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Metaphors of Relational Termination

1)Passing Away (Knapp and Vangelisli)
            Decline in Quality of Interaction       

2)Sudden Death (Davis, Knapp and Vangelisli)

3)Preexisting Doom (Fisher and Adams)


Passing Away

1)This type of relational termination is a long, slow and gradual erosion. It occurs over a period of time.( which can be even years)

2)Problems are unlikely to be found in some event or incident that “caused” the downward trend.



1)When partners ignore problems and let them build within them without resolution.

2)When partners have failed to deal with the ups and downs of their relational development

3)Within a relationship, avoidance is very hard to see.


Decline in Quality of Interaction

1)Separation is a major factor in termination of relationships.

2)Frequency of interaction plays a role in quality communication.


Sudden Death

1)Relationships terminate in sudden death when one partner becomes aware of some “new, surprising, and significant negatively charged information about a partner”.

2)Most common cause of sudden death is unfaithfulness.

They are many other types of negative information that can cause termination.

Preexisting Doom

1)Individuals enter into relationships based on superficial reasons. Later finding out that they are not compatible with their partner.

2)Incompatible partners may continue to enjoy their relationship until the problem becomes public.

3)Partners may also feel that the relationship is more important than the problem, and work to over come it.



I.                    “Close relationships do not end, they merely change”

After termination, relationships continue to exist in several forms

1.      Partners often continue to carry on some kind of relationship, to talk with one another, and to interact after they have terminated an intimate relationship.

2.      Most frequent problem in a relationship:  relations with former partners

3.      Although humans cannot erase memories of significant events in the past, they can “change” their memory of events. Humans have the power to perceive, and perception allows them to create new memories or to redefine past events do that the remembered event is very different from what actually happened.


II.                 “Getting over it”

When close relationships end, partners go through a “getting over it” stage

1.      emotions felt by both partners shift between positive and negative
      these include: feelings of relief

           feelings of personal growth


2.      adjustment to the loss is accommodated by social support, self-esteem, and

      perceived control of the events.


III.               Three Coping Mechanisms for Termination


1.      psychological reordering of memories
      a.  exists within an individuals psyche

b.      individual moves the once close relationship from the top of the stack to the bottom.

c.       Individual seeks out a variety of different partners to fill the void

d.      The more partners, the less the former partner is vivid in the individuals mind and the less often he/she will be brought to the cognitive deck.

2.      Seeking New and Different Relational Experiences

a.       attempts to acquire so much relational info that the memory banks tend to overload.

b.      All new partners begin to blur, as well as the former partner who turns into just another blurry face in the crowd.

Ex.  Teenager breaks up with a steady boyfriend and goes out on many dates, yet she avoids going steady with any of them.

c.       Leads to “rebounding”

-         in an eagerness to fill the void, an individual will attempt to get in a relationship as soon as possible

-         this method, shortens the time necessary to get over the former partner

-         RESULT- unsatisfying and typically lead to another termination that causes emotional pain to increase and damage to feelings of self-worth are even more severe.

3.      Seek out other relationships- Friendships

a.       do not act as substitutes for absent partner

b.      these become even more important when the relationship ends.

c.       These include friends and acquaintances of each partner -> social support system



IV  Study of Relational Loss  

including death and breakups, college-age and midlife individuals were more introspective about the loss and less likely to seek out others to talk about the loss than the elderly.

For all three groups, (college-age, midlife, and elderly), friends were just as important as family for support

But especially important for college-age students


V. Support Systems

often those friendships which serve as support systems become even closer as a result of their usefulness in these times of need

the “good friend” who is there in a time of need becomes an even better friend





            I. Paul Simon’s “There must be fifty ways to leave your lover”

                                    -Rhyming one-liners describing how to end a relationship with out

                                     fuss or confusion.

            II. Leslie Baxter


Four kinds of direct strategies of disengagement

Fait accompli


Attributional conflict

Negotiated farewell

When only one partner in relationship wants to terminate the relationship.

Fait accompli


State-of –the-relationship-talk           


Fait accompli- one person in the relationship decides that he or she has had enough. They have become disinterested in the relationship and want to leave it.


-He/she tells the other person in the relationship straight up that the relationship is over.

-They leave NO room for discussion about the termination

-They only express their feelings and no matter what the other person says they still want out of the relationship.

            (ex) Was in the song sung by Paul Simon. “Drop off the key, Lee”

                        One liners to leave a relationship with no mess or confusion.


State-of-the-relationship-talk- One person in the relationship is unhappy with the status of the relationship and decides to end it.  In this type of situation he or she expresses their feelings about the relationship. At the same time they leave room for discussion about the feelings.


When both people in the relationship want termination to occur.

-Attributional conflict


                        - Negotiated farewell


Attributional conflict


When conflicts or arguments are seen as reason for break-up. In this case reasons for breaking up are definitely noticed but not always agreed upon.

(Ex) Megan and Corey both saw reasons to break up but neither of them agreed upon one or two common reasons. Both seemed to have a different out look as to why they were breaking up.




Negotiated  farewell


Almost the complete opposite of attributional conflict. In this type of situation partners discuss their problems and feelings about their relationship. It is a settled discussion of their problems.  Both agree on termination.


Positive-toned strategies

Baxter identified this as “Things are not working out, but we can still be friends”

-One partner disengages from the relationship but does it in a way in which he or she does not to put blame on the other person in the relationship.

-Maybe even says it is not your fault. I had fun but it is just not going to work out.  I am sorry that it is ending.

“Only if things were different…”


Misunderstanding strategies

            -Failure to understand what your partner is saying.

            -Can also be used to show signs of disinterest in the relationship.











            A. Intrapersonal Factors-"this deals with the emotional, psychological, and behavioral symptoms of relational termination. This period of relational de-escalation is explained in five general stages"(Steve Duck 1991):

                        1)The Breakdown Phase-one or both partners realize                                  that there is a problem with their relationship.

                        2)The Intrapsychic Phase-feelings of each partner come

            out, "I can't stand it anymore". Question positives 

            and negatives. Consult in friends for advice.

            Communication decreases between partners.

                        3)The Dyadic Phase-begins with confrontation. Partners

            talk about withdraw from relationship with each

            other. Decide here if they're going to patch things

            up or separate.

                        4)The Social Phase-involves some serious soul

            searching. Have made decision to end relationship,

            but aren't sure if it is the right decision. Period

            of great uncertainty and stress. Whole world knows

            of breakup.

                        5)The Grave-Dressing Phase-coping with the fact that

            the relationship is over. Need to get relationship

            behind them, if can't then can suffer great stress         

            and depression.



            B. Contextual Factors-The surrounding factors that lead the relationship to "breakdown". Problems with In-laws, day-to-day pressures, bills, etc. that put a damper on relationship. "When contextual pressures do lead to a relational breakdown, the explanation is not so much that the pressures were too great but that the partners' ability to adapt and to cope were not great enough"(Baxter 1985).


            C. Interpersonal Factors-One person cannot strengthen a relationship on their own, it takes interaction between both partners. Communication between partners fades and becomes more distant and more formal.