Phase I- this is the fun part, where you go on some fun dates, play 20 questions, determine if there is any chemistry, and if so, you may plan fun weekend getaways together. This phase is the one full of adrenaline, and it is like a cocaine high for many– I always tell people to just enjoy it while it lasts.
Phase II- you have a talk about being exclusive, hopefully exchange STD test results, and establish some check-in procedures. You also start to leave things at each other’s place– small things, like a toothbrush, shampoo, maybe a change of clothes. You start enjoying down time, just cooking at home and watching t.v. You meet each other’s friends and family, and go on an extended vacation together.
Phase III- for those that just want to have fun, they are pretty happy just staying in Phase II– and typically (althougth not always) women are the ones that want to push the issue of where are we heading with this? Phase III is hard, and this is why many will never get there. For those who deluded themselves into thinking that they could coast once they got to Phase III, they are in for a rude awakening.
When things really get serious and you take about co-habitating and c0-mingling your finances, this can and will lead to some difficult conversations because it’s highly unlikely that you will share the exact same life style choices/habits, taste in furniture/art, and views on spending vs. saving money. To further complicate things, not everyone deals well with difficult conversations and transitions.
Change is scary for a lot of people, and merging not just households, but two separate lives together, is definitely not easy. Some couples get bogged down by all the details, and when you are trying to blend two families with kids, this can be particularly challenging. If you are lucky enough to get to Phase III, let me just say this- plans do not have to be made overnight, nor do you have to tackle these issues all alone. Weigh your options about schools and available, affordable housing. Have honest and open discussions about realistic goals, including household budgets. Share your credit scores and sketch out your financial picture for the other. Read books about blended families, seek expert advice if you need to from a qualified mental health professional, get a legal opinion if you think you need a cohabitation agreement or prenup.
If you are truly committed to each other, you will work together to find solutions to each issue that will arise as you make more long-term plans and increase your level of understanding one another. Remember, a home cannot be built overnight– you need to lay a proper foundation. Of course, even when you do, there is no guarantee it will all work out, but at least you gave it your best shot. If it doesn’t work out, then it wasn’t meant to be, and you can resume the phases of dating all over again.
By Regina A. DeMeo, Esq.