As we cycle through love, most of us pass through five main stages. With my friend Pepper Schwartz, I’ve created a short quiz to help you think about the stage of love you’re in now, to help you deal with the challenges it presents.
On a scale from one to seven, rate how true each of the following statements is for you now. A rating of 1 is least true, and 7 is most true.
___ I’m amazed at how much we dovetail. It feels like we’re one person!
___ We’re linked in a special way. I don’t think many people have felt a love like this.
___ We sleep close together. In fact, I can’t imagine sleeping apart.
___ I think I’ve found the perfect person, who satisfies almost all my needs. I don’t even feel like I need my friends anymore!
___ I don’t believe there are any red flags about this person; s/he seems almost perfect.
___ I don’t feel complete unless we’re together.
___ Our lovemaking seems effortless, almost magical.
Doubt and Denial
___ What I used to find sexy, funny, or exciting about him/her has started to irritate me.
___ I’m more critical, and he/she has begun to criticize me, too.
___ We sleep farther apart now.
___ Our sexual connection doesn’t feel magical and doesn’t happen as easily (although I often pretend it does).
___ I see many worrisome flaws in him/her and wonder how I missed them.
___ I realize we don’t have as much in common as I thought we did.
___ I’m starting to miss some of the people and activities I used to care about before I got into this relationship.
___ We argue about the same things over and over.
___ I find myself getting (secretly) bored, and even annoyed, by the same old stories he/she tells.
___ I no longer feel I can share my real thoughts with him/her.
___ I often stay angry about things he/she has said or done. When we try to talk about problems, I feel defensive.
___ We seem sexually incompatible so often now.
___ We can sleep in the same bed and not touch all night long.
___ I wonder whether I even like him/her anymore.
___ I’m happier doing things alone or with my friends.
___ I wonder whether our relationship is beyond repair.
___ I’m exhausted by the struggles in our relationship.
___ I worry that my health is going to suffer—or already has—because of the stress.
___ I’ve thought about separation, and I fantasize about my life away from this relationship.
___ I feel that our relationship is at a crossroads: We have to move one way or another.
___ I see I’m part of the problem, and I need to change if I want to make this relationship a great one.
___ I’m willing to have difficult conversations and to listen, open to what I hear. I can say what’s on my mind freely from a place of trust.
___ I see big differences in how we experience and react to situations. I can accept these differences more easily than I used to although they still may be hard.
___ I love to sleep with my partner but also on my own.
___ In some ways, I feel more in love than ever but also OK not to feel intensely all the time. I feel more whole and together inside.
___ Our sex life is fulfilling. When sex doesn’t work, though, we can laugh and let it go.
___ I feel relaxed with him/her. We’ve been through so much, and I know we can survive anything.
What Love Stage Are You In?
Take a look at which stage you rated with the most 6s and 7s. If there are more 6s and 7s in one section than another, chances are that’s the stage you’re in. If your scores are evenly split between one stage and an adjacent stage, you may be in transition.
1. The Merge
A delicious and powerful love potion, evident in actual changes in brain chemistry, causes euphoria, wonder, and delight when our love is new. Lost in joy, we ignore the flags that may signal danger or trouble ahead.
2. Doubt and Denial
We begin to awaken from the trance of infatuation. Our feelings become more conditional and ambivalent. The spotlight shines on the flaws of our beloved. We may suspect our partner somehow has changed. We may want them to change back into who we thought they were in the first place.
We enter a trance just as we did during the first stage of love except now we see only the worst in our partners. We’re the righteous ones. Why aren’t you me? is the question that lies at the bottom of our frustration.
When we’re in pain, we’re driven to move beyond it. Unhappiness with our partner makes us feel tired, conflict causes our bodies to feel tight, and stress wears on our immune systems. We may decide to stay together physically but to lead separate lives in every other way. Or we may choose to learn how to create a healthy and happy relationship through the development of certain skills and tools.
5. Wholehearted Loving
We’ve learned to practice the skills to make each of us whole. We’ve know how to let go of grievances quickly, to ask for and receive forgiveness, and to recognize the need to make our own life work from the inside out.
The stages spiral by nature. We can regain the bliss of the first stage only to become disillusioned and then bounce back into wholeheartedness. Like any good yoga practice, flexibility and resilience can be developed to weather the dynamics of any relationship.