During the first phase, an individual’s body will produce lots of “love hormones” that make them feel good around their partner. This is when a couple feels the quintessential “spark” or “passion” shown in movies. During this time, a couple is learning more about each other and actively building intimacy. However, the partners often don’t know as much about each other as they believe. A person may hide parts of themself to avoid conflict or rejection. An individual may also idealize their partner, ignoring their loved one’s more unpleasant or unhealthy behaviors. However, these issues will almost always need to be addressed eventually. The second phase is when the rose-colored glasses come off. When a couple lives together and starts sharing resources, more opportunities for conflict arise. Partners may disagree on how to spend money or organize their living space. The quirks which used to be endearing may become downright nauseating after five years of repetition. Even if the partners agree on everything, the sheer weight of time can strip the relationship of its novelty. Humans don’t tend to get excited about something they encounter every day. When the passion is gone, a person will start to wonder: Can I rely on my spouse to care for me when I am vulnerable? Can I trust them to treat me well even when we disagree? It is usually not enough for partners to love each other: they also need to enjoy each other’s company.
Couples who like each other can build trust that carries them through rough times. Couples who can’t get over their differences will grow apart. Couples who grow apart during the second phase will separate in the third. Sometimes this separation comes as a breakup or divorce. In other cases, the couples separate emotionally, withdrawing into bubbles of resentment and resignation. They will see each other as an enemy or a burden rather than a long-term companion. Couples who trust and respect each other will likely stay together in the third phase. They’ll likely learn to negotiate their needs and accept differences in opinion.
They’ll neither idolize nor demonize each other, but rather see one another as people. Relationships can be a vital source of self-esteem, emotional support, and identity. However, even the best spouse cannot fill a person’s every need. Healthy couples still nurture bonds with their families, friends, and the larger community. They can each spend time with other people without getting jealous or insecure. Partners can still love each other without sharing everything in their lives. They do not have to share 100% of their hobbies or opinions. If one person insists on having everything their way or tries to control their partner’s life, then the relationship has likely become toxic.