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Finding Love

Mini-Love-Lesson  #254

The First Place to Look

The first place to find love is inside yourself.  If you have good, healthy, sufficient self-love your chances of finding good, healthy, real love go up dramatically.  If you are hoping that someone loving you will make you okay and then you will be able to love yourself, that can happen but there is a danger.

When you are really hungry for love you may accept anything that looks like love but all too likely, it will not be the real thing.  If you are starved and desperate for love, you are in danger of becoming entangled in a destructive false love.  So, work on your healthy, real self-love and you are much more likely to draw someone to you of quality and real love ability (see “Getting Healthy, Real Love in Your Life”).

Non-Conscious and Conscious Searching

If you are undernourished for love or just love hungry, your subconscious (deeper parts of your brain) probably are actively searching for love sources whether your conscious mind knows it or not.  Some people believe the romantic myth that if you consciously go looking for love, you won’t find it because love has to be something you fall into or it falls upon you.  Believing that just may make it harder to find.  Mounting evidence strongly suggests that your conscious cooperating with your subconscious while looking for love is likely to work best.

What Is “Finding Love”?

Let us be clear about what finding love really means.  Most people mean finding a special heart-mate to love and be loved by in an emotionally close life partner way.  Some just mean a good sex partner and others just want someone to be officially married to, while still others want an endless romantic involvement.  There are lots of people who definitely do not mean finding an equal adult-to-adult life partner kind of love.  There are lots of people who say they want to find love but their real reasons have nothing to do with actual love.  They may just want safety, to be taken care of, someone to control or be controlled by, etc.

So it is very important that you become clear about what finding love is really all about for you.  Do you know enough about love to be reasonably sure that is what you really are looking for? (See “Definitions of Love Series”)  Do you know enough about yourself to know why you are looking to find love?  It could be it just is natural to do that but are there other reasons?

Quite a few relational authorities who think that what we really are doing when we are hoping to find love is actually looking to find a good candidate to grow a healthy, real, lasting love life with.  Once we find a good candidate our subconscious finds acceptable enough, we then start on the issues of learning how to do love-relating with that person – or not.

Two Ways to Find

Accidentally just stumbling across  something or actively searching for something are the two ways to find anything, including love.  Actively searching works better if you do it smart (see“Hunting for Love”).  Furthermore, when you actively think about searching for a heart-mate, you learn more and you lessen the risk involved in making the gamble of love.  Also, remember love does not have to always be from just one, special other spouse-type person.  You can get and give love lots of different ways, in lots of different forms of relationship (see “A Dozen Kinds of Love to Have in Your Life”).

Knowing Love When You Find It

The romantic myth is you will just know it when you find it because it will feel so strong and different from everything else.  A great many divorced people say they used to believe that myth.  The truth is several forms of false love feel just a strong and make people feel just as sure they found real love as does authentic love.  Another truth is that attraction is not love but it gets easily confused with falling in love (see “Attraction or Love or What?”, Link “Fatal Attraction Syndrome – A False Form of Love”, “False Forms of Love: Unresolved Conflict Attraction Syndrome”).   Some people say you can not know if it is real love or not until you have given it at least six months to grow (see “It Might Be Healthy, Real Love If...”, “Love Is Patient”, “Definitions of Love Series”).

What Most People Are Looking For

One way to find love is by looking for its characteristics showing up in people you meet.  More together, okay and mature people see the prime, characteristic feature of love to be caring.  Caring is the tendency to empathetically and emotionally care and to behaviorally give care to others especially when they are in distress.  To care about the well-being, the feelings (both physical and emotional), the growth and development, the quality of life and the future of a person are all involved here.  Caring shows high valuing of who and what is cared about which is a major characteristic of healthy, real love.  Without caring, the ability to love, at best, is limited.

The second characteristic is the ability to be and interact intimately.  That means emotionally, sexually, mentally and behaviorally.  It also means to make oneself vulnerable via authentic self-disclosure of what is real within oneself.  That can include idiosyncrasies, failings, foibles, weaknesses and ordinariness.  But it also includes revealing what is confident, successful, excellent and just plain good about oneself.  Good intimacy also includes lovingly dealing with the same factors coming from another in ways that show tolerance, acceptance, noncritical understanding and affirmation.

The third factor most more okay people see as representing love is the ability to emotionally connect and, once connected, become dedicated to staying caringly connected irrespective of any and all difficulties that might destroy the caring connection.  This characteristic usually is called commitment.

The fourth factor has to do with having and demonstrating strong, positive feelings about and for a loved one.  It is sometimes known as passionate love and may include sexual feelings and actions but it also involves being intensely for and on the side of the loved.  Feelings of being bonded to and loyal to the loved one also are included here.

Less mature, less okay and certain, but not all, more emotionally troubled individuals are much more likely to think attraction impulses and feelings signify real, heart-mate love.  All too often, this attraction-based belief does not work out well for lasting, love relating.  Attraction can lead to love beginning but it is a different thing.

