I’ve had the privilege of working with many different types of people-addicts, veterans, couples, singles and even a few kids. Although they each had individual issues, they each grappled, in some way, with loneliness.
At it’s core, loneliness is about a lack of connection.? That connection could have been broken by the death of a loved one or the end of a relationship.?? Another type of loneliness can occur when a person makes a whole change of environment. ?Perhaps you moved to a new state for a job or fresh start. ?Making new friends can take time and that might lead to some lonely days. Loneliness can be weakened or strengthened depending on one’s perspective.?Let’s focus on three types of loneliness and take a look at strategies to overcome these types of loneliness.
Loneliness in relationships:
Most of my work is with couples.? Couples can lead a lonely existence in a relationship when they don?t feel listened to.? Being lonely in a relationship seems odd because we?re with somebody.? We share space with that person.? But if key ingredients are missing then the feelings of loneliness can and most likely will occur.?? Communication is a main “relationship” ingredient and if BOTH sides of the couple aren?t willing to work on this skills, that loneliness of not being heard and listened to can lead a spouse or significant other to another person or the end of the relationship.
Typically after an initial session, I email all my couples worksheets on reflective listening skills and creating fair fighting rules in handling disagreements.? Bad listening is a learned behavior that perhaps we learned from our parents.? We can learn new behaviors to improve our listening abilities.? Having fair fighting rules, if you use them, can move a couple from an adversarial relationship (Me, you, win, lose) to learning to fight the problem together and not against each other.? These are building blocks in becoming less lonely in a relationship and more connected.
Loneliness in singleness:
Are you single?? Do you struggle with loneliness?? Maybe not every day, but sometimes?? I can relate.? I didn?t get married until I was 41 years old.? I spent most of my young adult life in single groups and dating sites on the internet hoping to find that one connection that would cure my feeling lonely.? When I was 30, I watched a lot of friends get married.? ?I kept asking God when was it going to be my turn to start a family.? I wasn?t a hunk, but I’ve always been a nice guy.? “Nice guys finish last.“? I felt like that and my loneliness led me to have some incredible pity parties. ?Me, myself and I showed up and all three of us never made the party better.? It wasn?t until I started working on myself and focusing on personal growth areas that I began to change and that brought about a different perspective shift.
My focus took a change to where it wasn?t all about me.? My identity wasn?t rooted in desperation to be with someone any more.? I found my security as a single person was rooted in my faith and having healthy friendships.? I could be independent and happy and still be single.? One day I was listening to a guest speaker at my church and he had experienced incredible loss in his life.? He had lost his whole family in a massive flash flooding accident.? He was the only one that survived.? Google: Robert Rogers family and learned how he coped.? He had appeared on many of the morning talk shows and people asked him how he could go on and survive such a tragic event.?? He said it was the peace of God that was getting him through it and quoted this verse that changed my life:
Philippians 4:6-7: ?Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.? And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Right then the light bulb turned on in my brain.? I wanted that peace in my love life.? So, at 38 years old, this scripture set me on a new path. ??I trusted all of my hopes, my dreams and my expectations of being with someone over to God’s care.? I had to be at peace whether I married someday or never dated again.? What about you?? If you?re single, how have you coped with feeling lonely in your singleness?? Moping about it and having endless pity parties won?t help.? Remember, if you do nothing, nothing changes.? Focus on others.? Volunteer at your church or a community group.? Find social groups that align to your interests and hobbies so you can meet other people.?? If you need more ideas, reach out to me.? I can help because I?ve been there. ?I would love to help you take the first few steps of finding happiness in being single.
Loneliness in children:
One little documentary was released this summer that captivated the nation if not the world.? ?Won?t You Be My Neighbor? is about Fred Rogers and his passion for making connections.? He connected with kids like almost nobody else.? He showed them that no matter who they were, they had value.? They mattered, and they are loved.?? He also listened to the children he interacted with. ?He was genuinely interested in what they had to say.? That told them that they had a voice.?? Most of us have seen Mr. Rogers Neighborhood on PBS when we were younger.? The message of Mr. Rogers needs to be repeated over and over.? Because many of today?s kids feel like they don?t have a voice?except on social media and sometimes that?s a scary place to be.? Research continues to show that kids and teens that are constantly on social media and not interacting in person are more prone to loneliness and self esteem issues.
The ills of society have left our kids feeling lonely.? Divorce has caused kids pain and hurt and even damaged their thoughts. Often, their hopes are drowned out by the roar of their parent?s anger. Some children become pawns in a game of power play that parents create to get their kids to side with them.
What can we do about this growing epidemic?? Here are a couple of suggestions.
