Building Trust with Teen Daughters

Building Trust with Teen Daughters

15522462741_430a720ed8_k

The one thing teenagers want more than anything is FREEDOM . If you are a parent of a teenager, you definitely understand the struggle between protecting your teen and giving her freedom. Before your adolescent can have freedom, she has to BUILD YOUR TRUST. Often, teenagers view trust and freedom as the same thing, but they need to realize trust and freedom are not the same. When a teenager is asking for trust, she really means freedom. It is important to make the distinction between these two important aspects of relationships. Balancing limits, freedom, and opportunities to build trust is difficult for most parents. Due to the frustration this balance can create, there are those parents who blindly trust their teen even though the teen does not deserved it.  When an adolescent has not learned how to be trustworthy, she may use her freedom in an immature way.  Those parents who are fearful of giving their adolescent freedom may be on the opposite side of the spectrum: they do not give their teenager any freedom. This approach can lead to broken rules and dishonesty. How do you adequately balance limits, freedom, and opportunities to build trust?

Can I Trust My Teen?

Savannah, your 16 year old, just got her license to drive. She asks if she can drive two of her friends to a movie, and she promises to come home right after she drops her friends off. As her parent, you are thinking this is a good opportunity to build trust with your daughter. You remember she has completed all her homework assignments this week, and she has been responsible in her driving. As a result of her responsibility this week, Savannah is allowed to go to the movie with her friends. About an hour after Savannah leaves, you receive a call from a couple who is a friend of you and your spouse. The friend wants to let you know she saw Savannah with a boy at the mall. This friend was concerned because she saw Savannah kissing this boy.

How would you handle this situation? Is Savannah trustworthy?

Trustworthiness is…

  • Keeping your word. If you say you are going to do something, follow through.
  • Honesty. Choosing to be truthful even when it could get you in trouble.
  • Even if you do not agree with someone, you treat him/her how you would like to be treated. When you get loud and gruff with your teen, this does not lead to her identifying what she did wrong. It will actually motivate your teen to focus on your poor behavior rather than her own.
  • Accepting Limits. Respecting the limits or boundaries set in a relationship because you understand their importance in building trust.
  • Acknowledging your mistakes. We all make mistakes. Admitting to these mistakes and taking responsibility for them is what makes someone trustworthy.

How Can I Help My Teen Build Trust?

The following are from John Townsend’s book Boundaries with Teens.  This is a great resource for building healthy boundaries with your teenager.

Stay informed about your teen’s life.

If you do not know your teen, how do you know you can trust her? It is important as a parent to stay informed about your teen’s academics, extracurricular activities, and social life. Without this information, it is easier for your teen to be deceptive. When you do not have information about her life, your teen will find it easier to be dishonest. While your teen may appear to dislike your involvement in her life, in actuality, she wants you to be interested in her activities, hobbies, and achievements. Therefore, make it a priority to be informed about your teen!

Communicate that your love is unconditional, but freedom is not free.

Your love should not be based on your adolescent’s actions or ability levels. The love you have for your daughter should be unconditional: you will always love her. Communicating your love is unconditional is just as important as feeling unconditional love. Your adolescent must be told and shown your love is not based on anything she can do. It a free gift you happily give to her.

On the other hand, freedom has to be earned. As we all know, freedom comes at a price and your teen has to learn this concept. It is better she learn it from you than the police. In order to earn freedom, your adolescent must learn how to build your trust. Trust leads to freedom.  Communicate with your adolescent how being trustworthy in a certain activity will lead to freedom.

Give your teen opportunities to build trust.

Your teenager cannot build trust without the opportunity of failure. Yes, I said FAILURE! Success as well as failure in these opportunities will provide learning opportunities for your teen. After all, no one is perfect. Failures are tough but not final. This is an important lesson. As a parent, you need to provide limits where your teen has a choice to make; if she makes a responsible choice she earns freedom, if the decision is an irresponsible choice she loses freedom.  Opportunities to build trust can be everyday tasks or specific boundaries set by a parent in order to help the teen learn to make a responsible choice. For example, when a teen starts on her homework at night without being asked this builds trust through your teen being responsible for daily tasks. If your teen is given the opportunity to go to her high school’s football game and she arrives home at her curfew time, this is a specific boundary you set as a parent that is helping your teen build trust.

Give leniency for confession and consequences for deception.

Everyone makes mistakes; no one is perfect. Surely, you can remember a time when you did not follow your parents’ rules. For this reason, it is important to let your adolescent know when she does make a mistake, it is better for her to tell you about it than to hide it. While there should be a consequence for the mistake, make sure it is less severe than if she lied to you about the mistake. This provides another way for you to encourage your teen to be honest no matter the circumstance.

Make time for your relationship with your teen.

With all this talk about trust, freedom, and limits, it can make a parent sound like the bad guy. While it is important to set boundaries and enforce consequences, you have to make sure you make time to build a relationship with your teen. It is important that you do not see your role as becoming her friend because you are her parent. Always make sure you thoroughly talk with your teen about boundaries and consequences. Make sure to praise her when she is responsible and trustworthy. When you do have discussions with your teen about trust, freedom, and boundaries make sure you listen to your teen. This helps your teen feel understood and develops a closer bond between yourself and your teen. Even if your teen does make a mistake, make time to have a discussion about the incident where both you and your teen have a chance to discuss what happened. It is important your teen feel heard and understood. Teens and parents both know that hearing and understanding don’t have to involve agreeing.

 

In the previous example about Savannah, how would you handle the situation?

  • First of all, you would need to give her an opportunity to explain what happened. After she has been given a chance to explain herself, you would need to discuss what she did that broke the limits you set on the activity.
  • Next, you would need to explain to her the need for her to rebuild your trust and the consequences of her actions would be a reduction in her freedom.
  • At this point she may be upset, and it would be important to give her a chance to express herself and try to understand how she is feeling. Reflect back to her what she shared with you and express your unconditional love for her.
  • Thoroughly discuss the limits around her freedom and the opportunities she will have to build trust.
  • Lastly, do not distance yourself from Savannah, but continue to build the relationship despite the mistake.

Reference: Townsend, J. (2006). Boundaries with teens: When to say yes how to say no. Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan.

If you or someone you know is struggling with parenting a teenager, please contact The Relationship Center. We have professionals who know how to help.

anxiety counselors

Over 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Family Counseling at The Relationship Center

 

Worrying: Why We Do It

WorryingCan all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things? (Luke 12:25-26, New Living Translation)

Worrying is a common part of the human existence. So common, Jesus himself felt the need to address the frivolousness of it. Those who worry understand it is not helpful, but why, then, do we continue to do it? Most actions that are repeated are continued because, in some way, they serve a purpose. What purpose does worrying serve?

Fear

For some, the purpose of worry is to reduce fear.  This fear can be of the unknown or the possibility of something happening (Backus & Chapian, 1981). For example, you may be unsure of where you will work after you graduate. Therefore, you worry about how you will find a job. Maybe your son is going on a trip overseas, and you find yourself worrying about him being robbed or getting lost. The first example discussed is the fear of the unknown while the second example consisted of fear of what may happen. How does worry reduce fear? Through worrying, most people develop a plan of how to resolve the issue he or she is worried about. This plan creates a false sense of control.

