Would you like to have reliable answers to the following questions when it comes time to look for a new committed relationship:
Does this individual assist me in moving on from a previous relationship that did not end well?
Do I enjoy spending time with this individual?
Can this individual give me what I need in a relationship? Is this Mr./Ms. the right person for me?
Is it possible for this individual and I to make our relationship work?
Do we as a pair assist each other in growing and developing (i.e., changing) over time?
Sounds innocuous enough, doesn’t it? Who wouldn’t want to know this information about a potential new partner? Do you think that changing the sequence in which you answer these questions will ruin your chances of having a healthy, long-term relationship? This is why:
The order is important! – The Five Basic Relationships1
To be successful in the long run, your next relationship must go through multiple distinct, sequential, and identifiable relationships. Skipping any of these could jeopardize your future happiness.
(1) Transition Relationship, (2) Recreational Relationship, (3) Pre-committed Relationship, (4) Committed Relationship, and (5) Marital Relationship are the five foundation partnerships. Skip or skimp on one at your peril.
Each of the five foundation connections can be thought of as a different relationship with a distinct purpose and a specific underlying question that defines each stage, the response to which determines whether or not the relationship will go to the next level of growth. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and they must be completed in order.
- The Transition Relationship: Have I Forgotten About My Ex?
The Transition Relationship is the first of these fundamental partnerships.
This is a relationship that you join into before or shortly after your committed partnership ends in divorce in order to ease the process of getting uncoupled. Its purpose is to help you uncouple from your prior relationship and re-experience validation.
The emphasis is on you as an individual, and the main question propelling this relationship is, “Can he/she assist me in getting over my ex?”
For the first time in a long time, you feel validated and hopeful. However, the wonderful feelings can lead to a typical trap: you become so thrilled about meeting someone who can give you what your ex couldn’t or wouldn’t give you that you conclude, “At long last, I have finally found my soul mate!” You have not. No, not yet. You’ve only recently understood that life without your ex can be nice.
Some people may have already divorced without any emotional baggage from their ex. They can skip straight to the Recreational phase. Others, on the other hand, will use a transitory relationship to ease the separation.
- The Recreational Relationship: Does It Make My Heart Fly When We’re Together?
The Recreational Relationship is the second basic relationship we must grasp.
The objective of the recreational relationship is to enjoy yourself and re-establish a sense of confidence and validation that are usually always lost in the divorce process. The idea is to have fun, feel good about yourself, and regain confidence in your social and dating abilities.
The emphasis is on you as a person, and the question driving this connection is: “Do I have fun while I’m with him/her? Is he/she enjoyable to be around?”
The most typical trap at this point is you feel so happy when you are with your spouse that you make the cardinal mistake of trusting what our culture teaches us when it says, “Follow your intuition. If it feels good, it must be pure love!” No, it is not. No, not yet. It’s all about hormones and chemistry. You have only met someone with whom you like spending time.
As a result, you will find yourself wondering about the future with your new friend and perhaps discussing it with your friend. Don’t. You won’t know if the two of you are a good match for several months at the most.
The 6-1/6-4 Rule is an excellent rule to follow throughout the recreational period of a relationship. This means that for the first six months, limit your plans, thoughts, and discussion subjects with your spouse to activities that are one week or fewer away. Then, for the next six months, limit your plans, thoughts, and discussion subjects with your spouse to activities that are four weeks or fewer away.
That is, for the first six months, look no farther than next week. And for the following six months, look no further than one month forward. You have plenty of time to get it right. Use it. Get to know each other thoroughly.
- The Pre-Commitment Relationship: My Voice, Too, Must Be Heard
The Pre-committed Relationship is the third basic relationship we must master.
This is the most significant since most individuals are unaware of its existence or believe it violates a cultural edict “Follow your intuition. If it is pure love, you will know.”
In this connection, you do the hard intellectual work of deciding whether your basic needs for a long-term partnership can be met. This stage of the relationship is critical for long-term success and can persist for several months.
The goal of the pre-committed relationship is to discover whether or not someone is a “good fit.” This goes beyond whether or not he or she is enjoyable to be around and asks the critical logical question, “Will a life with this person provide me with everything I require in a long-term relationship?”
The emphasis is on you as an individual, and the question driving this relationship is: “Is this Mr./Ms. the right person for me? Is it feasible to meet all of my needs in this relationship?”
Your relationship contentment will be doomed unless all of your standards are met.
- The Committed Relationship: Can We Make It Work Together?
The fourth foundation connection we must master is the Committed Relationship.
At this point in your relationship, both partners trust that their basic needs can be addressed. The goal of this stage is to figure out how to make the relationship work despite the differences and problems that all couples have.
This is the first time the couple, working jointly, is assigned responsibility for the relationship’s development. Until recently, it has been up to the individuals to do the work independently of their spouse.
The emphasis is on you as a couple, with the main question propelling this partnership being, “How can we make this work?”
- Can We Help Each Other Change and Develop in Our Marriage?
The Marital Connection is the fifth and last basic relationship we must master.
Now that the relationship has evolved to the point of making it public and formal, attention switches to allowing and supporting each partner to grow, develop, and change. People change, whether you expect or want them to. Demanding that your spouse remain the same as when you met is a sure way to create animosity and a good bet for a failed relationship.
This stage’s goal is to keep the connection going by encouraging growth and development.
The focus is on you as a partnership and the main question propelling this relationship is: “How can we help each other change and accomplish our dreams?”
So, what’s the big deal?
We do not have to be a slave to cultural pressure. There is an alternative to “listening to your heart” when looking for your next serious relationship.
Treating relationship development as a process that includes the five foundation connections takes control of your relationship destiny away from some fictitious roulette wheel in the sky and puts it squarely in your hands.
You can now have the marriage you’ve always desired without relying on myth, mystery, or luck.