- Interact with your children. Make time to take them on parent-child dates.? Trips in the car are valuable for conversation. ?Listen to them. ?Get to know you kids interests, hopes and fears.? Find out who their friends are and get to know their parents.? Have fun with your kids and let them know it?s ok to have feelings, good and bad.
- Be consistent in your own behavior.??Follow through with what you say you will do.? Model appropriate behavior around your children.? Your kids are watching you and they look to you for moral, emotional, structure, and spiritual guidance.? If you?re not providing these, the child that gets older can become more susceptible to listening to those voices and examples that do not have their best interests in mind.
Lastly if a child is lonely, we have an incredible opportunity to help them form healthy connections? Do they have someone they can talk to and spend time with like a teacher, friend, relative, mentor or parent? ?We all need healthy connections and children are not different.?? This article has just scratched the surface to what some face.? Counselors at Armstrong Family Counseling have a wealth of experience to help adults and children cope with loneliness.
For many people, the holiday season truly is ?the most wonderful time of the year,? and for many others, this is an ideal they struggle to achieve. ?Whether you grew up with great holiday memories, struggling to recreate those experiences as an adult, or you grew up with terrible memories, now attempting to give your new family the opposite, it is not an easy task to achieve family unity and joy during the holiday season.? Let?s examine some common obstacles and how to work to overcome them.
It is a common tendency in relationships to resolve issues by ignoring them.? Doing so results in the buildup of pain and irritation.? This is similar to an untreated infection in the body.? Let?s say you fall and scrape your knee, and many unsavory particles make their way deep into your tissue, and instead of cleaning it out, you simply put a bandage over it and ignore it.? Over time, infection sets in, and touch becomes sensitive.? Eventually, activities as simple as walking will become very difficult, if not impossible.? In relationships, the unresolved issues are the infection.? Any attempt to discuss those issues brings pain, and any attempt to draw closer together becomes difficult, and perhaps even impossible while the infection in the relationship remains.? In these cases, it is recommended to seek relationship counseling.? A qualified relationship counselor is skilled in healing conflict, just as a qualified physician in skilled in treating an infection.? Resolving the issues removes the barriers to unity and joy in the relationship.
Thanksgiving and Christmas are so deeply loved by many people that any change to these holidays are often seen as wrong, or even heretical.? Instead of bickering about which family tradition is correct and which is a mockery, it is better to understand that with the creation of a new family must come the creation of new and unique traditions.? Any attempts to recreate past traditions will ultimately end in frustration since there are different people involved, and it is a different generation.? Creating a new culture, your family?s culture, the culture your children will forever remember, is a wonderful and rewarding endeavor that has the power to unify the family in a lasting way.? This takes time, patience, and the consideration of new ideas.? Many families can accomplish this on their own, but if those attempts fail, relationship counseling can be a wonderful tool to help build a strong, unified family culture.
Time is currency in the world today, and anything we desire requires a payment.? People have named our age the ?information age.?? It is called this because we can now access nearly any information we desire within seconds on a small rectangular device we carry everywhere we go.? More than anytime in recorded history, we can manage most of our affairs without getting out of bed.? We can pay bills, shop, connect with people, go to school, make money, watch movies, file a lawsuit, renew a prescription, all without even standing up.? There is one thing, however, that we cannot do from this small rectangular device, and that is to build strong, healthy relationships.? This requires time, time spent engaged with people, time not spent staring at a screen.? We can?t approach a relationship the way we monitor social media.? The time required to build strong, healthy relationships is not small; it is substantial.? Time is currency, and if we don?t pay the full price, the result is like the cheap shirt we buy at the discount store that shows its first tear two weeks after buying it.? On the other hand, if we spend substantial time together as a family, and that time is quality, it will be an investment that will pay us back with love and joy for years to come.? In summary, the holiday season can be a wonderful time to build strong, healthy relationships if we resolve buried issues, if we create new traditions together, and if we spend large amounts of quality time together.? If these attempts fail for any reason, seek a qualified relationship counselor who can help you and your family succeed.
I am a therapist because I believe therapy is a tool that God created to heal the broken-hearted. I believe that this is a broken world and sin often leaves trauma in its wake. As a therapist, my goal is to work with families to break the family cycle of trauma. Trauma impacts people of every age, race, gender, religion, or socioeconomic status. Too often, I?ve seen people minimize their own trauma or the trauma of others. Minimizing the travesty of trauma does not help the healing process and can lead trauma victims have low self-esteem due to belief that they have little or no worth.
