Last week I talked about my fear of falling in love. We can all identify, read all about it *here. The person I was falling in love with was my childhood crush. Catch up on the story starting with *how we reconnected after decades apart, *the first date, and *my last first kiss. In the interest of full disclosure, that was not my last first kiss (John is the last MAN I have kissed but not the last person, get it?), and neither was it John’s. Follow the blog for all these juicy future revelations.
I had never heard of the term Forming and Storming until John mentioned it to me a while ago. We were reminiscing about the earlier years of our relationship, and he referred to the first couple of years as our Forming and Storming phases. So I looked it up. Just for context, we had some very dark times early on.
If you took a business management class, you would probably encounter the term. It’s a school of thought that identifies four distinct phases that a team goes through; Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing. Some guy called Bruce Tuckman came up with the concept, and it has been embraced as the gospel in the management of team dynamics.
Interestingly, when I juxtaposed what happens in relationships to these four stages of team dynamics, it was identical to what couples go through! At least for us, it was. Here is how.
Forming – It’s easy to love you
In the forming phase, a team is just getting together. This is the introductions and formalities stage. You know how at the beginning of meetings or projects, people will take turns introducing and sharing something about themselves (I hate it when they make us do that!)? Well, kinda like that. Anyway, you are meeting new people, you are excited, eager to prove yourself, and keen to please as well. You may be a little anxious, wondering how you fit into the team. Hoping that the team does well.
This is similar to when you first start dating. You are just getting to know each other. You exchange backstories and decide if you are compatible. You are eager to put your best foot forward and impress, perhaps a little anxious that it may not work out. But overall, everybody is at their best behavior, and, inevitably, you fall in love.
For us, the forming stage was a time of joy. We were eager to see each other and saw each other as often as we could. We talked a lot. My day began and ended with John on my mind. I missed him when he left, and sometimes even missed him when he was still with me because I knew he would be going soon. He seemed to want to be with me as much as I wanted to be with him. It was perfect. Yet far from it, as you shall see.
Storming – I love you, you are perfect, now change!
Then comes the storming phase. This is the part in the movie where the scene opens with a loud thunderstorm, it is dark out, and it’s raining heavily. The music is somber, the mood forboding. Something terrible is about to happen. It’s inevitable. The MIT website refers to the Storming stage as a time when “team members discover that the team can’t live up to all of their early excitement and expectations.” Team members start to express frustration and anger. The once polite team members are now arguing about processes and nuances. The proverbial gloves come off. Sound familiar?
There can not be a more accurate description of what a relationship looks like past the initial dinners and walks in the park. The storming stage is where most relationships fail. Ours almost did. In fact, it did, many times. Here are 10 things I learned (Increasing in importance) from the storming phase (I will list my lessons and then break them down):
- Sometimes what attracted you to the person can actually be their biggest flaw.
- You don’t get to choose the good bits and leave out the bad.
- Everybody has issues. I mean, serious problems – EVERYBODY. Learn to empathize with their shit rather than get pissed off at them.
- Recognize and work on your issues.
- Societal roles and expectations will fuck up your relationship in surprising ways.
- Money will always be the elephant in the room, address it.
- They will be attracted to other people. Deal with it.
- The bullshit does get better, but so does your tolerance.
- If they are worth it, they will wait (and so will you).
- Even at the worst, I still wanted it (and so did he).
When people tell me that we seem so happy and that they wish they had what we have, my thought is always the same. “You do not know how hard this has been in the making.” the truth is, most people are not willing to do what it takes to get where we are. It’s more comfortable to walk away.
(1) Sometimes what attracted you to the person can actually be their biggest flaw
Seeing as we are Hollywood people, I will use a stereotypical Hollywood analogy to explain my first lesson. There is nothing more attractive to aspiring starlets than a brooding, handsome, talented, deeply scarred, starving artist. Girls go gaga over them. You know the type? Meet Rock; Strong, silent, unshaven square jaw clinching a cigarette on one side as he sips whiskey. Guitar next to him, his deep-set eyes squinting as he hears his name announced by the guy on the mic. Unfazed. He is impossibly handsome, a hint of grey in his otherwise perfect hair. His athletic body complemented by his worn-looking, tightly-fitted white T-shirt. He picks up his guitar, gets on stage, and his voice brings tears to your eyes. Rock is the epitome of cool. His looks, his talent, his nonchalant manner, everything is irresistible, so you fall in love.
Here is the problem; all those things that attracted you to Rock, are the very same things that make Rock impossible to date. He is a starving artist, so you always pick up the tab. You thought it was artsy that he didn’t let money influence his decisions, but the bills ain’t paying themselves. He is a musician, so he is always gigging and thus never home at night. He is good looking, so he always has girls throwing themselves at him (ok, this one is not his fault, but it still presents a risk). He is flawed, probably drinks too much (his drinks are free, so you can’t be sure), and that “recreational use” is starting to look more of a problem than you thought. So you see here, the very thing that attracted you to Rock is actually his biggest flaw.
Next week I will let y’all know about my “Rock.” Plus, I explain the other lessons I learned during this tumultuous phase of our relationship. Subscribe now, you don’t want to miss it! We would love to hear from you. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.