You’ve just met someone and you’re wondering what stage you’re at and what you can expect as a commitment from them.
Then this article is for you.
You’ve just met your partner. You’re attracted to each other, but you don’t know each other yet.
At this point, many things have already been decided, because your sense of attraction is determined by your unconscious mind telling you:
- This person can bring you the love you think you need.
- This person will help you heal the wounds of your past.
If you feel that you are always attracted to the “wrong” person, it is important to identify the wounds from your past that make you unconsciously choose the “wrong” partners for you.
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It’s usually a phase for discovering the other partner, to find out if you want to deepen this relationship or not.
Here it is important to put the butterflies aside and ask yourself the right questions:
- Does he have the same desires as you? Be in a stable relationship, get married, have kids?
- Does he have the non-negotiables that you are looking for in a man?
In this phase, the important thing is to take your time to discover the other person and to think about whether the partner has the minimum you need to make you want to continue.
This phase is not a commitment phase. It is also not the phase where you will be able to know if he’s the man you are going to stay with for a long time.
You can’t really get to know someone on a few dates.
It’s more an “elimination” phase during which you decide who won’t have your non-negotiable from the start. Because it’s an illusion to think that a person is going to change out of love for you.
When you have been single for a long time or you are approaching a certain age, you may get fed up with this phase, because it could involve meeting a lot of single people and eventually going on with just one person.
This is a phase that cannot be avoided. You can minimize this phase by being very clear about what you want (not just what you don’t want anymore). Defining what you want is the last module of my online program. Opening up to love.
At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, in this phase I’d recommend not sleeping with your partner. This will allow you to naturally sort out partners who are only looking for an adventure. It’s important to evaluate their commitment more on what they do than what they say. (This is what we see in my individual coaching)
Again, I would recommend having sex with your partner only after he or she has confirmed the exclusivity of your relationship, calls you regularly or even introduces you to some friends, making it official.
The most important thing here is respecting your rhythm, you will not hold back your partner by sleeping with them faster.
On the other side, what’s harder to get is more valuable.
It is better to satisfy your sexual needs alone for a while until your partner is ready to commit. I’m not saying you can’t “play” – agreed. There are many fun and erotic games you can enjoy together before having sex.
After 3 months in the relationship
The timescales are approximate, they tend to be longer when you’re young and shorter when you’re older, and they also depend on your personal desire. Sometimes, after a breakup or a long period of celibacy, you may feel like taking it slow and that’s OK.
At this stage, each partner should be included into the other partner’s life. Their parents should know you, know that you exist and you should have met most of his friends, including his girl friends. You should be able to leave stuff at his house and spend most weekends together.
When a man is in love, he wants to see his partner a lot.
If you have children from previous relationships, you may decide to tell your children about your partner by now, or even introduce them to him and see if they can fit in. I truly recommend that you wait until you are sure about your mutual feelings, because this introductory phase can be very easy or extremely difficult, depending on whether the children feel threatened by this new relationship (e.g. as they are receiving less attention than before).
In this phase it is quite normal to plan a holiday together or have a plan in common (e.g. a getaway with friends etc.).
In this phase the first steps of alignment take place, for example:
- clarify the situation with this “friend” who contacts him a lot.
- be introduced to their wider circle like his co-workers with whom he hangs out a lot after work or more formally at a club event where partners are invited.
In this case, listening to your instincts is important.
If an action or behaviour is unclear, ask your partner to clarify the situation!
This phase is like shutting off other possibilities that you had kept in mind “just in case”.
If you have not healed the wounds of your past, your instincts may be biased by those wounds (for example, fear of rejection, abandonment or betrayal).
This is why I always recommend healing the wounds of your past, as it will allow you to trust your instincts again. Healing the wounds of one’s past is an integral part of my one-on-one coaching.
6 months – 1 year
At this stage you and your partner decide if you want to continue growing into the relationship.
This is an important milestone, because at this stage you know your partner’s qualities and also his faults so you can start picturing your life in the future.
At this stage you can decide to move in together.
Before taking this step further it’s important to clarify the following points with your own self:
- If I want a long-term relationship, can I fully accept his/her flaws?
- If I want to get married, can I picture myself spending the rest of my life with him? Have I allowed all the opportunities to check if marriage is still part of his plans?
- If I want a child, would my partner be a good father and does he share the same intentions?
If you don’t answer yes clearly, clarify the situation before going any further.
Leaving your home to live with someone is a risk and you need to feel safe to take this step.
Here it’s good to see that the risk is equal for both partners.
For example, if you leave your home to move in with your partner, the risk taken is not equal.
Because if you split up you will have to leave, not him.
If finding a new apartment is a difficult option where you live, then you may decide to sublet your apartment and ask your partner to re-arrange his apartment to make it feel like your home.
The 3-year mark
Selon Frédéric Beigbeder the love stages lasts 3 years. If you stay with your partner beyond the 3 year mark, this means he’s also become the friend with whom you want to share your life and move forward with. This is a new stage of commitment in the couple’s life.