The feeling of being in control is powerful. When you feel in control, you feel safe, positive, and prepared. The sense of not being in control is difficult for everyone. However, this false sense of control worrying creates is not real.

Have you ever noticed most situations do not turn out the way in which you worried about them? You find even though you thought you worried about every worst case scenario, there is one you did not think about (Backus & Chapian, 1981). Worrying steals your energy and leaves you exhausted to deal with the real event. While worrying may appear to reduce fear, in actuality, it is a thief of useful resources.

Avoidance

The concept of using worry to be avoidant may be a new idea for many of you reading this article. How can worrying about something make you avoidant?  While you may hate the fact you worry, it may actually be more comforting than facing the problem itself.

Worrying may be so ingrained in your routine, it actually serves a purpose of helping you avoid situations or emotions you believe are too difficult to deal with (Backus & Chapian, 1981). For example, you may allow yourself to worry about your finances instead of creating a budget or thinking about the fight you had with your spouse last night. To truly understand if you use worry to avoid, you will have to be willing to evaluate your motives for worrying.

Worrying not only serves the purpose of avoidance, but it can also lead to learned helplessness. Learned helplessness refers to a false sense of inability to solve problems due to previous failures.  It is learned helplessness because, in actuality, you are not helpless. You have learned to believe you are helpless.

How does this pertain to worrying?

  1. When you worry, you feel a lack of control.
  2. Worrying makes you believe the only way to control the situation is to worry about it.
  3. Worrying may lead to avoidance of events or things that worry you. If you never face the content of your worries, you will never know your capacity to overcome your negative thoughts (Backus & Chapian, 1981).
  4. Avoidance can lead to learned helplessness. If you never take a risk to face the unknown, you start to believe you have no control over things that happen to you. You believe you are helpless. In reality, you have control if only you would try.

The following is an example of this concept:  You have a co-worker who seems rude to you when you ask for help. Whenever you try to ask her a question, her answers are short and sometimes she ignores you. Due to these interactions, you find yourself worrying about what you say to this co-worker. Actually, you find yourself avoiding her. You feel you have no control over the interactions because she is the one being rude. Therefore, you do not try to talk with her about your concerns. You believe you are helpless when, in actuality, you are not. While you cannot control this co-worker’s actions, you can express your frustrations about her reactions to you. This is one way you have control. You have control over addressing the issue or avoiding. You may avoid this situation because confrontation and how your co-worker may react is more frightening than dealing with the worry. In this example, telling yourself you have no control or there is nothing you can do is learned helplessness. You have control if only you would face your fear of talking with your co-worker.


The insight obtained through understanding the purpose worrying serves can be helpful in reducing the worry you experience. You cannot work on something you do not understand. More importantly, knowing the purpose of your worry can help you replace worry with healthier ways to get your needs met.

Rather than worrying to gain control of the situation, take steps toward having an actual level of control. If you have realized worrying helps you avoid, identify the things you are avoiding and why you are avoiding them.  This removes some of their power over you. Jesus not only spoke about the frivolousness of worrying, but He also spoke about the hope He provides:

 “And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?” (Luke 12:28, New Living Translation).

If you or someone you know struggles with worrying or anxiety, please contact The Relationship Center. We have professionals who know how to help.

 anxiety counselorsOver 1,700 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 18,500 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Anxiety Counseling at The Relationship Center

Reference

Backus, W., & Chapian, M. (1981). Misbelief in anxiety. Telling yourself the truth (pp. 63-77). Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers.

How to Forgive Your Husband

forgiveFor if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others, then your heavenly Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:14-15, New American Standard Bible).

Forgiveness is imperative in relationship with others. Not only will you need to forgive others, you will also need to ask forgiveness of others. Marriage is the one relationship in your life that has the greatest potential for growth. With this great potential for growth, there is also a possibility for hurt. Therefore, forgiveness is an essential part of the marital relationship, but as we all know, it is easier said than done. So, how does a wife work toward true forgiveness of her husband?

Recall the Hurt

Some of you reading this may ask, “Why do I need to recall the hurt? I already know how he has hurt me.” Recalling the hurt is not simply remembering what happened to cause the pain.  For some of you, there may be many instances where you have been hurt by your husband. With so many hurtful events, it may seem overwhelming to forgive him. Therefore, it is easier to identify specific events where you felt hurt (Worthington, 2003).


For example, on many occasions your husband has not supported your agreed upon parenting styles in front of his mother. While there are many times this has happened, it is important to visualize a specific, or more than one specific, example to this hurt. One specific example might be last Christmas, where your husband gave into your son’s tantrum.  In thinking about this example, you would remember the time you and your husband spent discussing that you would no longer give into your three year old’s temper tantrums. When your son has a tantrum, he is sent to time out. You both agreed upon this. Then, on Christmas morning when your son throws himself on the ground because he has to wait to open presents, your husband allows your son to open his presents because your mother-in-law insists that her grandchild means no harm.


Another aspect of recalling the hurt involves identifying and releasing the emotions you felt during the hurt (Worthington, 2003). You may have felt or still feel helpless, anger, fear, sadness, or betrayal (Worthington, 2003). This is not an exhaustive list, so there may be many more emotions you likely experienced when you were hurt. It is imperative to acknowledge these emotions and have a healthy outlet for releasing them:

  • Writing about them in a private journal
  • Doing crafts
  • Punching a pillow or punching bag
  • Talking with a trusted friend

Empathize

Empathize…you may be thinking, “There is no way I am empathizing with him! He cannot understand my side, so why I should I empathize with him?” To empathize with your husband does not mean you are condoning what he did. The refusal of empathy is a form of revenge and the protection it offers is only an illusion. Empathy does not make us vulnerable; it helps us exercise wisdom. Empathy is about understanding. To understand does not make someone vulnerable. You only become vulnerable when you give up your ability to make your own decisions.

The purpose of this step is to help you understand what he was thinking and to take him out of the “villain” role. The act of putting your husband in the villain role involves removing or discarding evidence that supports why he acted the way he did.  When you see your husband as a villain, he cannot do anything right. When we put someone in a villain role we put ourselves in the victim role (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, & Switzler, 2012).  Genuinely ask yourself, are you truly a victim here? In most situations, the answer is no.

In order to have empathy with your husband, it may be helpful to write an apology letter as if you were your husband (Worthington, 2003). You would write the letter as if it were your husband explaining why he hurt you and asking for an apology.


Let’s go back to the example listed earlier about your husband not supporting you in front of his mother. If you think about the situation from your husband’s perspective, he may not have supported you because he wanted to please his mom. He may have been trying to live up to the standards that his mom has for him. While this does not make his actions right or justify them, it does give understanding, which is the purpose of this exercise.


It is important to note, this is just your opinion of his side of the story. It does not have to be correct; the importance of this step is to understand how the situation looks different compared to your own point of view.

