The 5 Major Stages Of Love

Falling in love? Easy. Staying in love? Not so easy. That's why you need Cosmo's crash course in romance reality. Sit down, girl. Let's talk.

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Sure, we give lots of great love advice every month - so how can we top that? By putting together our greatest hits: A list of the most dead-on tips we've ever heard.

We assembled an all-star team of psychologists, counsellors, researchers, and matchmakers to spill their secrets to making that complicated-but-wonderful guygirl thing actually work. They outlined five major love stages, each with its share of speed bumps, and supplied keys to navigating them-35 in all. Because, hey, even if you're not exactly sure where you're going together, shouldn't you at least enjoy the trip?

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Stage 1

FALLING IN LUST

1 Don't sleep with a guy on the first date if you want the best shot at some kind of future with him. Yes, plenty of relationships do start that way, but you risk being put into the one time-fling category.

2 Never pretend to be into a guy's hobbies. Your true colors will come out.

3 Enjoy the moment when you're on dates. That means no discussing the future with him or worrying Is he The One? by date four. For the first month or so, your only job is to have fun.

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4 Focus on your own pleasure in bed. If you're too busy showing off your skills, you'll forget to enjoy yourself (and rob him of the pleasure of driving you wild).

5 Sit or stand side by side with your man while doing things together whenever possible. Men typically feel more relaxed and intimately connected in this position than when you're directly facing each other.

6 Spend equal - if not more - time with your friends in the first few months of dating. Guys often rush into a relationship, then suddenly cry, "This is moving too fast!" You have to apply the brakes.

7 Keep your options open for at least three months before deciding to be exclusive. You need a minimum of 90 days to even begin to know what someone is really like.

Stage 2

THE NEXT LEVEL

8 He's not your boyfriend until he publicly calls you his girlfriend or agrees to be exclusive. End of story.

9 When you have a problem with his lifestyle, speak up before you get really angry. If you don't tell him that his partying bugs you, you'll eventually explode on him-not a smart communication technique.

10 If you need a Define This Relationship Talk, initiate it while walking with your guy. Low-key activity lowers his stress hormone levels, which rise when he's forced to chat about his emotions.

11 Deliver an ultimatum to get a commitment only if you're prepared to walk away. Be firm about expectations, and give him a deadline.

12 You can't force a guy to cut ties with his past... But explain why his hanging out with an ex or a cokehead friend hurts you. If he really cares, he'll respect your wishes or tell you why he needs continued contact.

13 Cut your guy some slack if he promises you'll get engaged once he reaches a goal, like getting a promotion.

Stage 3

THE ROUGH PATCH

14 Develop binocular vision: The ability to see his perspective plus your own. Try to appreciate his point of view and he'll be more likely to appreciate yours.

15 Know this: Over time, a guy's attitudes, opinions, beliefs, politics, and views towards money could be fluid. What probably won't change: His values, stance on monogamy, and religious beliefs.

16 Speak up about specifics-a birthday present you'd like, a restaurant you want to go to. Men don't pick up on subtle clues.

17 If you find out something bad about his past, like he cheated on an ex, ask why he did it and what he learned from it. If he is contrite and has vowed to change, chances are he is probably not going to do it again.

18 When he seems overwhelmed during an argument, take a 20-minute break. Men's bodies easily flood with stress hormones, triggering an instinct to flee. Let him take a breather.

Stage 4

GETTING THERE

19 One habit all happy couples share: Doing fun things together. Competitive games (pool, Trivial Pursuit) have a strong effect because they help you bond.

20 Don't let him see you peeing, plucking your eyebrows, or doing an at-home bikini wax. You can be "real" in ways that don't chip away at romance.

21 Keep some secrets to preserve mystery. Examples: Your "number," what happened that girls' weekend in Cabo, a threesome you had.

22 Jump on him instead of next to him on the couch. Being sexy and playful takes effort, but it's the glue that keeps couples together.

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