The 5 Step Dance for Healthy Relationships

Sometimes the song will play forever and sometimes for only a little while.

Natalia Sobolivska

Everyone wants to know the secrets to a good, healthy, relationship(s). We swim through an endless stream of magazine articles, blog posts, books, and advice from friends and family, desperately hoping that we’ll find the secret to finding, growing, and sustaining a truly loving relationship. For many of us, this quest takes up a huge amount of our thoughts and energy, especially if we start the journey with a trail of painful, failed relationships behind us.

In 1983, psychologist George Levinger, a psychology professor at the University at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, published one of the leading models of the relationship growth. According to Levinger, the stages of a healthy relationship process are as follows:

Acquaintance. Becoming acquainted depends on previous relationships, physical proximity, first impressions, and a variety of other factors. If two people begin to like each other, continued interactions may lead to the next stage, but the stage of acquaintance can continue indefinitely.

2. Buildup. During this stage, people begin to trust and care about each other. The need for compatibility and such filtering agents as common background and goals will influence whether or not the interaction will continue.

3. Continuation. This stage follows a “mutual commitment” to a long-term friendship, romantic relationship, or marriage. It is generally a long, relatively stable period. Nevertheless, continued growth and development will occur during this time. Mutual trust is important for sustaining the relationship.

4. Deterioration. Not all relationships deteriorate, but those that do tend to show signs of trouble. Boredom, resentment, and dissatisfaction may occur, and individuals may communicate less and avoid self-disclosure. Loss of trust and betrayals may take place as the downward spiral continues.

5. Termination. This final stage marks the end of the relationship, either by death in the case of a healthy relationship, or by separation.

Our sexual and romantic relationships don’t necessarily always follow this healthy progression as outlined by Levinger. Sometimes we jump directly from acquaintance to continuation, forgetting how important the trust and caring of the buildup stage is.

And then just when we thought things were moving along nicely, termination comes along! We wonder what went wrong when it’s already over. Every step is important, and each comes with its own set of nuances. Understanding each phase and how the overall progression works together is the first step toward using your knowledge to develop better self-awareness and better relationship skills.

Let’s take a closer look.

The first encounter with a new person can amount to something as simple as a “hello.” Greetings are usually verbal, but can be nothing more than a nonverbal cue or the combination of a verbal and nonverbal cue simultaneously. You might say “hi,” wave your hand, or offer a handshake as you say, “Hello, it’s nice to meet you.” A great way to connect nonverbally is to offer a smile, but either way it’s that simple: a smile, a word and/or a wave and you are now engaged. If you do not get a verbal or nonverbal cue in return that suggests that the individual wants to continue the interaction, the connection is likely over. In that case, move on. No harm done. However, if the connection continues as you’d like or planned, keep in mind you are still in the acquaintance phase.

Wasn’t it Chris Rock who said: “We don’t show up for the first date, we send our representative”? We naturally want to make a great first impression, so early in the relation building process, we want to show off our best side. This is great, as long as it doesn’t go too far and lead us to start faking who we really are. Take my word for it, this never works well for the long haul. Be brave! You know who you are; now let your the other person know what really matters to you. Allow your authentic self to shine through. It will only take a moment for them to pick up on any pretense — and when they do, you can forget about developing trust. You’ve only started getting to know each other, so feel free to show more than one side of yourself. We are not one-dimensional creatures; relationships would be pretty boring if we were!

At this point, you have been with the same partner for a little while. It could be a couple weeks or even several months, but either way, you’ve been together long enough for the relationship to feel smooth, stable, and promising. You should know, by now, if your communication styles are compatible and how to work through little snags when they come up. You and your partner have talked about relationship desires, needs, and goals, and after spending some quality time getting to know each other, you now know that you want to keep going. Together, you decide it’s worth the love and effort it will take to be in a committed relationship. “Continuation” in a committed relationship doesn’t necessarily mean marriage, however, or even exclusivity. This is where honest communication is absolutely in both of your best interests. Remember, this stage follows a mutual commitment to a long-term friendship, romantic relationship, or marriage.

At the end of the day, there’s always the chance that you might decide that the bad outweighs the good in a relationship. There is no time- line for this kind of decision; it can happen on any “stair” of the relationship. To find out how you feel, try asking yourself: “How is this relationship affecting me?” and “Is this relationship bringing out the best in me, the not-so-great in me, or the worst in me?” Once again, entering any relationship with self-respect and self-love will serve you even when or if the relationship ends. The more empowered you are entering a relationship, the more self-assured you’ll be exiting the relationship.

I’m not trying to make light of the end of any relationship carries a great investment of time and emotion. However, if the relationship is not serving you, and you have exhausted the ways to work it out, it’s time to move on to happiness.

“Grasping at things can only yield one of two results: Either the thing you are grasping at disappears, or you yourself disappear. It is only a matter of which occurs first.”

— Goenka

Progress is a skillful dance in relationships that can be learned. Sometimes the song will play forever and sometimes for only a little while, but regardless of how long you dance with any one person, every time you practice, you’ll become a little more graceful and a little more confident. It’s all about keeping your dancing shoes on so that you’re ready to move whenever you feel the urge.

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NYC Based Author|Mature Model|Actor|UGC|Holistic Health| Plant Based Nutritionist|Fitness 65-Years-Old|Life Reinvention|Skincare|Communications

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Lillian Rey Ph.D.

NYC Based Author|Mature Model|Actor|UGC|Holistic Health| Plant Based Nutritionist|Fitness 65-Years-Old|Life Reinvention|Skincare|Communications