Finding Someone Good to Love and be Loved By

To find that special someone, do lots and lots of active looking.  Do that looking as many ways as possible but do it smart.  Go where love-oriented people go.  They go where they can be caring to, for and about others, and/or for things of intense, intrinsic value.  They often have careers or avocations that work to achieve worthy, constructive results that benefit others.  They tend to volunteer for stuff that makes improvements happen of one sort or another.  They may be involved in adamant love for various causes having to do with making the world a better place to live in (see “Adamant Love – And How It Wins for Us All”).  Whatever they do they tend to use whatever they can for the good of somebody or something.

Some people are kind of afraid to love someone like that.  They may fear not being good enough or becoming trapped in a goody good, societal sphere.  That is seldom the case.  Such people, as described here, often are iconoclastic, individualistic to a fault, and fierce about fighting for what they believe in.  They also can be quite fun-loving and positive about life.

Love-able and love-oriented people can be found almost anywhere but not so much where more harm is being done than good, or where there is more greed-orientation than contributory.  Their position often is more of the “I win, you win, everybody can win” approach than of the “I must win, you must lose to me” way of dealing with the world.

The Three A’s for Finding Love

The three A’s for finding love stand for assertiveness, attitude and action.  When you use these your chances for finding healthy, real love start to look good.  So, let’s look at each.

Assertiveness means being friendly and lovingly assertive and it is not to be confused with aggressiveness.  Aggressiveness can mean being pushy, annoying, contentious, snide and a host of other undesirable things.  Friendly, loving assertiveness is accomplished by smiles and pleasant facial expressions, gestures, posture movement, voice tones and positive word choice.  Friendly, loving assertiveness tends to attract an array of rather fine people.

Attitude means something you first do for yourself.  Many people find they can self-talk themselves into a good attitude.  A bold, socially adventuresome attitude helps a lot.  Developing a good attitude gets you ready to take the necessary social risks for finding a good heart-mate.  Being mindful of your physical safety is important but being too socially safe gets in the way.  If you get yourself embarrassed you probably doing something right.  Think about the attitude you want to project.  Loving, friendly, caring, sexy, joyous, healthful, confident, self- loving (not arrogant) and love-positive toward life likely will do you well.

Action means do just about everything you can think of to do and also enjoy the adventure of it all.  Yes, use the Internet but also go some places and get a bit involved.  Everything from A for art to Z for zoos has groups of people organized and meeting to support or be involved with those things.  Most of these places have some very fine people you probably would like to meet.  Self-talk yourself into a good attitude and go assertively and meet some of them.  Don’t worry much about what they think of you.  Be more concerned with what you think of them but give them a chance and don’t be too negative.  That is self-defeating.  Scan the group for who looks most interesting and go talk to those people.

Some Other Things to Do

Read these related mini-love-lessons: “Getting Healthy, Real Love In Your Life”, “Above Normal Love”, “From Self-Love to Other Love And Back Again” and “Willing and Ready for Love?”. Give some thought to the study of love itself so you consciously can think about it.  That will help you cooperate better with your subconscious in finding what you want.  Give some effort to focusing on growing and giving love and the major ways that is done. It’s not all about just getting love.  Good heart-mate love usually includes sexuality so if you are not already OK get Ok with sex and especially love expressed in sex along with sexiness.

One More Thing

Talk all this over with some others and see if they might want to go with you as you adventure into new groups of people.  While you are at it, please mention this mini-love-lesson and this site.  Thank you.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Growing Closeness - A Love Skill

Synopsis: This love skill lesson starts with comments on growing close love; and goes on to understanding closeness; the emotional guidance messages in closeness; sexual closeness; trouble, communication and closeness; and ends with other closeness helpers.

Growing Close Love

“I feel so close to you.”  “I feel we are growing apart.”  “We used to be so close but now it seems we’re distant.”  “How do we get close again?”  In love relationships feeling close usually is very desirable and very important.  Feeling distant usually is seen as hurtful and harmful in a love relationship.  Growing a love relationship that is full of closeness helps the relationship grow stronger and last longer.  But how is it that people actually get to feel close and what happens to make them feel distant from one another?

Understanding Closeness

It is important to note closeness is a feeling or, more accurately, an emotional state.  When we feel the emotion called ‘close’ we also tend to feel good, safe, satisfied, connected and quite likely we have a sense of wellness.  When we feel distant we tend to feel the opposite of all that – more alone, isolated, unsatisfied, unsafe, apprehensive and if it goes on too long depressed. Feeling close to someone we love and who loves us is very healthy and generally quite good for us, as well as for whoever we are feeling close to.  Closeness tends to relieve stress, improve a number of biological functions, and can result in a sense of love-filled serenity.

Emotional Guidance

Our emotions give us guidance.  The guidance message we get from closeness tells us we are with someone who it is good for us to be with.  Feeling close with a person we love guides us into feeling increasingly nurtured and safe.  Sometimes that can be false or a mistake, but generally not.  Feeling emotionally distant directs us into thinking something is not right and we would do well to strive for increased closeness one way or another.

