Category Archives: counseling

Do Step or Blended Labels Seem Sufficient?

Blended, Step

One of the great things about having a cabin 4 hours away is that Nan & I have all that time up and back to discuss, plan, and dream. This week’s discussion was on adjusting to changes in family, whether the result of a break-up, separation, divorce or death.

When this happens (other than death) we often refer to them as broken families. And then when new families are put together we call them step-families or blended families. I am thinking that I would like to refer to them differently. The terms “dis” integrated and “re” integrated” seem better descriptions to me of what happens. In this context to disintegrate is to lose wholeness, not to disappear. We are no longer a whole family.

When a family breaks apart because of the sin of divorce (there is always sin present on one or both sides) the wholeness of the family is destroyed. Children will feel hurt and scared and even sometimes at fault. The security they felt will no longer exist in the same way as before. Even if the adult relationship was more temporary, if the kids bonded to the non-biological adult partner, there will be a ripping apart when the relationship ends. This is the disintegration side of this equation.

What always follows this change is a period of grief for all concerned and it should not be rushed. Probably the most destructive for children is when a new relationship is formed by a biological parent before they are finished going through the grief process of losing daily physical access to both of their parents.

No Dating?

I have sat with adults who were devastated because their custodial parent had serial relationships, often one starting before the other one ended. This is one reason we emphasize that dating anyone until a divorce is final is strictly forbidden. And we also do not want to see any married person have someone on the “back burner” whether in thought or actuality. Neither of those scenarios is God honoring.

In the case of death, being able to grieve before forming a new relationship is obvious, but a separation or divorce is a “living death”. The feelings are often more ambiguous. There can be more guilt or regret. It is emotionally risky to form a new relationship too quickly.

When the grieving has been given its space to go where it wants to go, healing can take place. Then we can think of the future. And if that future includes a new relationship, the process of reintegration can begin. Once the dating adults decide that they have a strong chance of moving forward, members of the new potential family can be introduced to one another. This begins the progression of getting acquainted and exploring the possibility of life together.

When this process of reintegration is done carefully, there is a minimum of trauma. When done haphazardly, the pain can last for years, if not a lifetime. I don’t know if you might be facing a disintegration or reintegration, or are in the pain of grieving. Regardless of where you are, take your time and be wise. Know that you are loved.

Extrovert, Introvert or Ambivert – Which Are You?

Ambivert

For all the ways that Nan and I are similar, there is one area that has been a struggle for us. When we are in a social environment, like church, Nan is ready to go home right after the service, whereas I want to stay and “work the crowd”. But it has always confused us that on a Myers-Briggs assessment she is an extrovert and I lean towards the introvert side of the scale.

What we have figured out is that Nan is an includer. She likes to connect people together to make sure they are not isolated. She likes to resource people. I like to connect with people, but then give them their space. I “turn it on” appropriate to the task or situation at hand, but then like to shut it down and recharge.

Whenever I suggest something, I am usually thinking small – as in Nan and me. But even before I can finish relating my idea Nan is usually thinking who else she would want to include. All of a sudden my idea starts morphing into something different. And it tends to make me anxious and want to stop talking before it grows into an introverts nightmare.

Now, Nan has no intention of causing me pain. She just gets excited by expanding the circle. But then I start to feel out of control. And so we get tangled. Nobody is at fault here. We just are different.

The Fix

Because Nan will always try to run ahead of me we have had to agree to over-communicate when dealing with commitments. Before inviting someone into our world or committing us into someone else’s world we have agreed to check with each other first. This is not easy for Nan and she sometimes forgets. I have to dig deep for grace when this happens. But I have to admit that my life is bigger because of her attitude towards people, and she might admit that her life has more margin because of my restraint.

A Third Choice

Fortunately neither of us falls into the extreme sides of the introvert/extrovert scale. As time has progressed we have probably both headed toward the middle – which we label ambiverts. If you are interested, I found these nine signs that you may actually be an ambivert.

  1. I can perform tasks alone or in a group. I don’t have much preference either way.
  2. Social settings don’t make me uncomfortable, but I tire of being around people too much.
  3. Being the center of attention is fun for me, but I don’t like it to last.
  4. Some people think I’m quiet, while others think I’m highly social.
  5. I don’t always need to be moving, but too much down time leaves me feeling bored.
  6. I can get lost in my own thoughts just as easily as I can lose myself in a conversation.
  7. Small talk doesn’t make me uncomfortable, but it does get boring.
  8. When it comes to trusting other people, sometimes I’m skeptical, and other times, I dive right in.
  9. If I spend too much time alone, I get bored, yet too much time around other people leaves me feeling drained.

I am not surprised that a lot of people haven’t heard of ambiverts, but it makes sense to me. So which one do you think you are? Introvert, extrovert or ambivert?

Are You One Of The Quiet People?

 

Quiet

Some time back one of our relatives remarked “You are the quiet people.” I think it was an interesting way of reframing our tendency at times to be more than just introverted. It’s not shyness and it’s not antisocial. I am not exactly sure how to label it. But I have a high need to withdraw and be introspective a lot of the time.

I might say “I am just not a morning person” because it seems I require a lot of time in the morning to come alive. But I’m not sure that is totally accurate, either. It feels more like I am a computer that downloaded software updates during the night and when I wake up all that data has to install before I can become operational. And during that time my need for quiet is intense.

Nan is a bit different. She might sleep later than me, but she tends to wake up pretty much “on”. But I know she needs blocks of quiet, too. Sometimes they coincide with mine and sometimes not. When they don’t there can be some friction.

This need for quiet can be interpreted as “unfriendliness” or arrogance or superiority sometimes. But that is not the truth. It is more a case of competing needs. Extroverts want to process out loud. Interaction energizes them – like coffee does for me – a quiet cup of coffee.

How about you? Are you one of the quiet people, too?

If you are I might suggest over-communicating your need for quiet or alone time to those around you. Don’t wait until you start to feel annoyed or irritated. It may seem better to try to endure, but a kind request will probably be more effective.

If you are not one of the quiet people, you will need to observe those with whom you interact. Are they starting to withdraw even though you have not said anything offensive or controversial? You might want to check out if they are becoming overwhelmed or overloaded by the conversation. Again, a kind inquiry rather than taking offense or doing the all too prevalent mind reading or interpreting will serve you better.

Some extroverts can’t fathom how painful it is for a shy introvert to be the center of attention. And some introverts can’t imagine why anyone would want to get up in front of a group or stand out.

Again, I don’t necessarily think this just comes down to extroversion vs. introversion. I think there are variations of temperament that need to be factored in as well. For example, I really take pleasure in getting lost in a book. And I know some extroverts that are just like me.

The best understanding would probably be to say that we exist along a continuum that represents both extremes, from super quiet to super expressive. And some of us probably move along that continuum pretty fluidly. I have heard people at church declare adamantly to me “No way are you an introvert.”

But then again, they haven’t seen me at home.