Advice Column 3/12/2021

I’m in a group project. We all get along pretty well except for one, who is getting increasingly difficult to work with. How do I bring it up to them without coming off as rude?
Dear Anon,
First, your grade in the project is something incredibly valuable, and that means figuring out a way to confront this difficult group member and their rising complications in the future. 
I turned to Barrie Barton, an adjunct lecturer of the drama department at UNC Asheville, as she has an immense amount of experience with group projects and the problems that come with them. 
“I think the key is, before you start to work, to set expectations and how to deal with conflict if it ever arises. Make agreements when everyone is just starting, so when the problem comes, you’ve already created expectations,” Barton said. She emphasized making a list of to-do’s before your group begins their first project.
Another important key to fixing this issue is to not make it even worse by talking behind the group member’s back. This can cause even more conflict, so despite their difficult nature, it’s best to let things happen without relying on other group members to agree with you.
As you come about bringing it up to them, keep in mind that you are both out for the same thing: a good grade. How to obtain that grade is up to you, and you may have differing opinions, but coming to a simple agreement on how you plan to get there can mean all the world in a confusing and stressful situation. Chances are, your group member is feeling left out or stressed about their workload, and could use someone to boost them up or let them know they have a team that is there and ready to help when needed. We could all use a little help sometimes, it’s often just a matter of talking it out and admitting it.
I wish you the best of luck in your group project, and hope you all get the grade you hope for in the future.
Take Care,
The Blue Banner
I have a boyfriend but my ex told me he loved me… I think he was joking but girl, what do I do? I’m all confused and I don’t know what to do.
Dear Anon,
As complicated as this situation may seem at the moment, remember to relax, take a deep breath and make decisions on your gut rather than your heart. Your ex coming out of the blue to tell you he loves you, joking or not, is a huge red flag when it comes to past relationships. It’s understandable to be confused when facing something like this, but I found an online source, as well as a local Asheville therapist, to give some insight as to why he may be doing such a thing to ease your complications and worries a bit.
First, he’s lonely and has nobody else to turn to. It’s likely you broke up for a reason, and it’s likely he is still feeling attached and holding onto the relationship that should’ve been over and done with. Moving on is hard, and it seems as though he is having trouble admitting it’s truly over.
Second, he needs to validate his self worth. This is incredibly common in those who have been in a relationship in their past but are single now, as they are suddenly let go from an environment that made them feel good about themselves. Remember, it’s your life, not theirs, and you don’t need to validate them or reply simply because they didn’t get their share of attention for the day.
 Lastly, they’ve been romanticizing the idea of what your relationship used to be. As I mentioned before, you broke up for a reason and that needs to be taken into consideration when dealing with someone idealizing what used to be. Remember both the good and the bad, so as not to fall into a rabbit hole of rose-tinted reminiscence. 
“Be sure you’re taking the lead based on how you are feeling, versus letting his feelings for you call the shots. Be real with yourself about how you feel about your ex, unrelated to how he feels about you. Go from there,” Lindsey Brock, a therapist in Asheville who helps young adults overcome breakups, find healthy relationships and get to know themselves better in the process, consulted.
If this is a common occurrence and your ex persists in the ‘joke,’ let them know exactly why it makes you and your current partner uncomfortable. It’s more important to speak out than forever holding your peace, and will likely scare them into stopping with the post-relationship confessions.  
I wish you and your current boyfriend the happiest of relationships,
The Blue Banner
I recently got over a bad breakup with a toxic ex, and I’m not in a good place right now. Any suggestions? -Anon
Dear Anon,
Toxic relationships are some of the worst and most confusing connections you may have with someone, so kudos to you for getting out of the situation. You made it out of a bad environment and that isn’t something to be taken lightly.
For this question, I consulted Lindsey Brock. She recommended eliminating contact with your ex completely. This means throwing away your old pictures, gifts and any other memories you may have with them. This way, you’re not tempted to reach back out or rely on the old memories of your past in order to get the closure you deserve. 
 “When we go through a breakup, our body feels really similar to going through a withdrawal from drugs or alcohol.  Your body is literally withdrawing from all the feel-good hormones that you felt when you were with this person. This happens even when the relationship was toxic or unhealthy,” Brock said. 
Rather than using temporary items to feel that ounce of cessation, Brock suggested thinking more long-term about your needs. This includes sleeping, eating and living as best you can in a difficult and stressful condition. Simply keeping yourself in check and making sure you’re taking care of yourself is enough to get by until you can feel whole again.
“Stay busy at first if you need to just survive/get by, but don’t forget to make some room for feeling those feelings. You’re allowed to fall apart if you need to,” Brock said. 
