Feeling lonely this holiday season? These tips might help.
Posted December 31, 2018
Affection is important. It makes us feel connected to others. There are many ways to give and show affection, including sharing a hug, kiss, saying "I love you," or simply listening to a friend who needs support. According to affectionate communication expert Dr. Kory Floyd, affection and loneliness are linked. The more affection we receive from and give to others, the less lonely we tend to feel.
Dr. Floyd’s book, The Loneliness Cure, covers six strategies to overcome loneliness and contains ideas for connecting with others, reflection exercises, and pitfalls to avoid. Here are two of the strategies Dr. Floyd offers for nurturing more meaningful connections with others:
1. Invite affection from others
A commonly held belief about relationships is that people who are close to us, and who really love us, should be able to read our minds and know what we need. This belief is dysfunctional. We learned it at an early age watching movies about people in romantic relationships coming to the rescue at just the right moment, or chasing after the girl because even though she said she wanted to end the relationship and leave, she didn’t really mean it. In reality, we need to ask for what we want. It seems simple, but it is possible that your partner, friend, or family member just doesn’t know you aren’t getting the affection you crave from them. Like the support gap hypothesis that says we may desire more or less support than we are receiving, we might also be experiencing an affection gap that our relationship partners are not aware of.
A good place to start to close this gap is to ask for more of what you want. Be careful, however, not to make strong demands as these may backfire. Instead, make space in your life and schedule for relationship connection and invite affection through encouragement. Invitations and encouragement show respect for the other person by letting them decide to give affection instead of requiring them to do so.
Dr. Floyd says another way to invite affection from others is to show them what we want. He calls this modeling the type of relationship we seek. Modeling is basically teaching by example. You can model the affection you want from your partner by expressing that affection to them. You can also model showing affection to others, like friends and family members, in front of your partner. Both ways can invite more affection from your partner.
2. Nurture a wide variety of relationships
Sometimes people expect their partner to provide all the love and affection they need. Instead, you likely need to get affection from more than one person to meet your affection needs. Dr. Floyd suggests people invite affection from a wide variety of relationships, both existing and new. Continue to invite affection from people you are already close to (as discussed above) and nurture some new relationships. Some helpful tips on how to nurture existing relationships appeared in my last post, Relationship Resolutions.
Because affection is more than just romantic touching, people can get affection from other social relationships like friends, neighbors, coworkers, and others. Consider taking up new activities that facilitate interacting and connecting with others such as joining a new committee at work, taking an art or language class, volunteering at a school or animal shelter, hosting a party where people are encouraged to bring a friend you don’t already know, or joining a gym. At the activity, be open to making connections and finding things in common with the new people you meet. Follow up with invitations to coffee or lunch and build new relationships over time.
These are just two of six strategies Dr. Floyd discusses for finding and nurturing real connections in your life. You can read about the other four in his book.