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Terminating relationships

 

Explanations > Theories > Terminating relationships

Description | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

There are several ways to break up a relationship. The results of some research are given here.

Cody’s survey of experience showed alternative strategies:

  • Positive tone: ‘I still like you, but…’
  • Verbal de-escalation: ‘I’m don’t love you any more.’
  • Behavioral de-escalation: Avoiding contact. Seeing them less often.
  • Negative identity management: ‘We each should see other people…’
  • Justification: ‘This relationship is not giving me what I want.’

Duck shows a four phase model:

  1. Relationship phase. The relationship is fairly healthy, but dissatisfaction builds up with feelings of ‘there’s something wrong.’ Eventually The ‘I can’t stand it any more’ feelings build up to a point which catapults you into the breakdown stages.
  2. Intrapsychic phase. Nothing much is said, but now the focus is on the faults of the other partner. Evidence is sought by which they can be blamed for any problems. When enough evidence is accumulated, the person feels justified in withdrawing.
  3. Dyadic phase. The breakdown now comes out into the open, either with one person saying ‘I’m leaving’ or ‘I’m thinking of leaving’. Reality must now be faced by both partners and intensive discussions may ensue. The focus here is on the partnership. Eventually the pressure of ‘I really mean it’ breaks out and it becomes a public issue.
  4. Social phase. Now the focus turns outwards to the perceptions of other people. Friends may be recruited to either camp and entire social groups may break into open battles of who is to blame and what should be done. Eventually, it becomes inevitable that the split will happen and things move on to the next phase.

There can also be a fifth phase:

  1. Grave-dressing phase. The relationship now gets its official burying, with explanations all in place (true or otherwise).

Example

Have you had long drawn out ending of a relationship? Many marriages go through long phases of argument and recrimination rather than sudden endings.

So what?

Using it

To end a relationship, pick the most suitable from the above methods.

Defending

It takes two to tango. If the other person is pulling the plugs, just get out with your dignity.

See also

Love, Stage Theory

References

Cody (1982), Duck (1982)

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