lonely girl 03 Dec 2018

BY: Matthew Armstrong

Christian / Loneliness / Relationship

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Loneliness

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.Couples can lead a lonely existence in a relationship when they don?t feel listened to.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

Connecting with others is a big way to overcome the stigma of loneliness. If you are lonely and need to talk, contact us today.?

26 May 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Couples therapy / Infidelity / Marriage / Relationship

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Where Do We Begin? : Staying Together After an Affair

Should I stay, or should I leave?? After an affair, an injured partner?faces this question.? It?s never easy, and there is no one size fits all solution.

Experiencing the infidelity of a partner can be so painful.? It can make you believe you are losing your mind, and your life, as you have known it.? Infidelity creates a sudden upheaval in everything you believed?about your spouse, about yourself, and about your future.? Several couples are unable to remain intact, and will move to end the relationship.? But what if you aren?t yet sure, or want a different outcome?

Many areas in your relationship will need to be addressed, and it can be difficult to know where to start.? If you are choosing to stay in your relationship, here are a few suggestions to help you and your partner repair, rebuild and reconnect.

Repair

Staying in a relationship, following an affair, requires addressing all of the changes that have occurred because of it.? Changes, especially those we didn?t personally want or choose, can come with very strong negative feelings.? Its important these feelings are acknowledged, and by both partners.

There is usually no shortage of hurt and anger, and you may find conflict has become your main method of communicating.?? Hurt can manifest itself in several ways.? Anger tends to be one that is most commonly used, however, anger rarely comes alone.

Betrayed, sad, lost, scared, alone, confused, resentful, and vulnerable are just a few likely to surface.? Each relationship is unique, however, and so are the feelings that come with it.? Identify the feelings, as well as the underlying fears, insecurities, and loss the affair has created.? This helps focus your communication and creates a deeper understanding of the hurt and anger.?Emotional woman

Repair focuses on understanding our individual reaction to the affair, as well as recognizing that trust and friendship have now been called into question.? To address the loss of trust and friendship, it?s crucial to actively practice being a better friend.? This may seem obvious, but can often be overlooked in our everyday routine.

Learn what circumstances currently trigger negative feelings and/or conflict. Take action to correct these situations, and practice generating positive feelings instead.? Be mindful of your daily exchanges and build an atmosphere of comfort, kindness and consideration.? This creates a more neutral environment, and a neutral environment naturally reduces extra day-to-day conflict.? I?m sure you will agree that any way you can reduce conflict, will be of great benefit to you.

Consider actions such listening without interruption.? It sounds simple, but isn?t always so easy.? You can also defuse your environment by helping out with routines and daily activities, being considerate in your living space, giving genuine compliments, paying attention, and checking in with your partner about how they are doing. If you aren?t already taking these actions, then this is a great opportunity to demonstrate care for your partner.? With repetition and consistency, over time you share connections, and develop a sense of security.? This helps to repair the trust, and sets the course for?you to rebuild your friendship.

Friendship | holding hands

Rebuild

The level of friendship between partners is a significant indicator for success in a relationship.? The stronger your friendship connection, the higher your relationship success.

When your relationship began, together you created a vision of hopes, dreams and goals you planned to work towards.? This includes houses,?children, careers, vacations, lifestyle goals, and the timeline for achieving them.?? An affair is not typically part of this vision, and can lead the injured partner to question: Have we really been working toward the same goal all along?

This question can lead to uncertainty about your future, and in need of confirmation about what the future holds.? Address this uncertainty?by communicating your intent to stay together, as frequently as?needed.? Be honest and clear about what you want going forward, and?encourage your spouse to do the same.

Communicate your boundaries and expectations going forward.? As you?make these adjustments, you establish a clear vision of the future?while also reassuring your partner of your intent to stay together.?You are mending a friendship.? By consistently addressing the?uncertainty you demonstrate caring for your partner.? By sharing and re-negotiating expectations and goals, you establish a plan for being?together. Both are needed to encourage your friend to remain your?friend.

couple falling In love by lake

Reconnect

As we have all heard, time heals.?? But while you allow time to work,?this is the time to take active steps to build more closeness with?your partner.? Even if you and your partner are managing to get along,?life can manage to shake things up at any time.

Acknowledge Landmines.? Reminders of the affair, or that affairs exist?are similar to landmines.? You never know when or where they may be?hiding, but when you find them they blow up your whole day, week or?even longer.? A song on the radio, a scene in a movie or TV show.?Maybe a news article, mention of a city, or specific location connected to the infidelity.? These and many more not only can, but?unavoidably will also pop up.