Altruistic Gift of Forgiveness

Can you think of a time when someone forgave you? What about a time when you did not ask for forgiveness or feel you deserved it? When you think of times you have been forgiven, you probably feel grateful and relieved (Worthington, 2003). It can be helpful to think of forgiveness as a gift you give to your husband whether you feel he deserves it or not. Another word we can use is grace. Think about the grace given daily by our heavenly Father. We do not deserve it, but we are so thankful for this grace.

Three parts are important to giving the gift of forgiveness: guilt, gratitude, and gift (Worthington, 2003, pp. 121-122).

  1. Remember the guilt you experienced when you felt you had wronged someone and needed their forgiveness.
  2. When that person gave you forgiveness you did not deserve, can you remember the gratitude you felt (Worthington, 2003)?
  3. It may have felt like an incredible gift of which you did not deserve, also known as grace.

Commit Publicly To Forgive

You know when you make a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, go to the gym, or start a diet, and within a week you are back to your old ways? Many times, you find that these resolutions are more successful when you tell someone about it who can support you. With forgiveness, it is necessary to tell your husband or write a certificate of forgiveness in order to commit to the forgiveness (Worthington, 2003). Expressing forgiveness in an outward way will help you hold on to your forgiveness, we will talk about this in the next section.

Publically committing to forgive does not mean that you have to forget or ignore the emotions that went along with the hurt. It means you have let that hurtful action go, and you will no longer hold the hurtful action over your husband’s head. It is giving up your desire or right to hurt back. Forgiveness is about you, not him or his response. Forgiveness is not trust.

Hold on to Forgiveness

You may question yourself on how you know if you really have forgiven your husband. Or how do you not allow other hurts to cloud your forgiveness of your husband? It is important to hold on to forgiveness in order not to allow grievances from the past to continue to control your relationship with your husband. The act of holding onto forgiveness is also important in remembering to give your husband grace for his mistakes. Five ways to hold on to forgiveness include (Worthington, 2003, p. 149):

  1. The emotions that you experience from remembering the hurt does not mean you have not forgiven.
  2. Do not let negative emotions control you.
  3. Tell yourself that you have forgiven your husband.
  4. If you spoke to a trusted friend, it may be helpful to ask for support.
  5. Review the journaling or certificate of forgiveness you created.

The five steps above are part of the REACH model of forgiveness developed by Christian psychologist Everett Worthington (Worthington, 2003).

If you or someone you know is struggling with forgiveness, please contact The Relationship Center. We have professional counselors who can help.

References

Patterson, K., Grenny, J., McMillan, R., & Switzler, A. (2012). Master my stories: How to stay in dialogue when you’re angry, scared, or hurt. In Crucial Conversations: Tools for talking when the stakes are high (pp. 103-130). New York, NY: McGraw Hill.

Worthington, E. L. (2003). Forgiving and reconciling: Bridges to wholeness and Hope. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Center

Intimacy and Eating Disorders

Intimacy is not a common topic discussed in the treatment of eating disorders. However, it is important in the development and healing of these types of disorders. When the word intimacy is used, it can be confusing to know what it means. The word intimacy is going to be used in two ways in this article:

  1. Intimacy is a trusting, close, and loving relationship with someone.
  2. Intimacy can be defined as sexual intercourse.

The impact that eating disorders have on both of these types of intimacy will be discussed in this article.

Intimacy: A Close Relationship

A relationship that is intimate is one where each person in the relationship is honest, trustworthy, and caring for the other person. Due to these characteristics, the people in the relationship feel close to one another and try to do what is in the best interest of the other person.

Another aspect of intimacy in a relationship is identity (Rogers, 2008). One must know who she is in order to work on knowing someone else. If you do not know yourself, how can you try to know someone else? Eating disorders make it nearly impossible to develop and maintain intimate relationships for the following reasons:

Self-Hatred

While those with eating disorders may not come out and say they hate themselves, they acknowledge how much they dislike parts of their bodies. Individuals who struggle with an eating disorder have a distorted view of their body. When someone with anorexia is dying from starvation, she will still see her body as fat when she looks in the mirror.

The combination of a distorted view and dislike for your body creates a self-hatred separating you from others. When you dislike or even hate yourself, or aspects of yourself, it is extremely difficult to see the good in others and have a close relationship with someone.

Isolation

Someone who struggles with an eating disorder also struggles with isolating herself from others. It is actually ironic because most of the time someone suffering from an eating disorder feels alone, but she also separates herself from others due to her insecurities.

These insecurities make it difficult for someone with an eating disorder to accept others will be able to see past her faults. Therefore, rather than trying to build relationships, you actually avoid others in order to hide your insecurities and keep your secrets.

Secrets

If you have an eating disorder, you may be telling yourself “I don’t have secrets.” I would argue that you do. Of the people I have worked with who have eating disorders, very few share this struggle with others. The eating disorder is the biggest secret you are keeping.

Another secret involves telling your family and friends you have already eaten or are not hungry, when you are actually starving. Or maybe you say you haven’t eaten, when in actuality you have, but you are so anxious that you feel you need food to calm down. It is nearly impossible to build intimate relationships with others when you keep secrets from them and are not truthful with yourself.

Intimacy: Sexual Relationship

The first close relationship a girl experiences with the opposite sex is with her father (Rogers, 2008). The father-daughter relationship forms the foundation for which the daughter will compare all other relationships with the opposite sex (Rogers, 2008). The quality of the father-daughter relationship greatly impacts how the daughter sees herself and allows others to treat her (Rogers, 2008). The relationship with her father directly impacts how she views her own body and can eventually influence the sexual relationship with her husband.

With disordered eating as previously mentioned, the view of the body is distorted. What a woman sees in the mirror when she has an eating disorder is not reality. An eating disorder creates the issues previously discussed to make intimate relationships almost impossible. These issues along with the eating disorder also make being sexually intimate extremely difficult, as well, due to the following:

Unhappy with Body

Earlier, self-hatred was explained more as hatred of the body. This hatred of your own body makes it difficult to allow someone else to see your body in a vulnerable state, such as the nudity, related to sexual intimacy. You hate your body when you are wearing clothes, why would let someone see you without clothes?

You even feel this way about your husband; someone you truly care about and who cares about you. Hatred of your body does not motivate you to want to do pleasurable things. Those with eating disorders seek to unconsciously hurt their bodies through disordered eating.

Lack of Trust

While you may tell yourself you don’t have trust issues or you completely trust your husband, this is not entirely true. I will not argue about whether you have trust issues or how much you trust the important people in your life. One comment I will mention is all those secrets and lies you tell to hide your eating disorder actually have a huge impact on your trust of others.

You may not like the idea that you lie in order to hide your eating disorder, but telling people around you that you are not hungry when you are is a lie. It is a lie you are telling yourself and the people you love.

Now that we have established that the impact of hiding an eating disorder impacts trust, how does lack of trust impact sexual intimacy? The short answer is trust impacts sexual intimacy a great deal. Most individuals would say trust is an important ingredient to any long lasting relationship, romantic or not.

Trust is also important when deciding to be sexually intimate. When you do not have trust in yourself, it is difficult to trust others to take care of you in vulnerable states. Why allow yourself to be in your most vulnerable state during sexual intimacy when you do not trust yourself or the person closest to you? You fear that your husband has the same negative thoughts about your body as you do. In order to prevent more hurt, you avoid sexual intimacy altogether.

