Dating in Stages

Happy Monday! (ugh)

For those of you who have not yet read John Gray’s fantastic book, Mars and Venus on a Date, I wanted to take today to talk about an important revelation shared in the book.

In dating, there are actually five distinct stages. Knowing about these stages and being able to identify them as they are happening is seriously helpful in managing and better understanding the dating process. Also, it’s very important that you go through these stages and not to skip stages – when you skip stages is when you find yourself committed to someone you don’t really know or learning about dealbreakers too late. Each stage has something very important to offer you as you date (reminder – dating is trying someone on for size to see if they are a good match for you, take your time, go through the stages and you’ll find yourself better able to assess if someone is right for you).

The stages are…..

Stage 1: Attraction

In the first stage of dating, we find ourselves attracted to a potential partner. This is our initial attraction. It is our hope that the feeling is mutual, that the timing is right, and that we will have an opportunity to explore the all the romantic possibilities.

Stage 2: Uncertainty

In stage two, the challenge is to recognize a shift from feeling attraction to feeling uncertain if that partner is right for us. This feeling is totally healthy and normal and you should be on alert not to be swayed by it. When you are dating someone who seems very special to you, it is normal to suddenly wonder whether you wish to continue dating that person. To become uncertain doesn’t mean that this person is wrong for you – just that now that you know if you’re attracted, you wonder is there enough to make it stick long-term. Without an understanding of this stage, it is too easy for a man to drift from partner to partner and for a woman to make the mistake of pursuing a man more than he is pursuing her or getting angry and calling it off. This stage is about collecting data about the other person and assessing if they are a real match.

Before he can decide if he wants to be exclusive. A man often asks himself three questions: Could I be the “right man for her? Could I possibly have what it takes to make her happy? Do I care for her and do I miss her when I am away from her?
During this stage a woman often gets nervous (and freaks out) because the man can appear to be backing off. It can make her wonder where the relationship is going, if she did something wrong since he is not calling,  if there is some one else, if he will he call?  STOP! This is the time to stay open minded, and active/busy in your own life. Use this time to think through if he is right for you as well – instead of panicing. Just stand still and let  this stage play out. Often the guy will re-emerge after he sees that he misses you. But if you freak out, make demands, demand explanations…you pretty much become “that girl”(see my earlier post on this topic). So, don’t blow it…build yourself a happy and busy life so if your partner pulls away a bit to confirm if they are right for you,  you can be open to their return when they re-emerge.

Stage 3: Exclusivity

In stage three, two people have made a mutual decision to be in a committed, exclusive relationship. The energy that went into looking for the right person can now go into creating a mutually loving and romantic relationship. You must be careful not to take the situation for granted. Continuing to do the little things that you did for your partner during the early stages of courtship are essential, not only now but for the lifetime of the relationship.

Stage 4: Intimacy

In stage four, we begin to experience real intimacy. We feel relaxed enough to let down our guard and share ourselves more deeply than before. Without an understanding of how men and women react differently to intimacy, it is possible to mistakenly conclude that we are just too different to proceed. This is the time to experience the best in ourselves and our partner, as we also become acquainted with the less flattering sides of our personalities.

Stage 5: Engagement

Stage five is engagement. This is a time to celebrate your love and commitment. You have made the determination that you are with the right person, and you are ready to move forward on your path toward a lifetime relationship. In this stage, you have the opportunity to experience your relationship joyfully, happily, peacefully, and lovingly. You will plan your wedding, discuss your future more fully, and learn even greater acceptance of one another, and your differences.

So, what do you think? Have you seen these stages in action?

I personally think that the uncertainty stage is the most important stage in a relationship. How you handle this stage really determines if the relationship will continue or not. Most dating relationships never make it past uncertainty(the 3 month mark always seemed to fall here for me). There are so many ways this stage can go – you can use the time to assess each other evenly….you can freak out when the other person pulls away to assess…you can decide the other person isn’t right for you and call it off…you can just roll with it and see what happens.

Now that you know what the stages are…have you seen them in action? Can you identify them in a relationship that you had? How have you handled the uncertainty stage in the past?

Photo credit: derekskey’s Flickr photostream


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Categories: Discussion


I'm a married publicist who holds a Master's degree in psychology, with a concentration in Marriage and Family Therapy. I'd like to make the world a better relationship at a time.

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12 Comments on “Dating in Stages”

  1. December 12, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    My last relationship only got to stage 3. But there were some indications/dealbreakers in stage 2 that I purposely overlooked. Ah well, eyes open, and live + learn!

    • December 13, 2011 at 1:20 am #

      Hi Cakes! How’ve you been?
      I think most of my past relationships didn’t make it past stage 2. It was like I was cursed to a string of 3-month relationships.

      • December 13, 2011 at 8:38 am #

        Still breathing! I guess I have dropped off the side of the blog-sphere huh? Just trying to clear some fog, battle writers block/distraction, and deal with impending immigration, and fear of deportation issues. I’ll push out a new post any day now.

  2. adalamar
    December 12, 2011 at 3:15 pm #

    Very good advice!

  3. December 13, 2011 at 3:57 am #

    You are like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex in the City, Mrs. Couple-tastic! As I read this, for some reason, I kept thinking about the scene in one episode where she was invited to ‘give advice’ and a little lecture/speech about dating in the city to a bunch of single women. Then they all realized she didn’t know how to find a man, afterall. You know what you are? You’re the Carrie Bradshaw they went to listen to that day! The one who has real advice!

    • December 16, 2011 at 3:05 am #

      You are the sweetest Mrs Wheeler! 🙂
      Thank you!! HUGS!

  4. December 14, 2011 at 2:20 pm #

    The majority of my relationship never went past Stage 2 😦
    Kinda of depressing. And including the ones that made it to 6 months, there were signs from Stage 2 that I brushed aside thinking that the relationship was still new and its going to take time to get over past habits. :-/
    I am one that is needs serious help when it comes to relationship!

    • December 16, 2011 at 3:07 am #

      Don’t be discouraged, Emmy! Mine were the same way. I had a ton of 3-month wonders.
      The key is to learn about yourself with each relationship and make different decisions as you go forward until you find the right person. Hang in there! 🙂

  5. December 19, 2011 at 12:38 pm #

    Awesome ! I go through by your all articles and find so many new things which like to be a live examples but in this article or the way you write so practical.
    Congratulation and Happy holidays
    and i am following you now !

  6. Ambiance of Tulsa
    November 23, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    Reblogged this on Ambiance Matchmaking and commented:
    “Dating in Stages”: The importance of not skipping any steps during dating.

  7. Ambiance of Tulsa
    November 23, 2012 at 5:40 pm #

    Great article. I’ve recently experienced skipping stage #2 and realized actually how important this “uncertainty” stage really is.


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