Often, to maintain a healthy, normal relationship with your partner, people suggest following a relationship timeline.
But, I bet many times couples break up, just because they adhered too much to this timeline.
Moreover, what relationship timeline must couples follow to keep it normal? Does it differ from person to person? Do you always break up by not following the traditional setups? Or, is it just a ruse to hide excuses of commitment phobics?
I know you have a lot of these questions. Probably because you’ll enter a relationship that’s too good to be true and you don’t want to jinx it.
I know your insecurities… been there and done that.
And with my experiences, I’m here to say everything I wish someone told me about relationship timelines.
So, let’s get started!
What are relationship timelines?
A relationship timeline defines how fast or slow a couple must progress from one phase to another and it’s always different for everyone.
A relationship timeline basically tells you how a relationship should progress with time. It marks the evolution of a relationship from one phase to another.
Understand it like this, a timeline is like a metamorphosis for relationships. It adapts through partners’ acquired dynamics by being in a relationship for a long time.
A relationship timeline tells you how you change and adapt in your relationship as time flies by. For example, when you first met, you were passionate and awkward. With time you can still be passionate but the comfort is immense.
This means you have moved from one phase of the timeline to another… which is how a healthy relationship should evolve.
Now, there’s no rulebook that you and your partner have to follow a fixed setup to celebrate your relationship.
What works for you might not work for anyone else. Maybe you both are emotionally mature enough to handle the complicated stuff with ease. When that’s the case, moving too fast isn’t bad.
The timeline only shows you how to be careful and move ahead in your relationship so it doesn’t break. There was a reason why everyone warned Ross about marrying Emily after only dating for a few months.
We all saw what happened next. Falling too hard and too soon doesn’t always end up right and I don’t want to see you dealing with another heartbreak.
But if you are having trouble understanding what a relationship timeline looks like and what to do about it, keep reading, buddy!
What Does a Relationship timeline look like?
Every relationship is unique, so everyone has their own timelines. Some start with friendship while or a few others it begins with the first date.
How you choose to walk with your partner completely depends on you. If you have the understanding, maturity, and emotional connection then following your heart is the only wise choice.
While every couple goes through a different timeline stage in a relationship, the core idea always remains the same.
Let’s see what are those stages of the relationship timeline and how it fits your dating lifestyle in the 20s, 30s, and 40s, even in long-distance relationships:
1. The texting phase
Modern love stories are no more love letters or standing with a jukebox in the front of their house, playing their favorite songs. Rather, it starts with online texts.
It doesn’t matter if you are on dating apps, Instagram, or met that person in a bar. Exchanging phone numbers is the sign of something new, possibly a romantic relationship.
This is the first stage in a relationship timeline where you start connecting and everything’s hot and passionate between both of you. You excitedly wait for them to drop you a text or ask about your day.
You are not sure about what will happen but it’s thrilling and feels good. Suddenly you start texting them at 3 in the morning, discussing random memes with your heart racing.
In your 30s or 40s, this can change to ranting about how troubling it is to stay awake till 4 am.
2. The first date
When it’s been weeks or months of texting and finally the butterflies start fluttering, then it’s time for the first date.
Most people decide whether they want to continue seeing each other or not on the first date. This is where it actually begins. You make sure to look your best, exchange a few gifts, and be the best versions for each other.
And the game of blushes, smiles, and stolen glances begins.
It’s actually very cute when you think about it. The first date becomes an important relationship milestone, making you relive those moments from time to time.
3. The exploration phase
You really like them and even went out on a date. Now, this stage is where you finally figure out if you want to take things forward.
You might constantly think about the date and if everything went well. The chat about how you had a fun time and are excited to meet each other again. At this stage, things are still unclear but you are willing to put in the effort. You want to see if this will lead somewhere.
There are all sorts of questions in your mind but the excitement keeps you going and you finally enter the next stage of the dating timeline.
4. The second date
This is when you constantly feel the urge to see each other. Days feel dull and night empty without them. Now, you want to talk to them all the time.