I love this quote that I came across on twitter last year, ?Someone who drowns in 7 feet of water is just as dead as someone who drowns in 20 feet of water. Stop comparing traumas, stop belittling yours or anyone else?s traumas just because it wasn?t ?as bad? as someone else?s. This isn?t a competition. We all deserve support & recovery? @jesssxb
My goal as a therapist is to provide support and recovery to victims of trauma so that they can learn to know their own worth and view themselves as worthy of growth, positive change, and a healthy life.
I cater my approach to individual client needs. I find that depending on the therapy approach that is most appropriate to the client, there are often pre-existing exercises/worksheets that are evidence based. I naturally have a DBT therapy style, but am eager to continue to grow in the use of models which come less naturally to me as no therapy approach fits every client?s needs. I have had training in Motivational Interviewing which is based in the Transtheoretical Model of Change. Motivational interviewing is incredibly helpful for helping individuals make difficult changes and stick with those changes.
As an adolescent I struggled with a lot of insecurity and depression. I was raised in a legalistic Christian home where I learned all about God?s wrath, and nothing about his mercy and love. I felt trapped in my own imperfection and was certain that perfection was the only acceptable lifestyle due to my family culture. This caused a lot of feelings of worthlessness and led to deep depression. I was blessed to be part of a great youth group at my church where I had a mentor and healthy mother figure who poured a lot of prayer, time, and love into me. God used her in my life to show me that the perfection I was striving toward was crippling me and keeping me from genuine growth.
As I began to believe that I have value and worth, I found myself wanting to empower other women to break free from their own insecurity and low self-esteem. When I was working toward my bachelor of social work degree, I worked in a restaurant. I recommended to a coworker that she should go home after work and write down ten things she likes about herself because she I observed that she had little to no sense of self-worth. I learned years later that she actually did so and it began her own journey of increasing her self-esteem. I have met very few women that do not experience shame/guilt for not meeting societal expectations. I have also seen the ripple effect that occurs when women empower other women to improve their core beliefs about themselves and the world.
As we’ve recently celebrated Father?s Day, I was reminded that the purpose of Father?s Day is to acknowledge all fathers and celebrate their special day. However, if your family has been impacted by divorce, it may not seem like a celebration. If this sounds like your situation, it may feel extremely stressful for you, your ex, and your children. If you are a mother, please remember you are normally the first person your child bonds with. Therefore, you can assume a positive role of modeling how to respect their father, no matter how you may feel about him (unless he was abusive and safety is a concern.) I would ask the same type of respect from him on Mother?s Day.
By having an open dialogue with your ex, your communication models how you have set aside any negative feelings toward the father(s) of your children because you know that is best for your child or children. Depending on the ages of your child/children, volunteer to take them to a card store so they can choose a Father?s Day card. Or, if that isn?t in your budget, suggest that they make a card.
If your child/children express an interest in giving dad a gift, again, follow through with their idea. If finances are an issue, once again, encourage them to make something for dad. Even if you have negative feelings toward their father, by helping them with these tasks, you are modeling for them how to ?care? for another human being.
Allow your children to spend Father?s Day with their dad on his special day. Try to do this no matter what is outlined in your parenting plan (if you don?t have a parenting plan or need to revise it and don?t want to pay for an attorney or the cost of going to court, consider contacting a mediator to help you resolve any conflicts or to assist you in making changes to the plan.) Flexibility and mutual consideration as co-parents makes your children much healthier emotionally and mentally.
If geography or travel logistics are an issue in bringing together your children and their father, suggest using social media so they can ?see each other.? Depression, loneliness and isolation are common in divorced or estranged parent(s.) If you experience these things frequently, please contact a therapist and /or seek help. I can help you. Your children need you in their lives.
Fathers, you need to ask your ex-spouse and/or the mother of your children for what you need. Maybe you (father) would really like your child/children to spend Father?s Day and an additional day since school is out for the summer. If you and your ex can communicate and practice being flexible, you are less likely to feel resentful.
For both parents, even though you are divorced, remember to stay focused on the needs and well-being of your child/children. It is crucial to plan ahead for holidays or other ?special? days so your child/children see that even though you are divorced, both of you are co-parenting in healthy ways.
If you are struggling with co-parenting, or other issues, mediation may be something to consider. Mediation is a more peaceful, economical resolution to resolve conflict. Please contact me. I am a therapist and a?Kansas State Supreme Court Approved Mediator.? Let’s start rebuilding your relationships today!
There is an old proverb, ?Confession is good for the soul?. ?But is it really?
It sounds odd but can talking with somebody make you feel better? ?It can and it does. But why does it work? Why can just something as simple as talking about something that you are worried about, or feel guilty about make you feel better and less stressed?