Inadequacy

A common fear of those with eating disorders is they do not measure up to their goals. They feel “not good enough” or “inadequate” in life. While this is actually untrue, the person with the eating disorder is successful and adequate in many areas of her life. The important point is she does not feel she is adequate.

These feelings of inadequacy spill over into her intimate life as well. If you feel inadequate in other daily tasks, you will also feel in adequate in your sexually intimate life. This inadequacy will make someone with an eating disorder avoid sex altogether or second guess trying to initiate sex with her husband.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call The Relationship Center. We have professionals who know how to help.

Reference

Rogers, D. J. (2008). The Demise and restoration of intimacy. In E. Cumella, M. Eberly, & A. Wall (Eds.), Eating Disorders: A handbook of Christian treatment (pp. 185-192). Nashville, TN: Remuda Ranch.

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

Loneliness and Being Single: What He Can and Cannot Do For You

Single & DatingIt seems there is an unspoken rule in the world of women that states if you are single, there must be something wrong with you.  While logically we can say that is not true, emotionally it is more difficult. I sit with women in my counseling practice struggling with this mentality. Due to past hurtful relationships, you may seek relationships that meet your emotional needs in an unhealthy way.

Experiencing abandonment can be more frightening than abuse. When I use the word abandonment, I am referring to when someone who is important to you has deserted you emotionally or physically. Abandonment can be real or imagined. The following list will help identify what one can get out of a relationship and what one cannot get out of a relationship.

What He Can Do

Support your Relationship with God

When looking for someone to date and even to marry, it is beneficial to find someone who shares your faith and supports you in your relationship with God. A healthy relationship is one in which people are mutually encouraging each other.  It is healthy for him to support you in your walk with the Lord.

What does this look like? A man who supports your faith will enjoy attending church services with you; he will encourage you to join a bible study and for you to spend time with other women who share your beliefs. A man you have to drag to church, refuses to attend church, wants you to skip your bible study, presses you to violate your physical boundaries, or isolates you from Godly women is not someone who supports your faith.

Companionship

The person you choose to date and eventually marry should be your companion. Companionship is important to a healthy relationship.  Building a friendship before you date is beneficial to the future of your relationship (Harris, 2003). While the feeling of being in love is great, feelings can fade quickly (Harris, 2003).

Relationships, especially romantic relationships, should not only be founded on the feelings of love but also on friendship and commitment (Harris, 2003). Relationships founded on friendship and commitment can be romantic, too.

Respect

While respect should not be demanded, it is a healthy expectation in a relationship. Respect should not be one sided. You should also respect the other person in the relationship. What is the difference between being respectful and someone who is respectable? When someone is respectable:

  • Flows out of your identification in Christ, having nothing to do with the other person.  They have a reputation within the community and church of being honest, trustworthy, dependable, accountable, and loving.

When someone is respectful:

  • It is reasonable to note respect may have to be earned if either party has been disrespectful in the past. Earning respect should be a process and not an end in itself.
  • He should never call you names or use derogatory terms to refer to you
  • He should be interested in your opinions
  • He should encourage your aspirations – this does not mean agreeing with them

The way he treats you should be kind both when you are alone and with others. How can you respect him? Listen to his thoughts, concerns, and opinions. Give him space: you do not have to know where he is at all times. Do not allow your emotions to depend on his happiness.

Romance

Every woman likes a little romance now and then. It is important to keep the romance in your relationship alive to preserve the excitement. It is healthy in a relationship to want a man who can be romantic. Many women find the romantic side of a man very attractive. While I am sure many of you have dreamed of romantic dates, it is important to mention that he cannot be your savior.

There is a difference between having romance in the relationship and wanting someone who can right past wrongs.  The latter is not a healthy view of relationships and will be discussed later.  Romantic movies have a habit of portraying the idea that the right man can heal past hurts. This idea is fictional just like most of those romantic movies.

What He Cannot Do

Heal Past Hurts

Unfortunately, many women have struggled with overcoming hurts they have experienced in the past. These hurts may have been a result of relationship or personal mistakes.  No one likes to experience hurt even though it is a part of life. Most would like to get rid of the feelings of hurt as soon as possible. It can be a pattern for some women to allow a relationship to help them forget and heal the hurts. They are unaware this is one of their motives for getting into relationships.

This is an unhealthy habit because only God can heal your  heart. You cannot expect or hope that a relationship will mend emotional scars. In order to heal these types of hurt, it takes personal work at an emotional level. Many times these hurts are so deep you may need professional help to work through these past hurts developing as current struggles.

Cure fears of Abandonment

Some women have a history of being abandoned by the important people around them. If this has happened to you, it can be a scary experience to get into another relationship. In order to prevent future hurt through a failed relationship, you make sure to act in a certain way to prevent this from happening. It is important to know that not all women who have been abandoned will react in the same way but a few examples include:

  • Wanting to spend all your time with him,
  • Making sure you know where he is at all times
  • Checking his phone for messages from other girls
  • Behaving in such a way that always keeps him happy.

Along with wanting to prevent abandonment, some women may fantasize about a perfect relationship which will cure abandonment.  Thoughts such as these may stress that finding the right type of man will erase issues with abandonment. These thoughts and fantasies put the control over the issue in the hands of the man you are dating or want to date.

It is not his responsibility or in his control to cure your fears of abandonment. This leads to control on the part of the woman. You are the only one who has responsibility and control over your fears of abandonment.  The only way to cure these fears is to acknowledge them and work through them yourself.

Rescue You

Earlier we discussed romance is healthy in a dating relationship. Sometimes along with the romance idea, women can equate this with a knight in shining armor who will come and rescue her from all her troubles. While romance in a relationship is healthy, hoping that a man can rescue you from your problems is not. No matter how great a guy he is or how great the relationship, he cannot erase the past.

If you were hoping this would happen, you will be disappointed in every relationship. No man or relationship can rescue you from the issues you face or the hurts that you have experienced. Once again, you are the only one can work through these issues.

Be Your “Project”

There’s this guy that is really cute and you want to date him, but you feel there are a few problems with him. You think to yourself, “If I date him I can help improve him. Then he will be marriage material.” Have you ever thought like this? Or has it been something like “If I date him, I can help him find the Lord, and then we would be perfect for one another.”

If any of you have tried to fulfill these thoughts, you find things do not go as planned. Maybe you help him accept Jesus as his savior, but then you find other things that you dislike about him. It is important to remember that if you think a man you want to date needs to be fixed, you should not be dating him.

What would it be like if you dated someone who felt like he needed to fix you? How would that make you feel? While you may really like someone and feel it is your job to help him change, this is not the purpose a relationship.  Not to mention, you have no control over whether he changes and you will never have control over his behavior. No mother wants to have romance with her son.  A relationship should be uplifting and supportive rather than negative and harmful.

If you or someone you know is struggling with loneliness, contact The Relationship Center. There are professionals who know how to help.

