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Is a Good Man Really So Hard to Find?

As we find ourselves hopefully nearing the end of what many would call one of the most trying times in our modern era, I reflect on what this past year has shown us. We have seen many changes both good and bad, with some uniting, while others divide. One of the largest changes I have seen, not specific to the past year, is the ever increasing divide between “Men” and “Great Men”. 

David Popenoe (2017) in his Book entitled Families Without Fathers, states:

“The disintegration of the child-centered, two parent family—especially in the inner cities, where as many as two in three children are growing up without their fathers—and the weakening commitment of fathers to their children that more and more follows divorce, are central causes of many of our worst individual and social problems. Juvenile delinquency, drug and alcohol abuse, teenage pregnancy, welfare dependency, and child poverty can be directly traced to fathers’ lack of involvement in their children’s lives”.

As a therapist; as a Husband; as a Man, it saddens me to hear about stories of spouses and children that have spent years with unmet emotional needs, entire marriages of patriarchal suppression, and women who become extremely depressed at the thought of having to spend another 20 years in a loveless, vacant marriage. 

To begin I wish to dispel some myths that are commonly believed:

MythsTruth
Men are tough, and strongStrength comes in many forms and toughness is not always physical.
Men are not suppose to cryMen have emotions, as all humans do, and it is important to honor them.
Crying means you are weakCrying is part of being human and, in fact, takes more strength to show vulnerability 
Men are not natural care givers.Many men are naturally caring and enjoy being around their children 
Men are the bread winners and provide for the family.Men share in the responsibility of the home. Financially is one area of responsibility. 
“ I make the Money, I make the rules”.WRONG… Financially providing is not a blanket statement of power and control.
The “Patriarch” is in charge of the familyWRONG… The decisions of the home should be equally agreed upon and everyone should have a voice about the future of the family. A partnership is equal.
Men are to be respected. Respect is earned, not just given. Be the kind of man that is respectable by your actions and the way you treat others. 
All men disappoint, it’s just a matter of when.How a man treats his partner, and his family, is a direct reflection of who he is. Humans make mistakes, however this should be the exception to the rule not the expectation. 

Throughout history, there are many examples of leaders. Some of the leaders we know accomplished great feats, victories, and accolades. Along with this, history also tells us what kind of leaders they were. History records two types of leaders that we tend to remember. Some of the leaders chose to lead by fear, respect, and control. While others lead with love, compassion, and integrity. 

In an effort to help this generation be better than the one before, I offer a way to help Men become better. Perhaps you have someone in your life that you want to encourage, perhaps you are a Man wanting to be better. Below are steps you can follow to help the “Men” become Great Men”. 

1. Learn to Connect Emotionally. 

Emotions are a natural part of life, and being able to be vulnerable and intimate is not a weakness. Learning to connect emotionally will help to increase the relationships in your life, build deeper emotional bonds and bring more happiness into your life and the life of others. 

2. Be a Man Worth Respecting 

Being the financial provider of a family is one area of stability and support. Aside from financially, there are emotionally, mentally, spiritually, socially, and sexually. Learn to provide support and care in ALL areas, not just the one.  “Great Men” show love, compassion and invite respect by the way they treat others and their family. Your family should know the best of you, not the worst. Being the “Patriarch” is not permission to be a dictator. Being a (priesthood holder) in no way gives permission that you are more than or better than your spouse. Admit when you are wrong and be willing to grow and be better. 

3. Learn to Listen

Sometimes the best thing you can do is listen. Not every problem has to be fixed, nor is it your responsibility to fix it. Learn to see the needs to those in your life. Learn how to see the needs of your wife, comfort your child who had a bad day at school. 

4. Choose to be Part of Life

Being present in the lives of your family is a choice. Choose to pay attention to subtle clues, hints, and gestures from your wife and children about what they need and how to provide that. Listen to their stories, validate their emotions, and encourage their growth and self-esteem. Always being at work, or on the phone, out with “a buddy” causes you to miss the joy that comes from small moments of life that make it worthwhile. 

