In the modern-day plague of online dating and situationships, navigating a new relationship can be an emotionally dizzying journey. The honeymoon stage can convince you that you’ve found the partner of your dreams while facing the reality of commitment can feel like falling face-first into concrete. While every connection varies from person to person, there’s a common choreography threaded through the overall journey. Broken down into five bases, these are the stages of dating that checkpoint every transition, giving you an idea of where you might be now and what to expect next.

The Five Bases of Dating

Base 1: The Attraction Stage

When your crush on someone is loud, it can make it hard to act natural around them. The butterflies can be coupled with awkward moments where you find yourself nervous, overthinking how to communicate with them or obsessing with how you look in their gaze. However, once you’ve made it past the initial awkwardness, the attraction can overcome you.

Lust can feel all-consuming as you begin to crave their attention and presence, becoming full tunnel vision for them. Your friendships may start to fall by the wayside as spending as much time with them as possible, obsessing over their Instagram stories and waiting by your phone for their name to pop up on the screen. While it certainly isn’t sustainable to feel feral attraction for your person 24/7, it’s a stage worth enjoying while you’re there. 

Base 2: The Uncertainty Stage

Whether you’re on a twin flame journey or not, there’s oftentimes an uncertainty stage, where one or both partners will try to run away or sabotage the situation. You may be questioning if you’re ready to bring someone into your life or scared that you may get hurt again if you’ve been through heartbreak before. It can be especially difficult if it seems as if the other person is the one who is uncertain; however, it’s not your job to convince them to like you enough to choose you. During this stage, it’s important to always stay rooted in your worth. 

The biggest key to success is open communication, making sure you’re forthcoming about your needs and being honest about where you may be coming from a place of fear or trauma. Remaining open-hearted and accountable is crucial when navigating the uncertainty stage.

Base 3: The Intimacy Stage 

While the word “intimacy” may conjure an association with the physical version of it, this stage focuses more so focuses on vulnerability. Once you move through uncertainty and solidify the decision to move forward in your courting process, you can begin to open up more and see bits of each other that weren’t previously revealed in the blur of infatuation.

You may start to open up about insecurities or family history, bonding in a raw way that only strengthens your feelings for one another. It can be incredibly attractive to feel like someone is letting you see the bare bones of them, making you feel closer and giving you permission to be a little more honest as well.

Base 4: The Reality Stage

While there are many couples who proclaim themselves to be in a never-ending honeymoon stage, there is a usual coming down from the high where you have to face the reality of dating or cohabitating with this person. You may start to face their flaws for the first time, getting annoyed about things you once found charming about them. 

This is the stage that tends to make or break a relationship. Many can tap out, deciding that they’d rather protect their peace by jumping from talking stage to talking stage without ever having to deal with the reality of commitment. However, seeing someone fully and allowing yourself to be seen fully is not only conducive to self-actualization but is the hallmark of true love.

Base 5: The Partnership Stage

Once you move through all of these bases and find yourself in a requited love, you’ve reached the partnership stage, which is exactly what you’d imagine it to be: an unconditional choosing of the person to be in a relationship with. At the end of the day, commitment is an active choice that takes work and active intention, especially when working through triggers and the humbling of reality. For the right person, however, this choice is the easiest one you’ll ever make.

While it’s rewarding to get to this base, many measure the success of a relationship as one that reaches a devoted partnership, and this isn’t necessarily true. If a relationship has taught you more about yourself, pushed you to grow, and gifted you new experiences that more deeply inform how you want to love and be loved, you can certainly count that as a success.

Love Always Varies

It’s important to remember that every relationship has its own unique DNA. What makes sense for one couple may be totally different for another, from love at first sight and a monogamous partnership to exploring polyamory and defying tradition. While these checkpoints certainly serve as guidance, let your love tell it’s own story without the confinement of expectation.