Reference
Harris, J. (2003). I kissed dating goodbye. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books.

family-250x250Over 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Family Counseling at The Relationship Center

How to Talk With Your Teen About Dating

Teen DatingIt happens so fast; one day you’re raising a toddler and the next a teenager. Raising a teenager can be overwhelming, especially when they want to start dating; I am sure you can remember your own teenage years as well as your first date.

It may feel daunting to think about how to bring up the topic of dating with your teenager.  The following guidelines will make this conversation a little easier.

1. Develop a Game Plan

The hardest part about talking with your teen about dating is having a plan. Before you have a conversation with your teen about dating, it is important to develop an idea of what you want to tell them. A good plan includes:

  • Meeting with the teen’s other parents and/or stepparents. Discuss the topic of dating and the following items:
    • Decide on a place, date, and time for the meeting. This should be a date and time that the other parent(s) can also attend.
    • The purpose of dating and how he/she can please God through his/her relationships.
    • Clear rules of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable when dating. It is important for all parents to be on the same page with these.
    • Clear consequences for what happens when the rules are broken. It will be important for you to uphold these consequences.

Make sure to include time for your teen to discuss his/her thoughts, opinions, and feelings about what you have talked about.

2. Set Boundaries

Boundaries are extremely important in any relationship, especially in dating relationships. Cloud and Townsend (2000), who have written many books on boundaries, describe them as a “property line; where you end and the other person begins” (p. 28). It is important for you as a parent to model and teach your teen boundaries (Townsend, 2006).

Boundaries can often be confused with rules. While similar, they still have many differences. Boundaries define your interactions with others and can also provide protection against those who would take advantage of you. While you may have a few rules that define your boundaries, the purpose of rules are more to define appropriate and inappropriate behaviors.

It is possible for your teen to break one of your rules for dating, but still respect your boundaries. For example, your teen may have been out past his/her curfew which is breaking your rules. In this situation, he/she can still respect your boundaries if he/she is able to treat you respectfully when admitting to the wrong and hearing the consequences. Here are some differences between rules and boundaries (Cloud & Townsend, 1992):

Boundaries

Rules

Define you

Set limits on behavior

For protection

For control

Include feelings, attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, choices, values, limits

Right and Wrong

Developed by individual

Developed by self or others

 

3. Develop an atmosphere of openness

When I say openness, I am not saying that anything goes in regard to your teen dating. The point here is to set up an atmosphere for your talk with your teen about dating so that it is open and safe. It is also beneficial to set up a relationship with your teen that is open where they feel comfortable to ask questions and share their opinions. Thoughts and opinions are not the same as actions, teens will often have ideas on things that make us cringe, but they may not act on these, instead choosing to honor their parents’ will.

When setting up a place and time to talk with your teen:

  • Make sure you have enough time to have a thorough conversation.
  • The place should be somewhere you can have a private conversation.
  • Let your teen know you will be talking about this topic so they can prepare their ideas and opinions.
  • It is important to have the other parent(s) involved in this conversation.

4. Listen and understand your teen’s thoughts and opinions

While you are the parent and have the last say, it is extremely important you allow your teen to have a turn to talk and discuss his/her thoughts, opinions, and emotions. Along the same lines, it is important that you communicate that you are open to listening to future thoughts and feelings about dating.

As a parent you may want to hear back verbatim what you said to your teen when they speak to you, but it is important to resist this urge. When your teen discusses his/her thoughts and opinions, your objective is to try to fully understand your teen’s thoughts and feelings and communicate this to him/her.

An important question to ask your teen and to discuss with them is why do you want to date? (Rainey, Raniey, Rainey, & Rainey, 2002). This question will give you information on your teen’s motivation for wanting to date, what they hope to get out of dating, and what your teen sees as the purpose for dating (Rainey et al., 2002).

This can also open the discussion of how you as a parent define dating and its purpose. It can also open the conversation on how to glorify God in your teen’s dating relationships. A few more questions to ask are:

  • What do you think is appropriate and not appropriate when dating?
  • How can you please God in your dating relationships?
  • Where will you go for your dates? What do you plan to do on your dates?
  • What do you think about the rules we have established for dating?
  • What do you think the consequences should be if you break the rules?

5. Allow opportunities for your teen to build trust

When your child becomes a teen, it can be difficult to know how much to trust them. It can be even more difficult when he/she starts dating. It is understandable to be less trusting of your teen when they start dating due to not knowing how responsible he/she can be around the opposite sex (Rainey et al., 2002).

If your teen has no opportunities to show you as a parent that you can trust them, they may become resentful and want to rebel against your rules. When I use the word opportunities, it does not necessarily mean letting your teen date at a young age. There are many ways that you can give your teen opportunities to build your trust. The following examples may be helpful:

  • Give your teen weekly responsibilities around the house. These can help your teen show you he/she can be responsible when you give him/her a task.
  • Set a curfew with your teen. If he/she respects this time, then you may be able to discuss extending the curfew. If he/she does not respect it, then you will need to discuss the consequences.
  • Discuss with your teen the expectation that he/she will inform you of his/her whereabouts when spending time with friends. Also, discuss with him/her how this can help you build trust.
  • Allow your teen to spend time with friends and members of the opposite sex under your supervision. Let your teen know that if he/she can act respectful and responsible toward members of the opposite sex this shows you that you can trust him/her (Rainey et al., 2002).  For example, volunteer to chaperone a youth group or school activity.

We are teaching our child stewardship. To those who steward what they have well, more is given, to those who do not, less.

Where does God come in to play?

This is a question that is asked all the time by Christian parents that would like their children to honor God in their dating relationships. This is an important question for parents and teens to think about and discuss. As the parent, where was God in your dating relationship? What would you change and keep the same?

For your teen, what do they believe the Bible says about dating and purity? As the parent, it is important for you to listen to your teen’s thoughts and seek Godly counsel in helping them fully understand how he/she can please God in his/her dating relationships. There is a passage in boundaries with teens that is helpful to review. One Bible verse that I find helpful is:

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” (Proverbs 4:23, NIV)

Guarding of your heart in a dating relationship is extremely important and is a great topic to discuss with your teen in relation to dating (Ethridge & Arterburn, 2004). Having an open discussion with your teen about this topic will continue to provide an open environment for the discussion of dating. Please see the Recommended Reading list for more ideas about advice on this topic.

If you are struggling to talk with your teen about dating or other adolescent issues, please contact The Relationship Center. We have professionals who can help.

christian counselingOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Counseling at The Relationship Center

Recommended Reading

Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (2000). Boundaries in dating: How healthly choices grow healthy relationships. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Ethridge, S., & Arterburn, S. (2004). Every young woman’s battle: Guarding your mind, heart, and body in a sex-saturated world. Colorado Springs: Waterbook Press.

Townsend, J. (2006). Boundaries with teens: When to say yes how to say no. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

References

Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (1992). Boundaries: When to say yes how to say no to take control of your life. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Cloud, H., & Townsend, J. (2000). Boundaries in dating: How healthly choices grow healthy relationships. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Ethridge, S., & Arterburn, S. (2004). Every young woman’s battle: Guarding your mind, heart, and body in a sex-saturated world. Colorado Springs: Waterbook Press.