On the second date, couples talk more about the non-negotiables in their lives. Discussions revolve around the values, morals, and sexual history of the partners. If both partners are comfortable discussing vulnerable topics, it will help create a solid foundation of the relationship.
This will also prevent any misunderstanding in the future as both partners will get to know each other before diving all in. Further it can also help you identify whether this will be a long-term relationship or just another fling (yeah, modern relationships are weird, I know!).
5. First kiss
In an average relationship timeline, the first kiss usually happens on the second date (even though you fantasized about it right from the very first text😉). But honestly, this can happen right after the first date or even the third date.
The first kiss is an important relationship milestone because from there, all of your firsts start with your partner. The moment is so exciting and full of passion that you will find yourself reliving it in your mind, a zillion times over.
The first kiss makes you fall in love with the person without even realizing it. With a kiss, one also understands if the physical connection is as strong as the emotional connection. If it is, the bond grows more passionate. If it’s not, it usually ends there.
6. Are we dating?
Dating is a tricky business here. You might be head over heels for someone yet never know if it’s a serious relationship. You might be committed after the first date itself while the other person still wants to take things slow.
After 5-6 dates, the “Are we dating exclusively?” the question becomes normal, so it’s important to understand what you get out of your relationship.
Nothing’s wrong with taking things slowly but there must be open communication so both partners understand each other’s desires and needs.
Only with honesty, the relationship timeline can further move ahead, because chasing someone without an answer leads you only to a crossroads.
7. The first make out
While some think it’s okay to have sex on the first date, others might believe it’s not a good idea. But if you ask me, I don’t believe there is a thing such as too early or too late when it comes to physical intimacy.
Sex is a very powerful emotion. You don’t only connect your bodies, but also your souls. So, it all depends on your comfort with that person.
Regardless of your waiting time, being physically intimate with your partner changes the whole dynamic. You move on from dating to…
8. We are exclusive!
This is where you finally start dating exclusively with your partner. After months of texting, going on dates and now being physically intimate, if one partner just wants to keep this as a fling, then it’s a red flag… one too hard to ignore.
Once you are done with 5-6 dates, the timeline shifts from asking “which cafe should we go to next?” to “where this is going?” “Are we going to be exclusive?” “Is this a long-term thing?”
If both of you are on the same page, it’s a good time to make your relationship exclusive. This may take up to 2-3 months but it’s worth it because the next stage is nothing less than bliss.
9. He/she is perfect
After becoming exclusive, you enter the honeymoon phase. Again, this phase depends on relationships and the efforts partners give in to keep that spark alive. But typically it lasts around 7-9 months.
In this phase, partners are all over each other. Everything feels romantic and dreamy, things on bed feels heaven and there’s a new meaning to life.
The honeymoon phase makes you feel like “love is in the air” and to tell the truth, the best part has just begun.
After the honeymoon phase, things actually start getting serious and that’s when the relationship timeline helps you to find out if they are the one.
10. Meeting each other’s Friends
Meeting each other’s friends is an important phase in the stages of a relationship. When you enter the honeymoon phase, it’s the ideal time to meet each other’s friends and make it really exclusive.
This makes you guys an official and committed couple in front of the world. If partners don’t do this, that’s another red flag that you must look out for.
Around friends, partners show a different side of themselves. You will get to see someone more than a boyfriend/girlfriend to you. This really helps to develop an understanding and push the relationship timeline forward.
11. The “you’re a part of me” phase
After meeting their friends, you eventually become a major part of each other’s life. The honeymoon phase still exists but partners start to feel more comfortable with each other.
Partners spend a lot of time doing activities that bring them closer. They cuddle and see each other’s ‘wake-up face’. This important milestone is a perfect sign that this relationship is more than just dating.
The bond deepens and partners feel an unspoken understanding with one another. ‘The best version’ masks wear off and partners get to see the real ‘you’. During this timeline, partners travel together or spend a weekend outside the city.
12. The vulnerable phase
Vulnerability is a big step in the milestones’ timeline. It not only brings the both of you closer emotionally but also mentally and physically.