Compatibility and Closeness

The more people experience that they are compatible with each other, the more they are likely to grow a sense of closeness with each other.  Agreeableness and having similar experiences, backgrounds, interests, tastes and preferences can facilitate the growth of closeness. Compatibility tends to grow when people are willing to experiment with each other’s ways and be open to each other’s ideas, wishes, views and ways of being.  Being able to convey your own ways and be ok about someone else’s ways of being themselves is a tremendous help in compatibility and closeness-creation.

Since all humans and most mammals seem to experience emotions in very similar ways, there can be sufficient, natural compatibility for fostering at least some closeness with anyone and with many of our cousins in the animal world.  Thus, it is that loving closeness often is felt by pet owners and apparently by the pets they relate to.

Closeness Starters

Love-based, emotional closeness frequently starts and grows with the showing and sharing of one’s more personal self.  This especially is true with the sharing of a person’s more private and intimate emotions.  Sharing implies a two or more person process.  In this process one person lets some of their feelings be seen.  This is done by facial expressions, tones of voice, gestures, posture changes and the spoken word.  It can be done by the written word but that’s much trickier.  Then the person hearing or seeing another person’s demonstrations of what they are feeling responds in a receptive and understanding manner.  They may have a sympathetic look on their face, kind tones of voice, or say words that indicate emotional understanding.  From that, emotional closeness often starts and/or grows.

Two or more people can demonstrate emotional understanding to each other and a sort of core appreciation.  They can show respect and empathy for each other.  And if they don’t let a number of other things get in the way like judgmentalism, or giving too much advice, or being diverted to other matters then closeness becomes much more likely.

Smiles, caring looks and other positive facial expressions, pleasant tones of voice, affectionate touch, demonstrating patience, thoughtfulness and tolerance, along with showing someone how they are highly valued and special to you are all very important in starting, maintaining and growing closeness-filled love.

Sharing experiences together in which feelings show and are freely expressed also is a big help in starting and keeping closeness growing.  Any experience shared together which generates ‘different than usual’ or strong feelings may bring about a sense of closeness growing.  Talking about previous, individual experiences and joint experiences also can be helpful if the emotions and sometimes the physical feelings involved are voiced with emotional expression.

Being earnest and honest in situations where others might be more closed or guarded is sometimes a huge help for people starting to feel real with and close to each other.  Receiving sincere, honest expressions from another needs to be met with acceptance, respect, tolerance, and kindness for closeness to have a chance to grow.  Judgmentalism, personal disapproval, demeaning, discounting and other negating communications are best to be absent.

Closeness and Two Kinds of Love

The type of love behavior known as ‘Self-disclosure love’ [see entry “A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love” at this link] and the type of love behavior known as ‘Affirmational love’ [see entry “A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love” at this link] are very much involved in growing a close love.  Disclosing one’s real self and going “psychologically naked” with a loved one often is felt as very risky but perhaps essential for growing great closeness.  When a person does this with you, responding with affirmational love words and actions which show care, understanding and respect affirms their most intimate nature.

Generally affirming the person brave enough to reveal their real self to you, makes for powerful closeness.  Of course, then you also best go psychologically naked in return for the cycle to be completed and for both of you to be close to each other.

Some people managed to do all this behaviorally and pretty much without words, but words that indicate self-disclosure love and affirmational love usually speed and greatly aid this two-part process.

Sexual Closeness

Many couples grow their sense of closeness with each other by way of their shared, intimate sexuality.  Sharing their bodies, their sexual desires, their ways of pleasuring, their turn-ons, idiosyncrasies, erotic fantasies, intimate and unique preferences, thoughts, feelings and ways of sexually expressing themselves is involved here.  The self-disclosure of letting themselves be known sexually and letting themselves sexually know another while responding with affirmation type love can make for incredible love-filled closeness.  It takes people responding to each other in these ways to grow that special closeness and it takes not letting fears and anti-sexual programming get in the way.

Trouble, Communication and Closeness

Letting and helping a person tell you whatever is in them to tell you is a great way to enhance closeness.  Lovingly hearing and expressing realness in the ways you and a loved one relate often is vital to the continuation of closeness.  Whenever there is dissonance or disagreement, communicating in loving ways can help the closeness continue in spite of the difficulties being encountered.  To be able to convey that you continue to value a person, though you may not like some of their behaviors, is important for the continuance of closeness when trouble is afflicting a love relationship.  Learning to talk without blame, personal disapproval, putdowns, guilt trips and offense defensiveness (see entry Non-defensiveness – A Love Skill) is also very important to the continuation of closeness.

Other Closeness Helpers

Closeness implies both emotional and physical proximity.  Getting physically and intimately close to someone, when they are receptive, helps closeness grow.  Being intimately close also allows for intimate loving touch which also is a great help to many people’s closeness feelings. Loving touch can begin with simple short tap-touching, then move to brief pause touches, followed by friendship hugs, and later cuddling and caressing.  In this process it’s important to back off if any discomfort is indicated by the response.  Laughing together, acting silly together and being helpful to one another also can enhance the start and growth of closeness feelings between people.
As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Who would you like to feel closer to, and what will you do about that?

