The Stages of Courtship


The purpose of this information is to outline for you the big picture of courtship.

Stage 1: Selection

When you choose—actively or passively—a partner with whom to begin courtship, selection can be immediate. More often you will meet an attractive person, and one of you will ask to spend time with the other; or it can be protracted, when the two of you fence, flirt, and feel each other out before arranging the first formal date.

Stage 2:

What we generally call dating is that awkward time when you are trying each other on for size, aiming to achieve some degrees of attachment while holding on to a minimum of guarantees you make. During the phase of pursuit there is no shared agreement about when and/or how long you will be together. There are two parts to this phase: first is seduction and the second is the switch.

Stage 3: The Relationship

When you share some assumptions about the importance of your connection, you have each settled into and acknowledged your increased degree of emotional attachment. You are no longer "dating," you are "going together." During this period you are coping with your individual expectations of what it means to be a couple. Within this phase, the relationship is divided into three often-overlapping phases. The plateau phase is a brief or delightfully prolonged fantasy land when you are secure as a couple but have yet to conflict as individuals.

Negotiation occurs when a couple begins to acknowledge their differences and struggles to develop a decent way to fight about them. Commitment is the phase of a relationship in which a couple works out, fights out, or eases in the decision to marry.

Remember, you will not go through this phase in a straight line from "selection though pursuit" on to a "relationship." Instead you will feel like you're going through a process like loop-the-loop. It will look like first seduction: she chases him; he acts interested; she loses interest (the switch); he backs off (his switch); she regains interest and then there's more seduction. If you keep pursuing, the individuals reach a plateau and begin to face their differences… quarrelling will begin here. If they learn the art of negotiation, the relationship will go on.

Remember, the stages are not equal in length. As you progress through the stages of courtship, you progress toward intimacy. This process can take 18 months to two years.