Termination Process in Romantic Relationships

Topics: Interpersonal relationship, Sample size, Assertiveness Pages: 8 (2658 words) Published: February 3, 2011
The termination process of a romantic relationship is a major focus in research on relationships and their downfall. This disengagement has many parts to it and in order to understand relationships and the likelihood of their success, we must first be able to conduct studies to figure out the steps to this disengagement process. Also, in order to understand human behavior and generalize trends of decisions that are likely to be made, we must test the differences in how men and women approach relationship disengagement. This approach to dissolution can also tell us a great deal about the difference in the thinking process of men and women when making other decisions in life. This current study will focus on the approaches men and women take in relationship termination, the difference in initiation of break-up based on gender, and the influence of resources during a relationship on the existence of post break-up friendship. Literature Review

Social Penetration Theory
Multiple studies and research have been done on the disengagement process of relationships and the steps that a couple takes to terminate their relationship. Altman and Taylor (1973) studied how the disengagement process in a relationship is primarily the relationship growth process in reverse and later coined this as The Social Penetration Theory. However, over the years, other researchers’ works have challenged this termination process and further questioned it. The studies that will be provided as evidence for our current study are ones that test the relationship dissolution and how it differs based on gender and approaches taken by both partners involved. In addition, whether friendship is possible after a couple has broken up and under what circumstances. Assertiveness vs. Unassertiveness

Baxter (1984) qualitatively studied the process by which personal relationships dissolved and the steps that occur as the partners slowly separate from each other. This experiment asked ninety-seven volunteers to reflect on their past break-ups. They provided accounts of these break-ups with past romantic partners on note cards and were asked to recall any important turning points or vital stages. The findings were that a basic relationship termination includes six features. Step three of this process, which is the basis of this current study, is the use of direct vs. indirect actions to reach dissolution. It found that 76 percent employed indirect means of terminating, whereas only 24 percent initiated the break-up in a direct manner.

Taken from this study’s explanation of ‘directness’, we define assertiveness to refer to the initial action of informing and communicating with the other party that they no longer have interest to continue the romantic relationship. For our study, this is considered any face-to-face contact. In regards to indirectness taken from the explanation of ‘withdrawal’, unassertiveness is avoidance-based behaviors in which the disengager simply lessens contact with the other party due to lack of interest to continue the relationship. For our study, this is considered either completely avoiding the topic of termination or using any technological medium (i.e. phone or computer) to break up. Baxter’s (1984) study served as the motivation for our interest to study step three’s finding that almost three-fourths of people use unassertive means. We took this further to study which gender, in particular, breaks up using an assertive vs. unassertive approach.

A study by Abbassi and Singh (2006) focuses on the form of assertiveness expression in marital relationships among Indians in the United States. This study, along with Baxter’s (1984), are both the background evidence for our first two hypotheses. Both hypotheses challenge these previous studies because they are designed to further test which gender uses whichever break-up approach. Using the framework of these two earlier studies, the following hypotheses...
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