Relational Deterioration

"In this stage, the interaction between partners decreases, they spend shorter times together and the depth of their sharing is less. "

The third stage in the relational development model identified by Dr. Mark L. Knapp of the University of Texas is Relational Deterioration. It is the process by which relationships disintegrate.


It involves 5 stages:

Differentiating: This occurs when the two partners start emphasizing their differences instead of their similarities. Although some separate activities are healthy in a relationship, in differentiation, the pulling apart is to get away from each other.

Circumscribing: In this stage, the interaction between partners decreases, they spend shorter times together and the depth of their sharing is less. They might go to public events together but do little in private. Sharing of feelings, demonstration of commitment, and the obvious pairing gradually disappear.

Stagnating: Here, activities together disappear completely. Interaction is minimal, functional, and only for convenience. Conversation between the two people becomes awkward instead of stimulating. Each member may be finding an outlet elsewhere for emotional connection.

Avoiding: This is characterized by a reluctance to interact, active avoidance, and even hostility; partners view themselves as getting into each other’s way, each seeing the other as an obstacle or limitation. The amount of their talk may increase, but the context and intent are negative. Arguing, fighting, disagreeing, and flight marks their interactions.

Terminating: This occurs when they are no longer seen by others or themselves as a pair. They share nothing, they claim common goods as individual property, and give back or get rid of symbols of togetherness. Divorce, annulment, and dissolution manifest in this stage; former friends now have nothing to do with each other.

This is the end of the series on the “Stages of Interpersonal Relationships.” And this is the last publication of year 1.

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