Mastering the Phases of Personal and Professional Relationships

Each relationship that you have in life – regardless of who that relationship is with – has the potential to go through several different phases. You may end up going through all of the phases or you may only go through the basic ones.

The level of phases that you go through will depend on the type of relationship that it is as well as the strength of the relationship. Mastering your ability to navigate relationships can be very beneficial for you in life.

Not only can you be more fulfilled at home with your personal relationships, but it makes succeeding in your professional life much easier. You’ll be an expert at networking, forming bonds with your target audience, interacting with clients easily, and more.

The First Meeting

At this phase, which is also sometimes called breaking the ice, initial contact or making someone’s acquaintance, you’re at the point where you simply meet the other person.

Most first impressions are formed at the first meeting. Sometimes during this phase, people will immediately connect to one another or they’ll decide right away that they don’t like each other.

Finding common ground is helpful when you’re meeting someone for the first time. If you’re going into a meeting with someone that you hope to develop a professional relationship with, do your homework first.

If you can discuss a shared love of something, it creates an instant connection. During this phase of a relationship, things are usually kept on the surface. There is not baring of the soul about what benefits you hope to derive from someone else.

The topics that are discussed are usually trivial or common subjects such as the beautiful (or harsh) weather. There is a sharing of words, but not necessarily a meeting of the minds.

There are no strong bonds formed at this stage. It’s at this point that people rate how much they want to get to know you. Though the phrase “you can’t judge a book by its cover” is accurate, at this stage in a relationship, judgments do take place.

A bad first impression has the potential to set the course if you run into this person again. If there is a sexual attraction (in a personal relationship situation), this is referred to as an infatuation phase.

In this phase, wearing rose colored glasses can certainly apply. People see the good and can develop a tunnel vision where they don’t notice any red flags because the attraction is so strong.

Everyone leaves a first meeting, whether in a personal or a professional relationship, with the decision made to be open to getting to know the person or closed to it.

If they do see the person again, they’re apt to duck out of sight, brush off any attempts at conversation or answer questions or comments in a clear, uninterested pattern of speech.

Be careful during a first meeting that you don’t make snap judgments. That person could be the one that’s suited to take your personal or professional life to the next level.

Try to understand that some people might be distracted or even shy or nervous at the first meeting. Try to put your best foot forward and get out of your comfort zone a bit.

The Bonding Phase

This is the second phase in a relationship and it’s also known as the involvement phase or the growing phase. It’s during this part of a relationship that ties begin to develop.

A person has decided that they like the other person well enough to get to know them. This is where new friendships begin, romantic relationships deepen and professional relationships begin a back and forth connection.

When you see this person, you’ll experience gladness or will look forward to meeting up with them if they offer to get together for coffee, drinks, or to talk about business.

This is the phase that’s not yet strong enough to withstand any sudden harsh situations between the participants such as betrayal, lies or professional discourtesies.

As the bonding phase continues, people decide that they can or can’t trust the other person to become a little more unguarded. They may lose their formal approach if it’s a professional relationship.

If it’s a personal relationship, they will start to let down their guard and allow the other person to know more about them and about their lives that they usually keep protected.

These can be deep, intimate things in some cases. If all goes well during the bonding phase, the people involved will enter into a more intimate relationship. For business relationships, this is the stage where discussions about going into business together or helping one another are often started.

A commitment to the relationship takes place and you officially see yourself as that person’s friend, or business associate. If the relationship is romantic at this stage, the two people involved gravitate toward creating more depth in the relationship.

They’ll start talking on the phone for long periods of time. They’ll connect back and forth on social media and make plans to meet up for dates or to hang out. This is the discovery stage where you start to find out how the other person grew up, what their favorite things are – or aren’t.

When the bonding phase is going on, the people involved in the relationships, whether personal or professional, are often showing the best version of themselves.

They (and you) are putting a good foot forward because they want to impress you – they want to be in the relationship with you on some level. This part of bonding can be called the honeymoon phase.

Everything seems perfect. That man or woman is everything that you’ve always dreamed he or she would be. You’ve found your best friend or your soul mate. Or you’ve found what seems like the perfect business partner or associate.