Harris, J. (2003). I kissed dating goodbye. Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books.

Rainey, D., Rainey, B., Rainey, S., & Rainey, R. (2002). So you’re about to be a teenager: Godly advice for preteens on friends, love, sex, faith and other life issues. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson.

Townsend, J. (2006). Boundaries with teens: When to say yes how to say no. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Women’s Fear of Intimacy in Communication

Communication is one of the most important aspects of marriage. Lack of communication is also thmost common complaint I hear when doing marital therapy. Feeling connected and close, as well as being able to converse with your husband is extremely important.

No Fear of Intimacy

In some situations, women may have difficulty having an intimate conversation with their husband due to fear of intimacy. When I use the word intimacy, I am referring to a close and affectionate relationship with another person.

Defined in this way, intimacy is allowing oneself to be known, cared for and loved, even the areas that you wish you could hide from others. It includes allowing yourself to be vulnerable with people that you trust. Below are some communication characteristics of someone who has a fear of intimacy and how they can be fixed.

Communication Characteristics

Avoidance

Someone who fears intimacy in communication will avoid conversations she believes will lead to serious topics. The person may avoid conversation unless it deals with tasks of daily living. For example, a woman who fears intimacy in communication may avoid discussing when she felt overlooked by her husband at a family gathering because she fears it will bring up unresolved issues from her past. Another example would be when a woman purposely busies herself  in order to avoid talking about difficult topics.

Passes Judgment

Instead of having an attitude of understanding, someone with fear of intimacy in communication may pass judgment on her spouse. Rather than listening to the feelings or information her spouse shares, she is concentrating on her opinions about what he has said. Thinking that your husband is lying when he says an emergency at work made him late for your date night would be an example of passing judgment without trying to understand. This type of judgment can:

  • Produce feelings of anger and being wronged
  • Cause distance between you and your spouse because of these feelings
  • Distance will prevent intimacy

Negativity

Someone who struggles with intimacy in communication may be overly negative in her conversations. Instead of trying to see the positive side of a situation, she sees the negative side and fixates on this. For example, a husband and a wife have a nice picnic planned for a sunny Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, when they get to the perfect spot, it begins to rain. As they try to find shelter, they slip in the mud and are able to laugh at each other. When they do find shelter, they are able to have a good conversation about their life together. Someone who fears intimacy in communication may see this experience as negative because things did not go as planned and she was not prepared for this type of conversation.

Excessive Control

Someone who always wants to be prepared for any type of uncomfortable conversation may try to exert control in any way possible. In trying to exert control, she may excessively control the areas where she feels she has control. This can give the illusion of being in control of situations for which you are fearful, but in reality that’s all it is: simply an illusion. For example, you may feel out of control and unprepared when speaking to your husband, but feel you have complete control over how your house is run. Due to feeling out of control in other areas, you may take this control over your home to extremes through needing to choose everything that goes in your home, needing everything to be spotless, or not allowing other family members to complete tasks because they did not follow your specific instructions.

Disengaging

When topics arise that she does not feel comfortable, someone who fears intimacy in communication may prevent herself from being engaging in the conversation. This may happen through day dreaming, thinking of other things, or physically removing herself from the conversation. If we go back to the previous example of the picnic, someone who disengages may not even have that good conversation with her husband. She may be thinking about her wet clothes, what to do with the food, how to get back to the car, or how she can leave the situation.

Focuses on Self

While focusing on yourself is not a bad thing, it becomes an issue when your thoughts are constantly about fear of intimate conversation with your husband. At an unconscious level, I see this present, often times, as an excessive focus on one’s own feelings, desires, thoughts, point of view, etc. It is a selfish way of thinking which insulates from intimacy. We are to care for ourselves, but not in a way that makes us the center of the world. Often times someone who experiences this fear of intimacy will be constantly thinking or preparing for these deep conversations when she rarely allows them to happen.

Focusing on self may or may not be evident to your spouse. For example, a woman experiencing this fear of intimacy may try to prepare herself mentally for any possible conversation with her husband that may be about a topic she does not feel comfortable discussing. There are limitless possibilities as to what conversations may come up and, therefore she finds herself more often than she would like in thought of protecting herself.

How Can You Fix These Characteristics?

Self-Analysis

It is difficult to make a change when you are unaware that there is a problem. Doing some analysis of yourself and your actions will help you understand changes that need to be made. Self-analysis may require insight from your husband, close friends, or family members. Ask others to make observations about your words, attitudes, and actions. It may also require the help of a professional, such as a counselor.

Commit to Change

It can be easy to say you are going to change, but actually putting those words into action is more difficult. Commit to change by telling your husband or trusted friend of your plans and ask them to keep you accountable. It may also help to write out a commitment statement of what you want to change as well as the steps you would like to take to make these changes.

Work on A Safe Relationship

It is important to work toward an emotionally safe environment in your marital relationship. Many women who experience fear of intimacy may not feel emotionally safe in their marital relationship due to a number of reasons. In order to work on intimate communication with your husband you have to feel safe when you are discussing important topics. The following emotional safety handout provides information about developing an emotionally safe relationship.

Communicate with your Husband

If you want to have intimate conversations with your husband you have to be willing to communicate with him. Your first step should be sharing with your husband your struggles and your commitment to change. This discussion must focus on yourself and not how you think your husband should change. Changing the subject to your husband would be an issue of boundaries in which you reach for something you cannot control. Starting off this change process without including your husband would defeat the purpose.

Give Yourself Grace

During this process, make sure to give yourself grace. It is difficult to realize that you may fear intimacy in communication with the person that you love. Identifying the problem and seeking change are the first steps to improving your communication with your husband.


If you or someone you know is struggling with marital communication, please contact us. The Relationship Center has therapists who specialize in marital therapy. We are here to help and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

References

Berry, R. A., & Lawrence, E. L. (2013). “Don’t stand so close to me”: An attachment perspective of disengagement and avoidance in marriage. Journal of Family Psychology, 27(3), 484-494.

Harley, W. F. (2003). His Needs Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell.

Markman, H. J., Rhodes, G. K., Stanley, S. M., Ragan, E. P., & Whitton, S. W. (2010). The premarital communication roots of marital distress and divorce: The first five years of marriage. Journal of Family Psychology, 24(3), 289-298.

Smalley, G., Smalley, G., Smalley, M., & Paul, R. S. (2004). The DNA of Relationships. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Recommended Reading

Harley, W. F. (2003). His Needs Her Needs: Building an Affair-Proof Marriage. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Fleming H. Revell.

Smalley, G., Smalley, G., Smalley, M., & Paul, R. S. (2004). The DNA of Relationships. Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Marriage Counseling at The Relationship Center

 

Getting to Know Your Anxiety Disorder

We all experience anxiety.We all deal with anxiety. At times it can be a good thing; it helps us meet deadlines and to know when we’re in danger. Other times, it can be a nuisance. If you experience anxiety on a regular basis that interrupts your daily activities, you may suffer from an anxiety disorder. The following are a few of the most common anxiety disorders diagnosed in adults.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)

Someone who has OCD would experience recurring and persistent thoughts about things . For example, the person may obsess about cleanliness or checking on specific things around the house. The second part of OCD consists of compulsions which silence the obsessive thoughts.