When landmines show up the emotional response can feel just as strong?as the day the affair was discovered.? These experiences are, to say?the least, uncomfortable, and the straying partner may feel that?talking about them would be poking the emotional bear.

You or your partner may want to avoid, minimize, or even ignore them,?but don?t.? As awkward or uncomfortable as these situations may be,?they are actually opportunities for partners to share and understand?the ongoing impact of the infidelity, and then work through the hurt?together.? Emphasis on together.

landmine warning

The injured partner will be faced with landmines on sometimes a daily?basis.? Dealing with them alone can make your partner feel alone, not?understood, and uncared for.? These feelings will no doubt defeat your?goal of coming closer together, and will only create further distance?between you.? Working through these feelings together allows you the?opportunity to heal together rather than separate and alone.? It can?prove comforting when your partner is considerate of this, and is?willing to consistently demonstrate caring and support.

Working together through an affair takes time and a great deal of?patience.? The challenge of addressing the damage when our hurt and?defensiveness is high can be overwhelming, and at times seem?impossible to overcome.? Finding ways to reconnect with your partner?can be difficult or at times may not be well received.?man kissing his lovers hand

Practice patience, with yourself and with your partner.? Unfortunately?there is no timeline or rule book for exactly how you will find your?way back to each other.? At times you may want to speed up the?process, only to find a new bump in the road.?Rest assured this is truly a situation where persistence and?consistency pay off.? Stick with it, and you can get the results you?are looking for.

If you have dealt with this or are dealing with this, reach out to me. I can help you. I specialize in relationships. Don’t wait another day to start healing!

Unhappy couple on bench 16 May 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Faith / Infidelity / Marriage / Relationship / Trauma

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How To Handle Infidelity

Marriage is a time when vows are taken.? Vows become a covenant.? Covenant is a word you may not hear a lot of unless you read a spiritual book like the Bible.? It is sacred word. Nowadays, there are people who don?t view marriage as sacred. When people in a relationship commit to each other and exchange vows, ideally, that event should be set apart.? What happens when that commitment is not looked after? If a marriage is left unattended or neglected by either spouse, then ugly will occur. What happens to the marriage if the husband or wife decides to seek comfort in the arms of another?

Infidelity, like adultery, is an ugly word.? Yet when spouses engage in an affair, ugly is the last thing they think about.? It?s a time of excitement and adventure for them.? The nagging guilt of breaking vows is often pushed back. Like an addict, the adulterer is very good at rationalizing their behavior.? It?s only when the person is caught or decides to finally come clean that the repercussions and consequences begin to unfold.? For the person being betrayed?? Other emotions are displayed.? Anger, hurt, betrayal, and sadness come screaming to the forefront.? Overnight, trust is shattered.? They ask questions and no answer seems good enough.

What happens next?? For some, infidelity is a deal breaker and to them there is no option but divorce. Lives are irrevocably changed.? Families are broken up and kids are left to wonder, “what happens now?”? There are a plethora of reasons why the Bible speaks so forcibly on the subject of adultery.? ?Do not commit adultery? is one of the 10 Commandments. God has warned us of the devastation that infidelity can bring.? It doesn?t get much plainer than those 4 words.? It?s Gods way of putting up flashing neon lights, road blocks, and danger signs just to get our attention.? Yet the sexual revolution has made it easier to go around these warnings signs and plow right into the ugly and pain.

There are some couples that fight for their marriage.? It is a difficult and emotionally draining time for both spouses. ?Offending spouses should come to a point of brokenness, not because they got caught, but because it is in that space of brokenness that remorsefulness is authentic that spouses can own up to their trespass. If the repentance is genuine, is there a chance for forgiveness and reconciliation?? For those that seek reconciliation, counseling can be a place where healing begins to take place.? My goal is that when clients meet with me or any therapist at Armstrong Family Counseling that they enter into a safe space that?s nonjudgmental and a place that fosters hope.

Both spouses have to face certain truths about the state of their relationship.? They will have to individually and together decide if their marriage is worth fighting for.? They will have to be willing to listen to each other. They should come to a point where they are willing to walk through the many different emotions and actions that a counseling session might bring up.?

Perhaps for the first time they will learn to be on the same page.? But as I am sure you know, nothing worth while ever comes easy.? Rebuilding a marriage will take time.? There are no easy fixes. ?If you are spiritual, then God or your higher power can play a giant role in bringing about new life to the marriage.? With honest hard work from both spouses, and lots of prayer, there is hope for a new beginning.? One woman wrote on the website The Unveiled Wife about her experience and what occurred when she trusted God to rebuild her marriage into something better.

