Listen, any relationship – gay, straight or otherwise – is work and a lot of it. But, when we find our guy, it is work well worth doing.

One of the advantages of being in a long-term relationship is that the work stops feeling like such. However, one of the “speed bumps” in same said long-term relationship is that we get lulled into the familiarity of coupledom and stop doing the work. No surprise, the work never stops. It just changes in nature.

How it changes is based on the 6 stages of a healthy relationship. Each stage brings with it a deepening of the couple’s dynamic and thus new discoveries: ones that take time and effort to explore and learn from.

What follows is a snapshot of the 6 stages, what to expect and what to prepare for to make it to the next stage. Apply these to your long-term relationship, be it a marriage or otherwise.



In the early years of your relationship, you’re learning each other’s strengths and weaknesses and negotiating your respective male dominances. Figuring out how to compliment each other – ceding and gaining ground – will ready you for.


At this stage, you’ve come to embrace each other’s differences and moved into creating a home together, whether that is an actual home or a version of togetherness that works for you. This is where you understand how you’ve “become one” in order to focus on…


Having settled into the relationship and learned how to keep it stable, you now return to your individual pursuits and friendships. This stage readies you for….


Here’s where you’ve reached the balance between independence and interdependence and are able to turn your focus to highly collaborative efforts around family, career and shared ambitions. Having done so you’ll move on to:


It is now when you have achieved complete trust, given up on any need to change the other and, yes, possibly having reached familiarity or boredom. Thus, you give each other – or release each other – to explore and discover, knowing that your bond is deep and intractable. Inevitably, from this phase, you go onto…


At this juncture, you’re likely into the latter years of your life and, hopefully, enjoying the spoils of a life of hard work. You’re supporting each other through likely meaningful physical changes and enjoying the seeing life through the network of friends and family you’ve created.

Fundamental to the success of each stage is one simple, yet very hard effort to make: creating intimacy.

Intimacy is defined, one way, as the ability to share one’s feelings, in the moment, without fear of rejection or criticism and without the listening partner feeling like they have done something wrong, need to change or have to save the other partner.

Said more simply, intimacy is the ability to share one’s feelings knowing they’ve been seen and heard.

The joy of intimacy is how deeply it connects the couple. The benefit is the strength it lends the couple to move through the above stages and, as such, build a relationship that lasts a lifetime.