Life couldn’t be going more your way. It’s a beautiful thing and nothing that anyone says to you that has the potential to change the relationship or tear you apart from it sinks in.

You know there’s no such thing as a perfect relationship – except this one – because you fit so well with this person romantically or professionally. While trust does develop in this stage and there is a back and forth of revealing more intimate sides to people, there’s not 100% transparency in the relationship because wanting to impress the other person, wanting their favor is still the most important aspect.

You don’t want to lose them or they don’t want to lose you. Understand that in the bonding phase, you may not be seeing the real person. Unfortunately, there are those who wear masks so well, even they don’t know who they truly are any more.

At this point, if you feel like something’s off about the other person, trust your instincts and back off. You don’t want to immerse yourself deeper in a bond that could potentially cause problems for you later.

The Discovery Phase

This phase can also be called the honeymoon’s over phase. It’s at this phase where all relationships get a big reality check. It’s here where the disagreements and conflicts have the potential to show up.

In the bonding phase, you were more focused on building the relationship, on the excitement and newness of it all. But at this phase, you rediscover that you have an opinion and that it’s sometimes different from the other person’s opinion.

At this point, little issues can become big ones. You start to see that the person who could do no wrong – is wrong. Maybe even a lot. You find out that the person you have a professional relationship with doesn’t handle things the way that you would.

The rose colored glasses are thrown off and the faults of the other person can be seen clearly for the first time. Some of these faults are simply going to boil down to different life perspectives not meshing together.

But other faults can be cause for some major concern. If you’re in a romantic relationship, that guy or girl who’d throw caution to the wind and splurge on a super expensive weekend getaway was romantic.

But after you see it for what it really is, it may be that the person is simply foolish with money or immature and you know that can spell serious financial problems down the road.

The professional relationship with the joint venture partner or client who trusted you to “handle this” is suddenly seen as a shift in the work relationship balance. You’re doing all the work and they’re taking all of the credit.

You might suddenly disagree on the direction that your joint business venture should take. Maybe assumptions were made on both sides, and it wasn’t until this phase that you both realized you were split on the future.

This is the phase in a relationship where the work begins. You and the other person have to strive together for what will make the relationship workable. At this point, you might feel a little like you’ve been betrayed because that person is not who you trusted that they were.

In a romantic relationship, this causes misunderstandings to develop. It can cause you to feel anxious, depressed or angry. You feel cheated out of what you thought was perfect.

This can be a phase in every relationship that can be used as a way to have open, honest communication about what’s working for you and what’s not. It can strengthen the relationship.

Or, it can lead to wounds that will fester within you or in the other person and it lays the groundwork for the relationship to be over. With a professional relationship, once there’s been a loss of trust, it has to be rebuilt or the union won’t last.

This is the point where you have to decide if it’s worth trying to salvage the relationship or not. In the discovery phase, be prepared that what you might find out could cost you emotionally or professionally.

If the initial bond was strong enough, you’ll have to mindfully decide whether or not it’s worth it to patch things up and move forward in a new direction. If it’s not worth the hassle, then finding out sooner rather than later will save you a lot of frustration.

The Conflict Phase

This phase is one that can also be referred to as the crisis phase. The relationship has reached a head. Major issues have been revealed. In a romantic relationship, this can sometimes be a series of thoughtless behaviors by a partner.

It can also be revealed to broken trust – such as is caused by an affair. The commitment that you made to one another goes through some serious unraveling.

The amount of stress that you’ll carry at this stage can be immense. You might feel pushed beyond your ability to care for the other person. Some people refer to certain types of conflict as deal breakers.

They know ahead of time what they will or will not put up with in a relationship. For some people, cheating is a deal breaker. For others, it’s an addiction – or the inability to give the relationship the proper care that it needs to thrive.

In a professional relationship, there can be issues that threaten the ability of the business to continue – such as poor management decisions. One partner isn’t holding up his or her end of the deal.

At this point in either relationship, you will experience an internal struggle of whether or not to cut your losses. You may start to think of the consequences of sticking with it versus leaving.

The conflict phase can continue on until communication is completely broken down. Instead of feeling excited about the once wonderful relationship, you resent the amount of time that you’ve spent trying to make it work.