Because each partner has to decide: will the other one be my partner for only a part of my life or do I want him to share my life (even if sharing his life does not necessarily mean his whole life)?
It’s usually at this same moment that a decision is made to formalise the mutual commitment by getting married or having a child or a common project such as buying a home.
For couples who met at a young age, this phase can last up to 6 years.
The mistake women often make at this stage of the relationship is hesitate in asking for a more formal commitment and expect the man to make the first move.
And my answer to this cannot be clearer. A man will not make that first move.
He has to know a few things first:
- what kind of commitment you want. Is it getting married or having children or investing time in a common project?
- know you want him to take that step
- and be sure he won’t get a big no when he does.
So it’s up to you to ask yourself the following questions first:
- Do I want to share my life with him?
- What kind of commitment do I want to have with him?
And then speak up about what you wish and dream of doing with him, without threatening him.
It doesn’t mean you’re willing to wait for him forever. You can have a setback in mind.
And if that deadline is reached, what’s important here is that you Talk to your partner before you reach the final stage of frustration because you waited too long.
By having this conversation together, he will understand that your timing is different from his and he should decide to follow your timing or not. He will also understand your attitude change and perhaps your disengagement from the relationship.
You can’t force his timing, but you need to communicate and respect your own.
Waiting for him won’t increase your chances of success.
Because if you’ve built up frustration and resentment waiting up on him, you can be sure the relationship will break down.
If he’s not ready, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I want to wait?
- Under what conditions could I wait without being frustrated? For example, by setting a deadline, or by focusing more on your career and less on your relationship, or by seeing more of your friends and colleagues and investing less time with your partner.
- Can I wait? If you want a child and you’re approaching 40, you’re biologically limited to wait.
And if your deadline has passed, don’t push it and leave.
It is by avoiding your point of no return that you can save your relationship. Sometimes the partner needs to realise what they are losing in order to commit, because they have some sort of commitment trauma. If you leave and your partner comes back, ask yourself if you want to start over and make sure he or she really does too.
If the priority in your engagement is to have a child, it can awaken all the fears and worries your partner may have about becoming a parent:
- Am I capable of being a good parent?
- Can I financially support a child?
- Is my situation stable enough?
- Do I (unconsciously) want to avoid replicating my parents’ patterns? In other words, what do I deal with in my relationship with my parents?
Taking the time to discuss these concerns together can help the partner in their decision and you can help them put their fears into perspective.
Try understand the fears of your other half, without waiting for them to change their mind.
It’s not your role to help them overcome their fears. This has to be done alone and waiting for them forever won’t help.
It’s finally a compatibility issue between your timing and theirs.
You can understand that your partner needs time, but you have to respect yours, too.
Once a long-term commitment is made
Whether it’s a shared apartment, getting married and having a child, once you’ve reached that stage, you’re in a new dimension of the couple.
The couple becomes at this point for me a a real motor for personal development.
Because you are formally committed to the long term.
And through this intimate relationship some wounds from the past could gradually be awaken (not particularly those related to commitment) and which will reveal themselves in the form of the famously known couple crisis.
The first one often comes after the birth of your first child where all the patterns in our view of parenthood resurface and views differ between partners.
This can also happen in situations where we depend on each other, either physically after an illness or financially after a job loss or emotionally after the loss of a loved one.
While these dilemmas can be particularly difficult, they are also the opportunity to deepen your love for each other, because each partner can help the other on their journey of healing.
It is no coincidence that you have come this far together.
You are the only person who can bring to light the relationship trauma he may have in him, and through changing your behavior to heal your own wounds you could help him heal his own.
If the crisis happens to the first child and one of the parents sacrifices more than the other for their child (perhaps because he is simply replicating the pattern of his own parents), if the self-sacrificing parent gets some time off from the other parent, it could increasingly help him heal from his personal damage of sacrifice. And spending more time with your child can help the less self-sacrificing parent heal his personal wound (e.g. comforting his good parenthood, attachment to his child…).
This does not take away the personal responsibility for one’s own happiness and personal development.
It’s just the opportunity to experience unconditional love by consciously deciding to help others.
To get through these stages more easily, I find Harville Hendrix’s IMAGO method excellent because it sheds light on what is behind a crisis and gives practical tools to get through these hard times.
A very simple tool of the IMAGO method is the IMAGO dialogue where each partner has equal speaking time while the other listens and rephrases what is said. This dialogue allows each partner to feel truly heard and to better understand the other’s point of view.
I give an introduction to this method in my individual coaching, because I think it’s important for every couple to understand that crisis are normal and unavoidable so once my clients have reached their dreams as a couple, they don’t feel helpless as soon as the first crisis raises.
I hope this article has given you a good overview of the different stages of development as a couple.
My individual coaching gives you all the necessary tools to get through these different phases as well as healing the wounds of your past in connection with commitment issue.