Love Never Fails or Ends

Mini-Love-Lesson  #253 

Note: This is the 16th and last in our series of What Is Love: A New Testament Reply based on Paul’s description of love and informed by the relational and behavioral sciences.

Synopsis: For your own personal use, explore the proclamations that love never fails or ends; search into the theology and psychology of these precepts; look at mysterious lifelong love; delve into three of the major ways to comprehend Paul’s teachings; contemplate the wide-ranging coverage of the English translations; review a bit of what science says and consider gambling on never and forever.

It’s Over, Or Is It?

Love may never die but love relationships do cease even if love is still felt.  Many a divorced person feels a love in their heart for an ex and at the same time they feel a strong, real love for a new spouse.  “I love my ex so much better now that I know I don’t have to live there anymore” is an idea I have often heard expressed in post-divorce counseling (see “Exes and Love”).

Love for a child, parent, sibling or other family member or even a deep friend, if estranged or on hold with little or no chance of reactivation, still can persist.  For many, once they strongly love someone that love is an ongoing state of being lasting a lifetime.  For millions who have lost those dear to their heart due to death, this ongoing love remains very true, real and active.  It has always been amazing to me in counseling with help when a client talks to a dead loved one and then listens for a reply, amazing things often happen.  Several counseling techniques assist this process but often they are not needed.  Replies almost invariably come, whether silently heard or spoken by the client, and most commonly are extremely heartfelt and beneficial to the one grieving.

Intellectually we all know to think that the replies come from the client’s own mind but at the heart level it still works.  Clients usually leave those sessions feeling a love connection event has occurred, nurtured them and they are better for it.  Perhaps it is because they were able to engage in the action of sending their love but then too they seem to have also received some love in the process.

Then there is the hard to explain, getting a reply containing information that seemingly could not have been known prior to the session.  That is rare but it does occur.  I can only conclude we see through a glass darkly and, therefore, who really knows what realms love can reach into?

Some think that once love is born and grows, it gets to a certain point of strength where thereafter it is always able to be tapped into and is a lifelong part of us.  In those cases, love seems to live on, deep in our subconscious. 

Think of the many loving friends who have not seen each other, maybe even for years, and they pick up right where they left off years ago.  Think of long lost relatives who do the same thing upon reuniting.  Many a parent and child who have been, for one reason or another, sometimes separated for decades rejoining together and manifesting love feelings that seem both old and fresh at the same time.  Then there are the exes who broke off relating years ago, then grew and came back together more successfully than before.  They rejoin with a love that they sometimes say it both has restarted and it was there all along.

There appears to be much evidence pointing to the truth that, as far as we can tell, real love is indeed often long lasting love.  As related by Paul, love may not fail or fade away but indeed be, just possibly, everlasting (see “A Dozen Kinds of Love to Have in Your Life”).

Contemplating and Comprehending Paul On Love

This is the last in our series on Paul’s precepts on what love is and is not and what love does and does not do.  This last precept is thought to be a sort of summation teaching aimed at having a final, potent impact with a compelling action-oriented effect.  For a great many readers it seems to succeed at that.

There are, however, some interpretation ponderments.  Translators seem to see two interrelated but definitely different ways of understanding this teaching. Then to make matters more complicated, other scholarly research appears to point to a third still interrelated yet different discernment.

Paul’s words in ancient biblical Greek are “he agape oudepote ekpiptei”.  Eighteen of the 30+ English translation efforts we reviewed decipher this as “love never fails” but eight others as “love never ends” or something very similar.  Then other scholarship now understands this to perhaps mean “love never weakens” (see “Spirituality and Love Great and Grand”).

So which is it “love never fails” or “love never ends” or “love never weakens”?  It is quite possible Paul’s words mean all three.  Just as is true in English, biblical Greek words can have more than one meaning.  Sometimes variations of meaning are simultaneously meant to be communicated.  Especially is this true in the communications of the more widely educated and intelligent of ancient Greece.  Paul was both according to what we know about him.

From a psychological perspective, it can be quite rewarding to include all three in our study and thoughtful usage of Paul’s summation precept on love.  Even so, there are some more to be intrigued about, contemplated and understood.

The English Possibilities

“Love never fails” in English has a wide variety of meanings.  It can mean love never succumbs, loses, goes down to defeat, and is ever victorious.  It also can suggest, love never declines, does not perish, waste away, flag, deteriorate, falter or flounder.  Then again, it can be understood as love never collapses, crumbles, is found defective, comes to nothing or is inconsequential.  Some put it as real, strong and healthy love always wins out in the end.

“Love has no end and/or love is eternal” can be seen as love always was and always will be, love once begun will last forever, love was and/or is self originating, love is ceaseless, perpetual, timeless, infinitely ongoing and once love is given birth love never dies.

