December 11, 2019

Phases Of A Relationship (Masks)

By Barry Rudesill

Over in The Trek – Facilitator’s Facebook page (, we got talking about what we, as Teambuilding Facilitators, call “The Three Phases of a Relationship”. Since we were talking about it there, it seemed like a good time to cover it here, too, but for different reasons.

Why, if you’re dating someone, does it go from “perfect” to “difficult”? Why do relationships struggle? Why do marriages fail? Well, much of it has to do with how most normal people approach relationships in the first place! Ladies and Gentlemen, today let me explain to you what we, in Teambuilding, call the “Three Phases of a Relationship”:



The first phase of a relationship for a group is what we call “Honeymoon”. No, this isn’t talking about marriage – although it happens there, too! Instead, “Honeymoon” is the term we use to describe people who are starting to build a relationship with another person, whether that’s a friendship, dating relationship, or marriage.

Let’s face it, when we know we’re going out on a first date, what do we do?

Guys, be honest. You probably shower – some of you for the first time in days; you comb/brush your hair; you puff air into your hand and then sniff it to see if you need to brush your teeth or if a piece of gum will cover it; and you smell your armpits to see if you need deodorant. If it’s really serious, we dress up in something other than comfy jeans and a ripped t-shirt. (Hey, I’m just telling y’all the truth here!) Then, if we’re driving, we go and clean our car and maybe even wash it!

Ladies, be honest. You probably shower – and, just like the guys, some of you are doing it for the first time in days. You comb/brush your hair; generally women DO brush their teeth more often than guys, so we’ll assume you do, too; you’ll put on deodorant; and you’ll put on something you consider “fun”. (I had a friend who always had to wear “fun” stuff on dates...even though it was pretty much blue jeans and a nice shirt. I never understood why it was “fun” since it was what she wore to work, too!)

We WANT them to like us. The problem is, for the first few times we interact with someone, all we’re showing them in our “False Self”, not who we really are deep down inside.

And that leads us to…



In “Storm”, it becomes too hard to keep the mask in place. All of the anger we’ve hidden on the inside? It slips out in both words and fists. All of the insecurity we experience? It slips out in negative self-talk or indecision. The need to feel loved or valued? We trade ourselves for a “temporary fix” to try to convince ourselves we have worth.

In “Storm”, the mask slips and our true selves come out. We show each other who we really are, ready or not! Unfortunately, most people have fallen in love with the “False Self”, with the mask, and people will often stay in abusive, unhealthy relationships by rationalizing, “Well, he wasn’t always like this! Remember how he treated me at first? The reason he abused me is just because he had a bad day/I burned the dinner/I argued with him/etc.” We confuse the “False Self” with the “True Self” and cannot believe the person we see in front of us – the one in the “Storm” - is the real one.

Just because you “Storm”, does it mean that your relationship can / will / should end? Not remotely! It just means that, at this point, each of you is working out your identity within the relationship. Leaders are rising and falling, and the general atmosphere is discouragement.

To get through “Storm”, you NEED to have ways to be able to have open, honest communication WITHOUT judgment!

One of the tools I like is called an “Amnesty Moment”. An “Amnesty Moment” means that you are giving the other person a chance to say whatever they want about you without fear of attack. You are giving someone you care about permission to say what is on their heart and you are promising to listen. You don’t have to agree, but you aren’t going to blame them for being honest because you want to know how they really feel. (By the way, you OFFER an “Amnesty Moment”; no one gets to look at you and DEMAND an “Amnesty Moment”.)

It actually isn’t the “Storm” that destroys relationships; it’s the lack of clear, open, and honest communication. Oh, and by the way, failing to communicate does NOT mean you are out of “Storm”; it just means that you are still wearing a mask and allowing the hurts to run deeper. You are like a volcano – the eruption is coming, it will be violent, it will tear things apart – even though everything seems calm and tranquil on the surface.



If you can find a way to communicate your feelings; if you can find middle ground without compromising your values; if you feel safe and valued by the other person, then you enter the third phase: “Team”.

A “Team” can disagree without being disagreeable; they can discuss and debate issues without anger; they feel safe enough to say what they want and to ask for what they need; and they talk through problems to resolve them. A true “Team” is what we call “bullet-proof” because when the world tries to tear them down, they have someone who has their back; someone who can encourage and support them in the tough times. In this day and age, that’s priceless.


What Phase is your relationship in?

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