Duck's Phase Model of Relationship Breakdown


Duck's Phase Model

Duck (2007) proposed an explanation of why relationships break down.

He argued that the end of a relationship is not a sudden event, but a process in which goes through phases where the perception of the relationship changes once a 'threshold' is reached.

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Intra-Psychic Phase

"I'm not satisfied / I can't stand this anymore."

The dissatisfied partner begins to think more negatively about the relationships, focusing on why they are dissatisfied and their partner's shortcomings. 

They weigh up the pros and cons of the relationship continuing and may confide their feelings in a friend.

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Dyadic Phase

"I would be justified in ending the relationship."

Here, the couple start to talk to each other about the relationship, in a confrontational way.

Discussions take place over the lack of fairness and a rethinking of the commitment to the relationship.

Often, discussions will be quite hostile.

Either the couple makes a renewed attempt to save the relationship, or will be determined to continue breaking it up.

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Social Phase

"This is over - I mean it."

In this stage, friends and family become aware of the problems, as the break-up is made public.

Each partner will try to gain the support of particular friends, forming pacts in which they are supported.

The blame may be attributed to one partner by the couple's social networks, and people may contribute information which hastens the break-up, for example, a secret that one of the couple has been keeping.

Alternatively, efforts may be made to salvage the relationship. 

Usually, however, a relationship will not recover once this stage is reached.

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Grave-Dressing Phase

"The break-up is inevitable."

This refers to the aftermath of the break-up, where each partner creates a favourable story about why the relationship ended, for example by blaming the other partner or circumstances.

Gossip is important, as each partner will try to retain 'social credit' by not putting the blame on themselves.

Alternatively, both partners may split more amicably, agreeing to move on with their lives.

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Evaluation Duck's Phase Model of Relationship Brea

-/+ The original model has been criticised as not accounting for the fluid and dynamic nature of relationship breakdown. Rollie and Duck (2006) attempted to address this by adding an explanation that progression from one stage to the next is not inevitable, or linear. They also added a fifth stage, the 'resurrection phase', in which ex-partners use the lessons from the ended relationship in a future relationship.

- It is hard to investigate this model empirically, especially the early stages, as researcher involvement may make a break-up more likely (as partners may be encouraged to think and speak about their grievances). Much of the data is retrospective and based on recalling information once the relationship is over. This is likely to be less valid and reliable.

- The model has been accused of cultural bias. In collectivist cultures, there may be a more of a sense of obligation in the relationship, so it is less likely to end. In addition, friends and family may be more involved in the process. This means Duck's model may not be applicable to all cultures.

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