Be open to new friends: It’s tough trying to connect with new people when you are an adult, and we tend to justify this by telling ourselves that we’re too tired from work or life to be making new friends. In reality, friends are your number one support system besides your family, and while it’s much less of an issue if you already have a healthy circle of friends, it’s not easy when you are an adult who does not have any close friends to hang out with. So, when you meet someone who wants to be your friend be open to them and give them a chance. For example, if that awkward guy in your office asks you to hang out after work, say yes even if you were hoping to go back home and play video games with your college friends. That shy and awkward guy may be in desperate need of a friend, and in line with showing a greater sense of empathy, that little gesture by saying yes may end up going a long way in helping someone else’s life.
As a part of my interview series about the ‘5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic’ I had the pleasure to interview Kevin Thompson. Kevin is a relationship coach and the founder of Ex Back Permanently. He has been helping people with breakups and creating healthy relationships for the past nine years.
Thank you so much for doing this with us Kevin! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share your “backstory” with us? What was it that led you to your eventual career choice?
I am glad to be a part of this. I work in a very interesting sub-niche of dating advice called the “Ex Back” industry. I help people deal with the grief that follows any breakup and in many cases, help them reconcile with their ex. I know a lot of people think that getting an ex back is not healthy. But I have been in this industry for long enough to tell you that second chances do work out and usually, the relationship tends to be much better the second time around.
I started out in this industry almost nine years ago. Being someone who’s always had an interest in the psychology behind relationships, I started a website on breakups. I noticed that many people searching for answers online loved my content because it was easy to digest, and I actually gave them healthy solutions rather than manipulative tactics (which is very common in this industry).
As I began to interact more with my readers over time, I also developed a better understanding when it came to aspects like breakup grief, post breakup dynamics, as well as how someone can go about getting an ex back and subsequently re-developing a healthier relationship.
My focus has always been the well-being of my readers and teaching them how to communicate more effectively and build a healthy and long-lasting relationship. Even though that old website no longer exists today, I first launched Ex Back Permanently five years ago with the purpose of helping people get their ex back and sustaining a healthy relationship. After all, there is no point in reconciling with an ex if you are just going to break up again in the future.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
I come across hundreds of breakup stories every month from people all over the world. I’ve learned so much more about relationships and myself in the process of helping others, which in turn had changed my life as well. Perhaps the most interesting story that comes to mind right now would be my own. How only after being in this industry for the first two years, did I finally realize that I was also caught up in a toxic relationship of my own.
Without getting into details, I eventually decided to end the relationship and move on from it. The interesting thing is, not long after the breakup, my ex tried to get me back using some of the manipulative tactics that a lot of my competitors teach. Thankfully, I already knew what she was doing, and it didn’t work.
Can you share a story about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or takeaway you learned from that?
I offer email coaching to people going through a breakup who may need more personalized one to one guidance. When I first started offering this service, it hadn’t occurred to me to inform my clients to keep their emails to the point and only include the relevant information relating to their breakup. One client ended up sending in a 24-page email of over 14,000 words, essentially sharing his entire relationship story with me. I ended up reading the entire email and the funny thing is, what I needed to know could have been summed up in less than 500 words.
The lesson I learnt from this was to define the limits and terms of the service very clearly to my clients, because it ultimately takes time to go through every email. I only have 24 hours a day just like everyone else, so the longer one client’s email is, the less time I would have to help others.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
We recently conducted a study (n=3512) on individuals almost a year after their initial breakup and wanted to know how they were doing in general. From the data alone, we actually made a lot of interesting discoveries and insight related to breakups, reconciliation and moving on. For example, based on our results, we found that the older a person is, the longer it’s going to take for them to move on from a breakup. We also found that people aged 18–24 years are more likely to break up again after getting back together.
Our next project is to do a more in-depth study on breakup grief and what happens after a relationship ends. We want to correlate the type of relationship, the reasons for the breakup, personality types and a lot of other relevant factors with what happens after a breakup. We are a small operation, but we want to make Ex Back Permanently the go-to resource and main authority when it comes to breakups and reconciliation.
Can you share with our readers a bit why you are an authority about the topic of the Loneliness Epidemic?
Being the founder and head relationship coach at Ex Back Permanently, I work in a field where I have to interact with people when they are at their loneliest — right after a tough breakup. I found that many people turn to the internet when they need someone to talk to or have a question to ask. They would usually go on Google and type keywords like, “I miss my ex, what should I do?”, either ending up on a YouTube video or a website like mine.
I’ve been doing this for more than nine years and have personally spoken to or advised thousands of people in their loneliest moments. I believe this experience I’ve gained over the years is what makes me qualified to be an authority on the subject matter.
Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the main focus of our interview. According to this story in Forbes, loneliness is becoming an increasing health threat not just in the US , but across the world. Can you articulate for our readers 3 reasons why being lonely and isolated can harm one’s health?
1. As most commonly pointed out by Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, humans need security. We have an innate need to feel safe, be it physically or emotionally. It’s impossible for anyone to develop such feelings of emotional safety and security when you’re feeling lonely and isolated. As much as we all have the subconscious tendency to seek out comfort and rely on a partner of the opposite sex, when that support system is no longer there, it’s just as important to be able to turn to others when we feel down and in need of support, otherwise those feelings of loneliness and isolation would end up becoming even more apparent.
“Science from all fiends is telling us very clearly that we are not only social animals, but animals who need a special kind of close connection with others, and we deny this at our peril.” — Dr. Sue Johnson, “Hold Me Tight”
Even if you are doing well in every other aspect of life, being lonely will affect your mental and emotional health. If you don’t have someone you can share your feelings with, someone you can rely on to be there for you, you will never have that sense of security and the loneliness will slowly creep its way into other aspects of your life.
2. If you are lonely and isolated, your future romantic relationships might suffer. Once an individual feeling lonely and isolated receives the warmth and security that comes along with being in a romantic relationship, a co-dependence can easily start to develop, turning that co-dependence into an unhealthy addiction. With any addiction, there’s also the inevitable fear of one day losing or no longer having access to that drug. The fear may lead to neediness and insecurity that slowly eats away the foundations of a healthy relationship.
3. Studies have found that married men live longer. Married men have lower risk of heart disease and depression. They were more likely to get treatment for any diseases that may come up and were more likely to go for regular checkup. Another study has shown that loneliness has the same risk as smoking for heart disease. It’s quite evident that loneliness and social isolation affect your physical health as well as mental health. It’s not a surprise because both physical and mental health are very closely linked to each other. If one suffers, the other is likely to suffer as well.
On a broader societal level, in which way is loneliness harming our communities and society?
I feel the loneliness epidemic is making it harder for people to find a healthy and fulfilling romantic relationship. Loneliness is causing people to act more needy, insecure and self-centered than ever before. If no one has ever truly listened to you and shown you empathy, you are probably not going to be very good at listening and showing empathy to others.
As a result, many relationships today are built on manipulation, superficial desires and goals, and the flawed belief that we must always get what we want; as opposed to honesty, vulnerability, communication, reciprocity, and empathy. The number of people searching online about breakup advice or relationships advice is increasing every year and I believe it’s because people simply don’t know how to have healthy relationships anymore.
This inability to properly sustain healthy relationships is probably derived from greater feelings of loneliness and isolation among individuals, which causes them to exhibit toxic habits and behaviors while in a relationship.
The irony of having a loneliness epidemic is glaring. We are living in a time where more people are connected to each other than ever before in history. Our technology has the power to connect billions of people in one network, in a way that was never possible. Yet despite this, so many people are lonely. Why is this? Can you share 3 of the main reasons why we are facing a loneliness epidemic today? Please give a story or an example for each.
I think that the loneliness epidemic started with the rise in individualism and industrialization. As more and more people started prioritizing the individual over the family, people started feeling a stronger sense of loneliness. In the early 1900s, everyone used to be close to the family and they knew most people in the neighborhood. People relied on each other whenever they needed support. With the rise in industrialization and individualism, we still crave that support and security, but many individuals may not even have that one person they can properly turn to and seek support from.
The technology today helped with loneliness initially, by making it easier to connect with people who may not be in close vicinity, but somewhere along the way, it took a turn for the worse and its initial purpose long forgotten. Social media started out as a great way to keep in touch with friends and family. But as the companies grew, they had to find ways to get people addicted to their platforms. As a result, social media today is designed primarily to keep you addicted to the app. It’s no longer designed to help you keep in touch with your family and friends.
There are, of course, companies popping up that help people through their loneliness. ThriveGlobal is one such great initiative that focuses on growth of the individual. Ex Back Permanently was also founded to help lonely people who are going through a tough breakup. In addition, there are several amazing self-help websites, experts and apps that are trying to change the status quo and use technology to help end loneliness one reader at a time.
Ok. it is not enough to talk about problems without offering possible solutions. In your experience, what are the 5 things each of us can do to help solve the Loneliness Epidemic. Please give a story or an example for each.
1. Empathy: The most important thing we can do is learn to be empathic to our friends and family. When you feel like someone cares about you enough to listen, to be empathic towards you, you don’t feel the loneliness. I think empathy is the key to ending loneliness in this world. If every lonely person is able to find another soul who truly listens to them and tries to understand them, they will no longer feel lonely. They will feel like someone really cares because they took the time and effort to show empathy to them.
