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Loneliness and Love Absence

Mini-Love-Lesson  #236

Synopsis: The why’s and good reason for loneliness and it’s pain; wrong things to do that don’t end the pain; our epidemic of killer loneliness; social media and some very good news about what can be done about loneliness and the absence of love are all here.

The Why’s of Loneliness ? 

Why do we get lonely?  Do we need loneliness?  Does it do anything for us?  What is the purpose of the pain we experience when we feel acute loneliness?  Did nature, evolution, a deity or all three put loneliness in our lives for some good reasons?  Will our loneliness go away if we understand the why’s and what for’s of loneliness and act on that understanding?  What are the best things to do about loneliness, lovelessness and their agonies?  Are these the right questions that will get us to the best answers about loneliness and the absence of real love in our lives?

The Purpose of Loneliness and Its Pain

Considerable research shows loneliness works like a hunger for something we need for our psycho-biological well-being.  Ultimately loneliness is a hunger for love and the life connections that can lead to love.  When we satisfy that hunger, our physical brain and systems in our bodies work better.  When we don’t satisfy the hunger of loneliness and love hunger, we move toward brain chemistry malfunction, greater disease susceptibility, we become de-energized, less productive, less creative and less socially adept.  When we satisfy this hunger, we reverse all that and also do better at cooperation, feeling a sense of fulfillment and a long list of the other benefits of positive companionship.

Using  the concept that all emotions give us guidance, we can see that loneliness tells us to seek positive connection and nurturing interactions with others.  This includes being accepted, cared about, liked, affirmed, safeguarded and ultimately loved (see “Dealing with Love Hurts: Pain’s Crucial Guidance”).  When we achieve the nourishment of being connected and love-bonded, our brain and body chemistry responds very positively and we definitely are healthier, live happier and longer because of it.  This, by the way, turns out to be true not only for humans but for all mammals so far studied, plus many birds and perhaps some other life forms as well.  In short, to live well, we need each other and loneliness tells us when we need to do something about that.  So, to avoid toxic loneliness, actively seek emotionally meaningful life connections with others.  Then work to grow some of them into real, love relationships (“Behaviors That Make And Grow Friendship Love”).

The pain of loneliness tends to grow stronger when we do not succeed at following the guidance message loneliness is attempting to give us.  In a way, loneliness is like a good friend hounding us to do something positive to end the loneliness and not just suffer it (“Loneliness and Love”).

Doing the Wrong Things to End the Hurt

Some people try to end the pain of loneliness and love hunger in very unhealthy ways.  They turn to drugs, drink, or the destructive distractions of enthralling danger and fascinating dysfunction.  This easily can be done with sex, gambling, several forms of false love and excitement junkie behaviors.  All those things might work but only for a while.  Unless the behavior has healthy, real, love possibilities it is probably not going to pay off well.

Some people try to escape the pain of loneliness and love hunger through quantity instead of quality seeking.  Popularity, mass approval, fame, having high status connections, and the like, can result in ego boosts but very seldom in deep and love-bonded, meaningful, love relationships.  Others try to purchase friendships and love not realizing only false friends and false lovers are for sale.

Then there are those who live in crowded loneliness thinking they have many friends but they still feel lonely.  In truth, what they have are basically only acquaintances.  Acquaintances are better than nothing and they have the potential of becoming more if the right things are done to deepen some of the acquaintance relationships.  Remember, it is not about quantity it is about quality.

Tragically, the ultimate escape from the pain of loneliness and love hunger too often is suicide.  For some, the pain of loneliness and love starvation is just too much for them, or so they think.  Sadly, they may see the efforts required are far too difficult and the likelihood of success much too dismal.  Getting  new friends and growing new love often is hard and slow but with the right know-how and practice, it definitely is doable.

