The beginning of the end of a relationship may be happening without us even being aware of it ; many times, the first signs of change are subtle. It is usually after the break-up that it is a question of remembering and understanding what has happened, the way in which events have taken place to the point of an experience as complicated to deal with as a break-up. Thinking about our past relationships in hindsight does not make them rebuild again, but it does help us to close wounds.

Now, besides thinking about the breaks in the past, we can also try to predict them, to recognize their first manifestations in an effective way . Having the option to know if we are in a process of breaking up can be very useful to evaluate the state of health of the relationship and, furthermore, to see the relationship with the partner in perspective.

A scale about the stages of the rupture

Of course, it cannot be said that there is a series of phases whose first stages make us fall irremediably in a spiral whose only possible end is the rupture, but it is possible to distinguish different situations that make us more or less likely to consider leaving our partner.

To do this, a team of psychologists from the University of Tennessee led by Kathrin Ritter have developed a scale in which they consider the 5 phases through which relationships pass that are most likely to be ending. The name of this tool is Stages of Change in Relationship Status (SOCRS) and can be very useful in both couples therapy, and is based on James Prochaska’s theory of change.

SOCRS was initially developed to examine the extent to which people involved in online dating based on fear and violence were close to ending these toxic relationships. However, it has also been shown to be reliable in assessing the chances of ending a relationship whether or not there is physical or psychological violence in it.

This scale was designed after passing questionnaires with 83 items to a number of people and deciding what kind of questions were most used or significant to describe the state of the relationship. After this process, a simplified version of these questionnaires was created.

Is this scale effective?

To test their effectiveness, this research team had a number of young people and couples fill out the SOCRS questionnaires. Two months later, these people had to fill out the questionnaire again. This way, after 2 months, it could be checked whether the people who according to the scale were in an advanced stage of break-up at the first moment were more likely to have broken up with their relationship or to be about to do so after 2 months. The volunteers who participated in the study were young people of around 20 years of age, so it was not surprising that their relationships lasted an average of a year and that after 2 months many couples had broken up.

The results showed that, indeed, the scale was useful to estimate the chances of the relationship ending in the near future depending on which of the 5 phases each person was in. In addition, a worrying incidence of relationships with physical or verbal violence was observed: 79% of the people admitted having committed acts of physical or verbal violence against their partner at some time.

The 5 stages of rupture according to the SOCRS

These are the five phases that couples go through when they finish. What is your relationship in?

Factor 1: Precontemplation

In this phase the person is not aware of any particular problem in their relationship . The items on the scale that correspond to this phase are these:

1. I am happy with my relationship as it is.

2. My relationship is fine, there is no need to change it.

3. My relationship is not so bad.

4. I don’t need to do anything about my relationship.

Factor 2: Contemplation

In this phase the person begins to think about aspects of their relationship that should change . Their items are these:

5. Sometimes I think I should end my relationship.

6. I don’t think my relationship is healthy for me.

7. I’m starting to see that my relationship is a problem.

8. I’m beginning to feel the damaging effect of my relationship.

Factor 3: Preparation

In this phase the person has already made the decision to end the relationship . The items that define this stage are the following:

9. Although it’s hard to end my relationship, I’m making plans to do so anyway.

10. I’ve started to work on breaking up the relationship, but I need some help.

11. I’ll try to end my relationship over the next month.

12. I will try to end my relationship very soon, but I am not sure how best to do it.

Factor 4: Action

In this phase the person has already started to execute his plans without making excuses or postponing his objectives . The items are:

13. I told my partner I want to end the relationship.

14. I talk to my partner less when we’re alone.

15. I’ve started spending more time with other people and less time with my partner.

16. I notice that I think less and less about my partner.

Factor 5: Maintenance

In this phase the person acts in a coherent manner with the aim of his or her relationship, transforming it into a daily reality . The items are:

17. I have changed my daily routine to avoid any relationship with my partner.

18. I avoid the places where I know I’ll see my partner.

19. I have put away objects that belong to my partner, or taken steps to get rid of items that remind me of this person.

20. I’m never going back to my partner.