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  • Olivia Sanders
    Olivia Sanders

    When In Doubt, Communicate: Strategically Navigate Through Relationship Discouragement

    John had believed for years that he was in a very secure relationship with his girlfriend of five years. Recently, however, he had begun to pick up on signals that something wasn’t quite right between them. It started off small: She began leaving the room earlier than usual during a movie night, and lacked enthusiasm when taking part in a family gathering. Soon, these signs amplified; she was snapping his head off unnecessarily, cancelling plans last minute, and talking to her friend more often than ever before.

    It's natural for John to feel increasingly insecure about the situation. He was now feeling tensions and suspicion over things which he now been accustomed to never having to second guess in the past. Feeling desperate to understand what might be going on, he took to an advice forum to make sense of it all.

    Firstly, it is important to put aside one's negativity and despair in a challenging situation such as this one. Accepting and normalising feelings of concern and disturbance allows for more balanced emotional regulation; stabilising fluctuating emotions and preoccupation with the potential threat.

    It is also important to recognise and actively challenge negative appraisal biases. Appraising what is happening - or worrying about it - as an impending personal disaster prevents us from seeking solutions. For example, at this stage, it may be the case that John has not yet told his girlfriend that he feels upset or threatened by her recent behaviour changes.

    The right kind of communication should be adopted to navigate through this difficult situation. This can be achieved by joining a specific online course, a communicate skills group, or speaking with a mental health professional who specialises in relationship issues. On top of that, John can take some practical steps in order to try and move forward.

    The initial step is to have a quiet and honest conversation with his girlfriend. Having a clear and open communication with her will give them both the opportunity set feelings out in the open without becoming overwhelmed. John could talk about his stress and anxiety openly to his girlfriend, expressing how her recent change in behaviour has triggered these feelings. Speaking about his worries in an open and non-accusatory way shows respect for his partner and may encourage her to respond likewise.

    Furthermore, John should reflect on his own behaviours – being progressively mindful and reflexive of his own reactions and thoughts. Doing this allows us to gain insight into our individual conducts and behaviours and notice the triggers which lead us to engage in particular patterns. This can help identify problem areas and provide clues on matters we need to challenge or change. Increasing psychological awareness in this regard helps to develop a clearer understanding of the complete picture. This in turn can help generate more pro-social solutions to the problem at hand.

    In navigating through situations such as these, John can begin to adjust his communication perspectives and learn to trust again. Effectively managing despondency and discouragement paves the way for forming stronger relationships with significant other's, friends, family and colleagues. By taking the chance to self-assess, openly communicate, and talk it through a vulnerable person can develop a better connection within any partnership.

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