According to Layne & Paul Cutright of Heart to Heart and authors of Straight from the Heart, all relationships move through four sequential and very distinct stages: Attraction, Power Struggle, Cooperation and Synergy.
Whether the relationship is romantic, purely friendship or business- related, it still follows these four stages. The length of time spent in each of the four stages varies with each relationship. By learning about the stages of a relationship, you will be able to anticipate what happens between you and your partner when there is a change in the relationship, and the difference between cooperation and synergy.
The first stage is the Attraction Stage. It's when you first meet the other person and you can't get him or her out of your mind. You are completely fascinated with the other person. You think everything he or she says and does is great! You wonder, "Where has this person been all my life?" You want to learn more about him or her as well as share yourself. The relationship is fun, it feels good and you want it to last forever! You dream about all the possibilities of where the relationship can go. You think, "The future looks better than it ever has before."
But, if the relationship is to mature and move forward, it will enter the second stage of relationships. This stage is referred to as the Power Struggle Stage and comes about with any type of change in the relationship.
For instance, when two people decide to date exclusively, move in together (whether it is officemates, roommates or bedmates), get engaged or married, have a child, the relationship changes. This signals the beginning of "Power Struggle."
How can you tell when you are in the Power Struggle Stage? You start getting "testy" with each other. Arguments occur. And, remember those little habits that you thought were so cute in the beginning? Well, now they are beginning to irritate you. Things like a unique laugh or what he/she wears or how he/she cleans his/her fingernails begins to annoy you. You think, "I wish he/she would-n't say or do that? It really bothers me!" You may also start to feel as though your partner has suddenly changed.
This is also the stage where most break-ups occur. People feel like they must have picked the wrong one, again. Compared to the feeling of the unlimited possibilities and the "highs" during the Attraction Stage to the judgments and "lows" of the Power Struggle Stage, the Power Struggle Stage feels very disastrous.
What most people fail to understand is that during this time, the relationship is crying out for a higher level of trust between the participants since the relationship has just changed. The arguments that arise are really about testing each other testing each other's level of commitment to the longevity of the relationship. Each partner is truly wondering, "Can I trust you? Can I be vulnerable with you? Can we work out our problems together or will you exit Stage Right?"
It is necessary to know that all relationships re-enter the Power Struggle Stage (like clockwork!) when any new commitment is made within the relationship. For example, both partners agree to save up for a vacation and within days, arguments ensue about who is contributing his/her fair share, or how the money should be spent or where to go on the vacation. Instead of picking corners, know that you are in Power Struggle now. Ask yourself and your partner, "What needs to happen so we can build more trust here?"
If the relationship does not move to the next level, and the partners continue to stay together, the relationship will continue to exist within Power Struggle. It is a relationship of adversaries and, in my opinion, not a desired one.
The third stage is the Cooperation Stage. This is where you learn to trust one another and to resolve disagreements to your mutual satisfaction and benefit. You learn to share power and appreciate each other's unique abilities and gifts.
During this stage, however, each partner is still very self-oriented. The focus is: "What can I get out of this relationship?" rather than "What can we create with this relationship?" There is also the possibility of false cooperation, which is very destructive to the relationship. False cooperation is where one person acquiesces to the other in order to "keep the peace." This is still Power Strug-gle, only in a more subtle way. When false cooperation occurs, the person who is acquiescing will begin to resent it and become passive-aggressive in their actions.
The fourth stage of a relationship is Synergy. At this stage, there is a realization of a power greater than that of each individual. You are no longer self-oriented; it's more about: "What can we create here?" There is extraordinary satisfaction, intimacy and a deep sense of mutual trust, empowerment and ease. This stage can feel like the Attraction Stage, but with a lot more history, depth, reality and acceptance. This is where you reap the harvest of your labors. The relationship is highly rewarding with little effort.
Do you see how understanding the stages can prove helpful in understanding why certain things happen in your relationships at certain times? I encourage you to examine all of your past relationships and see if they follow these stages. Notice what stage you were in when your relationship ended. Also examine your present relationships. What stage are they currently in?
Remember that any change in your relationship puts you back into Power Struggle. You can't move out of Power Struggle to Cooperation until a higher level of trust is built. In addition, you will continue to bounce back and forth between Power Struggle and Cooperation as many times as you change the commitment level of the relationship. It's important during this stage to focus on the reason for being in Power Struggle in the first place the relationship is in the process of moving to a higher, more committed level. All that is required is more trust to move you out of the "struggle." Knowing this will allow the transition to be much easier and quicker and result in a more satisfying and loving relationship!
Jim Kinney is a gifted relationship coach, breathworker, spiritual healer and a Shamanic Dream-worker. His soul's path is to teach people how to connect with their inner guidance and expand their connection to Spirit so they can experience a deeper level of awareness, commitment and joy. Jim can be reached at (949) 722-1962.
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