Terry Gorski’s, Getting Love Right (1993) is one of the best books on this subject. Gorski describes how to build the relationship one stage or level at a time.
1. Can You Hang Out Together?
Gorski calls this the Acquaintanceship stage. This is the stage of casual contact, when you’re just getting to know each other. You’re just sharing basic information. And you’re finding out if the other person will treat you with common courtesy and respect.
If you tend to get intense right away, this step is extra important. In a long-term relationship, things aren’t always intense. Most of your time will be spent in the day-to-day routine of life. It’s important to be comfortable enjoying each other’s company in a low-key way.
2. Do You Have Stuff in Common?
In Gorski’s Companionship stage, you’re discovering if you have any shared hobbies or interests. You don’t have to have everything in common. But, it definitely helps if you have some things you like doing together.
This is also when you start to share your friends and your worlds with each other. If they don’t introduce you to their friends or share some of their hobbies or interests with you, it might mean they don’t have any (which is a red flag). Or it could mean they are intentionally keeping you out of their life (an even bigger red flag — they may be hiding something).
3. Are You Friends?
In Gorski’s Friendship stage, you begin to share on a deeper level. You share more of who you are, your feelings and your values. And you get to see how they respond? Do they listen? Do they care? Are they respectful? You also get to see if they share. And when they do, it’s your turn to be respectful and and caring.
Each new stage adds another layer of depth to your relationship. And that makes it safe to move to the next level.
4. Do You Have Passion?
Developing the relationship slowly is especially important before moving on to Gorski’s next stage, Romantic Love. That’s how you know if the other person is safe before you have sex. If you have sex in the beginning, when it’s mostly infatuation, you don’t really know each other. Or as Gorski says, “You’re having sex with a stranger,” which can be exciting, but also dangerous (p. 212).
Plus, when you wait to have sex, your passion is based on who they really are and who you really are. So, the attraction isn’t going to wear off once you really get to know them. (In fact, there can be more passion because you have more trust. And that enables you to be freer with each other.)
5. Are You Ready to Build a Life Together?
Gorski’s last stage is Committed Love. This is when you decide that you want to stay together. You enjoy being together. You have things in common. You care about each other. And you have passion. So you commit to working things out and sticking around when things get tough. You decide to make a long-term permanent commitment to each other.
It’s normal to be a little bit afraid, because love is always a risk. But, it doesn’t have to be a risk taken on blind faith. Since you’ve built your relationship one step at a time, you really know each other. So, your commitment is less like jumping off a cliff and more like stepping off a curb — into your new life together.
Gorski, T. (1993). Getting Love Right: Learning the choices of healthy intimacy. New York: Simon & Schuster.