Why Relationships Fail and How To Prevent Relationship Death

I recently took an Intro to Communication course as an elective for my undergrad, thinking it would be somewhat interesting, but mostly boring. I quickly realized how important it is to study communication. The most beneficial section of the course was Interpersonal Relationships, which outlined the relationship process and the various stages of relationships. During that time I was then not only going through a divorce but in the process of analyzing my relationship with my boyfriend and breaking up. The information in the course was extremely helpful in examining my situation and making a decision whether I should stay and repair the relationship or just call it quits. I figured I would share this information with you and maybe it will help you understand how relationships work and guide you in decision making.

The Relationship Cycle

According to the Six-Stage Model, relationships move through six stages. At each stage, there is the option to continue with the relationship or exit.

Stage 1

The first stage is contact, which includes perceptual contact (you see the person, you hear the person, you smell the person, and gather a physical picture of the person) and the interactional contact (exchange of basic information both verbal and non-verbal).

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Within 4 minutes of the initial interaction, you decide whether you want to pursue the relationship (Zunin & Zunin, 1972).

Stage 2

The second stage, assuming you decide to pursue the relationship, is the involvement stage where you develop a connection. During this stage, you aim to learn more about the person with a sort of preliminary test. Communications increase becoming more personal and revealing. You begin to share emotions and decide whether to date.

Stage 3

The third stage is the intimacy stage where you open up more and commit to the relationship. During this stage, your communications become easier and more “normal”. The relationship becomes more intense and develops breadth (the number of topics you discuss) and depth (the degree to which you enter the core of the individual). At this stage, you decide whether you are a couple or not and reveal your relationship status to the public (Facebook official, marriage, etc.).

Stage 4

The fourth stage is deterioration and only occurs if the relationship exits the intimacy stage. During this stage, bonds weaken; the breadth and depth of the communication reverses. The deterioration stage begins with personal and intrapersonal dissatisfaction and if it continues, it leads to interpersonal deterioration where you discuss this dissatisfaction with your partner. During this process, your communication decreases and becomes less personal.

Stage 5 or 6

Finally, the relationship enters one of two stages: repair or dissolution depending on which direction you decide. If you decide to repair the relationship, you begin with the intrapersonal aspect by analyzing what went wrong and how it can be solved. You then discuss the issues with your partner and solve the issues as a couple.

TIP: Follow the REPAIR process

R– recognize the problem

E– engage in conflict resolution

P– possible solutions


I– integrate solutions into your life

R– risk giving favors and rejection.

On the other hand of repair, we have the dissolution stage, where you decide to cut ties. For many people, this stage is emotionally difficult as you may blame yourself and enter a loneliness-depression phase. Here you need to distract yourself quite a bit and seek support from your mom and BFF. You should also engage in some introspection, maybe journal, read some books, meditate, etc. Here are some awesome blogs to help you survive the breakup and recover as a stronger individual.

Every relationship whether intimate in nature or simply friendship goes through this process. Good luck!


<3 Morgan




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