5. Choose to be MORE

It has sadly become common for men to let their wives down, and not be present. Putting your family first and your wife first is a choice. Choose to be more than what you know. It is easy to play the role, use excuses of “ that just how men are” and feed in to the idea of being a disappointment. Be the husband who helps around the house, who helps the kids get ready. Break the myths and stereotypes of what a man is and how he is to act. 

6. Know the Hierarchy 

The Hierarchy speaks to knowing the order of respect given to the women in your life. If you follow the order, you will never go wrong. 

Young Adult/TeenFirst: Mother
Second: Sister(s)
Third: Girlfriend
Married/HusbandFirst: Wife
Second: Mother
Third: Sister(s)
Married/Husband/FatherFirst: Wife
Second: Daughter(s)
Third: Mother
Fourth: Sister(s)

I firmly believe that if the “ Men” of the world decided to be “ Great Men” the world would be a much better place. While there is room for much growth and improvement, it is also important to acknowledge that there are “Great Men” in the world. There is much truth to the phrase “ You will find what you are looking for in this world”.  While there is a lot of need for change, it is equally important to recognize those that are working to be better, those in the world that emulate all the things above and that there are good people in this world. 

Citations: 

Popenoe, D. (2009). Families without Fathers: Fatherhood, Marriage and Children in American Society (1st ed.). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203792292

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We Need Others

Human beings are social creatures and need connection. Psychologists, anthropologists, and philosophers have suggested many reasons for why we need connection.  These reasons include: providing for physical and emotional needs, creating tribal safety, invoking social and economic efficiency, and offering structure for human development.

As I’ve explored this topic, I find our need for others is multifaceted. In mental health, there are overlapping influences, often termed the biopsychosocial model of health. This phonetic amalgamation promotes the importance of three overarching schools of thought: (1) our biology, (2) our thoughts and emotions, and (3) our social environment. Our social connections are no small matter. We experience social connection with family, friends, church relationships, clubs, and work situations.

One reason I feel we need others, is to create affirmation and validation for our life journey. As children, we look to authority figures for validation. At first, this person is usually a parent or guardian. When we enter our adolescence, we turn to friends. As adults, we may seek approval from peers, or authority figures such as church leaders, a spouse, or a boss at work. Marriage relationships uniquely create opportunities for seeking intimate affirmation and validation. As a therapist, I see couples desiring validation if they are “enough,” or if they are “doing things right.” These bids for validation are expressed in a variety of scenarios in the kitchen to the bedroom.

Eventually, we arrive at a place where self-confidence eclipses the need to seek validation from others.  When this occurs, we help support others, and our self-esteem is self-sufficient.  I don’t think this process is a bad thing. Instead, I feel the understanding we gain is helpful and includes three important concepts.

First, as other people bid for validation from us, we should feel complimented, as we are now a companion in their healing journey. Affirming another is an opportunity to support and honor the path and choices others make in a way that creates self-awareness and growth, confidence, and security while allowing for a space of safety.

Second, we need to know how hurtful rejection can be for those who seek for an affirming voice from us. As children, we are often told “no,” “don’t,” or “you cannot.” Usually, these commands are barked from parents who want to protect their children. However, as a conscience being willing to aid in the healing journey of others, an affirming voice such as “you can,” “you’ve got this,” or “I trust you,” is more effective.

Third, understanding your attachment style, or the attachment style of others can assist in explaining how validation and affirmation are expressed.  An assessment of how you engage with others can aid you and those you love to help establish securely attached relationships.  For example, some people will anxiously seek for attention, and others pull back when things get messy, avoiding receiving the needed help the connection brings.

As humans, we connect with others for a variety of meaningful ways. Seeking affirmation and validation is a human characteristic that moves people toward a place of self-confidence. We start by trusting the voices of others we trust, and then we move to trust our internal voice.  We do these in elaborate dances that deserve our attention and our nonjudgmental observation.

If you or a loved one needs help in understanding or seeking validation, please give me a call at 801.944.4555 to schedule an appointment today.

