Communication is Hard!


The 5 Stages of Relationship and What that Means for Development of Your Big Ideas.

Why do some relationships break up and others last a lifetime? Why do seemingly great ideas fail? Why are some goals achievable and others have no long lasting results?

According to Dr Susan Campbell in her book “The Couples Journey: Intimacy as a Path to Wholeness”, one reason is that relationships go through 5 predictable relationship stages, each building on the last.

5 stages

1. The Romance (drug addiction) Stage;

2. The Power Struggle Stage;

3. The Stability Stage;

4. The Commitment Stage;

5. The Co-creation or Bliss Stage.

Most couples never get past Stage 2: The Power Struggle Stage and even worse, most new businesses, start up or creative ideas never pass Stage 1: The Romance Stage.

July 7th, 2015 saw me celebrate my second year wedding anniversary. Two years seems to be a delicate time period for a marriage. It is often make or break time for a relationship. Concurrently I just finished writing my PhD dissertation on international policy issues and now that’s out of my hair, I’m dreaming of when my relationship will be at Stage 5: The Co-creation stage, where my big vision for my husband and I is to move into the world as a team, move beyond the relationship such that our relationship becomes a gift to the world; either through creating a new business, charity, impacting our friends and family or just sharing our co-created message to the world.

But we are far from this and it’s close to impossible to skip stages.  At the moment, this co-vision is just a big idea/dream till we get through the stability and commitment stage and then finally find a unified vision to impact the world In the Co- creation/Bliss stage!

Stage 1: The Romance Stage

We have all been in the romance stage, designed to have us fall in love – be it with a person or an idea. Here we don’t see our partner’s flaws; we are essentially drugged by oxytocin, phenylethylene and dopamine. When these drugs wear off we find ourselves sinking into a “love hangover”!

I get the same highs when I have a new idea. I’m “lucky” that great ideas come to me. I wake up each morning with a new vision, a new product idea, a new article idea or concept. Much to my husband’s frustration this new idea is now the most important thing to me and I’m intoxicated by my new idea. But, as he knows, this drug induced phase runs the risk of ending with an “idea hangover,” which he may have to nurse, primarily because there are 3 important questions I could forget to ask myself during my euphoria.

do not forget

1) Who do you share your ideas with?

It is important to find people who can also get excited about your ideas but this can be frightening because I find when I tell people my ideas their comments usually kill the idea. While this sounds like a good idea to you, without good sounding boards you will not know if the idea is impractical, already exists, or may not be worth developing even if it’s a good idea. The safe bet for me used to be to tell my nearest and dearest my ideas, my husband! While he is understanding and as patient as he can be to hear another “revolutionary” idea, I’ve learnt to sound most ideas to people a bit further removed, who are encouraging and insightful yet objective. This objectivity creates a much more effective filter and advisor to help me sift the winning ideas from the dud ones. So even though I promote myself as an effective advisor, consultant and counsellor, I certainly also need that for myself!

2) Can I actually take on a new project today?

What about the one I thought of yesterday? The secret is focus! Without focus I could have a weeks’ worth of ideas and none of them go anywhere, but if maybe I first brainstorm and collect ideas for a week and have a set time to sift through the ideas and find the best “one at a time ” to focus on, then at least one out of the 52 ideas I’d have in the year can materialize, especially In time for when my family reaches the Co-creation/ bliss stage!

3) Is this new idea in line with my overall personal vision and mission statement?

My mission is that for every encounter people have with me, I want the take away to be that they are both informed and inspired to action! One of the most difficult ideas that I dropped was my idea for a new type of “intimacy” product. I don’t know how I came up with this product but when I did over 4 hours of research on Google and searched Google patents and did not find anything close to my idea; I thought I may be on to a winner. But when I tried to talk about my idea no one could understand what on earth I was doing thinking about this type of business. Also, even I didn’t know if I was prepared to actually talk openly and frankly about the subject of sex and female pleasure… But as I was minded, after participating in a McKinsey Webinar on “Structuring Your Message”, I realized that there are lots of connections between my “controversial” product idea and my brand.

As an international affairs expert with an interest in international development, I see the idea of a women and sex as actually linked to pressing issues of our day including over population, poverty alleviation, health and disease prevention and women empowerment. In an age where female genital mutilation still occurs, obviously it’s difficult to process that the initial trigger for my idea was female pleasure. The idea of openly talking about this had me burying my head in embarrassment because pleasure is a “dirty” word. However, there are several other “serious” topics I can bring up to prevent the giggle factor, to express my new product idea and still keep my “serious academic and professional game face!”.

As someone who studied two masters and a PhD in space management and space law you’d think that after hearing 50 times “which clients do you represent, aliens?” , that I’m over the giggle factor issue by now. But getting over the giggle factor is only easy when you have confidence in yourself, a steadfast belief in your ideas and good advisors that you can count on.

Getting through the difficult patches

As my husband and I work through the various stages, the objective is now to establish our autonomy inside the relationship without destroying our love connection. When things get difficult, usually couples do either one of two things. 1) They break up, or 2) Sacrifice and compromise suffering through the relationship. Well I don’t want either of one of these outcomes so undoubtedly if we take Susan’s advice we will have to:

– Accept and appreciate each other’s differences;

– Learn to share power;

– Realize who we are as individuals and what we have as a couple;

– Give up the fantasy of harmony without struggle; and

– Accept many things in life as they are and not things you can change.

The last point may sound like a contradiction in light of my previous post on LinkedIn (Unleashing the Power Within), however time and experience has shown that while you can change many things, the easiest is to change yourself because it is hard to change your partner.

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