You might assume relationships are as varied as the complicated individuals involved. There’s a certain amount of truth to that, and each partnership will have its own peaks and troughs, joy and tears. But it is possible to define four key stages which can broadly be applied to dating relationships.
The earliest stage of any relationship is the moment you happen to come across someone who causes you to doubletake. Obviously, this can happen in any situation, from an exciting new start in the office, to a fellow passenger during your daily commute who happens to catch your eye. In the world of online dating, this stage is defined by noticing a profile photograph and empathizing with the accompanying description of an individual’s interests and passions.
Attraction can be an instantaneous reaction to someone you find physically appealing, but it can also be more in-depth. There have been many instances where people have been drawn to a person’s looks, only to find their character less inspiring. The reverse has often been the case, where an active online dater has come across someone whose profile picture hasn’t bowled them over, but once they have found out more about the interesting personality beyond the image, that is when a keen interest has been kindled.
Following on from this, there will be a moment when attraction evolves into something much more tangible. It is possible to browse through a diverse selection of available singles on a dating site and to be attracted to several of the profile photos you see before you. But it’s only in certain cases where this will lead to the next stage, when attraction becomes infatuation. Again, this is down to that combination of features you find physically attractive, and a compatible personality. As you discover more about the object of your desires, infatuation will develop rapidly. In the context of a dating site, as you exchange personal messages and find out more about a potential partner’s hidden depths, this is when a real sense of infatuation can arise.
At the infatuation stage, it is still possible to be ‘spinning several plates,’ to use a circus metaphor! Any single investigating possibilities on a site can certainly become infatuated with more than one individual. However, the next step in any dating relationship will be when this becomes something far deeper. Many people who experience this aspect described it as being a lightbulb moment, when slow-burning emotions come to a head. This will be described to friends along the lines of ‘falling for someone,’ or admitting they never expected to find love online.
This stage will be characterized by sensations of restlessness. A particular person might become a constant feature in your thoughts. You might feel compelled to touch base with them on a regular basis. Should factors arise which hamper the ability to exchange messages, frustration might well set in. One characteristic of this stage is apprehension. It is common for you to wonder if the intensity of your own feelings is reciprocated, and if not, you might worry about this relationship progressing.
The fourth and final stage follows naturally from enlightenment. This requires both parties reaching a mutual decision about their future together. Instead of being separate individuals who are building a rapport via text exchanges, web chats, or making tentative discussions about dates, you’ll have reached a point where you clearly see a future together. Commitment can then lead on to regular dates and eventually, moving in together, or even planning longer-term activities such as marriage or families.