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Repairing and Building Closer Relationships Through Play Therapy

https://kutv.com/features/fresh-living/clair-mellenthin-repairing-and-building-closer-relationships-through-play-therapy

Please follow the link above to view Clair Mellenthin’s segment with KUTV on Repairing and building closer relationships through Play Therapy.

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Boundaries

Who has ever said yes to something but were internally screaming a no?  

We all have people asking us for time, money, attention, physical or emotional connection, labor, and on and on.  Helping others, giving them our time or attention is a good thing, so I want to clarify that boundaries are not just about saying no.  Boundaries are about making thoughtful choices which allow us to say yes to the things we want to say yes to.  

We humans are social creatures.  We are driven to seek connections with others.  Forming connections, or attachments, helps us navigate challenges in life.  Much like a toddler will cling to her parent’s leg, step away to explore, then run back when they need reassurance.  Saying no to a request goes against our need to connect with others.  However, when we repeatedly say yes to things we don’t feel good about, we can end up neglecting our own needs.  This turns an act of kindness that helped us feel good and brought us joy, into a burden that we feel resentful of.

Resentment is an interesting experience.  It’s a low simmer, just under the surface, that tells us something isn’t right.  Something about the situation feels off.  We might feel taken advantage of, unheard, or manipulated.  Each experience where we feel resentment adds a link in our chain of resentment.  They build upon each other, and if we continue to carry the chain around, and add to it, it will get heavier and heavier.  This resentment chain makes it difficult to want to say yes to anything, because we’re constantly on guard, looking to protect ourselves. 

Setting boundaries allows us to set down the chain.  When we can stop carrying it around, we’ll have more energy to make the kind of thoughtful decisions that bring us joy.  

Why is it hard to set boundaries?

-fear on loss/abandonment/loneliness

-fear of anger

-fear of self perception (I’m a good person, good people sacrifice for others)

-fear of approval (will other people think I’m a good person?)

-guilt for disappointing or hurting someone.  

Feelings of resentment, fear, or guilt are indicators that there is an area of your life that needs boundary work.  

Here are three concrete tools for helping to establish boundaries in your own life.  

1. Have a Plan

It can be difficult to think clearly if you feel put on the spot.  Having responses planned out ahead can help buy you time to evaluate whether the request is something you are willing or able to meet.  One example, “I’ll have to check my calendar, but I’ll get back to you” can buy you some time to evaluate if the request is something you have the time/energy/desire to meet.

2. Don’t Explain

Sometimes, in an attempt to soften our “no”, we offer explanations that may or may not accurately represent our true reasons for saying no.  This can be dangerous as it gives the requester the ability to counter with an adapted request that may feel more difficult to refuse.  

3. Offer an Alternative

Offer an alternative if there is one that you feel good about.  “I’m not able to make that planning meeting, but I will write up my proposal and email it to you before friday”.  

All of us have boundaries.  Whether we communicate them openly or not, we are setting boundaries.  Holding back, or acquiescing out of fear or guilt means we are setting an loose boundary that will likely lead us to feel resentment.  Setting clear and proactive boundaries allows us to form relationships with others, free of resentment, and allows us a greater sense of peace and joy.  

If you are struggling to set boundaries in your life, and would like help learning how to make changes to reduce feelings of fear, resentment, or anger, call and schedule an appointment with Alice.  801-944-4555.  

  

Alice Roberts, CSW

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Answering Your Questions About Balancing Marriage & Motherhood: Good Things Utah

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I recently had the opportunity to sit down with my friends at “Good Things Utah” and answer some viewer questions that dealt with balancing a woman’s marriage with her motherhood responsibilities. Here are some questions (and my responses to them):

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A New Way to Look at Porn (and Other Compulsive Behaviors)

All of us experience stress. Beginning in childhood, stress is a normal part of daily life. This tension will build until we seek some kind of comfort. In our childhood, we likely sought solace from our parents (picture a toddler who clings to her mother’s leg, branches out to explore, then returns to the security of her parent). As adults we exhibit similar behaviors :we seek out our safe places to help us gain confidence to explore and take risks, or to cope with the stress of life.

