged, and when you reach the final stage in your relationship, you will know that your love can't be challenged because it is true.