Breakdown of Relationships
Rollie & Duck’s (2006) model of relationship breakdown
This is a stage model
It describes the stages which people go through when they realise that they are unhappy in their relationship and outlines how they terminate the relationship
It begins with one partner realising that they are not happy, which could be for a number of reasons (eg. inequity, boredom, communication problems, infidelity)
The focus of the person’s attention during this stage of breakdown is inward and they think a great deal about the relationship and what they are dissatisfied with. For some people this involves rumination
The person considers the costs of ending the relationship, and the possible rewards, which includes thinking about possible alternative partners.
This phase is accompanied by social withdrawal.
Nothing is said to the partner at this stage although hints and indirect communication (ie. lack of interest in sex) may convey dissatisfaction.
At this point some people will end the relationship without discussing or saying what they are unhappy about.
In this phase the dissatisfied person confronts their partner and explains why they are unhappy.
The couple discuss their feelings and discuss the future and there may be some uncertainty at this point.
Discussions can be quite angry with hostility and resentment communicated.
The couple reassess their goals and the various options, and review their commitment.
At this stage the relationship can be saved if it is re-negotiated, however the relationship may be terminated at this point
The partners involve other people (eg. friends, family, colleagues) either for advice or support.
At this stage most of the dissatisfied partner’s close social network are made aware of the situation, either that the relationship has been dissolved or that it is in trouble.
This continues to be for advice and support.
Some of this can be helpful, for example where friends and family suggest talking and trying to work things out.
It can also be unhelpful if friends and family take sides, criticise and lay blame, and this can speed up the dissolution of the relationship.
One or both of the partners may start to denigrate the other to others.
Grave Dressing Processes
At this stage both partners start to justify their actions, and their dissatisfaction.
They attempt to put themselves forward in a positive light without making the initial attraction, and decision to form a relationship, seem illogical.
Sometimes this involve a reinterpretation of the partner’s characteristics and qualities.
Both partners reflect on what happened, who was to blame, and decide on how they wish to view and communicate the reasons for the breakup to other people.
Different people may be given different versions of what happened in an attempt to gain sympathy and support, and to save face.
The partners may suggest that they are pleased that the relationship is over, and that they have moved on, before they actually have.
Implications for Intervention
Rollie & Duck’s model stresses the importance of communication in relationship breakdown.
If we were helping someone to avoid breaking up, listening to how they talk about the relationship and how they talk to their partner can give a clue as to what stage they are at and helps us to see what interventions would help.
Tashiro & Frazier (2003) found that students they surveyed felt they had benefited from breaking up with their partners with personal growth and clearer ideas about future partners.
Women report more post-relationship growth than men do. The reason is not yet clear.
Evaluation of Rollie and Duck’s Model
Research support - Most models focus on the distress caused by relationship breakdowns, however Rollie and Duck’s model look at relationship breakdowns in a more positive light. They see it as a way to grow psychologically and a way to learn and channel this new experience which helps them achieve a more satisfying future relationship (the resurrection stage).
Sex differences - Women report more post-relationship growth than men.
Evaluation and Commentary on Research
Gender differences in reasons and speed? Individual differences in reasons and speed?
Ideas can be used in couple counselling
Research is socially sensitive and subject to bias so may not have high validity or reliability, and research is limited by a number of issues
Model is descriptive rather than explanatory so important to consider reasons for breakdown.
Akert (1998) - The impact of relationship dissolution
Those who didn’t initiate the break-up tended to be miserable, lonely, depressed, unhappy and angry.
Those who initiated the break-up found the end of the relationship the least upsetting. They felt guilty and unhappy, but had fewer negative symptoms.