“Love never weakens”, i.e. love never diminishes, depletes, declines, decays, degrades, fades or becomes de-powered is a third rendition being considered for interpretive value.

All of the above can be seen as having possible truth.  Arguably, the deity is seen theologically as eternal and omnipotent, plus the nature of deity is understood to be love and, therefore, love also is eternal and of an undiminishing strength.  In more than one world religion, these concepts have been posited or are articles of faith (see “7 Other Definitions of Real Love Worth Considering” which includes A Metaphysical Definition of Love).

What Does Science Say?

Science and especially the psychological sciences can not really adequately deal with much in the world of theology. As one researcher put it “We just can’t seem to fit eternity and all the other totality concepts into our labs so, alas, we best treat them as outside our jurisdictions”.  That, of course, has not stopped any number of scientists from proclaiming they know the real truths of existence.

The history of science is replete with examples of arrogant proclamations which turned out to be mistaken.  It seems all scientific truths are subject to at least greater elaboration later.  It would seem that we do well to remember that we see through a glass darkly but with science we probably do see far better and far more than ever before.

From a social sciences point of view, the fact is love relationships do end even if love itself does not. There are those that argue the evidence says love is like everything else – it is something that is born, grows, diminishes and then dies.  Arguably that might refer to false love relationships or relationships that did not grow to the point of strength that they could last a lifetime or beyond.

Now on a personal note, let me say that I, as a clinician, have seen and experienced things my scientific self can not come close to adequately explaining.  Especially has this been true in matters involving love.  I must say that from my astonished and awed perspective it appears the heart often sees far better and further than the mind.

Gambling On Love Eternally Today

A Theolog I knew and respected once wrote me a report on Paul’s precepts which ended with his collective take on Paul’s teachings.  It was, “In all circumstances and human relationships, when in doubt: love; it is never wrong to love.”  I agree.

I suggest gambling on love is likely, almost always, to be your best bet.  Believing or at least hoping and suspecting that love lasts forever and that love relationships may indeed go on beyond the grave is frequently a very life affirming and helpful thing to do.

Here is a suggestion to contemplate.  Work at doing ever better love everyday you love someone.  Adopt the perspective that it is a joy and privilege to do that work.  Therefore, why not hope to do it forever if you can.  That, I suggest is an attitudinal gamble well worth taking.

Likewise, there is a usefulness to knowing that at any moment a love relationship can be brought to an abrupt, earthly end.  So, do not waste your time, use it to do more love relating actions soon, often and better.

One more little thing.  I bet some good things will happen if you get to talk this mini-love-lesson over with some loving others.  If you do, then please mention this site and help spread love knowledge around a bit.  Thank you.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable question: In the high valley of the heart summer love is easy, but what about in the deep snows of winter?

Firm Love and Your Child's Well-being

Synopsis: Parent’s laments about out of control child behavior, Then statements of surprise and relief after employing Firm Love techniques; The mix of love and firmness; What does firm love look like; and A few hints for carrying out firm love parenting; and more.

“My children are out of control.”  “My kids are turning into monsters.”  “All I get is angry back-talk.”  “What am I doing wrong?”  “Why do I have to ask them a million times to do what they’re supposed to do?” “I get so mad when they won’t do what I expect them to do – I’m the one out-of-control.”  “No matter how much I yell at them they still won’t do what I say.”  Time and time again in parent guidance counseling I hear laments like these.  In most cases the problem is the same at the core and so is the solution.

To understand what the problem is and what the cure is, compare the above statements to the following one. “I’m so amazed.  I finally started doing what you suggested I experiment with and I’m actually getting both my boys to do what I want them to do.  They’re even politely saying Yes ma’am and No ma’am when I tell them what to do. And it took only three, truly terrible days before the new system started working.  I thought it would take a lot longer.”

“The other amazing thing is we also are much happier and getting along much better.  Like you said they did escalated all their bad behaviors at first, and it was tough but I stuck with it, and I can’t believe how well all that firm love stuff worked.  I sure wish I’d started doing these things years ago when the trouble started.  Another thing is one of my boy’s teachers came to me and volunteered that they were acting better in school too, and we haven’t even focused on that yet; I guess we won’t have to now.”

Love-Hunger and Insecurity

We have a ton of research that shows children and also adolescents do best with a combination of parent actions that helped them feel two main things – feeling loved and feeling safe.  When deep in their subconscious children go love-hungry, and when children begin to develop vague senses of insecurity they frequently begin to act in ways that parents find difficult to handle.

Becoming oppositional, disobedient, defiant, passive aggressive, angry, deceitful, unmindful of rules, argumentative and even unmotivated and forgetful, along with just general displays of unhappiness frequently means a child doesn’t feel sufficiently secure, or loved, or both.  Parent actions which show a combination of consistent love and firmness, well mixed together, often are required to produce happy, cooperative children and a harmonious home life.