Unfortunately, all too many of the lonely and love malnourished have arrived at the conclusion that no one could or will ever like or love them because they are somehow crucially flawed.  Therefore, their future is one of nothing but painful loneliness and love starvation.  This is not true. Time and again in counseling I have seen people learn the skills of friendship-making and love relating.  When this happens, almost universally they go on to love-filled and friendship-filled living.

Preventively, this is where pets can come to the rescue.  I, and quite a few of the counselors and therapists I have trained, report love of and from a pet dog has made a life-saving difference.  For those living in lonely despair, for those who have lost a major love source and for those stranded in social isolation, for whatever reason, pets can make a huge, real, love difference.  Dogs seem to know how to do love especially well but we see cats, parrots, horses and monkeys do quite well at giving and receiving love too (see “Pet Love”).  Initially after a love bond with a pet has formed, it is not too long until the pet owner usually begins doing better connecting with people and then starts attaining a life of greater health, happiness and general well-being.

Our Epidemic of Killer Loneliness

If too often and too strongly you are lonely, you are more likely to die prematurely.  That is because loneliness does bad things to your brain chemistry and brain functioning and then to your body.  In many places around the Western oriented world, research shows loneliness and its detrimental effects are growing to epidemic proportions.  With this epidemic of loneliness, stress illnesses especially are increasing and related life expectancy is leveling off or beginning to decrease.

The research done by the UN, WHO, the US CDC, the National Health Service of the UK, countless medical schools and universities, and a plethora of epidemiologists confirms the veracity of these conclusions.  In England and Scotland, special anti-loneliness programs are being started by the health service, partly modeled on the cultural behaviors in countries in the world where the loneliness epidemic has not taken hold.  So far, they seem to be working well for many.

The Very Good News

The good news is you can hear the guidance message of loneliness which is to push yourself into connecting with others including pets; learn and do what it takes to make and keep real friends and then grow healthy, real, love relationships of several types.  It is likely you will have to overcome both internal and external obstacles, or you would have done it already.  Defeating loneliness is being done successfully by a growing number of people as they work to build their network of liking and loving others.  Do you think you can top and act on that?

Can Social Media Help?

So far, the research results are mixed.  It seems to be that if your connections with others via the Internet are marked by some emotional realness, positivity and backed up with some healthy self-love (see “From Self-Love to Other Love and Back Again”), healthful sincere connecting may occur.  It also helps if the connections are more face-to-face with the assistance of Skype or similar visual services.  Note: the highly important psychobiological contributions of loving touch still will be missing (see “Love Hugs for Health & Happiness”).

Some of What You Can Do

If you do not have a pet, really consider getting a good loving and lovable one soon ( see “Pet Love”). Next, Look up some how to books on loneliness or friendship making, pick one, read it and do at least some of what it says.  Then start another.  Frequently older books are better than new ones.  For an in-depth approach, I recommend adding to the how-to books Love and Loneliness by the wise and highly readable, existential psychotherapist, Dr. Clark E. Moustakas.

Next you will have to pick an action to take and then risk doing it at least three times, not expecting any success at all.  Learn from what happened and improve the action, then do it again.  After that, add another action and start doing it again and again, not expecting or counting on anything improving whatsoever.  As you go, keep studying the how to’s of healthy, real love and enjoying everything you can about this process.  This is what it takes in experimenting and practicing before success starts to happen unless you are extraordinarily lucky.  Also know it really can help to get the assistance of a good counselor, personal coach or therapist as you tackle loneliness and/or love absence and their life-impacting difficulties.

One Other Thing

Talk about what you have just read with someone and that likely will help to implant these concepts as well as motivate action.  While you do that, we would like it if you would mention this site and our free subscription service.  Thank you.

As always Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable question: is it more our duty, or our privilege to grow our own love giving and getting network?

Intimacy Creation - A Love Skill

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson covers intimacy ignorance; the two major kinds of intimacy; sexual intimacy; emotional intimacy; the cultural complications of intimacy; and then gives you a dozen ways to work toward creating and enhancing emotional intimacy in your own, personal life.

