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Living Well via Loving Well

Synopsis: About your tree of life; love well to live well in every way; a few important definitions; why love research is hard to research; different kinds of love give different results; and a love prescription for nourishing your tree of life.

How Is Your Tree of Life Growing?

Let’s say you have a tree of life on which grow many fruits.  There are the fruits of your labors, the fruits of your learning, the fruits of your relationships, the fruits of your very nature, the fruits of your appreciations, your fun and your joys, and all the other fruits of your involvements and of your being.

As you partake of the fruits of your tree of life your spirit is nourished.  But there is a question.  What nourishes your tree of life?

Consider this.  Healthy, real love nourishes your tree of life like nothing else.  Abundantly given and received, healthy real love is the most important of all things that bring forth life’s high order thriving.  Arguably, all of life’s ever increasing, enriching variety and all of life’s most important enhancements and improvements have been and are love related and love nourished in one way or another.  As sundry philosophies and religions have purported love is for life the greatest of all things.  Therefore, it follows that love may be for you and those you care about the most important of all things.  So, are you giving love due regard?

Love Well to Live Well in Every Way

The better you are at love the better you function, the healthier and happier your life is, and the longer you are likely to live.  Love poorly and you live less well functioning, less happy, less healthy and less long.  That is what a growing preponderance of worldwide research from a wide variety of fields is telling us.  Mounting evidence shows that people who are in well-loving couples relationships, families, friendship networks and love-oriented communities live the best lives, by every way of measuring quality of life.

A Few Important Definitions

Love, or more accurately – healthy, real love –  as used here is simply defined thus:
Healthy, Real Love Is a Powerful, Vital, Natural, Process of Highly Valuing, Desiring for, Often Acting for, and Taking Pleasure in the Well Being of the Loved (see the column at the left of this page  “Definition of Love Series” for further and more full definitions and discussions).

Love can be viewed as a biological reality having largely to do with the brain’s limbic system and various neurochemical, and biochemical, and perhaps neuro-electrical phenomena in at least higher order species.  Love also can be viewed as a psychological reality having to do with the thoughts, feelings and behaviors associated with love.  This especially involves the eight groups of behavior which have been found to convey love and trigger different, healthy, neurological and biological processes in both the giving and receiving of love (see the entry “A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love).
Love can be seen as a relational reality because it is in relationships that love’s biological and psychological phenomena occur, as has been found by various individually focused and socially oriented scientific research disciplines.

Loving well is defined as consistently acting toward others and toward yourself in all matters of high value in ways consistent with the eight groups of direct, love behaviors known to convey, receive and trigger bio-psycho-social love reactions.  Loving well can be described as consistently practicing and developing one’s love skills until, more often than not, one is successful at love efforts, love relationships and love thriving.

Why Love Research Is Hard to Research

With some disappointment we must note that the word love often is avoided by some but not all researchers.  This seems to be because “love” is used as a synonym for sex, and perhaps because of its often confusing, contradictory and sometimes pathological use in poetic and romantic literature.  Researchers who try to avoid the use of the word love often use substitutes like “affectionate attachment”, “warm positive regard”, “intimate personal ties”, “close-knit connection”, “emotionally bonded relationship” and a host of similar terms, all of which might easily be translated as “love” by learned readers.  Interestingly researchers in the older, more established disciplines don’t seem to mind using the word love at all.  The word and the topic love show up in the professional literature of the several neurosciences, medicine, biology, primatology, experimental psychology and even in economics.

It seems only in the newer social sciences and the helper-fields (like the several forms of counseling) that there appears to be a squeamishness about using the word love.  This avoidance of the word love and the resulting plethora of substitute terms does make it considerably harder to look up research results related to love.  Nevertheless, with some prodigious effort it can be done.  So, here are a few of the overall trends from that research.

Different Kinds of Love Give Different Kinds of Benefit

Committed-couple love relationships have been found to help people avoid disease, have a general higher level of overall health, and assist people in dealing more successfully with most of life’s difficulties.  In some studies “marrieds” do a little better than co-habitating couples, but with other factors the reverse is true.  Co-habiting couples have been found to have better, all-over, psychological well-being than do the legally married and those living single without a committed relationship.  However, “marrieds” have been measured as having somewhat better physical health.