To understand that question you have to understand how memory storage in our brains work. ?Doctors as far back as the 1890?s have recognized some memories fade into nothing and some memories resist that fading away. ?Mostly the memories that won?t fade are ones that are charged with emotions.
Simply, there is a part of us that feels and there is a part of us that thinks. ?Generally, we want to keep these things in balance. However, in life when we are scared, worried, guilty or sad we feel those emotions strongly. ?When your feelings are strong it diminishes your capacity to think; especially, your ability to say what you are feeling.
Have you ever seen a parent tell their screaming child to ?use your words?? ?The parent instinctively recognizes that a child has to calm down and talk before they can stop being hysterical. That is because when the part of your brain that feels gets overwhelmed your body will actually shut down parts of itself in order to conserve fuel. ?When the ?fight or flight? part of your mind is triggered, energy is diverted from other parts of your brain?systems in order to give you energy to fight of run. One area that is impacted?is your ability to think rationally. ?
So, let?s say you got in an argument that escalated. Or that you made a mistake at work and are scared you will be fired for it. ?So, in that moment you are feeling strong emotions instead of thinking.? If you do not communicate with anyone about it, after your emotions have calmed down, you will be putting that memory into the bookshelf of your mind with an emotional charge.
So what does an emotionally charged memory do? ?An emotionally charged memory is one that when you think about that memory you feel that emotion all over again. So you could be lying in your bed after having had a great day but start thinking about something from your past and BAM! Right there in your bed you feel what you felt then. ?Despite the fact that you just a moment ago felt at peace with the world. That is an emotionally charged memory.
Going back to the initial question, why does talking help you feel better?? Because in order to take the charge out of a memory you have add thought to that memory.? ?Remember that you both think and feel.? A memory that is all feeling and no thinking will remain a charged memory.? But when you talk about the past, especially when you think about what you were feeling and why, it helps add thought to that memory . ?A memory that has thought and feeling in it a memory that can be put on the bookshelf of your mind and just fade into the thousands of other memories there.
When you talk to someone who influences you to think about why you felt what you felt it can make that emotional charge go away which feels wonderful. ?This is why the whole practice of counseling even exists. To help people remember their past without feeling what they felt in the past.
Do you feel that you are haunted by your past? ?Do you feel that there are things in your past that you will never get over?? Let’s get together. I can help you move forward. Contact me today!
Remember the song ?Danger Zone? from the movie Top Gun? I loved that movie, and the Kenny Loggins song is a must for any retro fan. In the movie, the song was the perfect soundtrack for those flying scenes, as the pilots pushed their aircraft to the limits and beyond?into the danger zone, where the engines could stall or worse. It was a perilous place to be.
Serious mountain climbers know about the ?death zone.? On Mount Everest and some of the other highest peaks in the world, once a climber reaches about 26,000 feet, the amount of oxygen is insufficient to sustain human life. Many climbers have died because they weren?t properly prepared or didn?t have enough oxygen with them.
Most of us will probably never climb into a fighter jet cockpit or attempt to summit the world?s tallest mountain, but there is another danger zone where we dads often find ourselves with our families: the comfort zone. I like being in the comfort zone. It?s free of stress and the craziness of life that is so often around me at home. Some might call this my ?happy place.? There are times that we need an oasis where we can drown out life around us and find peace and serenity. But if we want what?s best for our families, the comfort zone is a place we are never meant to stay for very long.
When I first got married, I married not only my wife but also her family, which included two boys in their mid to late teens. For a while I had a hard time building a relationship with them. I?d get home from work in the evening and they?d usually be in the living room, watching a television show I didn?t get or couldn?t care less about. It was much easier for me to get my dinner and retreat into the more comfortable sanctuary of my bedroom. I could read a book or watch TV and I didn?t have to engage with them unless it was on my terms.
At the time, I thought: What was the point? I couldn?t relate to them and they certainly couldn?t relate to me, at least on the surface. Clearly, I was missing the point. I was off in my comfort zone, and I wasn?t going to be intentional about being a dad to them.
My wife LeeAnn was so patient with me, and every now and then she would enter my serene hideaway and remind me that I didn?t marry just her, but also two boys she loved deeply. If I wanted to develop a better relationship with them, I had to leave the Comfort Zone. I had to engage them.
That word ?engage? has transformed who I am as a father. This didn?t happen overnight, and there were starts and stops as I kept fighting off selfishness and the desire to go back to the Comfort Zone. But then one day my father-in-law gave me advice on how to be intentional as a dad. He said that if I wanted to become closer to the children, I had to drop the labels?quit thinking of them as my stepsons and foster daughters but rather as my sons and daughters. I had to stop labeling myself as a step dad and foster dad, and just be dad. He said the labels that we use often create distance and give those of us that are not biological dads an excuse to keep that separation.
