Relationship Dissolution Term Paper

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Relationship Dissolution Ecdriesbaugh

Relationship Dissolution

Few events in life are able to cause more suffering, misery, and distress than the loss or dissolution of a cherished relationship. This loss can be one of the most traumatic experiences that life could present (Simpson, J., 1987). Divorce rates in the U.S. have risen astronomically over the past three decades. Almost half of recent first marriages end in divorce. To compound these statistics, the rate of domestic partner relationships is steadily increasing. With the increase in such relationships, there is parallel dissolution of such relationships (Bucher, 2006).

According to Duck's Model, relationship dissolution refers to the course of terminating a relationship when at least one partner makes the choice to do so. This definition only applies to the mindful and intentional ending of relationships, and does not take bereavement into account, or relationships that end by default. For example, friends who drift apart and deliberately allow their contacts to dwindle (Duck, Rollie, 1982, 1998).

According to Duck, there are four phases in the dissolution of relationships:

Relationship phase. The relationship is reasonably healthy, but unhappiness builds up with feelings of 'there's something wrong.' In time the 'I can't stand this any more' feelings build up to the point in which one person enters the breakdown stages.

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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.

Dyadic phase. The breakdown is now revealed, and either one or the other person says, 'I'm leaving' or 'I'm thinking of leaving'. Reality must now be faced by both partners and thorough discussions may arise. The focus here is on the partnership. In due course the pressure of 'I really mean it' reveals itself and it becomes known to the public.

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Social phase. Now the focus turns outwards to the thoughts and opinions of other people. Friends may be recruited as ammunition, and social groups may break into verbal battles as to who is to blame and what should be done about it. The breakup eventually becomes inevitable and issues move on to the next phase.

There can also be a fifth phase, the Grave-dressing phase. The relationship is officially buried and explanations are all in place. These explanations may or may not be true.

In the past, researchers looked for the cause of breakups and tried to identify the reasons within the relationship during the course of the relationship; therefore, some rationalizations rested on the incompatibility of couples (their personalities were not well-matched), flaws in the technical aspects of a relationship (there were too many fights), and dissolution as "instant death" (an occurrence created by the impulsive and careless actions of one partner). Such analysis tended to view the breakup as one incident, declared by one partner to the other that was brought about at a specific time, or by the final acknowledgment that incompatibility was too much to deal with. However, the belief behind Social Penetration Theory is that the failure of relationships is like the development of relationships, only backwards, such that partners slowly withdraw from the relationship in ways that are similar to the ways in which they entered the relationship (Duck, Rollie, 1982, 1998).

Altman and Taylor coined the phrase Social Penetration Theory. It is defined as "the process of increasing disclosure and intimacy in a relationship..." (Allensworth, 1998). Social Integration Theory contains four stages:

Orientation, with a ritualized conversation and disclosure of superficial information.

2. Exploratory affective exchange -- superficial information is expanded and there is movement towards deeper layers.

3. Affective exchange, which moves even closer to the central layers of the personality.

4. Stable exchange, which is rarely achieved. If one were to apply the Social Penetration Theory to the dissolution of relationships than these four stages would start with stage four and work their way back to stage one. By this time the relationship will have all but disintegrated.

Later on, research on relationship dissolution took into account the accessories attached to such a happening, and noted the effects of various impediments (such as the presence of children in a marriage). They noted the ways in which couples might first take into consideration the effect that divorce would have on their children rather than basing the decision solely on their own personal feelings. Some research suggested that reservations concerning neighbors' and family's reactions might prevail over the unhappiness felt in a relationship and so the partners would simply forge on (Duck, Rollie, 1982, 1998).

All of these perspectives perceive divorce is a "botched" relationship, and that a breakup is an intrinsically negative thing that breaches social expectations about the character of marriage and relationships. Even though scholars have varied viewpoints on the subject, many researchers now see the liberation from otherwise bad relationships (such as abusive relationships) as a success rather than failure. Researchers have attempted to move away from the thought of staying power in a marriage as a measure of its success, although our society continues to associate endurance with accomplishment -- which is why we celebrate various milestones through wedding anniversaries. Nevertheless, those who are facing the outlook of divorce or breakup very often must deal with the added pressure of feeling that they have "failed" if their relationship is ending. This sense of failure is often based on what is perceived to be "normal." Society expects people to have a secure and steady life partner by a certain age or stage of life (Duck, Rollie, 1982, 1998).

More recently, researchers have examined the long-term developments of separating and the ways in which children, friends, and relatives affect the entire process. Such models of dissolution take into account that relationships always take place within a set of other relationships: each partner knows other people. They have their own friends and family members, and will probably talk about their relationship troubles and achievements with the people within their network. These other people may have a profound affect on whether and in what ways the couple will break up. For instance, associates and friends may offer standard information on how relationships have inherent difficulties and that "this too shall pass," or, they might divulge that they never liked "so-and-so" anyway and could never figure out why they married in the first place! (Duck, Rollie, 1982, 1998)

The concept of treating dissolution as something talked about and negotiated over a period of time between partners is another option to consider, by incorporating strategies in which partners persuade one another out of the relationship. Such negotiations view the dissolution as a multifaceted series of activities with several stages and features, and specifically regard dissolution as partly a complex activity that involves other people. This method centers less on the troubles that caused the decision to separate, and more on the ways in which dissolution is handled.

Such scholars have noted that everyone wears a social mask, which represents a sense of personal pride and self-respect. These methods treat dissolution as matters of facework -- both parties hope to leave the relationship feeling like they have kept some sense of dignity in tact -- so they are free to enter other relationships without being viewed as "flawed." Facework involves persuading others to "enact desired behaviors, often involving the pursuit of multiple and sometimes conflicting goals" (Kunkel, Adrianne, Wilson, Steven, Oluowote, & Robson, 2003). Facework can be utilized as a way to nurture an understanding of how people view and react to the relational goals of initiation, intensification, and dissolution. Some researchers have noted that while individuals make an effort to project and preserve desired identities during everyday interactions, the maintaining of face is particularly important to the development and erosion of interpersonal relationships" (p. 6).

The dissolution of a relationship may threaten one party's positive face with the deterioration of self-esteem, feelings of unworthiness, and embarrassment.

Some couples have the ability to treat dissolution as a team. The goal is that both people leave the relationship with their reputations unblemished. For example, each person would explain to everyone else that they agreed to break up cordially, that they intend to remain good friends and that neither party is to blame: some things just aren't meant to be (Duck, Rollie, 1982, 1998). Another dissolution strategy is to persuade the partner that a wise and intelligent person would see that it is in his or her best interests to terminate the relationship.

Although the above scenario would seem to be the ideal way to breakup, research suggests that the maturity and balance of power within a relationship is almost never equal enough to treat one another as a team member. A study conducted concerning balance of power within a relationship investigated a sample of 413 heterosexual dating individuals (86% Caucasian, 9.7% African-American, 4.3% other ethnicities), and less than half the respondents perceived their relationships to be equal in distribution of power.… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Relationship Dissolution.  (2007, November 21).  Retrieved July 14, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Relationship Dissolution."  21 November 2007.  Web.  14 July 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Relationship Dissolution."  November 21, 2007.  Accessed July 14, 2020.