Relationship Dissolution

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  • Created by: Rebecca
  • Created on: 11-05-15 09:44

Precipitating factors

  • A lack of skills, when people lack the interpersonal skills to make a relationship work it can make the relationship more likely to fail. When individuals lack social skills, and are poor at conversation and expressing their interest they are likely to be unrewarding in their interactions with others, the lack of social skills mean others perceive them as not being interested and the relationship breaks down.
  • Another factor is a lack of stimulation, one of the rewards of relationships according to social exchange theory and therefore a lack of stimulation can lead to a relationship breakdown. Baxter (1994) found that a lack of stimulation is often quoted when breaking off a relationship. People see it as sufficient justification to break off a relationship because they expect them to change and develop.
  • Boekhout et al (1999) found that undergraduates judged men would be more likely to give sexual reasons for infidelity and that women would be more likely to give emotional reasons. Boekhout showed that a major reason for relationship breakdown (infidelity) might be a direct reaction to a perceived lack of stimulation or attention.
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Precipitating factors

  • Another precipitating factor is maintenance difficulties, some relationships become strained because partners can’t maintain close contact.
  • However maintaining long distance relationships/friendships is something Rohlfing (1995) found that most of us do (70% long distance relationship, 90% long distance friendship).
  • Holt and Stone (1988) found little decrease in satisfaction as long as partners reunited regularly.
  • Studies into relationship dissolution can lack validity as people don’t want to talk about reasons why their relationships failed – it may cause distress.
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Duck's four stage Model

  • Duck (1988) developed a four stage model of the termination of close or intimate relationships. At each stage the partner that is dissatisfied reaches a point that tips them into the next stage (called thresholds).
  • The first stage is the intrapsychic stage when the dissatisfaction is kept personal, the threshold is ‘I would be justified in withdrawing’.
  • The second stage is the dyadic stage when relationship dissatisfaction is discussed with the partner, there is a reassessment of commitment. The threshold is ‘I mean it’.
  • The third stage is the social stage, when the breakup is aired to friends and family and social implications such as childcare are negotiated. The threshold is ‘it’s now inevitable’.
  • The final stage is the grave dressing stage and the threshold is ‘time to get a new life’.
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Ducks model has uses in couples counselling because a general pattern can be seen when relationships break down. However Ducks model is descriptive and not explanatory, it describes stages without explaining them. It also fails to consider the uniqueness of relationships and ignores individual differences, by assuming all relationships go through the same stages. It does consider both cognitive and behavioural aspects of a relationship. It fails to consider how the dissolution of the relationship will impact on individuals feelings depending on the role they play in the break-up. Akert (1992) found that partners who did not initiate the breakup reported high levels of loneliness, depression, unhappiness and anger. Those who initiated the breakup found it least upsetting, painful and stressful however they reported feeling unhappy and guilty. Ducks stage model is also culturally biased. It is based on individualistic societies and therefore could not be applied to collectivist societies.

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Lee's stage model

Lee’s stage model (1984) was developed using a questionnaire to investigate personal experiences of over 100 students. She concluded that there were five distinct stages in the process of break-up. These are; Dissatisfaction (one or both partners recognises problems), Exposure (problems are brought out into the open), Negotiating (attempting to resolve problems by discussing issues raised), Resolution (partners try to resolve problems) and Termination.

 Lee found that the exposure and negotiating stage were the most exhausting, and that not all couples go through all five stages. Those who went straight from the dissatisfaction stage to the termination stage reported having felt less intimate with their partners, and those whose journey from Dissatisfaction to Termination was particularly protracted reported feeling more attraction towards their former partner and more loneliness. Lee’s stage model has the advantage that it was based on over 100 real life experiences, and has practical applications in marriage counselling. It is alike Duck’s model in the sense that it lacks explanation, giving no reason behind stages but simply describing them. They both ignore the differences of understudied relationships such as homosexual relationships and collectivist relationships.

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