Stage One: Falling in love is easy.
In the early phases of romantic love, everything feels easy. We are excited to see our beloved. We think about them often. We desire them sexually. At some point, this intensity seems to slow down. Maybe it even stops. The relationship moves into a more settled place.
Stage Two: Attachment
And that's fine. As pair-bonding humans, we want to settle into a committed relationship. Both men and women crave the attached feeling of connection that comes from knowing you have found that special someone and you can stop looking. Sex between committed couples becomes a celebration and an appreciation and a continued discovery process.
Then we relax into that cuddly place on the couch.
Stage Three: The "sweatpants" phase.
After the romantic phase has come to a landing, we settle comfortably into that commitment with our partner and we start to be ourselves. Sex is nice, It isn't always hot and passionate every time. Its just, well....nice.
Stage Four: Maintenance Sex.
Now couples have been together for a while. Maybe they even have kids, a mortgage....and sex is reserved for Friday nights, or when the in-laws can baby-sit. Now the sex is not so passionate. The highs are not as high, and the attraction is not quite the same. Does this mean that we are no longer in love? What happened to the fun?
Stage Five: Conflict phase.
When we go into a conflict phase (and we all do), sex can sometimes be used to keep score. For some of us, falling from "in love" to relaxed can feel like the ground rushes up fast, and we slam into the hard cold reality of real relationship. Our partner doesn't always adore us. We don't always feel cherished. Sometimes they annoy us. And sex isn't as spontaneous and passionate as it was during the free fall stage.
Stage Six: Defend and Negotiate
Sometimes we wonder whether we are still "in love" at all. We put up emotional walls to protect ourselves from being hurt. Maybe we put up a wall in the bedroom. There is defensive behavior from both partners at this stage and we may begin to withdraw from each other. We pull back from the relationship, trying to protect ourselves from harm.
Stage Seven: Sleep phase.
We may make a choice here - instead of ending the relationship, we go to "sleep," sinking into the inevitability of unhappiness. We choose to focus on outside interests to keep us feeling energized. We split off our erotic energy outside of the relationship. This could mean an affair, pornography or just shutting it down.
Stage Eight: Waking Up.
The good news is that there is another stage of sexual relationship: the "waking up" stage. Long-term relationships are not necessarily a death sentence for love and desire.
Stage Nine: Curiosity.
These phases of partnership are normal and common to everyone. Sexual excitement and passion are part of a conscious relationship, where a shared vision of connected, intimate partnership is part of the "work" of couple hood.
Stage Ten: Joy.
The best sex is erotic, joyful sex where partners connect in a conscious, direct way. The real "hey I know you!" feeling....This wonderful stage feels like "Hey I know you too - and I like finding out about what gives you pleasure!"