You feel like the relationship is all one sided. No amount of trying to talk over what’s going on seems to be working. You’ve talked to a trusted third party and that hasn’t made a difference.

You feel as if your boundaries have all been crossed and you feel a strong desire to get away from it all. You might feel like you have more peace in your life whenever your partner is busy with other things, away for awhile or when you’re not interacting with him or her.

The relationship has reached the point that not only is communication absent but so is the presence of any physical or sexual intimacy, if the relationship is personal.

If it’s a professional relationship, at this stage, with all of the conflict, you might feel like there’s so much garbage between yourself and your business partner, that there’s no way that it can successfully be dealt with.

The conflict stage can be a wake up call for any relationship. It can make people aware that there’s a need for help if the relationship stands any chance of being salvaged.

But it’s usually at this point where many people decide whether or not to enter the next phase of a relationship. With the conflict phase, make sure that you know ahead of time what you’ll do when disagreements arise.

This will help you to not say things you can’t un-say. It’s always better to act rather than to react. It can help if you study conflict resolution – especially when it comes to professional relationships.

You don’t want to jeopardize future partnerships by developing a reputation as a hot head. You want to be known for civil disagreements and pleasant parting of ways if the situation calls for it.

The Repair Phase

Sometimes, a relationship can be repaired. In this event, if it’s a personal relationship, the people involved make a decision to do whatever it takes to salvage the relationship.

This usually involves a decision to change the actions that caused the relationship to break down in the first place. There’s usually a commitment at this point to work together on resolving conflicts in a way that both partners can agree on.

You determine that you’ll be supportive of each other. You agree that you won’t bring up the past, that you won’t throw mistakes in the other person’s face. You offer kindness to each other where harshness may have formerly been.

In a professional relationship, you may decide that it’s worth saving because it’s keeping you on track for where you want to be in the future. You might find it helpful to have an honest conversation in whatever professional relationship isn’t working.

If you don’t have a business or networking partner who is open to conflict resolution, you may have to expand your ability to not let the other person’s actions get to you.

Sometimes, though, the relationship and the trust in it is simply too fragile to continue on. In the repair phase, this can be a hard place to be. You have to ask yourself if saving the relationship is worth it.

You need to know what it will mean to your life personally or professionally for your future if you let it go. Go through this phase with caution. If necessary, make some concessions to the other person. Learn how to compromise to get past obstacles.

The Termination or Dissolution Phase

The erosion of trust in any relationship can lead to a termination or dissolution of the relationship. This is usually not a decision that’s reached quickly by most people.

It happens over time when no compromises can be reached. The damage in the relationship is too great to be healed because the initial threads of the bond unraveled to the point that no amount of talking can restart the relationship.

Many people choose to go in this direction in order to protect their emotional, financial or professional well being. If you reach the termination phase, don’t look back.

Don’t dwell on what you could have or should have done – on how you could have avoided what you went through. Harboring a lot of “if only” thoughts will keep you tied to that relationship burden. Move on into the future with a forward focus on new beginnings.

Is Porn Ruining Your Relationships?

The purpose of pornographic material is to stimulate the brain and emotions. When someone watches or reads pornographic materials, certain things begin to happen within the body. Neurons become activated by what’s read or watched.

How Pornography Affects the Brain

A pornography addiction can strike anyone. Access to the material is greater than ever and there’s an ease of being able to get to it and get a wide variety of it at any time day or night. Even children can become addicted to pornography and there’s a reason that this addiction happens.

Whenever pornography is viewed or read, it stimulates neurons and causes a chemical reaction to take place within the brain. This is the same chemical reaction that happens whenever someone uses drugs. Both kinds of use cause the person using them to feel good. A Cambridge University study revealed there were identical changes in the brains of people addicted to porn and people addicted to drugs.

One of the reasons that taking drugs makes people feel good or gives them a high is because these drugs make the brain release dopamine. Watching or reading pornography causes this same release that a person would get if he or she used cocaine or methamphetamine.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that’s basically a chemical. Its purpose in the brain is to pass on signals from one part of the brain to the next. In normal use, these transmitters just process signals. Some of these signals have to do with feeling excited or happy. Feeling surprised or stunned also causes the release of dopamine.

