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A high number of challenges can be seen in almost any relationship. One of the most common is the violation of expectations. Expectations can come from various sources. Socially based expectations come from the ideas that exist in society. For example, people can have a specific idea of what it means to be a best friend. Expectations can also be relationship-specific. These expectations are based on implicit and explicit understandings created by the relationship participants. Failure to meet these expectations can lead to a failure event or transgression. The severity of these events can differ, and different people perceive it differently. The process of dealing with transgressions starts with a reproach that informs about the violation. Then a response comes in the form of an account that could include apologies, excuses, justifications, denials, or silence. The transgression usually ends with either forgiveness or retaliation.
The second challenge comes from addressing grief and delivering bad news. When addressing grief, support has been shown to be most valuable. Studies show that actions such as listening and being there for the grieving person have been recorded as effective in such situations. Humor and positive emotions can also be effective in some cases. Delivering bad news is stressful for both the messenger and the receiver. Strategies exist to help this action: direct delivery, indirect delivery through implication, comforting messages, and empowerment through giving a choice to the receiver (Wingate, 2016).
Another challenge comes from maintaining long-distance relationships. The nature of separation can decide which strategy could be used to manage the relationship. The time between visits plays an important role in this maintenance. Distance from the partner can create an idealized image of the relationship, which enhances the visits. Such relationships rely on the balance of rewards and costs and can result in tense situations when multiple relationships compete for time.
Finally, relationships that challenge social norms can encounter additional issues. Such relationships can be met with negative social reactions or be perceived as a threat by a social group. In such cases, discussion and support are critical. Social norms change with time, and the nature of this challenge also changes.
The Dark Side of Interpersonal Communication
Interpersonal communication can be used in damaging and unethical ways. Deception of various kinds is a common negative use of interpersonal communication. Often it is used to deceive people for reasons such as personal gain. It can be done by an omission of information or by a commission that gives misleading information (Levine & McCornack, 2014). Communication can hurt feelings by giving unwanted or negative information, a critique of traits or abilities of the person. Obsessive relational intrusion can also be dangerous because it invades a person’s privacy with the purpose of creating a close relationship. It could lead to stalking, which is a dangerous activity (Foellmi, Rosenfeld, & Galietta, 2015). Jealous reactions can lead to harmful communication. At its worst relational violence can occur consisting of violent acts, threats, and destructive behavior.
Relationship De-escalation and Termination
If challenges or the dark side are not controlled, de-escalation and termination can occur. Various signs can be noticed in these situations, such as contempt, stonewalling, and criticisms. If the problem is not severe, the relationship can be repaired or rejuvenated. If these efforts fail, the relationship might need to end. Both parties can decide to agree to it, or only one. The speed of the ending can differ from slow to immediate. De-escalation can happen because of faults in the parties or lack of emotional access. The process has multiple phases: intrapsychic (evaluation of the relationship), confidant (turning to others for support), dyadic (discussion with the partner), social (making it public), grave-dressing (covering up pain), resurrection (new pursuits). Relationships can end indirectly and directly through withdrawal, pseudo-de-escalation, and de-escalation, among others. It is important to properly recover through the expression of emotion and self-examination.
Relationships can be difficult. A great number of factors need to be considered. However, through a thoughtful approach, many issues can be resolved.
Foellmi, M., Rosenfeld, B., & Galietta, M. (2015). Assessing risk for recidivism in individuals convicted of stalking offenses. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 43(5), 600-616.
Levine, T., & McCornack, S. (2014). Theorizing about deception. Journal of Language and Social Psychology, 33(4), 431-440.
Wingate, S. (2016). Developing through bereavement: Dealing with loss during adolescence. Death Studies, 41(5), 330-332.