Home » News » Three Key Stages to a Deeper Relationship
5 min read

Embarking on the road to a relationship filled with intimacy involves three crucial stages.

At its core, dating is really about mastering the art of intimacy, which is vital in our lives. Here’s a breakdown of the three stages to build a relationship rich in intimacy:

Stage 1: Embracing Self-Worth and Clearing Out the Old

In “Deeper Dating” I explore the initial stage. It often starts with a painful realization: we can no longer tolerate relationships that erode our self-worth. This marks the end of an era in our dating life where we’re drawn to harmful relationships. It’s time for real intimacy work: seeking relationships that nourish and support us.

This stage involves a deep lesson in love, often heard but hard to practice: being true to ourselves. But this isn’t straightforward. Our true selves include qualities that have led to hurt in the past. We might feel embarrassed about our intense emotions, sensitivity, or feeling different. These qualities, which I call “Core Gifts,” are actually our greatest assets in finding meaningful, lasting love.

Unfortunately, past experiences of these gifts being mistreated or misunderstood lead us to cover them up with a “false self.” My experience with single clients shows a clear pattern: the more we hide behind this false self, the more we attract people who mistreat or exploit us.

Honoring Your Core Gifts

In this first stage, we learn to dignify and embrace our true qualities. Instead of criticizing ourselves for being “too sensitive,” we start valuing our deep sensitivity. We shift from lamenting our generosity being taken advantage of, to respecting and protecting it. We stop falling for unfaithful partners and start valuing loyalty as a core part of who we are.

By doing this, we set the stage for significant changes in our lives, paving the way to the second stage of the intimacy journey.

Stage 2: The Quiet Growth Phase in Dating

Stage two of building an intimate relationship is a bit of an enigma. It took me quite some time to recognize its significance in my clients’ lives. This stage feels like a lull. It’s as if you’ve cleared your relational space and now find yourself in an eerily quiet, empty room.

Oddly enough, this “empty” phase tends to stick around longer than expected. But why does this happen? Why don’t we immediately leap into healthier, more fulfilling relationships?

Healing Takes Time

The main reason is healing. Our minds might be eager for the next big thing, but our hearts need a break. This stage is about taking a breather, recovering from past hurts, and reconfiguring ourselves for what’s to come.

Much of this stage’s work is internal and unseen. It’s about giving ourselves time to reflect, grieve, and prepare for stage three. It’s a period of underground growth and self-nurturing, crucial for what comes next.

Spotting New Beginnings

During this stage, the seeds of our new selves are sprouting, though it might not be obvious at first. We should start seeking out relationships and environments that are nurturing and don’t erode our self-worth.

Surprisingly, we often find ourselves gravitating towards safe, appreciative people who value us for who we truly are. These relationships feel different—they don’t bore or annoy us like they might have in the past. This is a clear sign of genuine change.

These new, healthier relationship beginnings can be subtle. As a psychotherapist and coach, I often have to point these out to my clients who might not immediately see their value. In stage two, it’s important to watch for these new, healthier relationships as they start to surface.

Stage 3: Crafting a Love-Filled Life

The third stage is all about proactively creating a life abundant in healthy love.

This stage feels fuller, yet thankfully less dramatic. There’s a sense of calm because the people we now choose to date are typically free from the toxic traits we might have encountered in the past.

Here, with partners who are safe, present, and caring, we get to really explore the depths of true intimacy. We learn the art of giving generously and receiving deeply. This is where passionate, exciting love blooms, but it’s crucial to practice these intimacy skills with the right people.

At this point, our entire dating landscape shifts. Our attractions evolve, leading us to meet kinder, more available individuals. Our dating life starts transforming for the better.

Learning to Love Healthily

But, this stage isn’t without its challenges. We’ve now developed an aversion to unhealthy love, but embracing healthy love can be tricky. Those of us who’ve known toxic relationships might feel an urge to flee when faced with a genuinely kind, available partner. It can be a subconscious fear, often manifesting as a persistent desire to escape. Here, we must master new communication skills that are deeper and more enriching.

The essence of stage three is nurturing and deepening our bonds with people and situations that truly enrich us.

So, where do you stand in these stages of deeper dating? What steps can you take to advance your journey?

Reaching stage three is a significant milestone, but it’s just the beginning of a continuous, often humbling intimacy journey. It’s a path that requires constant nurturing and skill development. However, the great news is, if you’re cultivating healthy relationships and honing the skills to maintain them, you’re on a very promising path to happiness in the times ahead.