What is so baffling to many parents is the acting out behavior looks like the child just wants to be left alone to do what they want to do.  Then mistakenly those parents might not carry through with the behavior they want from the child, thinking this will pacify the child, however, the opposite (escalating bad behavior) most often occurs because the child subconsciously wants loving parental control which they are unable to give themselves.  Escalating bad behavior usually means the underlying need is not being met; that explains how loving firmness leads to a child’s sense of security.

Insecurity and Firmness

If a child’s subconscious could talk with adult words it might say something like this. “Parent, I know I can not handle the big, scary world by myself, so I need to see you as consistently strong and standing protectively between me and the big, scary world.  I also know I need your help to handle the natural impulses, drives, and urges that sometimes cause me to act up and act out these feelings.
“If I act up and I see you can’t handle little, weak, vulnerable me and the small amount of power I have, I will see you as weak just like me.  That will agitate, irritate, annoy and then frighten me, which in turn will cause me to feel increasingly and fundamentally insecure.

Then I will agitate, irritate, annoy and test you all the more, hoping you will show me you are strong enough to handle mostly powerless, little me.  I also will want to see you strongly stand between me and the big, scary world.  I guess if I don’t see those things happen often enough, I will grow up a very insecure and dysfunctional adult.  So, please dear parent, show me you are strong enough to protect me from the big, scary world, as well as powerful enough to guide me into controlling the urges which sometimes flood me.”

It mostly is a parent’s calmly exhibited firmness, mixed with love expressions that best reassures a child and helps them to feel secure.  Doing something like gently putting your arm around a disobedient child and firmly saying, “I love you, kid, and now go stand in the corner for 18 minutes, and get your penalty finished so we can do something more pleasant later” is an example of firm love.  Other forms of firmness, of being tough and strong can help a child feel secure in the family, but without the expression of love mixed with a show of strength the results tend to be much less desirable.

Insecurity and Love

As a child feels sufficiently secure and when they are not having to cope with the threat of living without sufficient safety, they open to the benefits of being loved.  When a sufficiently secure child receives parenting acts which convey love, they tend to physically and psychologically grow and mature better and faster.

Most of the children who receive both sufficient security and demonstrations of love do remarkably well in the world as adults.  This often is true even if they have some other difficulty.  To show how important this security and love is, in extreme cases an infant who is markedly unloved is susceptible to dying of Marasmus or some other failure-to-thrive illness, or else it’s because their immune system became extra susceptible to disease.

The extremely, erratically loved child is prone to becoming a Psychosocial Dwarf or to developing some other physical growth and developmental dysfunction.  The insufficiently loved child is much more likely to develop one or another form of mental or emotional illness, as well as being more susceptible to various physical illnesses.

To have a solid sense that one consistently is loved, provides a certain sense of security in itself.  To consistently receive the eight major groups of behavior which convey love helps a child’s psycho-physical self be healthfully nourished.  That love nourishment is necessary for a child’s growth and the development of healthy brain functioning and neurochemical balancing.

Without good brain functioning and neurochemical balancing mental, emotional and behavioral problems become much more likely.  Insecurity-based anxiety and proneness to depression, along with the inability to form healthy relationships, all are thought frequently to be related to inadequate love or malformed love having occurred in a child’s life.

The Mix of Love and Firmness

Just being loved without firm guidance doesn’t seem to produce happy, healthy kids because love alone doesn’t produce a sufficient sense of security.  Just being firm without love may produce tough but unloving offspring.  When love and security both are present in a child’s life, developmental maximum well-being is much more likely.  When a sense of security is incorporated it tends to result in a more self-confident, self-secure child. When there is sufficient love expressed with firmness it tends to produce a sufficiently, healthfully, self loving child who has a sense of confidence and self-security.

This in turn tends to produce assertiveness and higher achievement, and societal contribution in adulthood.  Love and firmness mixed well together also tend to produce compassionate, caring offspring who are good at cooperation and interrelating.  Of course, there can be all sorts of intervening, negative factors and events in a child’s life which can derail the best parenting efforts.  However, all else being equal the parent who masters being both loving and firm is likely to get happy, healthy children that they enjoy being around, along with a more consistently harmonious home life.

What Does Firm Love Look Like?

Here is an example: The parent smiled and touched the child’s hands in a loving way saying, “You broke the rule and you know what the penalty is, so start and continue your penalty for 23 minutes.  The child screamed, “It’s not fair, my brother made me do it, it’s his fault, I hate you.”
The parent still rather quietly, but with a lowered firmness in the parent’s voice said, “ I know you are unhappy and after you’ve finished your penalty I’ll listen to you, but now your penalty time is 33 minutes.  The child cried, hollered, thrashed about and moaned loudly.  The parent said, “Now it’s 43 minutes, and I love you, and you can cry but you have to do it quietly.  I really hope you don’t get to 53 minutes.  I really will listen to your complaints after you’ve finished with the penalty, and after that we might be able to do something nicer later”.

