By Jim Senhauser (Copyright 2012 IdeaTree, Ltd. All rights reserved.)

The other day, a bit of incite came to me while I was climbing a set of stairs. I know it's a strange place to come up with an original thought, but it seemed apropos. You see, I could have taken the elevator, but I forced myself to get a little more exercise.

As I ascended each step, my inspiration that day was that when it comes to building relationships, success in the process is usually a matter of climbing a set of stairs rather than taking an elevator. After all, relationships are built one step at a time rather than by bypassing the process and shooting straight to the top. I know, I know — it's hardly the most profound thought in the world. But, if you think about how relationships progress, this approach can help you avoid some major, costly and often painful pitfalls.

Take, for example, the most common roadblock to relationship building for those of us past the age of 35. I am talking about patience. As children, we are taught from the moment we first hear the story "The Tortoise and the Hare" that "slow but steady wins the race." Yet, in a relationship, when passion kicks in, too often that wise logic is quickly forgotten. Tutor Turtle suddenly turns into Ricochet Rabbit.

How many times have we all heard our friends say, "I know it's important to go slowly, but our relationship is the exception to the rule"? No, there is a reason that it came to be known as a rule. If you think you are always the exception to that rule, you're only being exceptionally short-sighted. Take things a step at a time, gauging yours and your partner’s feelings and comfort level all along the way. I'm not saying you can't be impulsive and spontaneous some of the time, but don't be stupid.

The stairs analogy also applies to the idea of creating successful relationships by first becoming friends. As you gradually go from being acquaintances toward developing into friends, the qualities you admire and those you do not are revealed. The same is true of going from friends to lovers. If you try to skip those intermediate steps, you may somehow miss finding out those key attributes and shortcomings that you need to make a rational decision. Or, you may be confronted with them later all at once (and often at the most inopportune times).

But the surprising thing that also happens during this gradual climb is that your relational skills and you as a person grow as part of the process. In effect, you develop a set of relationship muscles. This process simply doesn't happen if you try to bypass the stairs. Creating relationships a step at a time is hard work. You have to put yourself out there, taking measured steps, risks and reasonable chances. As you succeed along the way, your confidence grows and you learn to trust your relationship instincts. At the same time, you're building your network of friends and your support system. Fortunately, the mistakes you make along the way are not usually the catastrophic kind and you can actually learn from them.

For those singles who try to jump straight to the top, very little of this personal progression takes place. They want to skip the patience part as well as the gradual development in favor of more immediate gratification. I am not suggesting that this approach is always wrong. However, if there is no personal development or self-awareness involved, long-term success in relationships is questionable.

That's one of the key reasons I have a lot of respect for and confidence in organizations that try to help singles succeed through building friendships, personal development and networking. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of "b u y-a-d a t e" companies out there that realize singles are impatient. These services prey on that attitude. They may rely on ego-appealing slogans like, "We know you are successful in your career and don't have time to meet the kind of man or woman you deserve." You've heard their shtick, I'm sure. Then, for several thousand dollars, they promise to help their new client jump the relationship development line. After all, he or she "deserves it." So, the solution is for a stranger to introduce you to another stranger? I don’t think so.

The idea that a person need only pay more to insure success in relationships is certainly an appealing one to a broad spectrum of singles. Why not bypass the stairs and the lines and the having to take personal responsibility for your own relationships and leave it all in the hands of your handlers. Trouble is, it puts all the emphasis on "finding" the right person and not much on "being" the right person.

I suggest you take the stairs. You'll be better and stronger partner having done it.