The desire to love and be loved is a timeless concept. Whether we are in our 20s or 80s, we still crave the affection and connection that comes with true love and partnership. Unfortunately, many marriages break down these days or fall into a state where they can no longer be repaired. Relationship experts have found that knowledge of the five stages of love can help build stronger, longer lasting relationships as couples begin to understand the process behind love and partnership.

Stage 1: Falling in love – The first and arguably the most exciting stage thanks to a powerful concoction of hormones and hope. Falling in love is nature’s way of ensuring the survival of the species. When we find a potential mate, feel good hormones are released and we become smitten. We plan for a future with our new partner and can see only the good in them and the relationship. 

Stage 2: Becoming a couple – As a relationship develops, the love, trust and respect levels continue to grow. We begin to feel very strongly bonded to our partner and feel safe, appreciated and understood. Depending on our age, this is the stage where we may formalise the commitment with marriage or decide to have children. Summed up, stage two is all about togetherness and growth as a couple.

Stage 3: Disillusionment – Becoming disillusioned with our relationship is not something that’s often written about in relationships articles. As such, we often expect stage two to last forever and are shocked when disparity starts to seep in. We may become less enamored with our partner, finding them irritating and suffocating. The love levels slow down then may stop altogether. Dissatisfaction is the name of the game. It is during stage three that many couples decide to go their separate ways as they feel that they have grown too far apart to ever have hope of finding the love they once had, again. Stage three doesn’t have to be the end however. If approached in the right way, it can facilitate huge amounts of growth. Navigating through the difficulties that may come during this stage can reinforce a couples bond for the long term.

Stage 4: Real, lasting love – By confronting the unhappiness and discontent in stage three, couples are able to move forward with a new foundation and understanding about themselves as individuals and as part of a unit. Working to find the root cause of the conflict that occurred and treating it effectively can renew a relationship and make in unshakable. It requires work by both parties, both individually and as a couple, but the reward is a restored relationship where both parties have grown.

Stage 5: Using the power of two – “Two heads are better than one” is the old adage and this rings true in relationships. A solid, restored relationship has the power to impact the wide community and world. Couples who have overcome their personal difficulties can put that energy and understanding to good use by applying it to a cause or project that can have a broader impact. Not only will it help others, it’s also a wonderful way to continue to learn and grow alongside your life partner.

This article was written in partnership with Over60.