Men tend to be a bit healthier in marriages but women in cohabitation, according to some studies.
The one, big drawback to couple’s love occurs when one of the couple dies.  The surviving partner is more likely to fall ill and die within a two-year period of the loss unless friends, family, altruistic causes and/or unless another romantic love comes strongly into their life during that time.

Families in a number of nations who frequently act to love well often produce far happier, healthier people who are better able to cope with stress and, therefore, don’t tend to suffer from stress-related illnesses nearly as much as the less loving.

Friendship love which occurs in close-knit, interpersonal networks produces considerably lower mortality rates at all age levels in international comparisons studies.  With friendship love there is a much reduced likelihood of self-destructive behavior, fewer heart attacks, less cancer, less arthritis, fewer gastrointestinal upsets, fewer skin problems, fewer headaches and fewer complications from pregnancy.

Humanitarian and altruistic love also produce excellent health and longevity results, as does living in love-oriented communities.  The evidence suggests all of these love sources act as a protective shield against toxic and stressful environments.  A lowering of bad cholesterol and a raising of immunity functioning especially is common with those who love altruistically.  Much lower use of mood affecting drugs, legal and illegal, is another result according to various researchers.

Spiritual love and well loving people active in spiritually-based communities have been shown to have healthier behaviors, less substance abuse and healthy sleep and appetite habits.  This seems to hold true for people from ‘Austria to Australia’ and across all major ethnic and religious groups.
The well loving who also are quite sexually loving measure as happier, more vitally alive, more productive and more creative.

Healthy, real self-love is a very important factor in living well.  Some hold that it is the single most important type of love for having a happy, healthy, long life because it is viewed as central for excelling at all other types of healthy, real love.

A Love Prescription for Nourishing Your Tree of Life

Living by way of the thoughts, feelings and behaviors of healthy, real love has been found to be more important to happy, healthy living than a good diet, exercise, low stress environments, education, wealth, ethnicity and a host of other similar factors – not that these factors are unimportant.  So, if you desire the good life get into love every way you can.  To do this I suggest you study this site’s love’s definition and its major functions, and also take a look at the various forms of false love along with the different kinds of love, and everything else you can discover about what love really means and how it’s done.

Especially learn and practice the behaviors of love and the skills of love.  Learn to give love, think love, feel the many emotions and physical sensations of love, and learn to receive love well.  To do all that obviously is what this site is all about, so you might want to visit it often, and tell friends family, and maybe even enemies about it.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question What will your life be like if you devote a fair amount of time and energy to learning and practicing healthy, real love – and what will it be like if you don’t?

Friendship Love And Its Extraordinary Importance

Synopsis: The many marvels of friendship love, an example of widely varying emphases on friendship love and its vast importance, friendship love in good and bad times, and evaluating what friendship love may do for your life are given here.

Friendship love may have saved more lives than any other kind of love!  Friendship love may help people through hard times as much as any other type of love!  Friendship love is often the longest lasting type of love in many people’s lives.  For lots of people friendship love has been the most reliable kind of love in their lives.

Friendship love can be the type of love that has the least complications, hassles and problems.  In the lives of no small number of people it is friendship love that has been the deepest and most profound type of love they have experienced.  So, Dear Reader, I urge you to consider the role of friendship love in your life and its potential in your future.

“Shocked!  That’s what I am, totally and completely shocked!  Trevor and I were going to be married next month and now it’s over, all because I told him he would have to say goodbye to his friends who are single after we are married.  He told me he loved me dearly but to him his deep love with his friends had done him more good than any other kind of love, and he was not about to give up any true friend for the uncertainty of a marriage.  He told me that where he came from friendships were for life while marriages may or may not last, and he thought that anyone who would ask him to give up his true friends couldn’t really love him, and with that he broke off our engagement”.