Comfort develops in the relationship like never before. This feeling becomes so strong that partners develop their homes, ‘their comfort space’, within each other. This is a sign of a strong foundation within the relationship and there’s no turning back from here.
But, some partners take more time to be vulnerable with each other. So, never move too fast. If you push an emotional connection, your partner might drift away rather than get close.
13. The fighting phase
After the vulnerability stage, the door to a new timeline opens, where arguments are a daily routine. Every couple doesn’t plan to do it, but it exists to challenge the strength of relationships.
At this stage, the honeymoon phase completely wears off and partners get to see the real and crude versions of each other. Arguments persist because it still takes effort from both ends to understand each other completely.
The argument timeline challenges you to see if your relationship will be a short-lived one or not since most couples end it here.
This is a very delicate stage to handle because only after overcoming the challenges of your relationship, the timeline takes a shift. It moves on to the important part where both partners accept each other for who they are and are willing to spend a life together.
14. Meeting the parents
If and when partners overcome the arguments stage, half the war is already won and now it’s time to make it official with the family members. Meeting the parents is a huge step forward in the relationship timeline because it reflects the commitment to spend a lifetime with each other.
It means the partner feels proud of the relationship. They are serious about taking this forward. Now, it doesn’t mean that meeting the family must end with a casual greet and meet. It involves sharing a meal together and discussing the good things about your relationship.
This stage in the timeline changes partners from being a romantic interest to being each other’s family. That’s why it’s important to move at your own pace. 9-10 months is considered an appropriate time to meet each other’s parents and take the relationship to the next level.
15. Facing ups and downs
To be honest, the ups and downs never end in a relationship. And this stage is where partners get the full blow of it. They will spend a lot of time together but at the same time, fights and arguments will increase too.
Life will throw big trials, just to test the relationship. Most of the time, again, many relationships call it quits here. For the ones that successfully cross this, they enter a new relationship timeline that changes their lives.
The ups and downs timeline usually lasts for about 3-4 months.
Partners will find themselves drowning in all sorts of negative feelings like questioning the spark of the relationship or if their partners are worth it or not.
This timeline also needs to focus on self-awareness because solving these underlying issues reconciles the relationship faster than anything else.
16. Discussions of the future
When the ups and downs timeline finally fades away, partners become more serious about each other. It’s not the dating stage anymore. The romance is still there but a sense of responsibility cultivates within the relationship.
Partners discuss finance and whether they want to have children or not. This stage involves discussions regarding the big steps that need to be taken in the relationship.
This timeline also sees partners becoming more mature with each other. They see a future with them. Bigger changes like moving in together or sharing rentals happen. Maybe that’s where we are headed next. Let’s find out!
17. Moving in
Of course, moving in with your partner is a BIG step in your relationship. Now, you’ll see each other 24 hours a day and find your way into each other’s most intimate circle – where there’s space for only two – you and your partner.
Partners see all the goods and bads of your partner – right from the morning no-brush faces to the late-night snoring face. And if the love still remains, that’s when you know it is here to stay.
Eventually, as days pass by, you don’t just become a part of each other but also about each other.
18. The “you’re my safe haven” phase
Some things make a relationship strong while some make it worse. But, no matter how long your relationship has been, you don’t want to forget about making your partner feel loved or appreciated.
When that happens, your partner gets really comfortable around you and finally starts planning about a future with you.
Here, enters the new phase of the relationship… and that is…
19. The ring exchange!
Here on, partners are not just dating… they’re looking at life like a husband-wife.
They start to plan their future, their marriage, the kids and everything else.
It brings a new version of romance. This feeling is so precious that you often feel the honeymoon phase has returned.
20. The Courtship phase
After the engagement, life takes a new turn. Partners start to visualize a happy life together and just can’t get over each other.
The discussions are more about the future, new life, and plans to start something new, join a business, or start a family. They share their romantic desires as well as their aspirations – and try to achieve them both as a couple.
This new journey fills both partners with excitement about what’s coming next and they get ready to live it.