?There is a reason for EVERYTHING ? every tear, every heartache, and every lonely night. Our marriage is already significantly more intimate, physically AND spiritually, than it ever was in the previous five years. Our God can heal? Our God can renew? It is all possible with our God. Believe!?

If you need help moving foward, I am a relationship expert. I can help you. Don’t wait, contact me today!happy couple

12 Mar 2018

BY: Gabe Fry | LPC | Relationship, Depression, & Anxiety Expert

Abuse / Couples therapy / Marriage / Relationship

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Am I Married To A Narcissist?

I get asked this question a lot in my counseling sessions. So, I thought I would take some time to address it here.? Most of the time I am asked by one member of a marriage or relationship if their partner is narcissistic.? Usually this is a question that they ask because they are genuinely confused as to why their spouse always seems to control the conversation, belittle or dismiss their opinions, or seem to have a sense of entitlement.

The first thing I check is if anyone else outside of the relationship sees this pattern?? Do other family members, friends, or co-workers see these behaviors or is it just around you that he or she acts this way?? If your spouse is treating other people this way and/or they have a history of doing this in their past, then it?s more likely that are narcissistic.?However, what if you are the only one that they seem to act this way around.? Does that make them a narcissist?? Honestly, it makes it less likely.? If a certain behavior only shows up in one setting, then there is something about that setting that is causing the behavior.? In other words, if you are the only one who thinks your spouse is a narcissist then you might what to consider other possibilities.? One possibility is that your marriage has reached gridlock.

A marriage that is in gridlock tends to look like this:

  1. There has been a long period of mutual pain, frustration or disappointment.
  2. It has been a long time since you each genuinely enjoyed being in each other company.
  3. When you fight neither you nor your spouse view it as productive.
  4. When you fight neither you nor your spouse feel ?heard?.

Marriages in gridlock get that way because one or both spouses feel hurt.? Because they have been hurt repeatedly by their partner they stop seeking the other partners well-being.? Instead the hurt spouse begins to focus on ?damage control?.? Their goal becomes just getting through each day with their head down and hoping that they don?t piss of the other spouse.

This type of mentality causes a person to mimic many of the signs of narcissism. The person starts to control the conversation instead of listening because they are trying to prevent you from hurting them with your words or tone of voice.? They begin to focus predominantly on their own opinion and will often stop trying to convince you they are right and will just tell you they are right.? This happens because they haven?t felt ?heard? in a long time. And when you don?t feel heard you shout your opinion even louder.

Furthermore, a gridlocked marriage can lead to a spouse developing a sense a sense of entitlement.? This happens because both partners feel as though they have already given up a lot for this marriage and now their partner is asking for more.

Maybe they feel like they already do spend enough time with the kids, but you want more.

Or maybe they feel that they are already having sex more often they want, but you want more.

Often times their spouse doesn?t seem to appreciate how much they have given up to make this marriage work, so why give more up?

Finally, narcissism and gridlock both look very similar because pain causes all of us to be self-focused and narcissistic.? Have you ever known someone who is sick or in pain to not be narcissistic?? So, if you think your spouse is a narcist get a second opinion.

Cover of Healing From Hidden Abuse by Shannon Thomas

Maybe you’re right and you are married to an unhealthy individual but what if is just a symptom that your marriage is near the point of no return?? Are you willing to end a marriage without trying everything you could to save it?? Seek a second opinion either from a trusted therapist or read a book on the subject.

For more information about being married to a narcissist I would recommend Shannon Thomas? book ?Healing from Hidden Abuse?.? She outlines what narcissistic personality disorder looks like and how those people tend to behave.

If you are having troubles or unresolved issues in your marriage or relationship, I can help you. Reach out to me today and schedule your initial appointment.

 

Smiling couple reconciling at therapy session 03 Jan 2018

BY: Angela Lake, MA, LPC, NCC | Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Specialist, Trauma, Parenting, & Relationship Expert

Couples therapy / Depression / Marriage / Trauma

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My Approach To Marriage Counseling

 

I assume that both people are good at heart

This is an important assumption because it allows for?each person to feel loved and valued.??No one wants to be the problem, and it does no good to anyone if one person is singled out. Even in cases where all signs appear to point to just one person, marriage is never that simple, and many problems only appear to weigh more than others, when in reality, they don?t. There is simply no way to accurately keep score in this way, nor would it do any good for the marriage. ?It is much better to assume that each person is good at heart and wants the best for the other and for the marriage. ?This assumption makes people feel good, and it lays the?foundation for an environment of growth.

Smiling couple reconciling at therapy session

I?distinguish between what can and cannot change

There is nothing more disheartening than to be rejected for who we are deep inside, and there is nothing more satisfying than to be truly accepted and loved for who we really are. ?For this reason, I assess for personality type?early on in counseling.

