The Happy Relationship Time Line

Every relationship is unique and what works for one couple does not necessarily replicate for every other couple out there!

Having now worked with hundreds of romantic couples from all sorts of backgrounds, beliefs and experience levels, I’ve started to discover more and more trends that DO span across a variety of different relationships and more specifically, how those relationships develop over time.

In this article, I am going to present to you a simplified version of this relationship development in the form of an illustrated time line. It portrays two of the core elements behind every happy and fulfilling long-term relationship… I call it The Happy Relationship Time Line! 🙂

The Happy Relationship Time Line:

Before viewing the below illustration, please note that both the simplicity and time frames portrayed are of course somewhat generalised. Some relationships progress far quicker than others and some people can feel that they are in a committed, long-term relationship within a matter of months. For those relationships, I believe that the basis of the time line still holds true, but its duration will be far more condensed. 🙂

Positive emotions in the early stages of a relationship:

It goes without saying that your relationship’s success in the early stages is down to how much you like each other and how many happy moments you share together. This comes predominantly in the form of attraction and balancing interest levels, as mutual rapport is steadily created.

Besides being confident, the most successful men I know at dating attractive women are great at sparking an element of excitement and fun in their interactions with them. Spiking a woman’s emotions in this way (amongst other factors) is a sure-fire way to create attraction. This works in reverse for women attracting men too.

The attraction phase in dating carries on for some time before two people have developed enough deep rapport to enter a genuinely monogamous and loving relationship together. Any relationship that becomes samey, predictable or mundane early on will generally continue along that path.

A similar pattern is witnessed via many of the reputable dating coaches I’ve worked with, many of whom are not interested in committed relationships themselves. If that lack of desire or interest to keep the relationship positive, fun and exciting peters out too soon, then the relationship usually subsides there and then.

Some other things that create positive emotions in a relationship besides being fun and interesting are spontaneity and surprises, thoughtfulness and a varied sex-life. 🙂

Conflict solving in a committed relationship:

As commitment levels grow, real life contingencies and the need for compromise within the relationship start to arise.

Earlier on in a relationship, conflicts such as arguments and insecurities not only present themselves less frequently but they are also best to be consciously avoided. I hesitate to use the word “ignored”, as it suggests a lack of empathy or caring, but being able to change your girlfriend or boyfriend’s mood in the early stages of a relationship is generally far more effective than entertaining or focusing on any arguments and insecurities.

Having said that, once a relationship does become committed and ‘serious’, these natural conflicts and learning to overcome them directly will become more integral to the relationship’s overall happiness.

The specific strategies to overcome things such as compromise, jealousy, anger, annoying habits and negative emotions are found elsewhere on this website. The importance of discovering a way to do this together though is probably the most important piece of relationship advice there is!

Positive emotions in a long-term relationship:

My personal experience of extremely long-term relationships is obviously limited (I have never been married for example) but I do regularly work with couples that are in this situation.

Once a happy relationship has reached several years (the time line states 7 years but that figure is fairly arbitrary), a romantic couple has generally figured out a conflict management strategy that works for them. The roles in the relationship have long been cemented and knowing and dealing with each other’s emotions and anxieties should have become a subconscious competence.

It seems that the relationships that are successful, fulfilling and ultimately happy beyond this time-span are the ones that revert back to concentrating on how many happy moments they share from day to day.

One of my favourite concepts is one introduced by Stephen Covey (author of ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’) called your relationship’s emotional bank account. What it involves is making sure that you always have a positive ratio of happy and unhappy moments in your relationship. For example, five positive moments and one negative moment in a day is far better for a relationship’s health than ten positive moments and ten negative moments.

Remember that if you’re sharing a life together, it’s just as important to remain attractive and interesting to your partner as it was when you first met! 🙂

Much love,

Sam

6 replies
  1. Elena
    Elena says:

    It’s interesting to see how happy relationships work in this context. I totally agree about happiness existing in moments. I think so many people are afraid of facing conflict in a relationship head on and because of that, the relationships break down. It’s very encouraging to see how relationships can evolve into happiness again.

    • Samuel McCrohan
      Samuel McCrohan says:

      Hi Elena, hope you’re well. 🙂

      I like your points and I think you’re totally right.

      Both happiness and the emotions behind conflict are extremely state-based. That is, they can be triggered in an instant depending on external factors at the time and even more potently, by how our partner makes us feel.

      Another way of looking at the time line in the above article is that learning to create a habit of positivity and happiness with your partner rather than conflict and misery over time will ultimately lead to a fulfilling relationship. 🙂

      Thanks a lot for commenting,

      Sam

  2. Jon
    Jon says:

    Great article as usual dude. The diagram really breaks it down to what I guess is the most important pieces in a relationship. I’ve yet to get to the latter stages on that diagram but I know to keep the relationship positive throughout as much as poss.

    It’s usually the middle section that have tripped up my best relationships before and is probably the part I need to work on myself as well as when next in a LT relationship. When conflicts don’t get solved they really do drag on and on making the same things crop up again and again. Starting to ramble a bit now so gonna shoot but reading your stuff always gets me thinking cheers. Is it worth me reading that 7 habits book you mentioned at the end? Sounds good cheers. -J

    • Samuel McCrohan
      Samuel McCrohan says:

      Hey Jon,

      It’s great that you’ve noted the importance of keeping relationships positive throughout.

      The “conflict solving” section of the time line is still in keeping with that attitude: keeping the relationship positive! It’s only the method that changes slightly. Rather than actively trying to make the relationship positive, conflict solving is about preventing any negativity developing (arguments being a prime example). It’s only once a couple have worked out a way to do this consistently that they can go back to simply concentrating on making the relationship as positive as possible.

      Some couples can do this far more easily, quickly and naturally than others but the process is always very similar.

      As for the book, it’s amongst a long list of books that I think are worth reading if you enjoy self-help topics. It’s more about personal goal-setting and how to reach those goals than anything else but as with any personal development book, it will have an indirect, positive effect on any relationships you are in as well. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting,

      Sam

  3. R.J
    R.J says:

    First to say that I agree completely with everything you wrote here. Your diagram is simple yet spot on imo. A point I want to bring up though is I have friends who are in relationships and marriages they say themselves are quite mundane and predictable and a few who even admit to fighting and arguing all the time with their spouse. They say they are happy even though that sort of relationship would never satisfy me. I just find it interesting how what people want is very different or if they might actually be kidding themselves. What do you think?

    • Samuel McCrohan
      Samuel McCrohan says:

      Hi,

      It’s fair enough that people may seem to want different things out of a relationship, depending on upbringing and lifestyle choices. There are many aspects that are universally desired though and positive emotions are one of them. That’s not to say that any relationship that isn’t continually positive won’t last but that it is something most people would ideally choose.

      A metaphor that describes the difference between a satisfactory relationship and a completely fulfilling one is when choosing a meal. Bread and water will satisfy our hunger but a gourmet meal with mouth-watering tastes will do more than just satisfy our hunger!

      For some people, things such as security, commitment and companionship are the most important aspects of a relationship. I don’t think anyone would actively choose their relationship not to be continually exciting and passionate, void of any conflict though. In that sense, it is a lack of awareness with regards to personal development, or accepting a relationship less fulfilling than it could be.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, 🙂

      Sam

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