The breakdown of Relationships

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Duck's 3 reasons for relationship breakdown

Lack of Skills

poor social skills = not good at showing interest / providing rewarding interactions

  • relationship may break down because partner thinks they're not interested

Lack of stimulation

People thinking their relationship is boring/not going anywhere can help justify the end of relationship

Maintenance problems

Relationships can be strained because partners don't see eachother enough

  • relationship may break down due to overwhelming strain
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Evaluating Duck's 3 reasons


  • Boekhout et al (1999) - affairs can be due to a lack of skills or stimulation in the current relationship
  • Couples coping Enhancement training developed b/c of social skills importance in relationships. Has been shown to increase marital quality


  • The 3 reasons don't account for gender differences. women = unhapiness + incompatability are reasons for breakup and want to remain friends. Men = sexual withholding is reason for breakup and don't want to remain friends.
  • Holt + Stone (1988) - not a decrease in relationship satisfaction over distance so long as they can reunite regularly
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Rollie + Duck (2006) breakdown process

partner disatisfied

Intrapsychic process: 
partner focuses on relationship disatisfaction without expressing it to their partner

Dyadic Process
confront partner. Thoughts + feelings expressed. Relationship could be saved.

Social process: 
family + friends get involved. Could speed process up.

Grave Dressing Process: 
constructs representation of failed relationship that makes them look good.

Resurrection Process: 
learn from past mistakes and prepare for new relationship.

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Evaluating Rollie and Duck (2006)'s process


  • Tashiro + Frazier (2003) - observed breakups. People get distressed but experience personal growth. Grave dressing + resurrection allows them to get on with lives
  • Model shows importance of communication. Listening to couples speak during breakdown process helps indicate what stage they're at and what repair strategy to be used


  • Ethical issues. protection from harm, privacy and confidentiality
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