Creating Powerful Partnerships – Part 3: Using a Design Model


Would you even consider building a house without an architect and a blueprint? You wouldn’t get some wood, nails and a hammer and just start putting something together and hope it turned into a house you would want to live in, would you? People do the equivalent with their partnerships all the time.

They “believe” it will work out because it just “feels” right. Most people leave the success of their most important relationships up to chance and luck, in the hope that it will turn out. Too many times it doesn’t and then they are left wondering, “What did I do wrong?”

It can be a sobering realization when you see that your love and/or good intentions alone are not enough to guarantee success in your partnerships. But it can also be a relief when you discover what does guarantee success and fulfillment. The additional components are education and skill – education about what it takes to have relationships succeed, and skill in standard practices of success. Those are things that anyone can learn if they are sufficiently motivated.

Here is a simple 3-part model we have found to be extremely effective for beginning the design process.

Purpose – Results – Form

First, be clear on the purpose of your partnership. You can get to that by asking “why?” – Why are we in this partnership? Purpose determines the direction you are going in. Purpose statements are best kept simple and general. Then, write out the results you want to accomplish. Those could be feelings, experiences, products or services, depending on the nature of the partnership.

This is where you get specific. Results are the “what.” Look to see if the results you want in your partnership are consistent with your purpose. If they aren’t, then you know you will have trouble down the road. Last, determine the best form to serve your purpose that will help you achieve your desired results.

Some examples of forms of relationship are friends, teammates, business colleagues, business partners, dating, engagement, and marriage. Form is tied to the roles you play in your life. Form is all about “how” you will achieve your desired results and ongoingly fulfill your purpose.

Here is an example of what this might look like. Take two people who are attracted to each other romantically and are falling in love. They start talking about building a future together. If they were to use this design model, they would have deep conversations about the purpose of their relationship. They may decide their purpose is simply to bring out the best in each other.

The kinds of results they want to experience in their relationship could include fun, laughter, deep, heart-felt sharing, travel, time apart, creativity, sexual pleasure, intellectual stimulation and community involvement. They would then have conversations about what the best form might be to accomplish those results, given their purpose.

One of the important things to remember about form is that form changes. If the couple in our example is having these conversations at the level of serious dating, they may look at “going steady” and being monogamous. Or if they are further along in their relationship, they may consider being engaged.

All of these are forms, and they change over time as commitment deepens and trust is developed, and the circumstances of our life change.

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