Humans are wired for connection from the beginning. There’s one primary way we fuel that drive. Relationships. Yet, most of us are feeling incredibly lonely.
Cigna released a study that showed loneliness took more years off your life than smoking. That is terrifying. We’ve seen this to be true for seniors. The elderly who have social contact live longer and do better than those in isolation. If it’s such a universal need, why on earth do we all struggle with it so much?
Even those surrounded by others can feel lonely. There are those wanting more relationships and then there are the difficulties in the relationships we do have. Family relationships, dating and marriage issues, friendship challenges, fights with neighbors, struggles with acquaintances. Odds are you’ve experienced at least one if not all of these are some point in your life.
Most of these battles are not the high conflict dramas playing out between two people but quiet, painful battles that play out in our minds that we often don’t talk about.
Some of this is situational. The rise of technologies has us starting more at screens than people’s faces. We’ve become a convenience-based society where we work more hours to pay for services that family, friends, and neighbors used to provide (think childcare). Parents will work more hours to pay for childcare instead of having community to help which also was a source of connection and mutual help. Texting and social media have replaced phone calls and visits. Ease of travel has made the world smaller and loved ones may live across the country or even on another continent. Not to mention the impact of the pandemic and quarantine on everyone right now.
Some of this is history. So many of us have had some experience that felt like failure in relationships. Depending on what your family is like, you may not have had good examples for healthy relationships, hell you may have had terrible examples. Our family is our first experience at connecting and if these experiences are troubled for whatever reason, this will of course impact us and impact future connections. Experiences with bullying, rejection, or being left out at early ages can also take their toll. Even small experiences of disconnection leave their mark. Often this roots itself as self doubt, feelings of inadequacy, and blaming ourselves for what’s gone wrong. It’s universally human to feel like you must be the root cause of the problem even though more often than not, this isn’t actually the case. Learning how to heal from past hurts, to not take failures so personally, and to be unapologetically yourself are inner work pieces that take us so far in having better relationships and just being happier in general. This is often the deep introspective work that happens with a therapist you can trust.
Relationship challenges are not all rooted in the past. Some are merely human skills. You know, the stuff they don’t teach in schools. I say merely, as if it’s so simple. I’ve been a therapist for almost a decade, teaching relationship skills to others, and yet I struggle still sometimes. These are not easy skills to master and every situation is different. But how to make, keep, and deepen connections, is a practice no different than cultivating a garden or nurturing hobby. We have to put in time and effort and regularly examine it for what it needs, what it’s missing. Learning how to demonstrate that care for another person and how to ask for what you want and need from other people is a skill set that you can master.
So what do we do about it? And what are those skills? There are a lot of ways to deepen existing relationships as well as cultivate new opportunities for connection. If you are interested in learning more about how you can have better relationships, join us Thursday 8/27 for our Refined Relationships workshop and networking event for women. We are sharing ways to improve existing connections, create new and genuine relationships, no matter what your experience has been in the past. And you'll have a chance to virtually meet and connect with other women wanting the same thing while you're there.