Dopamine is often called the reward chemical. It works by giving the person a release based on an action that they’re doing. It’s one of the reasons that your brain can become addicted to any substance that causes you to feel pleasure.

When a person engages in any activity that causes the release of dopamine to increase, the way the neurons transmit messages is changed from the original format. The thought processes end up affected and can lead to behavioral changes. This pathway within your brain has a regular purpose and when dopamine is released the way it should be, it has no lasting effect on your brain.

Why Pornography Can Become an Addiction

When substances such as drugs or pornography are introduced to the brain, they take over the dopamine release. This takeover pulls the dopamine away from its normal production process and makes it increase dramatically. Viewing porn forces the brain to produce dopamine at a higher than normal level. This release causes a flood of good feelings to flood your body. The same way drugs do.

The reason this is dangerous is because the dopamine is pulled away from the regular job it’s supposed to do. So what happens is it creates a new area or a neurotransmitter walkway within the brain just for this pornography addiction. Because the viewing of the porn makes you feel good, you feel rewarded.

The dopamine that created this new area finds that same walkway in the brain. Sort of like wearing a footpath in the grass. Your brain will head right that way again. This makes that area easy for the person to tap into again and again. Once that area within the brain is changed, it lays the foundation upon which future behaviors are built.

What usually happens when these areas in the brain are thwarted from their original purpose is someone goes from viewing porn every now and then to viewing it regularly. From that point, it becomes easy for it to turn into something that the person just cannot live without. Their body will give them the same reaction that they’d get from drugs and that includes the drive to do whatever it takes to get that dopamine release.

Just like with taking drugs, you have to have it or you feel terrible, You can feel jittery and on edge, the same way you’d feel if you were addicted to drugs and got cut off from the supply. By the time a person is addicted, it can be difficult to stop using it. Pornography rewires the area of your brain and when that area is changed, an addiction is born. The thing about an addiction is that anyone can become addicted – even if they don’t really want to be addicted.

The person won’t be able to help themselves because now, the chemical reaction in the brain is firmly established. Once this happens, you have to keep using to be able to function. By the time a person becomes addicted to pornography, the brain is producing massive amounts of dopamine. More than it normally would. When drugs are taken, the body will build up an immunity or tolerance to the drug by the time it reaches a certain dosage.

The exact same thing happens with the amount of dopamine released. Those first few times make you feel so good, you keep on. So the brain produces more which leads a person to wanting to view more pornography to keep on feeling good and at this point, they don’t always realize they’re dealing with an addiction. The more pornography you view, the more you must have because after awhile, you have to make the brain produce greater quantities of dopamine.

Otherwise, you don’t feel that same high or feel good sensation that you used to get. Your brain knows when enough dopamine is enough. So it works to try and find a better, more normal level of the chemical. It does this by cutting off the supply of dopamine to the brain’s receptors. This is why that feel good sensation doesn’t feel as powerful as it did in the beginning.

When this happens, most people who are addicted to pornography begin to spend more time viewing it, add new pornographic material or they go after pornography that’s even more graphic. That’s because the addiction is craving that dopamine your brain is trying to limit.

Pornography Blurs the Line Between Reality and Fantasy

It’s a scientific fact that watching pornography can affect your brain. In a study shown in the JAMA Psychiatry, the subjects studied revealed the that volume of brain matter was changed and motivation was also affected. The conclusion was that more studies on how pornography affects people needed to be done.

Once a person gets used to viewing pornography images, there are other changes that also take place in the brain besides dopamine levels and volume. One of these changes is the blurring of the line between reality and fantasy. It creates an alternate universe where anything can go. The sex can be over the top and the actors up for anything regardless of if the act is degrading, painful or not even feasible.

This blurred line causes the viewer to take on the mindset that what he or she views in fantasy can actually become a part of their reality. The learn to believe that if they can see it acted out, then they can have it in their own lives. But what viewers often fail to realize is that what they see on the screen is not real and the actors are being paid to perform.

