Discuss explanations relating to the dissolution of relationships [25]

Discuss explanations relating to the dissolution of relationships [25]

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Lee (1984)

Lee in 1984 devised a model of relationship dissolution, which was based on his study of premarital breakdown. After surveying 112 romantic break-ups, he suggested that such relationships went through five distinct stages.

Stage one is that of “dissatisfaction” were one partner becomes unhappy with the relation, stage two is “exposure” this is where one partner reveals their unhappiness to the other, next stage three is “negotiation” and this is where discussion takes place about the happiness, then stage four is “resolution” and here attempts may be made to resolve the problems, and lastly stage five is where “termination” and this is where the relationship breaks down, additionally Lee suggested that stages two and three were the most grueling parts of the process and also that not all relationships go through all five stages. In relation to this, one strength of LEE’s research is that substantial amounts of information was gathered as the sample size was proportionally large, however the study was only carried out on students in pre-marital relationships and may not relate to the dissolution of long-term relationships involving children and shared resources.

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Lee (1984) A02

However, this highlights the point that, LEE’s theory is culturally specific and does not relate to the dissolution of relationships in non-western cultures such as collective cultures and those with a tendency for arranged marriages and also LEE’s theory can be regarded as reductionist as it only focuses on the dissolution of heterosexual romantic relationships, this suggest the theory is not applicable to friendships or homosexual relationships.

This theory is therefore also simplistic, as it cannot explain the whole range of relationships and reasons for dissolution.


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DUCK (1984)

In relation to the dissolution of relationships another psychologist named DUCK proposed a four-stage model, and this was also proposed in 1984; it included “Intra-Psychic phase” and this is a stage where one partner perceives dissatisfaction in the relationship and secondly a “dyadic phase” when dissatisfaction is discussed, this is also said to be a opportunity to resolve. Thirdly the “social phase” stage is when the breakup is made public, and negotiation of children, finances and belongings occurs, family and friends are also involved. And lastly the fourth stage is named “grave-dressing phase” and this is where both partner establish their view of the breakup, protecting self-esteem.

Overall, DUCK believe there were two types of causes for the dissolution of relationships, firstly predisposing factors which relate to personality issues, such as individual bad habits or incompatible emotional stability and the other cause is precipitating factors and these are external issues such as love rivals, process features for example long work hours and also emergent properties such as lack of direction which then attribute the blame on the other partner. 


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DUCK (1984) A02

This highlights the point that, DUCK also saw lack of skills such as being sexually inexperienced, lack of motivation regarding perceiving inequality and lack of maintenance like spending time apart as other important factors contributing to the dissolution of romantic relationships.


In contradiction to this evidence, Kassin (1996) found that women are more likely to stress unhappiness and incompatibility as reason for dissolution, whereas men will lame lack of sex. The study reports that women will typically wish to remain friends, while males want a clean break. This suggests some gender differences that the mode does not consider. Also, Argyle (1988) found that women identified lack of emotional support as a reason for dissolution, while men cited absence of fun; again suggesting gender differences that the model does not explain. 

This highlights the point that, Akert (1992) reported that the person who instigated that the breakup of the relationship would suffer less negative consequences than the non-instigator, suggesting individual difference that the model does not explain. 

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Cultural differences

In evaluation, there are cultural differences in relationship dissolution, which the model does not explain, many non-western cultures have arranged marriages, which can be more permanent and involve whole families in crises. Not only this, the model does not apply to homosexual relationships, which do not involve decisions over children that heterosexual couples will have to consider during the dissolution of relationships. To add to this point, the model is simplistic, as it does not account for a range of relationship for instance casual affairs and friendships. The model is however plausible as it relates to lots of peoples’ experiences of relationship dissolution.


Also, on the plus side, the model has practical application in counseling, assessing which phase a couple are in can help form strategies to help maintain and rescue relationships, however, the phases of dissolution are not necessarily universal, as not all couples will go through each of them in that particular order.  

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The difference between Lee’s model and Duck’s mode

The difference between Lee’s model and Duck’s model is that, Lee puts emphasis on the earlier stages (where the relationship might be saved), while Duck puts emphasis more on the beginning and end stages rather than the middle of the process. The weakness of both these models is that they cannot be applied universally; as there are many kinds of relationships and they are all different and don’t necessarily bear a resemblance to each other as they can go through the stages at different speeds. The theories are also ethnocentric as the theories apply more to the western culture (individualistic) rather than non-westernized cultures (collectivist etc.)


In summary, both theories are descriptive and both look at the break down of a relationship as a process rather than a real life event. That is probably why the theories describe the process of breaking up rather than to go in further detail and to explain why relationships break up or what the starting point is of the dissatisfaction (stage 1). 

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