Intimacy Ignorance

Can you say “My most intimate experiences are among the very best experiences of my life!”?  Can you say “The intimacy I share with those I love most provides me with my most valued, special feelings!”?  Can you say “Intimacy with a loved one has been a supreme and sublime, love experience like no other!!”?  Can you say “I know very well how to go about creating intimacy and intimacy experiences with those I love!”?

“She told me we just were not intimate enough, often enough.  At first I thought she meant sex but that turned out to be quite wrong.  So what does she mean?  How in the world do I go about whatever this intimacy thing is?”

Often I hear this sort of question when I’m doing relationship counseling or coaching with men.  However, there are related statements I get from females. Their statements often are something like “Isn’t he just supposed to know how to be intimate if he loves me?  If he hasn’t learned how to be intimate by now doesn’t that mean something’s wrong with him and our relationship can’t work?  If I have to tell him how to be intimate won’t that spoil it? ”

Sometimes I get a female’s statement like this: “I don’t know how to tell him what I mean by intimacy.  He is willing to learn but I only know it when I feel it, but I can’t explain how to get there.  Of course, there are females who make statements more like the males and males who make statements more like the females, so it’s not strictly a gender thing.

Another kind of statement I sometimes get in counseling concerning intimacy goes like this: “Our sex just isn’t very intimate.” Or sometimes, “ When we feel really intimate with each other it just never turns into anything sexual, and I want it to be sexual at least sometimes but we don’t know how to make that happen.”.

Two Kinds of Intimacy

I like to suggest that the first thing to get clear about is that there are two main types of intimacy – emotional and sexual.  They go well together but also they can be confused with one another.  When this confusion occurs people frequently end up having difficult problems with each other.  It also is quite important to understand that people can have sex without emotional intimacy just as easily as they can have emotional intimacy without sex.

Sexual Intimacy

Sexual intimacy can be said to occur when people closely and personally experience each other’s activated and shared sexuality.  This can occur via sight, sound, touch, scent, taste and kinetics.  It also can occur via shared sexual thoughts and feelings, well shown and expressed physically and emotionally.

Sexual Intimacy often involves disclosing one’s sexual self to another, accompanied by close and extensive body exploration, and the sharing and showing of erotic responses to erotic stimuli.  Sexual Intimacy may or may not involve sexual intercourse and orgasm but it often does.  Some people do not seem to be able to do sexual intimacy without emotional intimacy, while others do so rather easily.

Still others mix and separate the two, at will, depending on who is involved and their own, individual, love situation.  Sometimes the words intimacy or sexual intimacy are used to merely mean sexual intercourse or that some other form of sexual action has occurred.  This, I suggest, is a misuse and more misleading way of using these words.

Emotional Intimacy

Emotional intimacy for most people is a little harder to identify and define.  Emotional intimacy can be said to occur when someone feels an emotional, close, personal contact and connection with another.  This usually is accompanied with feelings of warm, private affection and positive regard, and not infrequently with very strong, personal love of one type or another.

Emotional intimacy can be marked by a depth and breadth of knowledge of another, and a sense of emotional interweaving with the inner core or essential nature of another’s innermost, true self.  It is most likely to occur when strong emotions are felt and shared.  It can come with close, physical, mental, social and emotional association.

Occasionally it brings on a sense of two or more beings, at least temporarily, having a fusion of their core spirits and real personalities.  Emotional intimacy frequently leads to increased love bonding, sometimes accompanied by a sense of awe and of being spiritually understood and connected.  Recent evidence suggests that when emotional intimacy occurs there are strong, healthful and perhaps fairly rare neurochemical processes occurring in the limbic system of the brain.

Cultural Complications

In the larger, Western world, growing, mega-culture it seems like not a lot of people learn what emotional intimacy is, let alone how to create it.  Even fewer appear to learn how to maintain and grow intimacy in ongoing relationships.  In our more ‘macho’ societies emotional intimacy often is regarded by males as feminine and, thereafter, disregarded, ignored and avoided.

