Get From Fantasy to Reality: The 5 Stages of Dating

by | Oct 10, 2018 | Active Dating

Fantasy can be such an exciting and beautiful place. It’s a place where all dreams come true. A place where whatever I desire is possible.  Nobody to “tell us no”, just “let it go” and “all your dreams will come true” if…you “believe in magic.”

Western culture capitalizes on that desire to escape reality and jump into fantasy. It creates a life of princes and princesses, frothy instant romances, and happily ever after love stories. This plays to our vulnerable, often unmarried, reality. We also meet people who seem to have married the perfect person, or to have the perfect marriage. Though we only see a very small slice of their life, that which they choose to share publicly, we rush to form an idealized portrait of the love they live.

Stop! Fantasy is just that: an escape from the truth of our reality.

When I ask men and women to describe to me what they are looking for in a mate, they often describe someone that does not exist. How do I know? Because they never attach any negative traits to that description.

We all know nobody is perfect, yet when we describe the person we’re looking for, we only share the most complimentary of traits. Then we meet a human being. One with life, love, laughter, intelligence, talent, and…flaws. Yes, flaws.

We are taken aback. This, we have to “think about.”  Can we live with this? Should we break up right now?

With all the influences around us, it’s hard to face the facts that a) nobody is perfect and that b) all great relationships take a lot of hard work to develop.

Marriage is the work melding two worlds into one. That requires empathy, patience, altruism, and refining one’s character – not easy stuff. Yet, when that work is done strength, beauty, love, and opportunity will open in ways that were never available before. What you can create as two is infinitely greater than what can be created as one.

There’s an urban legend that if I’m dating “the right one” things will go smooth and easy. While that might be possible for some, it most certainly doesn’t go that way for most.

The pairing of two young, simple, inexperienced, or immature, people can be easy. Easy up front anyway. Some consciously choose not to see flaws in those they date, thereby accelerating the process of dating and engagement. I wish them luck.

For those who have more deeply layered personalities, have gone through challenges and/or traumas in life, are older, or have been married before, things are generally more complex.

For such people, more work will be required, yet that work is likely to yield a richer and more meaningful relationship.

Marriage is the work melding two worlds into one. That requires empathy, patience, altruism, and refining one’s character – not easy stuff. Yet, when that work is done strength, beauty, love and opportunity will open in ways that were never available before.

In the dating reality which is not always smooth and simple, these are 5 common stages on the path to compatibility.


Step 1

The Intro: Learning the basics about another person. Where they are from, what they do professionally/educationally, a bit about their family, what they enjoy doing in their free time, etc. This is the time to confirm attraction, like, and an interest to explore the relationship further.  It’s best to avoid deeply personal conversations, as your date is still a stranger. This stage is most likely to include fantasies of who this person is and what the relationship can be.


Step 2

Deep Sea Dating: Getting to know your date on a deeper level. Exploring the multi-faceted layers of their personality. Sharing topics that are usually reserved for close friends and family. Some examples are your hopes and dream, what makes you happy/sad, challenges at work/school, goals for a family, deeper insights on life, and your pathway for personal growth. In addition to further developing your connection you should be keeping an eye on communication patterns. Infatuation can become stronger here for some, although awareness of flaws and weaknesses begins to kick in for others.


Stage 3

Disappointment: Here where the reality of who your date really is comes out. Their insecurities, flaws, vulnerabilities, and weakness. Knowing conceptually that nobody is perfect is very different from experiencing it. There is a deep disappointment when you realize that this person is not as “perfect” as you thought they would be, or as perfect for you as you had imagined. There’s a need to confront that although there is great strength to this relationship, it is different from what you had expected and from what you think you want.  

Stage 4

Emotional Intimacy: Many people bail at Stage 3. Those who choose to see beyond and work through flaws will in the process be building closeness in the relationship. The closeness in which there’s safety and security of not being judged, yet accepted for who you are. That closeness is the product of mutual acceptance of imperfections. The recognition that although I am not perfect and you are not perfect, we can be perfect together. The realization that potential is present to build with this partner even with bumps, challenges and imperfections. The ability to share inner pain, cry, and explore thoughts that even your closest friends don’t know. Stage 4 restores stability into the relationship after the disappointment of Stage 3.


Stage 5

The Leap – Commitment: For many, this is the hardest stage. Realizing that this is the right partner for you is only the first step. Being able to make a permanent mental shift from ‘I’ to ‘we’ can be overwhelming. This stage can kick up fears for both men and women. Men fear rejection and although they are relied upon to be the emotionally strong, they can be fearful of showing their insecurities in the relationship. For women the worry of making the wrong decision and/or getting hurt can be paralyzing. These fears and anxiety can often bring the couple back to the feelings of Stage 3. At this stage, it can be very useful to work with someone that can help tease out what is real and what is fear.


Ultimately we all make a decision to marry based on our subjective dating experience and the potential we believe we see in this particular partnership. You can’t win if you don’t play.


Dating is risky and getting hurt is always a risk, but if we never risk, we will never gain and move forward in life. Nobody has a crystal ball and can predict the future.  We take risks every day by expecting our car to be safe, our food to be danger free, and our jobs to be there for us yet another day.


With guidance and prayer to The One Above we literally leap, not being certain where we will land. It sounds scary and often it is, yet you’re not taking the leap alone. There is a partner to catch you on the other side.


May you leap into the arms of the best friend you could ever wish for, a partner with whom you’ll build a home and family, share laughter and tears, and navigate this greatest and most wondrous voyage of life. Wishing you the shortest distance to that longest relationship.

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