21. Let’s get married!
This is without a doubt the best part of the relationship timeline. When partners get really comfortable with each other’s presence and put a ring on each other’s fingers, they’re already writing marriage vows in their minds.
This timeline is absolute bliss. It makes partners feel grateful for their journey together. Everything seems worth it because now the rest of their life will be with each other.
Marriage is the life-changing moment for both the partner and they make sure it’s perfect just like how they are, perfect together.
This stage can go no more than 3 months because, after that, yet another blissful honeymoon journey begins that brings partners closer than ever.
22. Honeymoon phase enters again
We all want to live in this phase forever. After getting married, you and your partner start to plan to go somewhere for your “real” honeymoon. This feeling brings blushing smiles and sparkly eyes to each other. Partners try to make their honeymoon special and memorable.
Partners go on different dates, walk on the beach with hands together and sit along the seaside watching the sun go down. The only thing that matters then is being with your partner – nothing else!
Their cute smiles and hugs feel irresistible. This relationship phase lasts a bit shorter than the initial honeymoon phase, but the sexual intimacy doesn’t fade or change.
Partners feel like they are ready to face life with them, holding hands and walking together… and that’s how they step into the next phase.
23. Discussing responsibilities and kids
The relationship goes into a new and dynamic phase after the honeymoon ends. Partners become serious about their future. They discuss several critical topics and make sensible decisions complying to both of their wants.
The focus shifts to the future but that doesn’t mean the relationship takes a backseat. They still love each other just the same and, in most cases, the satisfaction actually increases because of the understanding partners share with each other.
Further, the comfort makes it easier for both of them to focus on their careers, and start building a life together.
24. Beyond kids
Partners must realize that their big responsibility is now to start. Their life has changed. Kids made them complete but now they must find a life of their own again.
It is a great experience to see kids growing and the small things that brought happiness to their lives. But only until they move out. So, this is when they need to re-establish their relationship with love and new-found commitment.
25. Let’s grow old together!
And so, the final stage in the timeline begins.
You always faced life’s challenges, ups and downs together, and never alone. This thought makes partners appreciate their relationship more and be grateful for each other. It makes partners feel that they have achieved everything in their life.
And why not, after all, you’ve grown old with each other…
So, should you or should you not follow a timeline? Does it have any effects on your relationship? Let’s understand that by scrolling down to the next section.
Should you follow a relationship timeline?
You don’t need a strict relationship timeline to sustain your bond. Instead, focus on mutual love and support. To understand when to take which step, follow your heart and step forward only when you both feel comfortable together.
When you fall in love, you try your best to turn those romantic relationships into long-term ones. You don’t want to break it by moving too fast or too slow.
But honestly, whether you follow a timeline or not, it doesn’t really matter.
A relationship timeline helps you figure out your position in your relationship… whether it’s dating or just a rebound. But there’s no way, a timeline decides the future of your relationship, only mutual love and support can do that.
It doesn’t matter if you are in a long-distance relationship and haven’t met each other’s parents or friends yet… it really doesn’t matter if you haven’t been physically intimate even after date number five. If you are comfortable with your partner and you treat each other right, that is all that matters.
Partners tend to get very uncomfortable if the first kiss doesn’t happen after the first date or the honeymoon phase gets over soon. But open communication and honesty can solve these doubts.
You both have different personalities and must have experienced relationships before. These turns of events shape you for future relationships and often with honest communication, partners find a common ground.
So, the real question shouldn’t be about following a timeline, it must be whether you feel right taking that step with this person.
If it feels right to you and your partner, you don’t need to explain anything to your friends and family, keep going forward at your own pace.
Do you feel pressured into following a timeline? Wondering what’s the reason? Let’s find out…
Why is there pressure for couples to follow a relationship timeline?
Couples feel pressured into following a relationship timeline that dates back to the beliefs of courting rules of earlier stages. Couples used to follow particular norms only to marry and procreate. But things have changed now!
Chavez, a relationship expert clearly stated the societal norms of how a particular relationship should look have inherently forced partners to follow a timeline.