It’s interesting that in some societal spheres things seen as feminine are put on an ‘idealized pedestal’ in principle but devalued and psychologically trashed in actuality.  Then there are those people who fake intimacy as just a way to gain something on their hidden agenda list like money, sex, marriage, etc.

After attainment of the hidden motive, the intimacy actions disappear.  This seems to occur particularly often in cultures and societal groups oriented primarily to commercialism, consumerism, power, status attainment, etc. rather than love, cooperation, mutuality and having a deeper quality of life.

However, all over the world there are people longing and striving for intimate love connections, intimate romance, emotionally intimate sex, and relationships filled with intimate emotional intercourse.  All over the world there is the question “How do you go about being emotionally intimate?”.  It would seem most people have very few, clear answers.  The good news is you can learn how to enhance and grow your intimacy-making skills and, thereby, strengthen and improve your love relationships.

A Dozen Ways to Work Toward Creating and Enhancing Emotional Intimacy

1.    Get Close  As you relate to someone slowly get physically closer and closer to them if the relating seems to be going well.  The closer you get physically the more likely you are to be able to be emotionally intimate.  When close make lots of eye contact.

2.    Talk Quietly  Intimate, personal talk is low-voiced, quiet talk, at least at first.  Shouting with shared exuberance may come later but until it does almost whispering does best.

3.    Talk Emotions  Learn and use the many terms for emotions.  Identify emotional feelings, ask about emotional feelings, share emotional feelings, and never leave emotional feelings out.

4.    Listen Well  Always be able to repeat back, nearly verbatim, what a loved one or an important other says to you.  Always be able to label, describe, or ask about the emotions involved in what you heard.

5.    Touch Carefully  First, softly touch the hard parts like shoulders, elbows, wrists, etc.  And later softer parts. At first, hug gently but then firmly and strongly.

6.    Reveal Private Feelings  Going ‘psychologically naked’, more and more, is essential for intimacy development.  Revealing the emotions you have and sometimes the physical feelings, along with behaviors and thoughts, history, hopes, etc. is required.

7.    Respect and Accept Revelations and Sharings  Usually with kindness and without shock judgment or criticism receive what others intimately share and reveal.

8.    Expressionally Communicate Lots  Facial expression, tonal expression, gestural expression, and postural expression often are more important than verbal expressions.

9.    Show Care  Have real care for what another is experiencing and show it, be it happiness, or agony, or the most mundane of things.

10.    Adventure Together Emotionally  Create and seek out experiences you can jointly experience together that are likely to engender emotions be they strong, delicate, tender, inspiring, surprising, reassuring, intense, serene, ecstatic, moving or anything else.

11.    Take and Make Time  Make and take the time it takes to have emotional intimacy and don’t rush it.

12.    Empathize Frequently  Emotional intimacy takes joining with another by empathetically and sometimes passionately sharing their pains, and pleasures and also their mediocre times.  Avoid becoming emotionally distant, distracted, absent or frequently attitudinally against those you would love and be emotionally intimate with.

Hopefully these 12 points will help you grow your intimacy-making love skills. Of course, there’s lots more to learn so probably you will need to venture into this topic more.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Can you fantasize and then analyze what would be a wonderfully, emotionally, intimate experience for you and your most beloved?

Friendship Love’s New Significance

Mini-Love-Lesson  #235

Synopsis: Good and better friendship and its new importance for how you identify yourself, feel about yourself, attain better happiness, health and longevity, along with the love guidance of your own answers to important questions are intriguingly presented here.

What You Do and Personal Importance?

Who are you and what do you do?  Isn’t that what everybody asks about when they first meet someone new?  Well, not everyone but those are the questions many people try to answer first just about everywhere in the modern. middle class, Western world.  This is especially true for males and for those whose occupation is their primary identity.  It is a bit less true for those who hold lesser status jobs and those who travel in old wealth circles.  For many millions their occupation is there foremost identifying factor.  Usually tied to that is a sense of their identity, personal worth, societal value and peer group importance.

