1. Attraction

However you first meet, there will be an undeniable attraction—not only physical, but emotional, too. It’s what we mean when we say there’s “just something about them,” an intangible quality radiating off this newfound romantic interest which catches your eye even across a crowded room.

This first stage is often known as the “honeymoon phase.” It’s when everything feels exciting and new. It lasts several months, and will see you called things like “smitten” and “head over heels”  or even “gaga” by your nearest and dearest, as they see you engage in near-constant constant communication with your new partner and seeing each other every chance you get. Even when you can’t be together in person, you’re on the phone long into the night, and FaceTiming for no other reason than to say hi. You go on lots of dates, and carve out a huge chunk of your life getting to know one another.

2. Reality

After the honeymoon phase, you settle into a gentle rhythm with your newfound love, whereby you become integrated in one another’s lives. This lasts a further half-year or so. It’s also the period in which you may begin to notice flaws about your partner. Nothing necessarily terrible, but rather quirks of their lifestyle and personality that lust and infatuation had temporarily blinded you to.

Rather cleverly, biology has now tied you together emotionally, making you determined to work through these differences and meld your lives, as opposed to going your separate ways at the first sign of friction. Or at least, that’s what happens when things work out. This is the stage at which many relationships come to an end—but if you make it to stage 3, it bodes seriously well for things to come.

3. Commitment

This is when things get properly serious. During the commitment stage, you express a desire to be with one another exclusively and indefinitely. Note I say indefinitely as opposed to for life—the difference being that, while you’re loving your time together and don’t want it to end, you still haven’t organically reached the point of feeling like this person has become an inextricable element of your existence. That being said, it’s during stage 3 that you’ve come to not only recognize—and not only accept—but perhaps even embrace your partner’s flaws. Without those foibles, they simply wouldn’t be the person you’ve grown to love, who you now believe you want to be with no matter what.

If the commitment is mutual and strong enough, then regardless of your respective circumstances and visions of the future, you start discussing how those plans could interlock. Perhaps only tentatively at first—but that tentativeness merely belies the passion and excitement you feel for your life blooming into vivid colors before your eyes. These conversations center around where you might live, how you might achieve your respective career goals—and even whether you might one day get married, buy a house, and have children.

4. Intimacy

During the intimacy stage, you and your partner nurture the true love you’ve cultivated over the course of your relationship so far. That means connecting in transcendental ways, opening up to one another in ways you always felt neither able nor inclined to with most of your exes—or indeed with any of them.

Once this incredibly deep bond has been cemented, true love really has begun. Your guard is down—because it no longer serves a purpose. After all, you want to let your partner in so they can know everything about you—the good, the bad, and the parts of your life you never thought you’d relay to another soul. For the first time in the relationship, you can be authentically vulnerable without having to hold back. You know the minutiae of another’s pasts, values, and beliefs. You understand one another’s characters in their entirety—and with each passing day, you find each other only ever more beautiful for that very reason.

5. Engagement

The final stage of the relationship sees you settle into a love that you’ve both pledged to be lifelong. Engagement means you’ve committed yourself utterly and unconditionally to each other, and are looking ahead to a bright, happy, and fruitful future in one another’s arms, knowing you can face any trouble steadfast with your true love at your side.

Of course your relationship will never be without its issues, because that is simply life. But as you grow to understand each other better than you even understand yourselves, you learn to accommodate, compromise, apologize, forgive, and forge a partnership immeasurably stronger than the sum of its parts. You’re in love—and it’s for keeps.

Maclynn is a boutique, multi-award-winning introductions agency with offices in New York, New Jersey, California, and London. We’re world-renowned for bringing together highly compatible singles within our vast network of attractive, intelligent professionals, and our matchmakers are relationship experts in their own right. Get in touch today, and prepare for genuinely meaningful dating—just like you deserve.