The idea that a relationship must progress a certain way forces individuals to walk on the same path. When one doesn’t, it’s often predicted to end.
This takes us back to the days of courtship. In those times, courting was the first step toward getting married. Marriage and procreation were society’s expectations from a boy and girl seen together.
But this concept isn’t relevant anymore. Relationships are not limited to a ‘man’ and a ‘woman’. Neither one’s satisfaction comes only from creating a baby and settling.
Modern generations also prioritize their emotional needs, so the romantic relationship timeline has changed for everyone.
Although following the timeline phase helps to seek a serious relationship, others who haven’t figured it out may develop issues and insecurities because of preferring a different type of partnership, other than marriage.
Wondering if it’s bad to get pressured? Let’s know about it…
Can this pressure hurt relationships?
The pressure of following a relationship timeline instead of going with your own flow can really impact the comfort and satisfaction in the relationship, weaken your bond, and make you both stressed and resent later.
It certainly can!
If you struggle to achieve certain relationship milestones just because your family, friends, and society tell you, it can easily stress and frustrate you.
Moreover, movies love to feed us the idea of dating to a relationship timeline where everyone is happy. It creates unrealistic expectations in which one often struggles if they don’t fit in.
In these cases, self-criticisms and frustrations develop easily. Partners feel they are not good enough because they aren’t walking on a certain path.
6 months and not moved in? There must be something wrong.
Moved in together but no ring on the finger? That’s fishy!
If you emphasize following the societal timeline, it’ll hurt the very essence of relationships which is being comfortable with each other.
Focus too much on others’ expectations and it’ll blur your partner’s and your own needs. This can lead to damaging effects.
If you prioritize a timeline rather than creating a meaningful, joyous, and peaceful relationship with your partner, it’ll weaken the bond from its core.
Partners can feel stress, anger, and resentment toward each other. Satisfaction from the relationship declines and when that happens the relationship is bound to end altogether.
So, yes the relationship timeline pressure can hurt relationships that’s why it’s important to navigate it to avoid weakening the bond between you both.
Let’s see how to do that in the next section.
How can couples navigate the pressure to follow a timeline?
Acknowledge and communicate about the pressure, communicate both of your needs and desires from the relationship and reach an understanding. So, when anyone pressures you to do something, you’ll feel at ease about your relationship and answer them confidently.
The only way couples can move forward from the societal expectations of their relationship timeline is by agreeing that they exist.
Communicate about society’s expectations of relationships and develop an understanding of why you don’t want to follow them.
Get on the same page and develop an understanding of each other’s needs, wants, and goals from this relationship.
This helps to tone down the external pressure you both face because when the time comes for those questions, the anxiety doesn’t build up. You’ll know that your partner is aware of the relationship status and how to move things forward.
The pressure to move forward a certain way will always be there but that doesn’t mean it must affect you. If you both communicate your needs with each other, a regular check-in on the relationship status will work just fine.
Again, it doesn’t mean your goals will never change. When you love someone you do things that feel right with them.
Maybe marriage is not your goal right now but that doesn’t mean it never can. So, allow yourself to grow individually and with your partner. Only then you both will co-exist peacefully.
A word from ThePleasantRelationship
Rather than focusing on strict timelines, focus on love, care, and compassion for your relationship. Don’t let external pressure force you into something you don’t want.
At the same time, be open to growing and evolving together. You may feel like you don’t want something now but you never know, maybe you will be open to new things later… you might feel that’s the right thing to do when you mature.
So, for now, don’t fret about the future, just love each other with all your might!
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Surabhi wakes up every day with a drive to craft words that can create a soulful impact. Creatively adventurous, she is always seeking to learn new skills and acquire new experiences. With a hidden soft corner for languages (especially Urdu), she writes poetry occasionally, binges on romantic shows, and LOVES to talk. A hustler, admirer, chaser, Surabhi is just another-someone who refused to give up on her dreams. She says, she is just somebody who’s trying to make herself a writer and for now, she’s just writing...