Teresa who was reporting this had grown up in an American social sphere in which marriage and romantic love were seen as far more important than friendship love.  Trevor on the other hand has been raised in a sphere of European society that emphasized the great importance of life-long, abiding, solid, friend relationships based in real, unending love.  For Trevor and people raised in that social sphere the end of a profound friendship was the cause for far deeper grief than the end of a marriage or even a love-filled romance.  Also in Trevor’s world to use the word “friend” had profound significance while in Teresa’s it was used often in a light and not all that meaningful way.

Mild and very recent acquaintances were sometimes referred to as friends in Teresa’s world but that would never happen in Trevor’s.  Thus, you can see that in different parts of the world and in different social spheres friendship love is given very different levels of importance.  With some “friend” implies the existence of a true, deep, love relationship of great value.  With others “friend” refers to a much more shallow and inconsequential, often temporary relationship in which there is nothing even approaching true, deep love.

Here a deep and true friend is someone with whom you have developed a healthy, real love.  A true friend basically can be a person as close and important to you as a dearly beloved sister, or brother, or other close family member.  Deep and abiding, love-filled, true friendships can make people “family” in the best meaning of that word.  In fact friendship love is as important and sometimes even more important than family love in the lives of many.  It is often friendship love that prevails when all other loves have been found wanting.  There are many who say it was the love from a friend that got them through and able to survive a great tragedy, a horrible defeat, or monstrous loss in their lives.

Often it is a true and deeply loving friend who will tell you the uncomfortable to hear truth about yourself when no one else will.  It is friendship love that gets that friend to stand by you as you blunder and struggle with your life, and your flaws and shortcomings.  It is friendship love that motivates a friend not to give up on you even when you are being absurdly wrong, stupid and self-defeating.  Friendship love for many people is the only love that sustains and protects them through disasters and the bleak times of desolation.

In good times it is friendship love that can provide free flowing companionship, egalitarian compatibility, shared fun, delightful comradeship and someone to share victory celebrations with.  In those times which are ordinary and mundane friendship love can bring easy going relaxation, anti-lonely connection and sweet, pleasant acceptance.

How are you doing at true, deep, abiding, friendship love?  Have you given true friendship and friendship love enough thought?  Enough effort?  Enough importance?  Do you have some ideas of what you might do if you were going to go after more and greater friendship love in your life?  Are you aware that friendship of the deep and love-filled type may greatly enrich your life, open your life to new horizons, cause your life to be lived at a higher plain, and perhaps even save your life?

There’s lots more to consider when thinking about real, friendship love.  I like to ask people to look at the possible future importance of real, friendship love in their lives before getting into a lot of the “how-to’s” of growing friendship love.  If you’re going to really succeed at love broadly friendship love probably has to be one of the things you give a real good look at.

One more thing about this important kind of love.  It is of great importance for you To Be a truly loving friend.  Some people want more and better loving friends but don’t give much attention to being one.  To help you think about this you might want to check out  “The Definitions of Love” in the column on the left of this page, and in particular “The Behavioral Definition of Love” entry.

As always, Grow and Go in Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Can you think of a past acquaintance, or friend, or lover you would like to reconnect with and see if you might be able to grow toward a true, friendship-type, love relationship with that person?  If so, what might you do about that?

Previous Comments:
  1. Vicky Kadam
    October 2nd, 2017 at 07:05 | #1

  2. Miranda Bond
    November 28th, 2017 at 23:27 | #2

    I experienced such deep sorrow after a girlfriend cut me off after a 40 year friendship. It took me about 5 years to recover from the hurt. We had been friends since I was 10 and in our mid life she accused me of having an affair with her husband. I tried so hard to make her see she was being paranoid but to no avail. I can honestly say the hurt that the breakdown of this friendship caused me was indescribable . Worse than a broken heart from a romantic split. Female friendships are the glue that keep women sane through life’s ups and downs.

Should Age Make a Difference -- In Love?

“I think I have fallen in love with someone my father’s age.  Am I sick, crazy, or what?  Do I have a neurotic father fixation?  What’s going on with me?  More importantly what should I do about it? My best friend told me, 'Tabitha, he is too old for you!  You always have been a sensible woman.  You know it can’t work.  Break it off!'  Is she wrong?  Could it work?  Could this be real love?  I’m so confused.”