So, if your occupation is abolished and that work is accomplished using algorithms and creating machines to do your job, who are you and what will you become?  Will you have importance, purpose, worth and significance or will you be and feel useless and without value?  This actually is what is beginning to happen to more and more people as high-tech improvements continue to replace people in all kinds of work.  With a sense of uselessness often comes anxiety, depression, addictions, suicide and other forms of life failure.

However, this does not happen to everyone who loses their work life identity.  Some have been raised to feel important and of worth because of being born into or married into a higher status family, class, caste, race or otherwise more advantaged group.  Then there are a good number who feel good about themselves so long as enough people feel good about them, but if their popularity wanes they may crash.  In the modern Western world, some few others are lucky enough to have been raised in families that understood and taught having a sense of intrinsic worth and healthy self-love (or they learned this on their own through reading, attending courses or being around people who project a love of self and love of others).  Those who have intrinsic self worth have little need of external self valuing factors to feel good about themselves.  Unfortunately, they are a minority.  Some cultures do better at helping people develop a sense of self worth and self love, as do some therapists and counselors.

In many parts of the modern world, the majority of people seem to need an external way of sufficiently feeling good about themselves.  Vast numbers primarily have accomplished this via their work identity.  Take that away and what’s left?

Will Occupational Identity and Its Personal Significance Fade?

Some studies in behavioral economics predict that about 47% of all current occupations are expected to become human free by mid century.

This could grow to 92% by the end of the century according to some experts.  Humans already are increasingly being replaced by smart machines, algorithms, high-tech advances and the like.

So, if this happens to you what is going to happen to your sense of significance, self-esteem, and most importantly how will it affect your healthy self-love (see “Self-Love and 12 Reasons to Develop It”)?  A future looking historian pessimistically warns we are going to have a lot of occupationally useless people around and a great many social and political problems occurring because of that.  So, what is to be done?

Significance Through Love

Can you guess who the people are who suffer least when their occupational or professional identity and its personal validation importance goes away?  The research shows it is the people who have healthy, strong and deep love relationships.  Mainly that means strong, ongoing friendships where healthy, real, sibling-like love exists.  Healthy, loving families and love mates count too.  Perhaps that is because their ways of doing love are very similar to the ways of real, friendship love (see “Understanding Friendship: From Mild Geniality to Profound Love”).  Note: If somebody says “My spouse is my best friend” a healthful mix of love-mate love and friendship love may be occurring. 

Now, let us suppose you met someone new and asked them what they did?  Further suppose that the answer you got was something like this.  “I’m a really good friend and that’s my chief significance”.  Even further suppose that this sort of answer became common and it indicated a primary way to feel good about your own purpose and significance in life.  Suppose also that it became common knowledge that having deep, real, love friendships lengthens life, reduces susceptibility to illness, magnifies general happiness and improves quality living just about every way one can measure it.  All of which is true.  Most of all suppose that nearly everybody’s primary sense of self worth was largely linked to how well they did love relationships and especially friendship love.  Suspect that more friendship love in the world might lead to more altruistic love, family love, healthy self-love and, of course, mate-love along with all the other healthful forms of love (see “Friendship Love and Its Extraordinary Importance”).

What to Do with This?

With the above ideas in mind, let’s look at some very important wide-ranging questions.  If your occupation was abolished and you were replaced by a machine, would your self-concept and self-esteem suffer?  What about your sense of life purpose?  Do you work at improving your friendship skills?  Are you doing things to improve the friendships you have?  How much could pride of being good at friendship love skills help you with your sense of being a person of worth and significance?  By way of healthy self-love, do you give yourself the gift of good friendships?  Do you need to learn more about the how to’s of good friendship and friendship love?  Do you think it might be good for you to make your sense of self worth less work-dependent?  Are you aware that having a few high-quality friends is much more important and healthful than having a high number of acquaintance-level friends?  Are you someone’s good friend?  If so, are you positive about yourself for being a good friend?  Are you in fact your own really good friend?  In healthy self-love could you be your own better friend?

