The FDA released the news that nutrition labels are being revised after 20 years, but what does that have to do with relationships? Data from studies are showing that people are hungry for companionship. What people must face is that even with the advances in relationship counseling techniques, and global technology to help people stay in better touch, people are not feeling more connected to each other. It is important to consider how nutrition is required for bodies, but relationships need it too.
In the latter part of the ’50s, the concept of loneliness came to the attention of Psychoanalyst Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, who wrote an essay about it. This topic had not been studied much before that time. She defined loneliness as “the want of intimacy.” Research in 2010 conducted by the AARP showed that 1 out of 3 adults age 45 and older reported feeling lonely over an extended period of time, which meant a significant number of them were chronically lonely.
What can people do to combat being chronically lonely? Because loneliness can creep into anyone’s life, how can people improve their abilities to increase trust in others, thereby increasing the levels of intimacy they experience?
A few interaction techniques can nourish our relationships at a deeper level, and are recommended.
A stay-at-home mom who was at home all day with her kids, named Glennon Melton, wrote about her reaction to having her husband come home from working all day, then having him not understand how her day went. Her husband’s general question of “How was your day?” did not do much for her:
This is not a complaint, so don’t try to FIX IT. I wouldn’t have my day Any.Other.Way. I’m just saying — it’s a hell of a hard thing to explain — an entire day with lots of babies.
Eventually the Meltons went to get help for their marriage, and because of the clinical help they received, they were able to learn how to ask more specific and caring questions. The couple experienced how professional counseling can be as important as required nutrition for bodies, and that their relationship needed it desperately. The couple learned to probe closer to each other’s hearts, by questions like these, as suggested by this writer:
Did you have any time today to yourself?
Have you had time to reflect on what could make our marriage better?
Have you felt loved in our relationship?
Have I said or done anything lately that has made you feel criticized?
Is their anything I can do to help you relax more after coming home from a long day?
This couple then applied this question-asking technique to their kids, and instead of saying, “how was your day,” they asked more specific questions to encourage their kids to talk openly, such as these queries, suggested by this writer:
What made you most happy today?
Was there ever a time when you felt like going into your own world?
Did you try to reach out to someone new today?
The same thoughtful questions can help friendships as well. Instead of saying “Hey how’s it goin?’ We can take the time to stop and set up a time to sit down, and ask, “I heard about your son’s hospitalization, and wanted to know about his progress?” Other suggested questions by this writer include, “How is your dad doing since your mom passed away?” and finally, “How are you doing since you have left your teaching job?”
Asking questions which probe each other’s heart requires strong and well-tuned listening ability. Listening involves many skills which have to be practiced. Looking at a person attentively, paraphrasing and then encouraging the person to expand their thoughts is an unending area that most people need to work on. Asking questions won’t produce the desired outcome unless the person asking the question listens carefully to the response.
Just as “hidden hunger” is a problem throughout the world with people everywhere suffering from a habitual loss of vitamins and minerals, people today need to recognize the hidden hunger for true intimacy in the friends, family and youth around them. Proper nutrition is required for bodies, but relationships need it too.
By Danelle Cheney, Ph.D.