Tabitha’s concerns are shared by millions of men and women who find themselves attracted to or romantically involved with people their society says are ‘age inappropriate’ for them.  On the basis of age difference alone some people don’t let themselves get involved, or if they are involved they end the relationship.  Others do not let age matter and they plunge ahead no matter what the age difference is.  There are a lot of people who don’t seem to even let themselves romantically notice people outside of what they think is the ‘proper age range’.

A fair number of people hardly consider age differences at all, while for others age difference is a crucial factor.  With different groups in different social spheres ideas about what is the acceptable or proper age range differs widely.  Then there are the rebels who purposefully work against and outside what they see as society’s dictates of correctness.  Consequently these rebels only will let themselves be romantically involved with people much older or much younger than themselves.  There are other people who are absolutely turned off by people close to their own age and for them the greater the age difference the better.

Different people experience very different results when there is a great disparity in the age of the couple in a romantic relationship.  I remember Sheila who talked of the love affair that saved her life and gave it purpose.  That love affair was one that started when she was 23 and he was 83.  It only lasted six years but it was the most influential and joyous six years of Sheila’s young adult life according to her.  What was your reaction when you read 23 and 83 years old?  Then there was Johnny who told of his affair with his very French French instructor who he described as a worldly older woman of deep passion and deeper understanding.  Without his exceptional relationship with her he said he could never have come to successfully love anyone, including himself.

Views on love and age differences seem to be varying ever more widely.  One view is, if you want a standard marriage, to raise kids, to have your extended family accept you, and to fit in with your ‘normal’ neighbors you had better marry somebody who is fairly close to your own age.  If you don’t mind being different or if you want to be different, age doesn’t matter just so long as you have healthy, real love going on between the two of you.

Another view is, once a person has achieved a sort of basic maturity and can be seen as sufficiently adult it’s OK for them to love and be loved by any other adult.  Actually this is the view held and supported by the law in much of the world today.  The problem is age is not a very good measure of actual maturity.  I once served as an expert witness in a case where a 22-year-old teacher was arrested for having sex with a 16-year-old student.  This officially under-age student had for three months led five children out of harm’s way in a Central American revolution after her own parents were assassinated.  She came from a country where marriage or affairs between couples of these ages was common   Not only was she a full-time student but she also was a full-time job holder in a responsible position.  Despite all signs of this student’s psychological maturity the teacher was deemed guilty and was headed for prison.  Teacher/student sex laws have been designed to protect a youth from being victimized by a predatory adult and sometimes may be interpreted too narrowly. 

As is sometimes the case, the law’s attempt to govern love was thwarted.  With help from a church this couple managed to escape to a Caribbean nation where now they are both outstanding citizens of that nation, are both teachers and are raising their four children in a healthy, happy home by all accounts.

Do you agree that our world needs all the healthy, real love it can get?  If so then perhaps romantic, sexual, marital and all other types of love between adults of vastly different ages had best be completely accepted and honored.  If the love is real and healthy, perhaps age differences don’t really matter.  Right?  Of course, not everyone agrees with that kind of thinking.

People who want to have rules for how love should work and be governed keep having problems about age and what should be socially sanctioned.  In the modern Western world it wasn’t too long ago that in some areas an age difference of greater than three years was questionable, and an age difference of 10 years was totally unacceptable.  Now in certain social spheres just about any age is OK if the couple is happy and doing well.  There are those who protest saying that anything beyond seven, or maybe 10, or maybe 12, or maybe 15 years is unseemly or even perverted and psychologically sick.  Do you think there’s anything ‘sick’ about a loving couple who shares an age gap of 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 plus years?  If a 20-year-old is in love with a 40-year-old does it bother you?  If a 40-year-old is in love with a 60-year-old is that bothersome?  How about a 60-year-old with an 80-year-old?  Then, of course, what about an 80-year-old with a person who has reached the century mark, should that concern us?