If we reach out to a loved one and they understand us, or are “attuned” to our needs, we feel the comfort of human connection. This builds our emotional resilience, or our ability to cope with future stress. These are the foundations of building a secure attachment. Secure attachments increase our ability to tolerate stress and creates a positive cycle, helping us thrive in spite of the challenges life throws our way.

On the other hand, if we reach out and our loved one rejects us in some way, we might feel isolated. Humans are a mighty resilient species, and many individuals are able to find ways to cope despite the lack of a secure attachment figure. Sometimes however, we seek comfort in ways that are not in line with our personal values. Problematic object-focused comfort-seeking strategies can include overeating, social media or pornography use, or drugs or alcohol. When our attempts at comfort-seeking go against our value system, we are likely to feel some shame, which can lead us to continue our problematic comfort-seeking. This creates a negative spiral, which can lead to compulsive behaviors, emotional frailty or rigidity, and insecure attachments as we seek to hide our behaviors from those around us.

Even the most problematic comfort-seeking behavior serves a purpose; if it didn’t, we wouldn’t keep turning to it in spite of the problems it causes in our lives. Understanding the purpose the behavior serves and learning (or relearning) how to form secure attachments to other people are the beginning of overcoming unwanted compulsive behaviors.

If you identify with this pattern of behavior and want to change, schedule an appointment with Alice at 801-944-4555 today. She works with individuals or couples who are seeking healthy ways to cope with stress and heal hurt relationships without shame.

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Two Books Every Couple Should Read

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Relationship maintenance is one of the most important things couples can do to create and “maintain” emotional intimacy. This maintenance comes in many forms. Some couples have regular date nights. Others have daily talk time. Often times one or both people read self help books about strengthening the relationship. Many of the couples I work with, and come across in my personal life, ask me about books they can read that will give them skills to strengthen their relationship. Here are two books I think every couple, happy or in distress, should read.
The first is The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. This book takes you through five ways that people show and feel love. The five love languages are quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation, service, and gift giving. This book takes you through the these five love languages and helps you identify which love language speaks to you. Read this with your partner. Once both of you are done and have properly identified your love language, share it with the other person. I use this idea in every couples session. The hope is that once you know your partners love language you can start speaking directly to what they need in the relationship. Someone who has the love language of quality time, but is given gifts will not feel properly loved and connected to their partner. This book gives invaluable insight into yourself and your partner that can strengthen every relationship.
The second is Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson. This is a fantastic book that teaches you about attachment and reconnection with your partner. It has seven fabulous “conversations” for you and your partner to work through. If you are looking for emotional intimacy with your partner this is the book you are looking for. It is educational and highly effective at healing past wounds within relationships. Even if you and your partner have a healthy and loving relationship this book can still be a tool in creating a stronger bond.
Many couples feel that going to therapy, or even reading books like these shows a weakness in the relationship. My frame is that attending therapy and reading books to better your relationship is a strength; it means you and your partner are willing to put hard time and effort into being better individually and together. These couples are the ones that have relationships that will last. Hopefully you have the time to pick up these two books and give them a try. Read them with openness along side your spouse and they can make a world of difference.
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The Resolution That’s Not On Your Radar: Julie Hanks interview Shape.com

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What’s your New Year’s Resolution? Losing 5 pounds? Getting more organized? I interviewed recently with Shape Magazine to talk about a resolution that you may not have considered…improving your emotional connections.

Here are a few of my tips on how to strengthen your face-to-face relationships with loved ones…

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Moving Beyond Your Painful Past With Lifespan Integration

Children look to their parents to provide unconditional love and acceptance in infancy and early childhood. When children are subjected to trauma or neglect or when parental support is lacking, the child is left feeling unloved and sadly, unlovable. These feelings remain with us into our adult lives and can have a profound influence on our current relationships, often without us realizing the connection to our early childhood experiences.

Fortunately, there is much that can be done to “rewrite” these memories and to move into the future rather than feeling “stuck” in the past. For most people this requires professional help from a trained therapist.

A revolutionary new therapy called Lifespan Integration is now available and being used worldwide to successfully help people of all ages heal recent and past trauma and build a more solid core self.

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