The 7 stages of a loving relationship

By Julia Paulette Hollenbery,
updated on Dec 3, 2021

The 7 stages of a loving relationship

We explore the stages of intimacy, and dive into the secrets to long lasting love

We often think of ‘a relationship’ as something that stays the same – but, in reality, they really have a life of their own.

The miracle of intimacy takes time to find. To love, you must not only be strong but wise. The secret to creating a successful loving relationship is realising that it is always changing.

Here, we take a look at seven relationship stages, to help guide you and your partner to love each other, deeply and happily.

1. Discovery

At first, you may not realise what a treasure you have found. While the ego is looking just for fun, the lovers have entered sacred space, and there can be an uncomfortable struggle between surface identity and the unconscious soul.

Among the passion, new lovers often worry about small disappointments. Things that don’t meet their ideas, expectations, and lists of what they want in a relationship.

The impulse may be to run from the imperfect. But stay awhile, it can be a magical time.

2. Hide and seek

In this second stage, you both have hopes and fears. You may want someone better, a lover ‘more this’ or ‘a lot less that’. You may not want to give up your independence. One partner may run away, the other may pursue. This dance can bring lots of life into a relationship.

If you want to love, you will have to accept the uncertainty. To love, you will need to manage your fear of the unknown. You will need to ground yourself – try sensing your body, breathing fully, exercising, bathing, or chatting with a friend.

3. Imperfection

If this relationship is love, you will find yourself willing to connect with aspects of yourself that you may usually try to hide. Perhaps anxiety, illness, or tension. You are both seen as being a vulnerable child, as well as being a capable adult.

Kindness to that which seems less, is rewarded by goodness. When you dare to move forward, to be in touch with the ‘not-beautiful’, you are rewarded and expanded!

A wild generous patience is required to discover this valuable pearl. Go slowly and gently. In this seemingly risky movement, you meet the pattern for renewal – and together deepen.

couple sitting in the kitchen

4. Trusting

This next stage is a transition – a healing and a rebirth through being in a healthy relationship.

Willingly showing each other your vulnerability, and resting together in the shared safety.

You love, even though you might still be nervous, or you’ve been hurt before or fear the future. You relax, trusting in the goodness of life – you feel innocent and hopeful.

Trust your instincts, that this relationship is good. A step towards commitment is the end of one kind of life and the beginning of another. Whatever will be, it will be transformative.

5. Resting

At this stage, lovers let their hearts break open.

A Sufi prayer is, “Shatter my heart so a new room can be created for limitless love.”

6. Sharing

The lovers’ hearts begin to sing new life. The heart of the relationship sings, lives, dances. Both of you are lovingly held within the healing, dynamic, aliveness of the relationship itself.

When you realise that there will always be unknown and unexpected relationship chapters to travel, you stop fearing uncertainty, and welcome it. Your soul is glad.

A real pleasure. You feel renewed.

7. Intermingling

Love in its fullest form, is a never-ending series of beginnings and endings, deaths and rebirths. You let go of one phase of love and enter another. To love is to embrace and to stay steady. To be generous.

To make love, is to dance with everything, body and soul, breath and flesh, spirit and matter, one person with the other. To make love is to cooperate, merge, and surrender.

Giving your entire heart to the process, each partner transforming the other, the lovers will be nourished to the end of their days. Lit up by a beautiful lightness of being.

At the end of the film, The Sound of Music, the fulfilled lover is asked what to do when a romance ends. She says, “Cry and wait for the sun to come out – because it always does!”

For enduring love, you must allow unpredictability to happily be a part of your relationship.

Julia Paulette Hollenbery is a relationship expert and author of 'The Healing Power of Pleasure - Seven Medicines for Rediscovering the Innate Joy of Being', out Dec 9 2021, £14.55. Find out more.

Interested in working with a couples counsellor? Visit

Join 100,000+ subscribers

Stay in the loop with everything Happiful

We care about your data, read our privacy policy
Our vision

We’re on a mission to create a healthier, happier, more sustainable society.