Five Stages of Partnership
All partnerships, and all relationships for that
matter, go through five predictable stages. Knowing
these stages is like having a map that will help
you to accurately assess where you are in your
partnerships, see where you have been and where you
can go. This will also allow you to deal
effectively with the particular concerns of the
stage you are in. For example, upsets,
disagreements, miscommunications and
misunderstandings are a predictable, inevitable and
unavoidable part of the second stage. If you don't
know that, you could easily misinterpret what is
going on in the relationship, make inappropriate
choices and miss important learning and growth
opportunities. Each stage requires a different yet
overlapping set of skills. Mastering partnership is
about mastering these skills.
Stage One: Attraction
This stage of relationships is characterized by
a fascination with another person, organization or
project and a desire to learn more about them, as
well as a desire to share yourself. It's fun and it
feels good. This is the time when positive
possibilities are sensed and explored. This is the
stage people wish would last forever.
Essential Skills for Success in
1. Be interested, not merely interesting.
2. Look for and focus on the best in others.
3. Acknowledge/compliment others on the good you
see in them and their accomplishments.
4. Help people to relax with you - put them at
5. Know what the most important things are for
people to know about you and weave those things
into your conversations so you feel they "get" who
6. To simply "be" with others without an
7. Keep your word to build trust.
8. Be authentic.
9. Look good and smell good.
10. Speech acts to learn and master:
High performance listening
2. Jumping to conclusions.
3. Moving too quickly into a commitment
4. Expecting people to read your mind and
anticipate your conditions for satisfaction.
5. Stereotyping or categorizing.
Stage Two - Power Struggle
This is the stage where people start testing
each other. It is one of the most difficult stages
for people. Who is going to get whose way and how?
Distrust from your unresolved past manifests and
there is often a fear of loss of control and heavy
judgments of the other person start to show up.
Many relationships never move beyond this stage and
many end here. This stage is really about building
1. Know and identify your feelings.
2. Speak congruently with your emotions.
3. Communicate without blame.
4. Self-reflection - observe your thoughts,
feelings and behaviors without judgment.
5. Own/take responsibility for your mistakes
6. Observe your automatic interpretations of
others and events.
7. Be present to someone elses upset
8. Know and articulate your requirements for
9. Be able to restore trust when broken.
10. Use current upsets to resolve the past.
11. Ask for help.
12. Forgive yourself and others.
13. Make correction without invalidation.
14. Don't control others or make their choices
15. Don't sacrifice - be generous.
16. Practice spiritual attunement to find the
17. Take the initiative - be responsible for
your own needs.
18. Turn your complaints into requests.
19. Be clear-headed and rational while feeling
intense feelings or while in the presence of others
20. Control your temper.
1. Giving ultimatums.
2. Blaming others.
3. Gossiping or participating in gossip.
4. Being mean, attacking, hurtful or
5. Saying things you'll regret.
Stage Three : Cooperation
This is the stage where you learn to trust one
another and to resolve upsets to your mutual
satisfaction and benefit. You learn to share power
and appreciate each other's unique abilities and
gifts. However, it is still self oriented - "What
can I get out of this relationship?" rather than
"What can we create with this relationship?" Beware
of false cooperation in which one person acquiesces
to the other in order to "keep the peace". This is
still Power Struggle, only in a more subtle
1. Know and articulate the essence of your
2. Expand your capacity for compassion.
3. Read others emotions.
4. Assess trustworthiness in others and assume
trust rather than suspicion.
5. Inspire high level of trust from others.
6. Care deeply about others.
7. Feel connected with others.
8. Generate enthusiasm.
9. Find and define a common path.
10. Know and articulate how others affect you,
e.g., their losing/winning, problems/thriving.
11. Make choices for long-term gain - overcome
the need for instant gratification.
12. Competency with creation techniques, e.g.,
visualization, goal setting, etc.
13. Know and articulate your changing conditions
14. Neutralize competition while inspiring
15. Ability to articulate higher path,
especially during stress.
16. Be diplomatic and cordial even when worried,
upset and during stress.
17. Facilitate conversations for:
Speculation and possibility
Planning and design
Commitment and action
1. Making assumptions.
2. Sacrifice - it always leads to
3. Withholding important communication out of
Stage Four: Synergy
This is the stage where there is a realization
of a power greater than that of each individual.
There is also a commitment to a specified focus and
use of the power. Extraordinary satisfaction,
intimacy, and a deep sense of mutual trust,
empowerment and ease characterize this stage. It is
a highly creative, high performance relationship.
It also possesses a high level of acknowledgment
and appreciation. The relationship emanates joy and
power in this stage.
1. Regenerate creativity.
2. Balance work and play.
3. Be alert to and neutralize complacency.
4. Fine tune and evolve specific talents.
5. Dance and surrender during the times of chaos
before new beginnings.
6. Let go of ego and attachments.
7. Be as committed to the larger process you are
involved in as you are to your own individual
8. Practice letting the relationship
9. Anticipate temporary Power Struggle when you
uplevel commitment and prepare for it.
1. Taking the relationship and people for
2. Becoming overly intoxicated with the glory of
synergy and get out of balance in your life.
3. Expecting synergy to last without nurturing
Stage Five: Completion
This is a stage many people fear and avoid
dealing with altogether. There are four ways
relationships can be completed: drifting apart,
expulsion/ejection, conscious completion or death.
Sometimes completion is only about changing the
form of the relationship, not necessarily the end
of the relationship altogether.
1. Accept and flow with change.
2. Acknowledge and integrate the value and
learning from the relationship.
3. Spiritual attunement.
4. Own up to mistakes without
5. Make apologies.
6. Redefine your common path - change form.
7. Articulate the highest spiritual thought
about the relationship.
8. Know what you need to feel complete.
9. Generate a safe space and a conversation to
make sure everything that needs to be said or done
to feel complete is communicated in a spirit of
love and dignity for all parties concerned.
10. Allow for a healthy expression of fear,
anger, grief or any other emotion.
1. Feeling victimized.
2. Taking things too personally.
3. Resisting change.
4. Misperceiving that others are the source of
your good or happiness.
& Layne Cutright
* * *
Lovers know what they want, but not what they
need. - Publilius Syrus
and Layne Cutright are marriage and business
partners who have been teaching principles and
practices for successful relationships since 1976.
They are the founders of The Center for Enlightened
an online learning and resource center providing
e-learning products, teleclasses and coaching. They
are authors of the Amazon Best Seller,
Never Upset for the Reason You
From the Heart. They
publish a free monthly e-zine filled with
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