They see images without consequences and fall prey to the belief that the same can be had in their own lives. The mind can then begin to blur the lines between what’s real and what isn’t which can lead people to act in ways that they normally would not act. Viewing pornography can raise a person’s sex drive past the normal limit. When a person views porn and is stimulated sexually, the drive to have more sex increases but engaging in porn can affect the body as well as the mind.

A recent online survey compiled of people who regularly used pornography to stimulate themselves revealed that more than 50% of pornographic viewers had to watch more deviant pornographic images to feel the same high. Young people who took the survey showed that some percentages struggled with reaching a climax too soon.

Others found it difficult to have a climax at all. Erectile dysfunction is another way that viewing pornographic images impacted the young people in the survey. But besides changes in the brain and how viewing porn can affect the ability to perform sexually once an addiction is created, this habit can have a negative impact on your relationships with other people.

The biggest area of impact seen with pornography viewing is seen in marriages and in relationships between two committed partners.

Pornography’s Impact on Relationships

There seems to be a misconception that only men regularly engage in pornography. But women also take part in the habit and while the statistics show that men do so far more than women, women tend to keep quieter on the matter. But whether the person watching it is a man or woman, all forms of pornography are one dimensional and based on fantasy.

Unlike real life, what pornography offers people is a hassle-free opportunity to engage in sex with as many people as they want to without seeming to suffer any consequences. So it feels like a harmless, win-win situation to people who use it.

But pornography’s biggest impact is how it affects the real life relationships. When a person takes part in regular viewing of pornographic material, it eradicates the desire to engage in intimacy with a spouse or significant other. Because with pornography, there’s no giving. It’s all receiving.

It also creates an unrealistic view of people as human beings rather than as objects used for merely performing sex acts. This type of objectification occurs with people you may know and even with people you don’t know.

A desensitization occurs with exposure to pornography. Those who view it begin to be far less thoughtful of other people. This is traced back to viewing people as objects. As a result of this it affects relationships because there’s a lack of consideration, of interest or care in what the person thinks or needs.

One of the biggest things that change with relationships when pornography is involved is a lack of empathy toward the gender of the person you’re used to viewing in pornographic material.

For example, men who see a lot of women in the types of acts shown in pornography don’t feel as concerned that something might negatively impact the women in his life. Women become a means to sexual gratification. And because some porn shows violence toward women, men can become apathetic towards violence against women.

For women, they can gain an unrealistic view of the men in their lives. They can also objective men and compare them to the images they have from pornographic materials. No man can stand up to the fantasy men portrayed by the actors.

As a result, a woman can feel unsatisfied with her significant other and unhappy when her expectations aren’t met. Both sexes actually experience unrealistic expectations from their significant other after they’ve engaged in porn usage for a while. It causes them to want the person they care about to be like what they’ve found on the screen.

They want someone that’s available when they want to them to be and can perform in the ways that they’ve seen. When this doesn’t happen, it can lead to frustration, unhappiness and in some cases depression.

Both men and women who have a partner that uses pornography to stimulate themselves can begin to feel inadequate when new demands are placed on them sexually. They can also experience emotional wounded by the lack of care and concern from the one viewing the porn.

Women often feel like they’re of less value during intimacy when their partner has a pornographic habit because they’re concerned about not “measuring up.” Men can experience the same feelings when the person they’re involved with uses porn.

Watching pornography removes the intimacy level from the act of sex. It replaces it with a focus on simply being gratified rather than having an emotional involvement. If done often enough, the habit can overtake the desire for intimacy to the point where the person actually prefers watching porn to engaging with a real person.

Pornography uses certain themes to promote the appetite for sex. This causes the level of sex to decrease between partners because the appetite can only be fed by the porn and it decreases the ability to be turned on by a partner.

More often than not, watching porn is done without the knowledge of the partner. It’s hidden and done in secret. This can cause feelings of guilt and shame when the partner wants to engage in intimacy but the sex drive has already been fulfilled by viewing the porn.

It can also lead to lying in a relationship. Many people feel the need to hide their pornography viewing and so they lie to their partner about their actions. If they’re found out, this leads to a lack of trust and can be followed by a break in the relationship.