I had to stop labeling myself as a step dad and foster dad, and just be dad.
He was right. While an attorney might say that, from a legal perspective, step and foster kids are the correct wording, I have grown past that and see them as my children, for as long as God allows them in my life. Several months ago, we decided after 5 years of fostering, to take a break. It was good for our marriage, and last year, I discovered a whole new zone: The Grandparent Zone. Our youngest son and his wife gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Now I get to learn to just be grand-dad!
Being an engaged dad means being hands-on and enthusiastically involved in your children?s lives. It?s getting to know them on their level and being consistent in letting them know you are there. It also means that as they get older you are coaching them and modeling how to live by your actions and how you live. An example of this is how they see you handle conflict or adversity and perhaps more important, how you treat your spouse or their mother. Believe me, your young ones are watching.
You can?t do these things by being in your comfort zone. That sends a whole other message that says ?Leave me alone,? or ?You?re not worth my time.?
That sounds cruel, doesn?t it? Yet our country is full of disengaged fathers. I see it in the neighborhood we live in, and as a foster dad, I see it in the families of the girls we work with. Many dads are physically absent, others are present but emotionally distant, and some have hurt their kids so much that they aren?t allowed to be around and in their life.
Engaged fathers and father figures really do make a difference. Since I have left my Comfort Zone as a dad, my relationships with both of my stepsons are vastly improved. Things are far from easy, but they can see that I?m more interested in them and many more activities and conversations have had positive results.
Do your relationships with your children need a transformation? Be an intentional, hands-on dad. You will make mistakes here and there, but you will also learn from them. Embrace your role as a father and make a difference in the lives of other kids. Close up shop on the Comfort Zone.
Even now, I have days when the comfort zone is awfully tempting. But I rely on my faith, my patient and loving wife, and other dads who encourage me.
Just Get Out of the Comfort Zone. Just Be DAD.
***Michael French is a father in Kansas City, a Christian Relationship expert at Armstrong Family Counseling, and was a top 5 finalist in the National Center for Fathering 2014 Kansas City?Father of the Year Contest. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor & has been blogging about his experiences at his website?Dads Unite. Mike has been married to LeeAnn for 10 years and has two grown stepsons and one adopted daughters.?
“Is choosing to separate the best option for me?” Choosing to separate in a marriage is never an easy decision to make. ?It is my hope that by reading this article you can gain some perspective on the topic of separation. ?A separation is different from a divorce in that you and your spouse will still legally share all parental and financial responsibilities. ?Also separations tend to have many different flavors. Here are the 3 most common types.?
The Working Separation
In a working separation the couple separates in order to spend time improving themselves. ?Maybe a spouse has a mental health issue they are working on, or perhaps one spouse has an addiction they need to focus on. ?Working separations are best when there is an informal agreement between the two partners. This agreement will ideally have an explanation as to what issue needs to be worked on, who will take care of the kids and other responsibilities, what limits or boundaries are placed on communication (we?ll only communicate through text or email, or no communication for 2 months, etc.) and on what grounds will reconciliation take place. Working separations have the highest chance of resulting in reconciliation. If you think this is the type of separation you are looking for please contact a therapist or counselor–like myself--and draw up this contract with their input and guidance.
The Trial Separation
A trial separation is when one or more persons in the marriage express a desire to try what being single feels like. ?The idea is that the person is given time to ?clear their head.? Afterwards they will then decide on whether or not to pursue reconciliation. One person generally will move out, either to another part of the house or to another place all together. ?Trial separations most commonly occur in families without young children.
These separations have a high rate of ending in divorce because most people leave a marriage when the pain and frustration are so high that staying seems impossible. ?Then,when they leave they find that being single has less pain and frustration then being married and make the jump to divorce.
The Legal Separation
This option is pursued most often when a marriage has become stale and anemic; there is little good in the marriage but also little frustration also. ?The couple may stay together for the sake of the children or because they both feel that becoming single is not attractive.
Whatever type of separation you are considering please understand that separation is a matter of last resort. ?Typically, divorce is the result of separation far, far more often than reconciliation. That being said if you separate when your pain and frustration haven?t yet caused you to give up there is a better chance of reconciliation afterward compared to waiting until you have one foot out the door.
If you or someone you know are going through a situation and you are contemplating separation or divorce, contact me today. I can help you work through your issues and come up with a plan that is best for your unique situation and relationship.