Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Stages of Relationships

Last year I remembered watching a short film produced by the (excellent) film-making crew at WongFu Productions, a trio of recent graduates from SoCal who leverage their Asian background to explore current social themes/issues. This short film was titled "Strangers Again" and explored the essence of how relationships are formed and dissolved. It starred a number of YouTube personalities like Cathy Nguyen and was a considerable hit. I saw it, liked it, and...promptly forgot about it -- the reason being that the ending, though realistic, was also depressing.

Earlier today I was having a conversation with a close friend about the stages of relationships, and this short-film I saw last year came to mind. I remember that it defined the stages of relationships in an ordinal manner and, after much searching, found it online on a Tumblr site (here). Below are the stages defined by Strangers Again:

Stage 1: Meeting
It’s so pathetic to see how guys would do just about anything for the right girl. But it’ll be paid off by the time they got her number.

Stage 2: Chase
Some say this is the best part. All he wanted was to know more about her. All he wanted to do is to hangout with her. The only person he wanted to talk to is her. She was the number one priority. And every time he saw her…butterflies. She was everything that he thought that could be perfect in a girl.

Stage 3: Honeymoon
As soon as we begin our relationship, we’ll be stepping to stage 3.. This is the time when both of us can fully express our affection to each other, and do the things we wanted to do as a couple. “It was a dream come true. The girl I wanted to be so, so badly was finaly mine”

Stage 4: Comfortable
This isn’t necessarily bad, it’s when we could truly be ourselves. But it depends on what you do with that comfort. Some uses it positively, continuing to work with their relationship and grow together. But others allow it to create distance, and take each other for granted. The bottom line is…someone stops trying.The feelings aren’t as strong as before. This could happen over a few months, or few years.. Who knows?

Stage 5: Tolerance
The girl/guy he/she was crazy about has turn into someone not special anymore. We’re just tolerating each other. Arguing is one thing of feeling dissatisfied with the relationship of the other. We tried various times to try to make changes, to fix things. But like so many couples out there, it wasn’t enough. We bacame one of those relationships where, it wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. And it was never a good way to describe a relationship.

Stage 6: Downhill
There’s not much time left once you’re here.. The effort you try to make things work, is just not worth it anymore. Conflicts continue, arguments don’t get solved.

Stage 7: Breaking up
The end of the line. The worst stage ever.. We don’t know when it’ll happen or how, but I hope we can leave it on good, mutual terms is that’s ever possible. And this is when the two of us will start a new path, one that leads back to when we started…strangers. The change will be so drastic, so blunt, that we probably want to get it back right away. But this doesn’t always happen, and the distance will grow. Eventually, the two of us will move on or find someone new. And even if we both get over the past and try to remain friends, things will never be the same. Our lives will continue on to different directions and becoming strangers again. And everything we shared will just become fragmented memories…

As mentioned earlier, this is realistic regardless of how much I don't like it. Most relationships do seem to fall apart and, some don't even get a chance to start. It takes almost a combination of perfect timing and perfect compatibility for a first meeting to grow into something like marriage. Personally I've experienced how difficult this can be (just look under any post with the label "Mandy"). That said, I'd like to take the above stages and tweak it to take into account relationships that work so that the end result is almost like a tree diagram:

1. Meeting
2. Chase
3. Honeymoon
4. Comfortable
5. Tolerance
6. Downhill or Uphill
7. Breakup or Marriage

The main difference is that Stage 5 "Tolerance" is the climax point of the relationship (Stage 7 is essentially the beginning of a new cycle), because this is where the decision is made. The decision can be made unilaterally or bilaterally but both answer the same question: where do we go from here? The answer to this question, then, dictates how Stages 6 and 7 play out. For example, if the decision is to break up, then Stage 6 will be "Downhill" and Stage 7 will be "Breakup".

Another way to interpret this is that Stages 1-4 is quintessentially interviews (borrowing the job application process analogy) of collecting information about the other person. This is in order to test compatibility, or "chemistry" as some like to call it. Then Stage 5 comes along and a decision has to be made -- offer to take the next step further, or slowly dissolve the relationship. Although Stages 6 and 7 could be tied together, they're different in that the former is the consequence of Stage 5 while the latter can be viewed as a new action. (Once I get my hands on Microsoft Visio, maybe I can put together a nice little decision-tree diagram).

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