The Progression of a Healthy Relationship


The proper progression of a relationship might vary from couple to couple but here are some guidelines.

Before you get started:

Develop a fulfilling relationship with yourself before you attempt to have a romantic relationship. Romantic feelings can be like a tidal wave sweeping you out to sea if you are not securely tied to a relationship with yourself. Many of you may want to be swept out to sea, but this not really healthy; and sometimes it is even dangerous

Selection is everything:

  • Take your time
  • Do everything you can to keep from being blinded by your emotions
  • Know what you don’t want (people who trigger your dysfunctional behavior)
  • Look for someone healthy, and observe them objectively before you plunge in
  • Look for someone who does not have to change very much to please you; but don’t be too picky. Find the middle ground
  • Know what you do want. Make a list of the things that are mandatory and the things that are optional. Prioritise your list


  • This is when you find out what this person is really like-any false fronts should crumble after a few dates
  • Be yourself-you want someone to know who you really are
  • Measure your compatibility during this time
  • Establish trust
  • Hold off on sex if it blinds you to what this person is really like, and keep a lid on any budding romantic feelings (you may feel them, but don’t give them a lot of power by fantasizing too much)
  • Be willing to change your mind if you usually ‘cling’ to unhealthy people and be willing to hang in there if you usually “run”


  • See if you can relax and have fun together
  • See if you can count on this person
  • Continue to see if there is enough compatibility to sustain the relationship
  • Build a strong foundation for a future romantic relationship


  • This is friendship with romance
  • Romantic feelings can now have a free reign-see if they mix well with the friendship
  • You can let romantic love blossom now-you don’t have to put a lid on your feelings any more
  • Now you can test your readiness for intimacy; this is usually the time when a fear of intimacy comes up-if you have any


  • Now things are getting serious
  • Set ground rules for the relationship
  • Discuss things like:
    Growing closer
    The future
    How much time you will have for each other
    …..anything that is important to you

Partnership (this used to be called marriage, but now the wedding ceremony is optional):

  • During a partnership you should:
  • Maintain what you have established up to now
  • Honour the values you have in common
  • Grow as a couple, as well as individuals
  • Get to really know each other and experience intimacy (Intimacy comes from revealing yourself to a non-judgmental partner)


At any point in the progression of a relationship, one partner may experience a fear of intimacy and pull back. Don’t panic. Give your partner some space. However, if he or she does not come around in a few weeks, you should move on.


Now I want to give you a word of encouragement and a warning. Intimate relationships are wonderful and something to aspire to. They can enhance your life in unbelievable ways. They can be very fulfilling and help you grow to your full potential. But always remember they are a ‘want’ not a ‘need’. Your self-esteem should never depend on finding someone special.
Also, love (as attraction and desire) is not enough. Love that follows a careful selection, and is coupled with a willingness to work hard and extend yourself is also necessary.
Finally, you must not become slaves to the myth that preferential love will always span an entire lifetime. Only spiritual love lasts forever. Therefore, as you change, your relationship will change; and sometimes (but not always) it will fade away. You should not be discouraged by this. Change is part of life. It is what makes life interesting.

Addiction to Love by Susan Peabody with permission from Random House. For more about Susan and her work see her website or to buy her book click here.


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