The child said a little resentfully, “Okay” and with a sadly lowered head dutifully commenced with the penalty action.  After the specified time the parent said, “I’ll listen to you now if you want tell me different things and you can say anything you want.  The child calmly said, “I did break the rule and I apologize.  I blamed my brother but it’s me who let him talk me into it, so I did deserve the penalty.  I’ll do better next time”.

The parent smiled warmly, said “I love you and I’m proud of you for saying that”. The child hugged the parent and then went to play.  This may sound like a rosy scenario but I’ve heard reports just like this from happy parents who employed firm love with a misbehaving child.  And the child’s resistance to this system usually lessens quickly if the system is used consistently.

A Few Hints for Carrying out Firm Love Parenting

Firmness is better conveyed by a lowered voice than a raised voice.  It is quite useful not to confuse a child by using the word ‘asked’ as in “Aren’t you going to do what I asked you to do?”.  It is useful for children to understand the difference between a request to which one can say no, and a command.  Frequently children truly are not being asked to do something but instead they are being ordered or commanded to do something.  If you ask someone to do something it’s a request not an order, and to a true request the answer “no” must be allowable.  Otherwise, it’s not a true request it’s an order disguised as a request.  For many children who take words quite literally this just helps them see parents as phony.

Words of love can be stated in the same, firm tone of voice which may help ‘love words’ be seen as strong and solid.  Indeed, these love words may not be immediately perceived well.  They, however, do tend to soak in later.

There is much more to be learned about firm love and how to accomplish it.  Hopefully this is enough to get you started thinking about your own mix of firmness with love in parenting.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question Is there someone in your past who did firm love well that you might model some of your firm love parenting actions on?

Love Endures All Things

Mini-Love-Lesson  #252

Note: this is the 15th in our series “What Is Love: a New Testament Reply based on Paul’s description of love and informed by the relational and behavioral sciences”.

Synopsis: The amazing, enduring nature of real love along with its big difference from false love; the many and diverse ways of enduring love; the intriguing things Paul may have meant, with a special emphasis on those who endure; the many attacks on love done differently.

Millions of Endurance Miracles

Side-by-side he was with her and she with him as they got past the disfiguring accident, then through the years of serious surgeries and rehab, the loss of a child, a medical insurance-caused bankruptcy and the rejection that came from both their families when they changed religions.  They endured it all together and a lot more.  Why?  How?  The answer is real love can empower us to miraculously “endure all things”.  Are they happy today?  Yes, immensely!

Did they sometimes think about splitting up and looking for an easier way to go?  Yes, of course, lots of times.  Did they tire of supporting each other and caring for one another when one was down and the other the caretaker?  Yes certainly, especially when things seemed hopeless.  Were they tempted to seek care-free other love.  Yes, in fact when things seemed at their worst both sought and found comfort and support in the arms of others and then they endured recovering from that also.  I am pleased to say I had a little to do with that part.  For me, the best part was when I was invited to attend their 40th wedding anniversary celebration years after the agonies they had endured were over.

Here is the real miracle.  Though it has some unusual features, their story is not as uncommon or as rare as you might at first think.  Thousands upon thousands of examples exist showing people, with love’s empowerment, enduring horrendous difficulties of all kinds.  Back to the very dawn of written history, there are examples of love relationships enduring hardships, catastrophes, losses, crippling diseases and every sort of tragedy.  Time and again, comrades have risked death to save their deeply loved brothers in service, countless parents have toiled for years to give their loved offspring a better life than their own.  Lovers have dashed into harms way to save their heartmates, lifelong friends have stayed side-by-side facing nearly endless trials and tribulations.  On and on go the stories of love empowered enduring all things (see our book Recovering Love).

False Love Endures Little

When she was hospitalized for three days, her lover did not visit although he did call each day.  Everyone else who loved her did visit.  He said it was because his amateur sports team had practice during visiting hours, and besides, hospitals made him nervous.  He later complained that he could not understand why she broke up with him over this and that it was most unreasonable and unfair.  After all, she was in safe hands and well cared for.  Months after the breakup she learned he had spent the second night she was in the hospital with another woman.  She said, “I’m so glad, relieved in fact, that he proved his love was fake before I found out about his cheating on me.  That would’ve hurt but now it’s just validation.  I know I’m worth a lot more than his stupid sports club”.

One of the best differentiating signs of real versus false love has to do with the answer to the 3D question.  “Will someone professing love willingly endure ongoing, discomfort, difficulty and danger for the well-being of the loved? (See “Why You Need To Know More About Real Love” and our book Real Love False Love.)  Remember: real love causes us to want for and, if possible, act for the well-being of the loved (see “The Definition of Love” and “A Dozen Things Love is and A Dozen Things Love is Not”).

False forms of love tend to be about the paramount desires of the self, not about the loved.  They may be well masked and hard to detect but they tend to surface in time.  Good, healthy love of another does not preclude actions of good, healthy self-love.  It just is that love of another is equal or stronger and shows up especially when a loved one faces ongoing discomfort, difficulties and dangers.  Real love often, but not always, can be genuinely happy to be of service and assistance when facing difficulties.  Acts that come from duty, obligation, guilt, etc. – not so much (see Real Love False Love).

