Discuss two theories of the breakdown of relationships
There are some common reasons for the breakdown of a relationship. For example; dissatisfaction or boredom with the relationship, breaking agreed rules and interference from other relationships. In our culture, relationships are considered ‘successful’ if partners stay together, and those relationships that end ‘prematurely’ are considered failures. This is despite the fact that many so-called successful relationships continue even though neither partner is really committed to the relationship. Likewise, ending an unhappy relationship may help each partner to find a new and happy life elsewhere with a new partner.
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Partners who develop their own versions of where the blame for the breakdown actually lies, frequently employ the self-serving attributional bias.
However, Lee created a five stage model to describe how relationships end. He surveyed 112 break-ups of premarital relationships, which provided evidence of these distinct phases. The first stage was where partners discover that they are dissatisfied with the relationship. Next, exposing the dissatisfaction and identifying problems. Exposure of dissatisfaction may lead to negotiation with the other partner concerning the nature of the dissatisfaction. Attempts are then made to resolve the problem. If attempts to resolve the problem fail, the relationship is terminated. The stages of exposing and negotiating are most exhausting. Whereas not all relationship breakdowns go through all five stages. Lee suggests that partners who take longer to move through stages feel more attracted to their ex-partner and experience greater loneliness.
Lee’s research is direct research evidence of the pattern relationship breakdown follows. However, he used a survey which could be subjective. Also, answers may not be truthful because of leading questions or social desirability bias. Lee’s sample was of premarital students which is not representative of the entire population therefore this reduces the population validity of the study and reduces its generalisability.
A major reason why relationships break down is that one or both partners have an extramarital affair. Boekhout et al. showed how such affairs might be a direct reaction to the received lack of skills and/or stimulation in the current relationship. They asked undergraduates to rate various sexual and emotional reasons for men and women to be unfaithful in a committed relationship. Participants judged that sexual reasons for infidelity would be more likely to be used by men, whereas emotional reasons for infidelity would be more likely to be used by women.
The importance of social skills deficits in relationship breakdown has led to the development of training programmes that attempt to enhance relationship skills in distressed couples. The Couples Coping Enhancement Training (CCET) programme aims to sensitise couples to issues of equity and respect in their relationship...