Going along with our example, someone may clean a specific part of their body numerous times per day which would dry out their skin and interrupt other responsibilities. Someone who checks things may check to make sure the stove is off 20 times before they leave the house. The thoughts are obsessions while the actions are compulsions. Most importantly, the thinking and actions interrupt daily functioning.

Social Phobia

This disorder is characterized by an intense fear of social situations where one comes into contact with unfamiliar people or scrutiny of others. Due to this fear, a person with social anxiety will avoid these situations in order to reduce the anxiety. Someone with social anxiety will fear that they will act in a certain way that makes others have a poor opinion of them.

For example, someone with social anxiety would avoid their significant other’s work party because they are fearful of being around people they do not know and acting in a way that may make others laugh or question their actions.

Specific Phobia

Someone experiencing this type of anxiety disorder would experience fear or anxiety over a specific object or situation. The specific object or situation almost always produces fear or anxiety that makes you actively seek to avoid the object or situation. Characteristics of a specific phobia are as follows:

  • The fear or anxiety is extreme compared to the actual danger that can be caused by the object or situation.
  • The fear or anxiety has lasted for at least 6 months
  • The fear or anxiety causes impairment in your everyday functioning.

An example of a specific phobia would be someone with an extreme fear of needles. Someone who has a specific phobia with needles would avoid them at all cost. They would avoid hospitals, doctors offices, tattoo parlors, any place where they would come in contact with needles. As you can see, this would interrupt their functioning due to being unable to see a doctor without extreme anxiety. The person may fear death or extreme sickness if stuck with a needle, and they may have to be held down at the doctor’s office.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)

With this disorder, a person has difficulty controlling excessive anxiety over a number of events or activities. Physical symptoms of GAD include:

  • Restlessness
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty Concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Muscle Tension
  • Sleep Disturbance

The key to this disorder is an excessive amount of anxiety. Someone with GAD would worry excessively about finances, losing their job, the car breaking down, whether they are being a good parent, and coping with difficulties that arise.

Panic Disorder

This disorder is characterized by experiencing unexpected panic attacks. A panic attack is an abrupt surge of intense fear or discomfort that intensifies within minutes. Someone suffering from a panic attack may experience some of the following physical symptoms:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Sweating and shaking
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feelings of choking
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea and dizziness
  • Chills or heat sensations,
  • Numbness
  • Fear of losing control or dying
  • Feelings of being detached from oneself

Another part of this disorder consists of fear of having another panic attack or a change in behavior due to the panic attack.

Agoraphobia

Someone experiencing this disorder would experience anxiety or fear about at least two of the following situations: using public transportation, being in open spaces, being in enclosed spaces, being in a crowd, or being outside of their home alone. The person would avoid these situations because they are fearful that escape from any one of them may be impossible or assistance may not be available if panic symptoms occur.

These situations almost always produce anxiety or fear causing them to be actively avoided. Also, the fear or anxiety is exaggerated in regard to the actual danger present in the situation. These symptoms typically last for at least 6 months and interrupt the person’s functioning.

For example, someone may be fearful of crowds and being outside their home alone. They would avoid leaving their home and being in crowded places. If they came in contact with a crowded place or were alone outside their home, they would experience extreme anxiety and fear. As you can see, this would make it very difficult to hold a job or even shop for everyday items.

____________________________________________________________________

Anxiety disorders are often co-morbid (meaning they happen alongside other disorders) like eating disorders (See How Anxiety Fuels Eating Disorders).

If you believe you are suffering from an anxiety disorder, please seek the opinion of a mental health professional. We have many professionals at The Relationship Center that are experienced in diagnosing and treating anxiety disorders. Please call us today.

 

anxiety counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Anxiety Counseling at The Relationship Center

Reference

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.

How Anxiety Fuels Eating Disorders

eating disorder

Most people diagnosed with an eating disorder also experience anxiety severe enough to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder.  It is common for an anxiety disorder to precede or develop before an eating disorder. Eating disorders can often be a destructive reach for control, or a means of managing fear.  In this article, you will learn what types of anxiety disorders are most commonly diagnosed with an eating disorder as well as how the anxiety drives the eating disorder.

Anxiety Disorders

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)– This disorder is the most common anxiety disorder diagnosed in conjunction with an eating disorder.  Someone who has OCD in addition to an eating disorder would experience recurring and persistent thoughts about things other than food and their body image. For example, the person may obsess about cleanliness or checking on specific things around the house. The second part of OCD consists of compulsions which silence the obsessive thoughts. Going along with our example, someone may clean a specific part of their body numerous times per day which would dry out their skin and interrupt other responsibilities. Someone who checks things may check to make sure the stove is off 20 times before they leave the house. The thoughts are obsessions while the actions are compulsions. Most importantly, the thinking and actions interrupt daily functioning.

Social Phobia– This disorder is characterized by an intense fear of social situations where one comes into contact with unfamiliar people or scrutiny of others. This fear is not limited to food consumption and body image.  Due to this fear, a person with social anxiety will avoid these situations in order to reduce the anxiety. Someone with social anxiety will fear that they will act in a certain way that makes others have a poor opinion of them. For example, someone with social anxiety would avoid her husband’s work party because she is fearful of being around those she does not know and acting in a way that may make others laugh or question her actions.

Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD)– With this disorder, a person has difficulty controlling excessive anxiety over a number of events or activities, not limited to food and body image. The worry leads to physical symptoms including restlessness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbance. The key to this disorder is an excessive amount of anxiety. Someone with GAD would worry excessively about finances, losing their job, the car breaking down, whether they are being a good parent, and coping with difficulties that arise.

How Anxiety Drives An Eating Disorder

Using the words “fuel” or “drive” to describe anxiety’s role in eating disorders is very fitting. Anxiety gives the eating disorder life. It gives the eating disorder a superficial purpose. Many of the eating disorder behaviors continue because they are helpful in reducing anxiety. While anxiety is rarely the underlying issue of an eating disorder, it helps harmful eating patterns develop into an eating disorder. Anxious attachment is very central to these disorders. So, how does this happen?

  • The anxiety is excessive.

Someone suffering from an eating disorder experiences overwhelming anxiety. They feel that it will never go away. The only relief they may feel is when they focus their attention on food: eating or not eating. Therefore, they focus more attention on calories, food preparation, exercising, purging, how little calories they can eat, or when they will eat next in order to feel relief. The issue of control almost always points to attempts to stop fear, which is central to anxiety issues.

  • The anxiety makes one feel out of control.

Even with all the focus on food, eating or not eating, the anxiety still returns. It is like the eating disorder sufferer is in a vicious cycle. The cycle occurs because the ritual with food allows a temporary break from anxiety, at the cost of long term increase in anxiety. It is like borrowing money now to spend, while at the same time developing an unmanageable debt. At the same time, the rituals with food are becoming less effective. A larger dose is needed.  As much as one tries to get off this cycle, they keep spinning and spinning. They feel no sense of control over their anxiety. The only area they may feel a slight level of control is over what they do or don’t eat.

