4 Stages of Healthy Relationship-Building

“Friend” is one of those words that’s taken on new meaning. Nowadays, the word “friend” can easily refer to a life-long confidante or someone you just connected with on Facebook!

Generally speaking, most relationships go through four stages and (no offense to Facebook!) “friend” isn’t the first one. Ideally, each stage should build on the other and at the proper pace. What advances a relationship to new stages or levels are: trust, compatibility, and a shared interest in cultivating a deeper friendship.

The stages go like this (imagine a pyramid): 

  1. Acquaintance
  2. Prospect (a potential friend)
  3. Friend
  4. V.I.P. (Very Important Person)

Every person who becomes more than an acquaintance will start in the first stage.  Most stay there forever while others may progress into the next stages. Only a very few will make it to the VIP stage—and that’s the way it should be.

Unfortunately, many people—particularly young people—can rush the stages, prematurely moving from one to the next in a quest for intimacy or to make new friends (common in college!). Or, they can exhibit behaviors in one stage that should be reserved for a deeper or intimate one.

If you want healthy, lasting relationships, don’t rush to stage four (like they do in the movies!). When you do, you risk making an emotional investment without really knowing the person—a mistake that can take a major toll when you break up. Better to go slow through the stages and reserve the VIP level for people who really prove their friendship, commitment, and compatibility over time.

Are you dating someone right now?  Here’s a checklist you can use to determine how far up the relational pyramid your relationship actually is.  How many of these questions can you answer so far?  Which ones do you need to further explore?

  • Can they be trusted?
  • How do they behave under stress?
  • Are they willing to share their feelings or do they bury them inside?
  • Do they share similar goals, views, interests, and values?
  • Do they have any dependencies?
  • What are their career interests and ambitions?
  • Are they interested in marriage and having a family someday?
  • Do they respect your values and boundaries?
  • How much of your attraction is toward the inside versus the outside and the physical versus the non-physical?

Don’t rush it. Be deliberate and discerning. Always remember that good friendship and true love take time—and timing!

Do you agree that all your relationships fall somewhere on this spectrum?  What do you observe happens when people “rush” or mix up the stages? We’d love to hear your experiences—or your advice!

Thank You, ACSI Convention Educators!


It was a joy to meet you at the Tacoma Convention and officially launch our Christian leadership program with you! All of us at LifeSmart Publishing are grateful for your tireless investment in our young people and the significant impact you are having on their lives. We are touched by your servant hearts and the by depth of your concern for their future. Thank you for all you do!
Your stories confirmed that many students are lacking the life skills and leadership qualities to reach their full potential. They’re completely consistent with comments from the business community, and we all have a stake in turning things around. At LifeSmart, we believe a comprehensive approach is needed to prepare students to thrive in the “real world”–one which:
1) articulates an overall vision of an honorable and productive life,
2) defines positive outcomes across all aspects of life, and
3) provides practical, before-the-fact wisdom for the key decisions they will face as adults.
More than ever, students need to be inspired, equipped, and empowered to make the most of their lives and positively impact the world. We honor the vital role that you play in achieving these important outcomes and would be blessed to partner with you in preparing our next generation of leaders.
Let us know how we can serve you.
Cheers and Blessings!

Dennis and Jeanne Trittin
Arlyn Lawrence


Christian Educators: Welcome to Tacoma!

All of us at LifeSmart Publishing, in neighboring Gig Harbor, are looking forward to meeting you at the ACSI Tacoma Convention Oct. 20-21!
We are especially excited because this conference marks the official launch of our Christian Leadership/Life Skills course. We invite you to join us at our exhibit booth AND at our seminar on Friday from 8-9 a.m. in Room 403. We will be presenting a dynamic, interactive workshop on “Preparing your Students to Thrive in the Real World” and look forward to seeing you there.
At the seminar, you will receive complimentary copies of our curriculum. We hope you’ll enjoy hearing about the vision and resources of LifeSmart Publishing, and that our innovative program will speak to your school mission.
Here’s to a wonderful convention and to your tireless effort in preparing the leaders of tomorrow. Welcome to Tacoma!

The Secret to a Secure Retirement (Plan Now!)

I think everyone can pretty much agree: NONE of us wants to depend on our Social Security system to serve as our primary source of money in retirement. Sadly, too many people do, and find themselves shocked by how little they have to live on in their sunset years. An unfortunate side of effect of this problem is that it’s causing more seniors to reenter the workforce, impacting employment opportunities for young people.
Would you like to avoid this situation?
This is my advice: Develop an investment program NOW that will provide sufficient assets for your retirement. How your wealth grows will be a function of the following:
1. How much you invest (more is better!)
2. The rate of return on your investments (higher is better!)
3. The time period over which you are investing (longer is better!)
In each case, the larger the amount, the greater the assets you’ll build. Therefore, your chances of accumulating significant wealth will be greater if you invest as much as you can (rather than being a big spender on “things”), as early in your career as you can. This will allow your returns to compound over a longer period of time. Strive to invest at least 15% of your income for retirement and take this into account in your budgeting.
Now here’s the really important part: Beginning your investment program as soon as you start your career should be a top priority. Save and invest early, regularly, and as much as you can in a diversified, long-term investment program. It will provide you with the best chances of building significant wealth for your retirement, achieving financial freedom, and giving generously to charitable causes.
Why is it so important to start as early as possible? It’s because of the power of compounding your returns over many years. Check out this example. If Kyle invests $2,000 per year at a 7% return from age 18 to 27 and lets it grow at that rate until he is 65 years old, he will have a much larger nest egg than Ashley who waits until 31 to start investing and puts $2,000 in each year until age 65! This is true even though Kyle only invested $20,000 versus Ashley’s $70,000! The math is mind boggling. That’s why it’s so important to begin investing as soon as your career begins.
If you want to live a lifestyle in retirement that is similar to your career years, you simply have no choice. By saving and investing 10-20% of your monthly income, you’ll be able to significantly supplement your retirement and Social Security income. Consider starting an automatic monthly investment plan that invests it in a diversified investment program according to an appropriate asset allocation among stocks, bonds, etc.
It’s not as intimidating as it may sound. Start familiarizing yourself with the financial markets. Learn about stocks (an ownership position in a company), bonds (longer-term loans that pay interest), mutual funds (pools of money invested in multiple securities for multiple shareholders), and the economy. Start reading the business news section of your paper/websites and watch financial networks (e.g., CNBC, FoxBusiness, and Bloomberg). Think of some different companies you’d like to invest in and build a “paper portfolio” to see how it would perform. Watch them rise and fall from day to day to acquaint yourself with how the markets move. Be SKEPTICAL of anyone claiming that they know how to predict the market. Be patient, disciplined, and diversified and think long term. It will help get you there.