We need to know which parts of our spouse we should accept and embrace and which parts we can expect to change over time. ?Until we see our spouse for who they are deep down, it is a near impossible task to distinguish between the two.

I cannot count the number of?powerful and life changing sessions?that have come from assessing personality type, sessions in which two people look at each other for the first time with?wonder and understanding, the kind of understanding that brings both?forgiveness and hope. ?The forgiveness because of the realization that so much heartache over the years has simply come from not?truly understanding each other,?the hope because of being on new terrain where wonderful growth and intimacy are now possible.

I educate people about the other gender

Yes, men and women are?actually?different. ?What men and women?need?in a relationship is also different. ?In fact, the most important needs of one gender are almost never the same for the other.

When we assume that what we need is the same as what our spouse needs, we often focus on giving the wrong things, and we can become disillusioned when those things don?t seem to invoke much emotion. ?We then often begin to assume that something is wrong with our spouse and our marriage, when what is needed is to learn spouse?s needs and fulfill those needs, which are almost always completely different from our own.

Gentleman helping his girlfriend with the chair

Since we do not receive an instruction manual when we say, ?I do,? this is something we simply need to learn. ?I also have each person give an honest assessment of how the other is meeting their needs. ?This is very important because we need that information to make the needed changes.

 

I look for signs of trauma

Recognizing trauma when it is present in a marriage is vital.??Even the most experienced marriage counselors struggle to help couples in distress when there is trauma present.? Many counselors fail to identify trauma, and very few take steps to see that it is treated.

The essential feature of trauma is a system (body and mind) that is in a?continuous state of arousal,?prepared to defend?against any threat.? This is very effective for keeping one safe, but it also makes it?very difficult to be in healthy, intimate relationships.

Many incidents that occur in every day married life can be incorrectly identified by the traumatized system as?potential threats.? When this occurs regularly, the marriage is in continual chaos.? Whenever I recognize that trauma is present, I explain what I see and make appropriate treatment recommendations.? As the trauma begins to heal, the marriage improves in ways that would never be possible without the trauma treatment.

I get to the root of the issues

Most couples new to counseling first report their main problem being lack of communication. ?This is a reasonable way to conceptualize the issues because most couples don?t understand the root of their own complaints, much less the root of their partner?s. ?For this reason, it just feels like a lack of communication.

I move couples quickly beyond seeing the issues as simply communication issues and help them to see them for what they are. ?This is a tremendous help to couples because they gain the correct language to discuss the real issues and the ability to change what is truly ailing them.

 

I foster an environment of intimacy

I am not cupid. ?I cannot create love. ?I can only foster an environment where love can grow. ?The majority of couples that come into my office already have deep love that has developed, even if it is buried under a mountain of hurt and anger.

For love to develop, or for forgotten love to return, there must be intimacy. ?For intimacy, there must be vulnerability. ?For vulnerability, there must be trust. ?When trust has been broken, I help couples regain it. ?Where trust has never fully been achieved, I help them achieve it. ?Once trust is felt, couples begin to relax; vulnerability begins to set in, and in time, intimacy is gained. ?This must be done delicately, and this is one reason marriage counseling is so important.

 

I trust my gut and my skill

It is a true statement that nearly anyone can DO marriage counseling. ?That is to say that nearly anyone can learn the techniques and perform them. ?In the same way, nearly anyone can learn to shoot a basketball, give a massage, or design an office space. ?This doesn?t mean they have the talent to play professional basketball, the special touch to give healing massages, or the creative eye to design an office space with character.

In the same way, marriage counseling requires true?talent and instinct.??I know that?I have it, and I rely on it.?I can?t begin to plan for every possible scenario in marriage counseling, nor would I try to. ?Because of that, I often find myself in situations where I have no plan and nothing in my notes or research articles telling me what to do. ?I don?t worry when this happens; I trust my gut and my skill. ?This is when the true?magic in counseling?happens, when I have no idea what I?m about to do or say, and then after a long and very successful session, I look back on it and I think,?Did I really just do that?

I?m sure other professionals often feel the same way, the basketball player who marvels at how they just made an incredible shot, the massage therapist who just sensed what was ailing their client and sent them away dramatically better than how they came in, the interior designer who just designed an office space that magically transformed the office space into a haven of peace and productivity, none of these professionals having seen the outcome ahead of time, all of them amazed at what they somehow just accomplished. ?The talent and instinct of the marriage counselor is paramount. There are libraries of books filled with great marriage advice; it takes a great marriage counselor to?transform a marriage in need.

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