There are some forms of false love that seem to show signs of love’s enduring quality.  One of these is the form called Fatal Attraction Syndrome.  Its enduring actions come not from love but from an obsessive and compulsive mental health problem.  In its moderately serious form, it results in annoying, continuous harassment and stalking behavior.  In its most serious form – death by murder and/or suicide can result (see “Fatal Attraction Syndrome”).
Paranoid syndromes may also seem to have enduring signs of love in a seemingly protective way.  The protectiveness usually is a mask for possessiveness  and insecurity.  This is birthed  from fear not love.  Addiction syndromes can manifest pseudo-love endurance behaviors so long as the supposed loved one continues to be a facilitator of the addiction.

What Does It Mean to Endure

Love empowers us to keep going in adversity, continue in spite of difficulty, remain, last, tolerate, withstand and, when needed, to suffer patiently.  It also can mean to bravely resist, courageously carry on, stoically live through and with resignation weather the storm.  It is love’s enduring quality that gives,  assists and defends love’s longevity.  Enduring love means not only do we come to the aid of our loved ones but we stay there, not withdrawing or retreating in the face of adversity or adversaries.

Is This What Paul Meant?

At first glance, it can seem like this precept in Paul’s discourse on love is just another way to say love bears all things (see “Love Bears All Things”).  There are, however, some important differences.  I am told those may be easier to understand in the ancient biblical Greek than in English.  Love endures all things in the ancient biblical Greek is “agape panta hupomenei”.  Remember, just like in English, Greek words can have more than one meaning.

Some scholars suspect that in Paul’s day it perhaps was understood that these words emphasized not fleeing or removing oneself from the fray, abandoning the field of conflict, or to stand one’s ground under attack.  The word agape is thought to carry with it the connotation of compassionate love and continuously active love in the needed service of the loved.  Interestingly, some think Paul’s teaching also implies willingly enduring or putting up with awkward circumstances caused by unloving fellow church members, or something like that.  Love endures all things is further thought to especially imply to endure persecution, afflictions and troubles caused by those acting against the Christian movement.

Of the 30 biblical translations reviewed, 17 translated Paul’s words as “love endures all things” which is the most common interpretation.  It is, therefore, the one we use here.

Other interpretations, both in Bibles and suggested for possible future consideration, include “love endures”, “ love is always no matter what”, ”love endures through every circumstance”, “love - she is full of patient endurance”, “love never gives up”, “love always remains strong”, “love always perseveres”, “love never looks back”, “love needs never retreat”, “love will never remove itself from adversity”, “love does not flee from its opposition”, “love makes us stand our ground”, “love prevails over the unloving”, “love will endure the persecution and afflictions of all who move against it”, “love gives us endurance over all troubles”, “love has the power to endure all difficulties” and “love is forever”.  I suggest all of those may be used to broaden our understanding of what Paul’s words may cover.  The all things part is thought to mean, by implication, all things difficult.

Enduring the Attack on Love

A lot of the world has been intolerant and attacking of love when it comes in forms different than that of its attackers. In my career as a family and relational therapist I frequently was called upon to assist individuals, couples ,families, alternate lifestylers and others in their fight against those who did not want them to do love the way they were doing it. In counseling sessions, often in court, once in a while in public forums and in politics I and others like me have battled for loves diversity and against anti-love bigotry, prejudice, intolerance, bias, and ignorance.

One of the most common difficulties concerning tens of thousands of couples, parents, families and others who are challenged to endure is the ongoing intolerance for who, and how, others do their love.  Issues of bi-racial love, bi-sexual love (see “Gender Diversity Love”), gay love, throuple love (see “Throuple Love, A Growing Worldwide Way of the Future?”), elder love (see “Elder Love”), age different love (see “Should Age Make A Difference – In Love” and “Age Differences and Romantic Love”), different religions love, parental love, family love, etc. –  all have their active and often well-meaning but sometimes vicious enemies.

Those who choose a path of love different from the accepted can face family banishment, legal battles over custody of children, public shaming, forced isolation from loved ones and their home communities, efforts to break up their marriages, costly legal entanglements, episodes of hate, rejection and condemnation and even being honor killed –  all because of who and how they do their love relationships – differently.

Enduring family rejection that lasts for years unfortunately is very common in the lives of those who do love out of the norm.  It is so wonderful when this is finally overcome and reconciliation occurs which very often it does with the help of family counseling and/or coaching.  When loving re-connection does not happen, escape to a new environment full of new and more loving people frequently is the best solution.  Given the chance, love will find a way.

One more thing: Do you have friends who like to discuss things religious, spiritual, denominational, theological or ecumenical?  If so, you might want to talk over this mini-love-lesson and this series with them.  If you do, please do mention this site. Thank you!

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Question:  Is your way of doing religion leading you to the ways of more love?  If not, where is it leading you to?