With each of those questions, think of the answers you gave yourself and turn them into guidance messages.  Then, of course, seriously consider following the guidance you presenting to yourself.

One More Little Thing

How about talking all this over with a friend, or potential friend.  If you do that, please mention this website and our free subscription service.  By doing so, you will do us and them a friendly, good turn.  Thanks.

As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Question: Who loves you best – a friend that tells you what you want to hear, one who tells you what you don’t want to hear but need to, one who tells you both or one who tells you little but very lovingly really listens to you?

Self-Love and 12 Reasons to Develop It

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson covers what self-love means and does not mean; a list of 12 of the many things healthy self-love helps us do; and how to work and grow using this list.

What Self-Love Means

Healthy, real self-love means you highly value, honor and enjoying the unique bundle of miracles that you are, and that you have been since birth.

Self-love means because you highly honor your own essence and your individual shaping by life, you treat yourself well respecting the one-of-a-kind self you are.  Therefore, you are prone to act to safeguard and develop your gifts and appreciate your unique nature.  Self-love also can mean that you powerfully strive to thrive, live with vitality, delight in your natural self, and that you can be in awe of your own, miraculous, natural processes.

Self-love can mean you actively desire and work for your own well-being and strive to be your best self, not only for yourself but for those you love and care about.  You do that partially because the well-being of others, in a sense, selfishly means a great deal to you.  Self-love also can mean that you take healthful pleasure in the many ways you are built to experience pleasure and share pleasure.  Self-love also can mean that you work against the anti-self-love teachings, programming, and influences that come into your life that would rob you of your strengths, restrict use of your talents, and deprive you of becoming the best self you can become.  Self-love also means that you act toward yourself, feel toward yourself and think about yourself in the ways that are in accord with the definition of love offered at this site.

What Healthy Self-Love Does Not Mean

Healthy self-love does not mean becoming uncaring, ungenerous, mean, stingy, greedy, egotistical, covetous, uncharitable, miserly, narcissistic, hedonistic, sociopathic or self-absorbed.  In fact it means quite the opposite of those things.  That’s because healthy self-love leads to more and better love of others.

You see, when you love yourself healthfully you have the selfish desire to see your loved ones do well, and that leads you to act for their benefit.  Their benefit is your benefit.  It is those who are poor in self-love that go ‘out of balance’ and become stingy, destructively selfish, mean-spirited, etc.  Healthy self-love helps you live by the ancient wisdom which says “Love Others As You Love Yourself”.

What Healthy Self-Love Helps You To:

1.    Believe that the love you have to offer others is good and, therefore, you offer it more

2.    Have a self generating source of energy and power to get through hard times when no one else is giving you their love

3.    Have greater self-confidence and, therefore, accomplish more

4.    Have greater self-reliance and, therefore, be less dependent

5.    Develop more adult maturity so you can emotionally take care of yourself rather than be like a ‘needy child’ who must be taken care of

6.    Be free to ‘want love’ instead of living in a state of ‘need love’ like a weak and needy person more susceptible to false love addiction

7.    Become more ‘inner self-directed’ than ‘outer other-directed’ and, therefore, live more true to yourself, rather than betraying yourself for the approval and acceptance of others, or rather than becoming dutifully or slavishly conformist

8.    Enjoy the praise, thanks and compliments that come from others, rather than automatically discounting them, or being suspicious of them, or becoming addicted to them

9.    Become motivated to take care of yourself so that you have more to offer both to yourself and others, instead of needlessly sacrificing and wasting yourself

10.    Be careful that the love that’s coming to you is of good quality, instead of taking       anything you can get (which includes phony love, contaminated love and love substitutes)

