Creating Powerful Partnerships – Part 2: The Five Stages of Relationships

The second key to powerful partnerships is having a working knowledge of the five stages of relationship.

The five stages are:

1.  Attraction

2. Power Struggle

3. Cooperation

4.  Synergy

5. Completion

The most problematic stages for most people are Power Struggle and Completion. People often ask us if the Power Struggle stage is necessary. Who wouldn’t want to avoid power struggle? People don’t exactly jump up and down with excitement when they enter that stage, like they might in the attraction stage!

The Power Struggle stage is necessary in that it is all about building trust. And trust is necessary if a relationship is to mature. Power Struggle isn’t bad, it’s just inevitable, predictable, unavoidable and recurrent. That is, it happens more than once in any long-term relationship. Why? Because each time you increase the commitment in a relationship, e.g., investing more time, money, emotion, etc., more trust is required. Whenever more trust is required, you will temporarily revisit Power Struggle.

The other problematic stage is completion. Everything that is created has a beginning, middle and end. And that includes your partnerships.

There are four ways partnerships end:

1. death

2. slowly drifting apart

3. abrupt expulsion

4. consciously

The first is obvious, as when one of the partners dies. The second is when partners may be separated by geography, time, interests or what-have-you. They find little in common to sustain the partnership. The third occurs with an apparently irreconcilable upset and the partnership is abruptly ended, usually with very bad feelings.

Obviously, the most desirable of the four is consciously, but most people don’t know how to do that. Conscious completion involves acknowledging what you have learned from the partnership, what you have contributed to the partnership, making any apologies that might be necessary and asking for and extending forgiveness.

Often, completion is about changing the form of the partnership, as in parents who are divorcing. They will no longer be in the form of marriage, but they will continue to be partners at some level in co-parenting their children. In this case, conscious completion is very important for developing or maintaining mutual respect, dignity and caring in the partnership.

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