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When you analyse the stages that relationships go through, you discover that they look a lot like the stages of a product life cycle. Like consumer goods most romantic relationships have a lifespan. We hook-up then we break-up and then we start the cycle again.
Our relationships are transactional instead of being committed and reciprocal.
The similarity between the business product cycle and the hook-up break-up cycle is uncanny! For each of the stages I’ve described the characteristics of the ‘Hook-Up Break-up’ cycle and compared it to what relationships should look like.
Check it out and tell me what you think!
Stage #1 Development
Characteristics: testing, research, identifying needs and wants of consumer.
This is the initial stage of the relationship where passions are high and reason is nowhere to be seen. When you’re at this stage you’re putting all your effort into studying a person, what their likes, dislikes and interests are, so that you can market yourself well to them. You’re keeping your cards close to your chest because you’re still testing the waters to see if they’re interested in you. You’re not risking everything yet.
The thing is, most people are testing the person for the wrong thing. You’re checking for chemistry when you should be checking for character.
The development stage is when the crush is most intense. You’re acutely aware of the other person and can’t stop thinking about them. Your view of them is unrealistic and there’s nothing they can do wrong. You’re constantly discovering new and wonderful things in that person that have you falling deeper into the crush.
What it should look like: Intense feelings are normal at this stage but it’s important to recognise for what they are: just feelings. Don’t read too much into things; strive to keep a clear head. Also, study the person for character! Is he kind and generous, does he have integrity? Is he arrogant, angry or superficial? This is your chance to observe a guy before you’re in too deep.
This is the stage where you should be initiating a friendship with a person, initially in a group because that’s much less scary. Also, you’re less likely to do something silly like try and kiss them. Be patient at this stage, focus on establishing a friendship and don’t put the horse before the cart. Keep your emotional and physical boundaries in place.
Stage #2 Growth
Characteristics: increased popularity, marketing and advertising still high.
In a lifetime a person will have multiple relationships that die at the crush/ development stage. A significantly smaller number will progress and make it to the growth stage. At this stage you know your person a little bit better and some of the initial giddiness has worn off. But you’re still marketing yourself heavily because you haven’t reached the stage where you feel like your relationship is fully ready to take the ‘real’ you.
Growth can happen slowly or rapidly. If it’s happening rapidly then this is the stage where people start sleeping with each other. Big mistake.
The reality is that a large percentage of people who are in relationships (even professing Christians) are having sex with each other. At this stage in a relationship emotional and physical boundaries are difficult to enforce because you really want deeper intimacy with your person.
What it should look like: If you have serious doubts about this guy at the development stage then you shouldn’t even progress to the growth stage. Cut him loose. If you like what you see (character-wise) then this is the stage when you move from just friendship and you move towards intentionally getting to know each other one on one.
At this stage you need to enforce your physical boundaries. Don’t sleep with each other. You also need to have some emotional boundaries according to the level of commitment that you have. No friendzoning.
If you’re a Christian, then you’d only get to this stage with a guy who shares your beliefs and values. You should be growing in spiritual intimacy first before you start diving deep into emotional closeness. Establish what you guys have in common and whether you share the same passions, what direction you want to go in life.
Stage #3 Maturity
Characteristics: product is well established, consumer satisfaction, growth slows down.
By the time you reach the maturity stage the feelings of infatuation have worn off to something more comfortable and familiar. You’re used to your person and you don’t mind them seeing you unbathed or with your sleeping doek on your head. You’re definitely ‘together’, the relationship is stable and you guys are ‘going’ steady.
This is the peak of the relationship. You’re not marketing yourself anymore and you know each other’s rhythms well. It’s also the time when there is little growth and when it is most vulnerable to competition. A lot of people spend too much time at this stage, these are the people who date for 8 years.
What it should look like: When a dating/ courtship relationship reaches maturity you both should be ready to be engaged and then married. Don’t continue in a relationship where you have doubts about a guy’s character or there have been serious issues springing up. Ask yourself questions like: Do I see myself with this man for the rest of my life? Would I be happy with him being the father of my children?
By this time you’ve both grown in emotional and spiritual intimacy. But you still shouldn’t be sleeping with each other. The reason why is because sex is a covenant good not a consumer good (Tim Keller). When you have sex with someone in marriage it becomes an affirmation of what you’re doing with the rest of your life – laying it down and opening it up to them. Sex with your boyfriend just doesn’t bear that same significance that a legal marriage has. He’s still keeping certain parts of him to himself and so are you; it’s not a 100% legal commitment. Get married!
Stage #4 Decline
Characteristics: fall in sales, change in consumer wants and needs
What you thought was cute at the development stage is irritating at maturity. You become more aware of what you are giving up for this person and you start asking the question, What if? What if you’d gone for the Engineer who was calling you constantly last year? What would that be like?
You both start growing apart and you don’t want what you thought you wanted 3 years before. You’ve changed but the relationship is still the same. You think it’s unfair to keep up a lie and your eyes start to wonder. You’re both different people who want different things in life, it’s not them; it’s you. And even though you know in your heart what’s going on, it’s difficult to put it into words.
What it should look like: In a marriage this is when your person’s morning breath kills all their sexiness and you’re arguing about money and everything else there is to argue about. Also, you get attracted to other people and your relationship is vulnerable. My married friends tell me that this is normal.
The difference is that when you’re married to someone you have legally binding and lifelong commitment with them. You have an obligation to fight for your marriage and defend it against its enemies. You have to work to work it out because you have so much more to lose. That kind of obligation just isn’t there when a person is your boyfriend.
Relationships were never made to be transactional and sex is not a consumer good. The hook-up/break-up cycle deprives us of the benefit of committed relationships and they really hurt!
I’d love to know what you think. Do you agree or disagree?
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