4 Stages of Healthy Relationship-Building

10/25/2011 11:59:02 PM

“Friend” is one of those words that’s taken on new meaning. Nowadays, the word “friend” can easily refer to a life-long confidante or someone you just connected with on Facebook!

Generally speaking, most relationships go through four stages and (no offense to Facebook!) “friend” isn’t the first one. Ideally, each stage should build on the other and at the proper pace. What advances a relationship to new stages or levels are: trust, compatibility, and a shared interest in cultivating a deeper friendship.

The stages go like this (imagine a pyramid): 
  1. Acquaintance
  2. Prospect (a potential friend)
  3. Friend
  4. V.I.P. (Very Important Person)
Every person who becomes more than an acquaintance will start in the first stage.  Most stay there forever while others may progress into the next stages. Only a very few will make it to the VIP stage—and that’s the way it should be.

Unfortunately, many people—particularly young people—can rush the stages, prematurely moving from one to the next in a quest for intimacy or to make new friends (common in college!). Or, they can exhibit behaviors in one stage that should be reserved for a deeper or intimate one.

If you want healthy, lasting relationships, don’t rush to stage four (like they do in the movies!). When you do, you risk making an emotional investment without really knowing the person—a mistake that can take a major toll when you break up. Better to go slow through the stages and reserve the VIP level for people who really prove their friendship, commitment, and compatibility over time.

Are you dating someone right now?  Here’s a checklist you can use to determine how far up the relational pyramid your relationship actually is.  How many of these questions can you answer so far?  Which ones do you need to further explore?
Don’t rush it. Be deliberate and discerning. Always remember that good friendship and true love take time—and timing!

Do you agree that all your relationships fall somewhere on this spectrum?  What do you observe happens when people “rush” or mix up the stages? We’d love to hear your experiences—or your advice!