11.    Open yourself up to love chances, opportunities and adventures, instead of being overly protective or defensive about the love you have and, thereby, letting lots more love in

12.    Love life, love others and all that can be loved much more freely because you keep enough of your heart full through healthy self-loving to be able to give a lot

Working and Growing with This List

As a sort of homework to help grow your healthy self-love, you might consider doing these things.  Go back over the 12 items seeing which ones ‘grab’ your attention the most.  It is rather likely that those are the ones that it would be really good for you to examine closely and see if they point to areas you might want to make improvements in.  Are there any of the above items that cause you any level of discomfort or disturbance?  If so, that may represent some area you perhaps are vulnerable in and which needs some strengthening.

Are any of the above items more puzzling, confusing, confounding or curiosity generating?  Those, in particular, may (with study) yield clues pointing to areas you might want to and need to explore further.  When working on healthy self-love many people make really good gains by journaling about their learning and growing healthy self-love, and you might want to do the same.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Do you know the difference between when you are being healthfully self loving and when you are being destructively selfish, arrogant, conceited, haughty, contemptuous, scornful etc.?

Entropy Killing Love in Your Life?

Mini-Love-Lesson  #234

Synopsis: First comes how entropy sneaks up and blocks vital needs for love’s thriving and surviving.  Entropy then leads to relational stagnation, then deterioration and destruction.  Next comes ways to counter entropy using nature’s sigmoid curve pattern of near universal improvement.  Jonas Salk’s works on this are then recommended.

Entropy And Love Life

ALERT! ALERT! Describing their couple’s problems Mike and Michelle used two of the main warning terms that can alert a couple’s counselor that their underling problem may involve – entropy.  Entropy may derail the love actions that  keep every love relationship healthy and alive.  The terms Mike and Michelle used were “growing colder” and “falling apart”.  That is what entropy causes wherever it invades – a growing colder and a falling apart.

The word entropy has widespread usage in the sciences.  This is because entropy is seen as a prevailing process in nature, discovered as occurring in a great many fields as far ranging as thermodynamics, where it was first discovered, in biology and social psychology.

In love relationships, entropy refers to social animals (including humans) in bonded relationship with each other experiencing a neuro/emotional cooling-off toward each other and a falling apart, or disorganizing deterioration of their relationship functioning.  Intriguingly, there are some indications that relational entropy may be accompanied by a biological temperature cooling and some neural network disorganization in parts of the brain associated with love relating.  However, those are just surface symptoms in the entropy process.  Relational entropy involves several deeper and much more important dynamic components.

Love Entropy in Your Life

The form of entropy that may affect love in your life is thought to work like this.  In all romantic relationships, you get attracted and then involved and a love or love-like relationship starts taking off.  At some point, this acceleration begins to level off in intensity.  Then, it may take a crash and burn dive and be over (see “Startup Love Is Never Enough !” and “What Makes Love Last?”). If the relationship continues, it goes on into a Plateau stage and this is where entropy comes into play.   Sooner or later, the Plateau phase reaches a critical juncture whereby one of two directions is taken – a slow entropic decline or accelerated improvement.

In the first half of the entropic dynamic, a slow, subtle, usually unnoticed decline starts occurring.  There seemingly safe sameness, comfort and habit start to block-out important relationship, nourishing changes which are increasingly needed.  Those blocked-out, healthy, positive changes contain the very things that keep an ongoing love relationship repeatedly revitalizing itself.  These blocks maintain sameness but result in not opening to fresh inputs, not looking for and perceiving better options, not exploring innovative improvements, not discovering refreshing life variations and not engaging in sufficient, enlivening, love-action diversity.  If some change does occur, there still may be a longing for and attempting to recapture past ways, even when the changes are beneficial.  That is the first half of the dynamic of love relational entropy.