Think about what these people had to say.  “Marlena is 20 years older than me,” said Bob.  “But she is one astonishing female.  My friends and family complained when I told them about us, but I just couldn’t pass up such a wonderful woman, and besides I love her so much”.  On the death of her husband who was 30 years her senior Francine said, “I’ll be forever grateful for the time I had with Darrell and I wouldn’t trade my relationship with him for anyone or anything else in the world.  I’ll probably go on to love someone else, I suppose.  That’s what Darrell wanted me to do.  I think my next relationship probably will be good too, but it will be far better because of my love with Darrell and what it did for me”.  Elaine told of her affair with an older man being in every way superior to what she had experienced with ‘boys’ her own age who she saw as just not having enough to offer.  George said much the same thing about his “cougar” and sees her as someone who is refreshingly free of the hang ups of youth like some of the people in his own age group.

In the many issues influencing love I like to look at what history and culture and science have to tell us.  A lot of people get rather upset when they find out that history, different cultures and science frequently tell us things that are very different from what contemporary society would have us think.  They discover that the history taught by the movies and many high school teachers is not at all that accurate and often is not the complete story of what really happened.  For some even more upsetting is how different other contemporary cultures, nations, societies, etc. are regarding age as compared to their own.  Then there’s science which keeps discovering new ways to understand how we and the universe work and what really is ‘age’?

The upsetting nature of truth when arrived at through the pathways of history, multiculturalism and science seems to apply when considering age differences and healthy, real love.  Historically marrying someone close to your own age is a very recent development.  For a very long time in many parts of the world and throughout Western world history a man was supposed to establish himself so he could be a good provider which usually meant he was in his late 20’s or early 30’s, and then he was supposed to marry a young teenager preferably someone between 13, or at most 17 years of age. 

For a woman to be unmarried at 18, or as old as 20 meant she had ‘missed it’.  Mary was thought to have been a young teen when she joined with Joseph who was probably in his 30’s.  Cleopatra is believed to have been a teenager when she bore a son by Julius Caesar who was in his 40’s or older.  Empress Catherine The Great of Russia had a lengthy series of lovers, each a young lieutenant in their 20’s right up to the end of her long and productive life.  Indeed powerful men and women of every age have taken young lovers very much there junior.  This was as true for women as for men. 

Throughout history it has been usual for many a wealthy queen, duchess, countess or well-off commoner widow to acquire one or more young lovers.  It is interesting to note that science has discovered evidence that shows having a young lover often makes the physiology of both older men and women function in a more healthful and youthful way.

Love between age similar people historically seldom has been the accepted or the preferred style.  It wasn’t until democracy began to catch on in the 1700’s that love, sex and marriage between people more similar in age started to gain real popularity in some avant-garde, liberal circles.  Now it may be more avant-garde, democratic and liberal for people of very different ages to engage in love, sex and marriage.

Sciences tell us that having meaningful relationships with people of widely differing ages can be very good for us.  This can include love and sex which apparently adds substantially to the benefit.  Older men and women physically seem to age more slowly with younger lovers.  Younger people psychologically stabilize and mature more completely with the mentoring of older lovers.  There is some thinking that says polyamore couples who are involved with widely age-different other couples, or an individual, also garner these benefits.

Couples who have wide age differences quite often do face struggles with age prejudice.  Friends and family may attempt to break up age-different couples.  Societal acceptance may be withheld and the pressures of conforming to cultural norms may be severely applied.  Some age-different couples discover the disapproval of others actually can be used to strengthen their love bond with each another as they fight against this form of age discrimination.  Many couples with age disparity also discover that their age differences are very enriching, but it’s true other couples experience these differences as seriously divisive.

If an age-different couple knows how to do ‘I win, you win’ love relating they usually discover that no one has to lose because of age difference.  They add to each other by way of their differences instead of becoming conflicted.  As is true of all couples, the trick here is to live doing the behaviors of healthy, real love and avoiding the actions that are anti-love.  When that is done it seems age makes no vital difference.  Of course, some people handle age differences well and some don’t.  There are those who delight in the surprises and challenges that their age differences bring them, and there are those who are increasingly annoyed, aggravated and upset by these differences.

