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breakdown of romantic relationships

Rollie and Duck’s model of breakdown attempts to explain the process in 6 steps. It begins with dissatisfaction with how a relationship is conducted, which leads to an intrapsychic process that’s characterised by brooding on the partners faults and the costs of the relationship. In the dyadic process, people confront their partners and discuss their feelings about the relationship. The relationship may be saved at this point due to a reassessment of goals, possibilities or commitment, or it may break down further. 

If further breakdown occurs, social processes will take place, whereby friends and family will offer advice and support. After having left the relationship, the grave-dressing process will commence. Partners strive to construct a narrative about the relationship that doesn’t paint their own contribution to the relationship unfavourably. This process often involves emotional distress. In the final resurrection process, each partner prepares for a new relationship by learning from the mistakes of the previous relationship. 

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breakdown of romantic relationships

This model has been largely supported by research evidence. Tashiro and Frazier surveyed students whose relationships had recently broken down. They reported to have experienced emotional distress as well as personal growth, stating that these breakdowns had given them a clearer idea about future relationships. This provides evidence for both the grave dressing and resurrection process thus increasing the validity of this explanation. 

This model has practical applications in counselling. Assessing which stage a couple is in can help to identify what steps should be taken to save the relationship. This model stresses the importance of communication in breakdown: paying attention to what people say and how they interact will help their stage to be identified. Therefore an application of this is that appropriate interventions can then be used in order to help save a relationship. 

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breakdown of romantic relationships

A study by Akert provided a criticism for this model thus questioning its validity. He found that the instigators of break-ups suffer fewer negative consequences than the non-instigators. Rollie and Duck use the same model for both instigators and non-instigators. This suggests that this model ignores individual differences such as this one therefore may not provide strong support for the reasons behind the breakdown of relationships.

This model is also perceived to be culturally biased, rooted in Western culture. Many collectivist cultures have arranged marriages, which are generally regarded as permanent. Marital crises of these relationships are also seen as the concern of the family, and not just the couple. Therefore, this model may not apply to non-Western relationships. Also the samples used in much research into the breakdown of relationships consist of undergraduates. Undergraduates may not be representative of the general population-their relationship may be less long-standing and don’t generally involve children or other commitments. As a result we can question the validity of some of the findings of such research. 

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breakdown of romantic relationships

Relationship research is also notoriously socially sensitive-delving into people’s personal relationships and reasons for breakdowns may cause some psychological harm. 

In another theory Duck proposed 3 reasons as to why relationships breakdown. One of these is a lack of skills. A partner may lack the interpersonal skills to make the relationship mutually satisfying. They may be a poor conversationalist; poor at indicating their interest in their partner, or their interactions with other people may be generally unrewarding. 

Another cause of relationship breakdown is a lack of stimulation. A lack of stimulation may be boredom or a belief that the relationship isn’t going anywhere, and this may result in breakdown. In some circumstances, relationships may become strained due to maintenance difficulties. The partners don’t see each other often enough which would therefore result in the relationship breaking down. 

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breakdown of romantic relationships

One major reason for relationship breakdowns is that one or both the partners have an affair. Boekhout et al. asked participants to rate various reasons for a partner to be unfaithful in a relationship. Partners judged that boredom and lack of attention was the likeliest reason, showing how affairs may be the result of a perceived lack of skills and/or stimulation thus provides strong support for Duck’s theory into the reasons for relationship breakdown.

Social skills have been found to be important to relationships. Couples Coping Enhancement Training (CCET) aims to increase respect and improve communication between partners. Cina et al. found that couples who had CCET reported significantly higher martial satisfaction than the control group without CCET. This demonstrates the importance of social skills in relationships which will make the relationship less likely to break down. 

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breakdown of romantic relationships

Long distance relationships can be the cause of maintenance difficulties. However, Holt & Stone found that there was little decrease in relationship satisfaction as long as the lovers are able to reunite regularly. This suggests that long-distance relationships may not lead to breakdown as Duck’s explanation would suggest, thus decreasing the validity of Duck’s explanation. In contrast, this may be partly due to the increased access to technology which allows long-distance partners to communicate fully which makes relationships less likely to breakdown. 

A criticism of these explanations of breakdown is that they ignore gender differences. For example, women are more likely to stress unhappiness and incompatibility as reasons for break-up, whilst men are more likely to cite sexual withholding. Women also have a desire to remain friends after the dissolution, whilst men prefer to cut ties completely. Therefore all in all, both these explanations may not provide a completely valid explanation for why real-life relationships breakdown.

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breakdown of romantic relationships

All in all, whilst both these theories may provide some explanation for the breakdown of romantic relationships, both these theories are reductionist as they assume that the reasons for breakdown of relationships may be due to lack of skills and/ or stimulation. However, in real life relationships tend to breakdown for much more complex reasons such as due to cultural, social, and/or economic factors. A social factor may be that one of the partners is undergoing domestic violence. In real life, we also use our free will on a daily basis and thus may not follow the set guidelines of both these models, therefore meaning both these models are determinist and don’t take into account our free will to do as we desire. Thus, both these theories may not provide a reliable explanation into the reasons for breakdown of romantic relationships. 

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