Give yourself time and space to feel whatever you need to, and remember to keep as strong as you have already proven yourself to be.
I hope you find yourself in a better place,
The Blue Banner
I’ve recently been feeling super homesick, and don’t really know how to cope with it, especially because college is the time to get away from home. How can I get over it without actually going back home? -Anon
Dear Anon,
   Transitioning into college and being away is guaranteed to affect your mental health and being homesick is one way university students are affected. It’s normal to feel this way, especially when classes and extracurricular activities are added to your daily routine. Thankfully, there are steps you can take in order to relieve the pressure you’re feeling right now.
Jay Cutspec, the director of the Health and Counseling Center at UNCA, had a few options to help you feel a little less stressed with your predicament.
 “Bring special items from home that remind you of the comfort found there,  instead of thinking about what you’re missing – think about what you are gaining (new experiences, friends),” Cutspec said. 
Even something as simple as a stuffed animal resembling your favorite pet can be more helpful than having nothing to remember them with.
“Know that you are not alone and reach out to others,  keep in touch with those who are most important to you at home. Get involved in a club, study group or job to be around new people and have new experiences, and invite friends and family to visit you.  The more you integrate and feel comfortable with your new surroundings, the less homesickness you may feel,” Cutspec said. 
Studies have shown that over 69 percent of first year college students experience extreme or severe homesickness, which means you are not alone in feeling the stress of missing where you are from. Having people you can reach out to when uncomfortable can be everything, even if it’s just a club leader or a new friend. While homesickness is affecting the way your college experience is going right now, it’s not forever, and integrating into activities with friends and keeping in touch with family is a sure way to find that UNCA can be a brand new home for you.
Best of Luck,
The Blue Banner
 Hello, I’m having problems with my roommate… they’re pretty loud and keep me up at night. I’ve asked them to quiet down after a certain time but it didn’t make a difference. They also keep sneaking from my snack stash?? I don’t want to change rooms because I’m already all settled in. What should I do?-Anon
Dear Anon,
While this is a hard topic to bring up to a roommate, it’s great to hear that you have already taken the first step in trying to solve your situation. However hard things may seem, communication is a great first step in the right direction.
That being said, it seems as though they haven’t been listening to your problems or taken them seriously. Because of this, there are a few more extra steps you can take to resolve the stress you’re feeling. 
“It is appropriate to speak with your RA about these problems.  This is a common experience in the residence halls and the RAs are equipped to deal with these problems,” Jay Cutspec said.
“If this is not a good option for you,  then contact the area director assigned to your building.  These are full-time professional staff who will sit down and problem solve with you the best options for dealing effectively with these issues,” Cutspec said. 
Having a backup to talk to in case your RA doesn’t seem equipped to solve the problem is a great solution and may help soothe your anxiety when discussing what to do next.
“We always recommend making very specific stipulations in your roommate contracts at the beginning of the semester so you can use those to discuss the problems you might have later,” Emily Phillips, a resident assistant at Governors Hall said . “Also, as far as the snacks go, student to student, find a new spot.”
Your eagerness to find a solution is great, it’s now just a matter of figuring out which resources you need in order to best go about doing so in a polite and respectful manner. I wish you the best of luck and hope you figure out a way to get the silence you deserve in your dorm.
Take Care,
The Blue Banner
There’s this guy who I hook up with, the whole friends with benefits scenario, but recently we’ve been hanging out without hooking up, like just cuddling and talking and watching shows so the lines are kind of blurring. I’m a bit confused about the whole thing, like is it now something more? Is this a conversation he and I need to have? -Anon
 Dear Anon,
 Your relationship does seem confusing, and the lines being crossed are something that need to be addressed. If both of you are not on the same terms, things will only get more confusing as the relationship progressed. It’s crucial to keep each other updated and communicating with each other is the key to making you both comfortable with where you are headed. It seems as though this is something important to you, which is all the more reason to sit down and have a serious conversation with him.  
“The communication should be face to face (rather than through text).  You should be prepared to share your thoughts directly and be ready to listen to his perspectives without making your own assumptions about what he is saying.  The conversation should happen when the time and place are appropriate and not during or after a hook-up,” Jay Cutspec said. 
Planning out exactly what you need to say is crucial in discussing your feelings, so as to be better prepared for explaining why you are confused. If you feel as if he isn’t taking your words seriously, that presents the type of person he will be in the future.
Don’t just protect your heart, know the worth of it. Remember you are worthy of being listened to and taken seriously, because in a relationship such as this one, it’s easy to forget what needs to be done to get a result that will make the both of you happy.
Best of Luck,
The Blue Banner