How have YOU begun saving and investing NOW for retirement? What have been your biggest challenges in making this happen? We welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions!

The Key to a Raving Performance Review

Why do some people soar in their careers while others flounder?

I asked myself this question very early in my own career, and I’m sure glad I did. The observations I made—and the solutions I came up with—served me well and, I believe, were instrumental to my career success.

Here was my secret. On my first day on the job (or in the performance review cycle), I discussed the upcoming period with my manager. At the right moment, I would ask him or her, “What would be the most significant achievement by the end of my review period?” Then, I focused on accomplishing this with all of my might. If I was successful, how could I not receive a great evaluation and salary increase and position myself for a promotion?

I did this every time. And, each time I delivered, my manager delivered. In a nutshell, I set myself up for success. It sounds simple, but few do it. 

The first time I used this approach was on my first job out of college, at the ripe old age of 22. My manager had a very precise answer to my question. Over the past several years, the accounts payable division had many unresolved invoices that had to be accounted for every month. By the time I inherited the job, these problem invoices dated back as far as 18 months. None of my predecessors had solved these problems, instead pushing them on to the next unfortunate soul. I was next in line. My manager told me that resolving these problem invoices would be a crowning achievement since my predecessors had simply “passed the buck.”

Now, armed and dangerous, I knew my mission and devoted all of my energy to accomplishing it over the next six months. With relentless focus and some ingenuity, I ended my term with the oldest unresolved invoice being three months! My manager was completely floored. I received his all-time highest evaluation (and the highest raise out of all of my peers), and this approach set the stage for several significant promotions. Ironically, in a mere twelve months, I was promoted to his level. I kid you not!

You may find a better way, but this approach literally proved infallible for me over the course of my career. If you have a clear understanding of what the boss considers outstanding, how can they not give you a great review if you deliver the goods?

Regardless of whether it’s your first job or you’re in the late stages of your career, it’s essential to know how you’ll be evaluated and what constitutes excellence in the eyes of your supervisor. Then, it’s a matter of getting the job done.  

Oh, one last thing. Never miss a deadline from your boss. Strive to be a “piece of cake” to manage! They’ll greatly appreciate your reliability and it will make a difference in your job reviews. 

What strategy have you learned that give you the greatest chance
of receiving a glowing report at review time?
What advice would you give a young person
to concentrate on in his or her efforts to earn a great review?


Avoid the Credit Card Trap!

Despite growing up in a very modest-income family, we were NEVER financially strapped.

That’s because my parents stuffed envelopes with cash for all key expenses and we lived on that.  No money, no spending—and definitely no credit card overspending.

I’ve taken my parents’ conservative approach to heart by spending less than we earn and always paying off our monthly credit balances. That’s one reason we’ve always lived financially stress-free.

Sadly, we are witnessing a national tragedy of epic proportions.  We’ve turned into a society where overspending and debt have taken control of millions of lives, resulting in skyrocketing bankruptcies and enormous family stress. Our government is in the same pickle.

How on earth did this happen? After all, it hasn’t always been this way! Here are several reasons:

  • The widespread availability of credit cards and a lack of knowledge and discipline to use them responsibly
  • Educational institutions have not placed financial literacy as a priority despite the importance of budgeting and investing in daily life
  • The rise in consumerism and cultural focus on “things”

The fact is, easy access to credit cards has given consumers a false sense of financial capability, luring them to spend much more than they earn.  Today’s average family has several credit cards with monthly balances well into the thousands of dollars because they spend more than if they were forced to pay cash. They fail to pay off their monthly balances and the finance charges mount. Their “things” cost much more, and eventually, there’s a day of reckoning.

For example, let’s assume you bought a computer worth $1,000 on your credit card with an 18% annual interest rate. You decide to pay the minimum monthly balance of $30. By the time you’ve paid off the computer, you will have spent $1,396 over a 3.9-year period! That’s almost 40% more than the cash cost of the computer! Yet, interest costs are often completely disregarded by American consumers. 

Thankfully, you needn’t be a rocket scientist to know how to manage your finances well. You simply need to know the basics and abide by the disciplines and key principles—to use credit wisely and sparingly and to resist buying if you can’t pay cash.

“Credit buying is much like being drunk.
The buzz happens immediately and gives you a lift. The hangover comes the day after.”
Joyce Brothers


Do you have some good strategies for avoiding or overcoming excessive credit card spending and debt?  Jump into the conversation by leaving your
suggestions and comments below.

 Also, we invite you to share this with friends and encourage them to sign up for our newsletters by emailing me at dtrittin@dennistrittin.com.