Empathy is not just listening to someone. It’s putting yourself in their shoes and feel what they are feeling. It’s not the same as sympathy where you just feel bad for them. If a person feels that someone else truly understands what they’re going through, even if the issue remains unsolved, the burden of loneliness and isolation would at least be lessened.
For example, when a friend comes to you and asks for advice on breakup, don’t just disregard their pain and try to end the conversation by saying things like,
“There are plenty of fish in the sea.”
“Don’t waste your time on her, she is not worth it.”
“Just move on from her. It’s not that hard.”
Instead, truly try to listen and understand what your friend is going through. Different people feel the breakup pain differently. And just because your last breakup was easy for you, it doesn’t mean that it will be easy for your friend as well. For all you know, they are in so much pain that they are having suicidal thoughts.
2. Learn to Communicate: Misunderstandings and bad communication can sometime ruin a great relationship. Unfortunately, we are not taught how to communicate and resolve conflicts in school or even at home. We end up taking this poor communication skills into adulthood, and by that stage, very few people actually take the time to try and improve their communication skills or learn how to handle conflict more effectively.
This is true for all relationships including friends and family. But it rings especially true in romantic relationships. If you are in a long-term relationship, you probably know that it’s impossible to avoid conflicts. One of the biggest differences between successful couples and unsuccessful couples is that they know how to communicate their needs to each other.
In our recent study on reconciliation after breakups, we found that majority of participants who successfully got back in a healthy relationship with their ex said that they are both better at communication and solving relationship problems.
There are many resources online where you can learn to communicate better. In my opinion though, the best source to learn the basics is the book “Non-violent Communications” by Marshal B. Rosenberg.
For example, one of our clients who wanted to get his ex back realized that the reason him and his ex broke up was bad communications. He just never learned how to communicate effectively. Lack of communication skills pushed away the love of his life.
Once I told him to learn better communication and introduced him to the concepts of “Non-Violent Communication”, it was like his entire life changed. All his relationships improved including the ones with his family and friends. His ex-girlfriend saw the changes in him, and they both decided to give it another shot.
3. Be open to new friends: It’s tough trying to connect with new people when you are an adult, and we tend to justify this by telling ourselves that we’re too tired from work or life to be making new friends. In reality, friends are your number one support system besides your family, and while it’s much less of an issue if you already have a healthy circle of friends, it’s not easy when you are an adult who does not have any close friends to hang out with. So, when you meet someone who wants to be your friend be open to them and give them a chance.
For example, if that awkward guy in your office asks you to hang out after work, say yes even if you were hoping to go back home and play video games with your college friends. That shy and awkward guy may be in desperate need of a friend, and in line with showing a greater sense of empathy, that little gesture by saying yes may end up going a long way in helping someone else’s life.
4. Encourage Healthy Relationships: One of the reasons loneliness is so prevalent today is because society encourages shallow relationships. We focus more on what other people think about us and our relationship than what it really is. Anyone who is in a healthy relationship and feels secure with their partner will not consider themselves lonely.
We can change this by encouraging healthy relationship and discouraging shallow or superficial relationships.
For example, if you have a friend who seems to be going through one shallow relationship after another, encourage them to try to recognize their patterns and change them. Encourage them to start looking for positive emotional traits in a partner rather than just looks, and you could even try to find someone that you think may be suitable for them. A simple search online will lead to a lot of great resources on how to take the first step.
5. Find your own support system: You can’t be empathetic to others and change the world if you are running out of empathy. Empathy fatigue is as real as decision fatigue. If you keep being empathic to everyone around you but you have no one who is empathic to you, you will eventually run out of empathy and start feeling lonely yourself. You need to find at least one person you can rely on to be there for you and show you empathy when you need it most.
In most cases, that person will be your romantic partner. But it can also be a close friend, sibling or parent. Bonus points if you have more than one person who you can turn to when you need empathy.
For me, that person is my girlfriend. She listens to me when I feel emotionally tired after going through the breakup stories of all of my clients.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I would like to see an empathy movement. Perhaps a #showempathy trending on twitter. Another movement that I think will help change the world for good would be to teach effective communication in school. It would make adult life much easier for a lot of kids if they are taught an effective way to deal with conflict (personal or professional) in school.
We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
One of my favorite authors is Dr. Robert B. Glover for his work in “No More Mr. Nice Guy”. It has changed the lives of millions of men around the word. I would love to pick his brain over breakfast.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
You can follow me on twitter here.
Thank you so much for these insights. This was so inspiring, and so important!
“5 Things We Can Each Do Help Solve The Loneliness Epidemic” With Kevin Thompson was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.