  • The anxiety shames.

Shame feels like something is wrong within you. Often, you feel that failure defines you. The secrecy and feeling the need to hide your eating disorder can produce shame. Due to this shame, anxiety creeps in to help you hide your disordered eating behaviors. You may eat late at night or when no one is looking because you are fearful of binging. You may lie and say you already ate when you are starving. You become anxious after these behaviors wondering if anyone knows the truth. You think something must be wrong with you to act on this anxiety. The shame is huge, as are the unrealistic expectations you may have of yourself, others, relationships, and success.

  • The anxiety isolates.

Due to feeling shame about disordered eating patterns, those suffering from an eating disorder often become anxious about eating around others. They worry what others will think of them or that they will find out the sufferer’s secret. In order to continue to hide the eating problems, an eating disorder sufferer will avoid social situations, family gatherings, and even spending time with a few good friends.  The shame and isolation felt by the eating disorder sufferer also makes them feel alone in their struggles. They begin to believe that no one understands or suffers like they do.

  • The anxiety helps you believe lies.

People believe something when they feel it is true, not necessarily because it factually is or isn’t. Many people who suffer from eating disorders believe lies such as:

My life would be better if I could just lose weight or look a certain way or the pain I feel will never go away.

Anxiety perpetuates these lies. Due to the worry and physical symptoms of anxiety, these lies or irrational thinking continue because it calms the anxiety.  For example, it is easier to focus on food than to focus on anxiety, hurt, pain, sadness, and fear. While the eating habits may calm the anxiety for a short period, it does more harm than good in the long run. It can become part of a fantasy of what could be, which is not based in reality.

If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, please contact us. The Relationship Center has therapists who specialize in eating disorder treatment. We are here to help and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

 

eating disorder treatmentOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Eating Disorder  Counseling at The Relationship Center

Resources

Kaye, W. H., Bulik, C. M., Thornthon, L., Barbarich, N., & Masters, K. (2004). Comorbidity of anxiety disorders with anorexia and bulimia nervosa. American Journal of Psychiatry, 161, 2215-2221. Retrieved from http://journal.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleid=177216

Koenig, K. R. (2007). The food and feelings workbook: A full course meal on emotional health. Carlsbad, CA: Gürze Books.

Depression in Women

Depression in women can great affect their daily lives: it is important to understand the symptoms and treatment options available.

Women are two times more likely than men to experience depression. In fact, about 20% of all women will experience depression at some point during their life. This article will educate you about the symptoms of depression seen specifically in women and how these symptoms may look in a woman’s daily life.

Symptoms of Depression Experienced By Women

Depression in women is characterized by feelings of inadequacy, lack of energy, and anxiety. The following are symptoms reported by women experiencing depression:

  1. Being overly emotional, more than normally experienced.
  2. Having difficulty enjoying things they used to like.
  3. Feeling inadequate as a wife, mother, and at work.
  4. Thoughts of being a burden to others and wondering what it would be like if they were not in the picture.
  5. Sleeping too much or not at all.
  6. Not taking care of their body or being overly anxious about how they look.
  7. Increased worry and anxiety over everyday tasks and decisions.
  8. Lack of energy for daily tasks.

The information below contains a more in-depth overview of how these symptoms look on a daily basis in the lives of women experiencing depression:

1. Being overly emotional, more than normally experienced

Women experiencing depression report not feeling in control of their emotions. Things they could normally shrug off can trigger a mood of sadness and hurt, or even bring them to tears. As much as they try, it feels impossible to be in control again.

2. Having difficulty enjoying things they used to like

Things a depressed woman used to enjoy do not seem appealing even though she knows they were enjoyable in the past. A depressed woman may know she enjoys spending time with friends, but it can be difficult to manage just getting out of bed and getting dressed.

3. Feeling inadequate as a wife, mother, and at work

A lack of confidence defines a depressed woman’s life. She may not feel like she is desirable to her husband. She may feel like she does not take adequate care of her children, or she may feel incompetent in her workplace. These thoughts can be untrue, but a depressed woman will often still believe them and feel this way.

4. Thoughts of being a burden to others and wondering what it would be like if they were not in the picture

These thoughts are not necessarily suicidal, but they still indicate that the woman questions her worth to others. Feeling like a burden or nuisance to others is significant. Depressed women often do not feel valued or feel that they have let down the important people in their life.

5. Sleeping too much or not at all

When depressed, some women report being tired all the time. They can sleep 8, 10, or even 12 hours and still feel like they need a nap. On the other hand, some women have difficulty falling asleep due to worry, troublesome thoughts, and extreme emotion.

6. Not taking care of their body or feeling overly anxious about how they look

It is important to note that all women feel insecure about their bodies at times, but with regards to depression, this feeling can be amplified. In many cases, depressed women want to take care of themselves, but have difficulty actually doing it (i.e. they are held back by the other symptoms of depression). On the other hand, some women become overly obsessed with how they look to a harmful degree. This symptom may be characterized by exercising and eating (or not eating) to an obsessive degree.

7. Increased worry and anxiety over everyday tasks and decisions

Women who are depressed a prone to excessive worry about many aspects of their lives. These include how they are viewed by others, social interaction, job performance, and parenting skills. Making decisions can also be difficult due to questioning their thoughts and instincts. A simple decision—such as where to have dinner—can be too difficult to find a solution.

8. Lack of energy for daily tasks

Tasks that used to be easy can be daunting and take much longer to complete for depressed women. Cleaning the house or playing with the kids may feel like an enormous task (even if they would like to do these things) because of a lack of energy. For many women, it can be difficult just to get out of bed and get ready for the day.

If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, please contact us. The Relationship Center has therapists who specialize in counseling women and the issues they face. We are here to help and would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

Source:

Harvard Health Publications. (2011, May). Women and depression. Harvard Mental Health Letter. Retrieved August 12, 2012, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2011/May/women-and-and-depression

About the Author:

September Trent, MS, PLPC is a Provisional Licensed Professional Counselor with The Relationship Center. She has a heart for “Showing God’s love through serving others.” September obtained her Bachelor’s degree in psychology and Master’s degree in counseling psychology from Evangel University. She specializes in marital therapy and working with individuals struggling with a variety of issues, including eating disorders, depression, and anxiety. September’s experience includes working with children and adolescents residing in inpatient facilities as well as completing an internship working with adults struggling with severe mental illness. She also has experience in gerontology where she has counseled individuals residing in nursing homes, provided in-home mental health services to elderly individuals, and assisted families in coping with mental illness. September and her husband have one daughter and reside in Springfield.

September Trent sees clients in Springfield Missouri.

 

depression counselorsOver 1,400 families in southwest Missouri trust the counselors of The Relationship Center to serve their counseling needs. With more than 14,000 hours of therapy in the last 5 years alone TRC counselors have the experience that can make the difference. We specialize in Biblically Christian and Clinically Proven Counseling provided by Licensed Professionals. Session fees range from $75-$125 and we have payment plans & scholarships to meet every budget. Have more questions? Click Here to Learn More About Depression Counseling at The Relationship Center