Age difference seems to be a cause for some people to break up, and for others it means almost nothing, while still others find it enjoyably challenging and rewarding.  As with all other kinds of couples, a healthy self-love and a true love of life turns out to be far more important than an age difference.

With all that as background let’s look at a few questions.  When it comes to romantic love do you think you have an age prejudice?  Do you disqualify people from being candidates for love because they are considerably younger or older than you?  If you encounter a couple who seem to have a wide age range difference do you think or talk with terms like “cradle robber”, “daddy’s gold digger”, “mommy’s baby boy”, “dirty old man”, “cougar” “predator”, etc.?  If you see a loving couple whose age difference is outside the range you have been taught to think of as appropriate do you look down on them?

Do you demean and disrespect them, or do you appreciate and honor that they seem to have found and are doing love in spite of the age prejudices which may have beset them.  If you are single do you need to open your age range thinking?  If you are in a committed relationship do you need to open your age range thinking as to who might be candidates for loving friendship and other kinds of loving relationships?

So that you are not left hanging and wondering what happened to Tabitha, with a little counseling help Tabitha saw that her attraction to her older lover was based on a great many shared interests, a common philosophy of life and similar goals.  She had not had an obsessive attraction to older men and in fact had dated age-widely.  She and her older lover joined a book club with interesting members of vastly different ages where they felt accepted and found close friends.  In counseling they worked on some problem areas common to many couples that had little to do with their age difference, and went on to do their love quite well.

As always, Go and Grow in Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
What do you think the subtle messages are concerning age and love that got into your head?

Related posts:

Previous Comments:
  1. Kris
    November 9th, 2014 at 13:52 | 

    This is a very enriching article. well researched, and very useful for people who are struggling if it is right or wrong when they are love and has a wide age difference.

  2. Jennifer
    April 18th, 2015 at 10:08 | 
    Very interesting article. Well written and veryhelpful to me being in an age-gapped relationship.
  3. June 17th, 2015 at 12:21 | 

    My sincere belief is that love doesn’t see an age difference, so as long as the couple consists of two fully consenting adults (16+ in the UK), then it’s nobody else’s business what they do.

  4. Nikolaus
    June 29th, 2016 at 14:17 | 

    wonderfully reassuring in an age where the law still makes not as much sense as the law of love.

Touching With and For Love – A Super Important Love Skill

Mini-Love-Lesson  #229

Synopsis: Ways of uncommonly growing your variety and skills for sending and receiving love by way of touch, starting with the most common ways of doing tactical love is well addressed in this mini-love-lesson.

Different! – Better! – More!

Are you good at love touching?  Is your variety of differing ways to touch, with and for love, rich and varied? (see “50 Varieties of Love Touch”)  Are your ways of showing love by touch getting better, becoming more impactful and more diverse?  How are you doing at getting yourself lovingly touched?  Are you good, and getting better, at receiving, soaking up and savoring the touch from those who love you?  If you want to be touched differently, do you ask for it clearly and with love?  (see “Asking For What You Want -- With Love”)  Do you know how those you love want to be touched by you?  Has it changed?  Finally, how much do you know about the getting and giving of love through touch and what that can achieve in physical, psychological and relational health? (see “Love Hugs for Health and Happiness”)

Five Basic Ways of Doing Touch Love – Maybe Better

Let’s consider five of the most common and popular ways people touch, with and for love, for connecting and the sharing, giving and getting healthy, real love.  Let’s also consider doing these five ways a bit better, even if you do them quite well.

1. Handholding
Think about handholding which is – tender and caring – or solid and reassuring – or comforting and friendly – or playful and happy.  Now think about the differences in hand pressure and the hand motions during handholding which can help make each of those mood states happen.  And let’s think about your two hands lovingly holding one hand of someone you love, then lovingly holding both their hands simultaneously.  What might be the differences in love effects between those two ways of holding hands?  Is the love impact or intensity of emotions different?  How are those two ways different than only one of your hands holding just one hand of a loved one?  What could be the different emotions that might occur, or be conveyed and/or shared with each different way of holding hands?

