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Essay “Why do relationships end?

” (768 words)

There are a lot of possible reasons for why relationships end. One of the most
controversial ones is based on the Social exchange theory of Kelley and Thibaut (1959).
This theory was approached through quite an economic way, as relationships are argued
to be maintained through a cost-benefit analysis. That is, during relationships, the costs of
the relationship should not overweigh its benefits. Though the inequality between costs
and benefits might be overcome in a short-term, such relationship is likely to survive for
a very short time.

On the other hand, Elaine Walster argues that the Equity theory seems to better
determine the maintenance of relationships than the social exchange theory. When two
people in a relationship share an equal proportion of affection, responsibility, and even
financial conditions, the relationship is likely to last longer than those where two partners
are unbalanced in the sense of equity. According to Hatfield (1979), among 2000 studied
couples, those who felt deprived or under-benefited were more likely to have extramarital
sex than those who felt either fairly treated or over-benefited. However, only those
couples who were perfectly equitable tended to believe in their relationship’s future,
whereas those who were either over-benefited or under-benefited didn’t seem to believe
in the relationship’s future prospects.

Nevertheless, Rusbult claimed that it was emotions that were the motives for
relationships’ maintenance. The integral issue to it, according to Rusbult, was the patterns
of accommodation, either constructive or destructive. Constructive accommodations
occur when problems are openly and honestly discussed when the stuation has come back
to the normal, and partners forgive each other. In contrast, the destructive
accommodations happen when the partners start the “cold war” and recount lists of past
failures, then they avoid each other physically. However, when it comes to the cases of
domestic violence or spousal abuse, the constructve accommodation might turn into the
destrctive, and the relationship quickly breaks down.

There are several factors which have great influence on the patterns of
accommodation. First of all, due to Murray and Holmes (1997), if the couple has positive
illusions about each other, they appear to have less conflicts and, therefore, less
destructive accommodations, which help them maintain their relationship. The second
influencial factor is the feeling of commitment. If the partners intent to maintain the
relationship inspite of the difficulties and costs, then they will overlook the faults, they
will talk openly about concerns and needs and they will tend to change their behaviour so
as to help their relationship. One more factor that can influence the couple’s conflict
resolutions is the attachment style. If a couple is securely attached, they are more likely to
engage in constructive conflict resolution, while the insecurely attached couple tends to
express negative feelings during the discussion on a major problem in their relationship,
which harms the relationship.

Based on the investigation by Flora and Segrin (2003), which was done on 66
young couples who had dated for at least 6 months, and 65 young couples who had been
married for around 4 years, for the dating couples, particularly for men, the most
important factor was the common interests, activities and a desire to spend time together,
while for women, the most important factor in predicting their satisfaction was the degree
of negative and positive feelings. If in a relationship, one or both partners express too
much negative feelings, then their relationship will easily break down.

According to Felmlee (1995), if we had the social exchange theory of Kelly and
Thibaut, then sometimes, what we called “benefit” might become “cost”, this is called the
Fatal attraction theory. As an example, if one of the partners is a traveller, then at first,
s/he seems to be very attractive sue to interesting conversations and manners, a lot of nice
adventures to tell, a little bit of missing each other during the travelling time. However,
over time, this attractiveness will fade away because the time spent together was too little
to maintain a relationship, so the relationship breaks down.

Yet, according to Duck (1992), any sudden changes in relationships might cause
crises, such as having a baby, moving to a new place or breaking a rule. Since every
relationship has their own rules, deception is believed to be the most important rule and
should never be broken, or else the end of relationship will come.

Breaking up of couples always seems to be so painful and upseting. However,


there are reasons for the ends of relationships. If we intent to maintain a long-term
relationship, then we are entirely able to help our own relationships and stay away from
“the ends”.