The second half goes like this.  The above entropic process leads to relationship stagnation.  Stagnation inevitably leads to deterioration and deterioration results in eventual relational destruction.  In this entropic process, the behaviors that convey love tend to be increasingly taken for granted.  Then they reduce in frequency and potency.  This reduction in love-conveying actions starves the relationship of love interactions and their relational life-giving and sustaining function.  Without actions giving and receiving love, the love relationship does not thrive and eventually may not survive even though love feelings can still exist.

Preventing and Curing Love Entropy

In family functioning studies, long ago it was discovered that the healthiest families and couples look the most different from year to year compared to mid-range-functioning and more dysfunctioning families and couples.  Together, the high functioning loving families and couples learn new things, go new places, do new things, interact with new people, make new friends have new adventures, engage in new ways to enjoy life including sexuality, and express their love in new as well as old ways.  They also continuously work together to improve, sophisticate and mature their ways of interacting with each other.  Most of this work is done in an enjoyable fashion though it still may be pretty bumpy during various problematic times (Timberlawn Successful Families Research Studies).

Higher functioning love relationships do tend to level off into Plateau phases but when they begin to decline a bit it is more likely to be noticed and worked on jointly.  This team work leads to a new phase of improvement acceleration where refreshing and re-invigorating change occurs.

New higher plateaus are reached and the process repeats itself in an upward, stair climbing sort of pattern of love relationship revitalization.  Crises and other problems occasionally lead to a downward spikes in relationship functioning.  With work, they usually recover and the highest plateau of functioning can be returned to.  Depending on the type and degree of difficulty, recovery may take some time.  This acceleration, leveling off on a new higher Plateau, followed by new acceleration achieving an even higher new Plateau process is what prevents and cures relational love entropy.  As couples age, the upward steps do tend to get smaller but often easier to achieve as long as health and general welfare are maintained.

Throughout the anti-entropy process, whenever emotional cooling is detected, participants jointly engage in fresh warming up love behaviors.  Whenever decline or threats to love functioning happen, more serious love relationship repair actions are taken.  Whenever signs of stagnation are revealed, conjoint plans are carried out for having new, positive experiences.

Frequently old, positive, love and life behaviors continue or occasionally are returned to but usually with a new twist or variation that helps them be both old and new at the same time.

Following the Sigmoid Curves of Life and Love Improvement

The acceleration upward, leveling off and accelerating again to a higher level pattern has been found to be an improvement pattern that exists in many things including many areas of human life and love.  It has a name.  It is called the Sigmoid Curve.  That curve has a sort of flattened out, S-shaped configuration.  It follows the pattern that airplanes taking off often follow.  They begin going down the runway faster and faster, then take off and try to travel on a steep incline upward, then level off for the long haul.  This is being looked at as perhaps a universal, natural pattern of improvement in bio-psycho-social dynamics.  This pattern of improvement can be sabotaged by the dynamics of entropy.   It is suspected that when people work with natural patterns things tend to go synchronistically better.

Together Mike and Michelle took to heart the knowledge you have just read, and went to work learning about and practicing the how-to’s of giving, getting and doing healthy, real love in new and better ways (see “Learning about Love – Together”).  They also learned to spot the beginning symptoms of entropy and to work toward upward, accelerated improvement instead of letting the destructive forces of entropy ruin their relationship.  They closely followed what they learned about using the Sigmoid Curve for love and life improvement.  If you happen to want to learn more about all this, you might want to start by reading A New Reality, Human Evolution and a Sustainable Future by Jonas and Jonathan Salk (of polio vaccine fame).  Courses and Workshops sometimes are available on the Sigmoid Curve and avoiding entropy which are applicable to just about every aspect of life via the Salk Institute.

One More Thing. Talking to others about what you just read can turn out to be exciting, stimulating, enlightening and quite fun.  So, if you do that, please mention this site as a source of knowledge about healthy, real love.  Thanks.

As always –Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Question: If we only do the same old thing and don’t at least occasionally experiment with the new and different, can we become renewed, refreshed, re-enlivened or love renewed?