Let’s add thinking about holding hands while walking, sitting side-by-side, across a table and laying side-by-side.  Which of those is best for you for being able to show your love through handholding touch?  Imagine holding one hand with one of your hands while your other hand moves one finger slowly across the back of his or her hand, then between their fingers , then touching palm to palm and lastly, the back of your hand touching the back of theirs lightly.  What effect might each of those actions have?

How good are you at return touching when loving hands touch you? (see “Touching Back – A Surprisingly Important Love Skill”)  What would that be like, or has it been like if you already have done hand touching like that?  Is this little handholding and touching variety sequence appealing to you and/or to your beloved?

With whomever you hold hands with, do you talk about it?  Do you explore and experiment for new and more pleasurable ways to add to what might be called your handholding menu or repertoire?

With all these thoughts in mind, are you going to do something that might add to your future handholding with and for love?

2. Face Touching
Fantasize about softly cupping your hands around the cheeks of a loved one as you look lovingly into their eyes, creating a special moment of special love.  Imagine gently stroking their eyebrows with one finger and then running fingers along the outline of their lips and other facial features.  Suppose, ever so tenderly, patting one cheek with the palm of your hand and then, ever so much more gently, running a fingertip over their closed eyelids.  Add soft kissing to their brow, earlobes, cheeks and then finally their lips.  Now, imagine beginning to playfully twirl locks of their hair followed by pulling your loved ones head to your chest with their face being softly snuggled there.  Lastly, in your mind’s, eye see your loved one’s cheek resting peacefully on your inner thigh as you both lay together in bed.

As you imagine these things, what are your feelings and your thoughts about doing more and different face touching love?

3. Back Rubbing.
Rubbing somebody’s back can be done for a variety of reasons.  There is rubbing for only pain and tension relief, obligatory rubbing because you owe them one, therapeutic rubbing for health and, of course, as a seduction lead in.  Then there is a back rub done primarily to show and share love.  Is that back rub different from those other back rubs?  Interestingly, there is research that says, yes it is.  Preliminary and pilot studies revealed that when people who love each other lovingly touch, back rubs included, there are measurable neuroelectric and neurochemical differences occurring in their brains and nervous systems, as compared to mere acquaintances doing similar touching.  These differences are healthful and can result in emotions sometimes described as feeling cherished, special, safer, closer, more serene and more loved.

People vary greatly in how they like their backs rubbed.  Unfortunately people who grew up seldom being lovingly touched tend to be more aware of what they do not like concerning back rubs and also other kinds of touch.  There are those who grew up with only hard and tough touches who, at first, find softer touch strange, irritating or otherwise disagreeable.  Then there are those for whom all touch is interpreted as sexual.  For them, nonsexual back rubs frequently are confusing, annoying and/or frustrating.  Almost everybody who works at it, possibly with the help of a good massage therapist, can come to find back rubs to be a very pleasurable and often a loving experience.  That is because the back has a wide scattering of nerve endings for pleasurable sensations.

What is important is to repeatedly experiment to discover what you naturally like, and then ask for it rather than just staying silent, complaining or dodging the issue.  Also important is working at being a good giver of the gift of love reception responses.  Appreciatively saying things like “that feels so good” and “thank you so much” are examples of good, love reception responses.  Discovering what a loving back caress really feels like, and how receiving it well gives pleasure to the person giving you one, may double your pleasure and be well worth the effort.   

Remember, with healthy self-love you can ask for the way you are being touched to change from what you like less to what you may like more.  This is a loving thing to do because it helps those who love you to know you and to know what you want better.  Lovingly asking for a touch that is harder or softer, faster or slower, moving to the right or left, up or down, or expressing what is just right is usually all you need.  Those nine requests can usually get you touched pretty much just right.

The way you want to have a back rub may be very different from the way someone you love wants one.  This actually goes for all touch.  It also may change from time to time.  The loving thing to do is to stay current by asking, every so often, how does your loved one want their back to be rubbed today.  Adding experiments in back scratching, caresses using different materials like velvet and silk, feathers, warm rounded light weight river rocks, and the like, also can make the back rubbing experience a very special, loving experience.  Sometimes the simple act of relieving tension by rubbing neck, shoulders, etc. also can be a quite nice loving thing to do.

4. Foot rubbing
Some researchers studying what successful couples do, were surprised to find foot rubs were mentioned much more often than they had expected.  Couples stated things like they felt lovingly treated when lying on a couch or bed watching TV when their spouse would begin to rub their feet and both felt closer and more lovingly connected.

Like the hands, the feet have a lot of nerve endings for sensual and other tactile pleasures.  This offers a lot of opportunities for creating positive feelings, both physical and emotional. Gentle toe pulling and squeezing, varying pressure on soles, heels and arches, top of the foot caressing, and so forth, adds to the experience.  Some couples include soft towels, fuzzy cloths and special devices made for foot massage.  The use of scented massage oils, skin creams, pumice stones, honey dust and body powders all can be employed to convey special love during foot rubs.  Then too, just a simple relaxed foot caressing at the end of a hard day’s work also can be quite a love-conveying action.

5. Love Hugging
Is hugging the most wonderful way to do touch love?  Is hugging the way that conveys love most quickly and fully in all kinds of love relationships?  Are love hugs the most accurate way for conveying the widest array of the many emotions that come with love?

Many, when asked to think seriously about the above questions, gave a resounding YES as the right answer to each of those queries and others like them.  There also is a growing body of scientific findings that tend to support those affirmative replies about hugging.  In some studies, the ways people hug, cuddle and snuggle have been found to more effectively and more accurately convey a wide array of emotions having to do with love better than words or facial expressions.  Link “Cuddling for Greater Love and Better Sex -- A Love Skill”   Think of hugs that bring and share acceptance, joy, reassurance, emotional closeness, celebration, sense of being cherished, pride, comfort and safety, playful fun, empathy, sexiness, serene togetherness, healing, belonging, union and reunion.

Does the feeling shape the way the hug is done, or the other way around?  Probably it is a circular system where it is both.  What is important is that two or more people involved in the hug, and who have love for each other, share the feeling as they share the hug.  Family and deeper friendship group hugs, as well as loving couple hugs, seem to share this mutuality of similar emotions but not quite as strongly as do couples.

Love Touch for All Relationships of Love – Save One.

Bio-physically everybody can benefit from touches that convey healthy, real love.  That is because a touch of love naturally and healthfully stimulates a bundle of beneficial brain reactions.  They, in turn, make your immunity mechanisms work better, normalize blood pressure, reduce tension and stress, reduce depression and anxiety, improve circulation and maybe best of all increase the feeling of love connection with others.  Love touching, including hugs of friends, family, young and old, mates, kids and even yourself can be a very good thing.  Opening up to touch, and especially hugs which are tender, sweet, zestful, intimate, lively, bold and all the rest can be incredibly life-enriching for ever so many.

There is one big exception.  Sadly, there are a lot of people who are trained and/or conditioned by their cultures, religions, families or bad experiences to fear and avoid most touch experiences, even though they might be quite love expressive.  A great deal of that avoidance has to do with a fear of something sexual occurring.  Many who have this training and/or conditioning get over it with the intervention of some good psychotherapy and are then very grateful for it.

Going on to Ever Better Tactile Love

Tactile, or touch love, is thought to be our first, most basic and perhaps most important way of giving, getting and sharing love.  More is being discovered about how healthful loving touch is and how it works by university and medical school researchers every year.  You can do your own discovering, as you are doing right now by reading, followed by your own personal experimenting.  You also can learn a lot from getting various kinds of massage, perhaps especially Esalen massage, by taking massage courses and by being much more mindful concerning the getting, giving and sharing of love by way of touch.

One More Little Thing

How would you like to go right now and give somebody a loving touch, caress, pat or some other touch gift, and maybe tell them about this mini-love-lesson and this website about love?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: When love-touched, do you make sure to feel the touch with your mind’s awareness and, therefore, more fully experience the love, or is your mind off somewhere else, a bit out of touch?