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Trust and Mistrust in Love

Synopsis: The case of the nude photos and what’s best to learn from it; a terrible, fascinating truth about romantic-love trust; and a self-strengthening approach to building great, dependable, love trust; more.

The Case of the Nude Photos

“I’m in shock and don’t know which way to turn.  I just discovered nude photos of my teenage daughter on a phone I didn’t know my husband had.

 “Horrible scenarios are running through my head.  Are my husband and daughter involved in incest?  I can’t bear to think about it.  Should I call the police, see a lawyer, file for divorce?  Can I have both of them committed to a psych ward?  Is my husband a sex addict, or is my daughter?  Is everything I believed about my marriage a lie?  Am I one of those parents who doesn’t know what’s really going on with their kids?   I don’t trust anybody or anything any more.  Am I going crazy?  Is nothing the way I thought it was?  Is there anything or anyone I can trust?  Will I ever trust anybody again?”

As you can see Helen was having a huge ‘trust crisis’.  Up to the discovery of a strange iPhone in her husband’s briefcase, life had seemed pretty much normal and OK.  Her adolescent daughter had been a little rebellious but nothing serious seemed to be going on, until now.  Lately her husband had been kind of distant emotionally but also lately his business work-load had been extra heavy.  She, herself, had been stressed with projects demanding overtime at her office but about that there was ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.  Since her horrified discovery life was all panic and gut-wrenching disaster.  Her whole family seemed to be descending into nightmarish chaos – or so it seemed.

Helen said she couldn’t face all this alone so with some help she quickly was able to arrange for her husband and daughter to meet with her and a talented therapist intern of mine that evening in an emergency family counseling session.  She came in looking pale and shaking and her husband and daughter entered looking quite worried.  With fear and trepidation Helen confronted them with the sequence of events that had lead her to the discovery of the nude photos.  She got excellent support, clarification, interpretation, and help with sufficiency and accuracy from my intern.

Slowly the truth emerged and something resembling normalcy began to return.  It was revealed that Kendra, Helen’s teenage daughter, had been taking sexy, nude photos of herself and had been sending them to her boyfriend and her closest girlfriends, who were doing the same thing, like so many other kids at her school.  She explained it was quite a fad.  Bill, Helen’s husband, caught Kendra doing this and confiscated her phone.  He said he didn’t want to tell Helen about this until Helen’s big project at work was over.

Furthermore, Kendra had gotten him to promise that he and she would handle it because they thought Helen tended to over-react.  Kendra admitted she’d sort of manipulated her father into that promise.  Kendra also said she wouldn’t be doing any of this again, especially because her best girlfriend had gotten into really big trouble over this and was being sent away somewhere and she didn’t want that to happen to her.

After a lot of anguished bewilderment, confusion, anger mixed with relief and disappointment this family began to show each other love.  Soon they were able to agree that they should and could be a lot more self-disclosing to one another.  Helen agreed to work on not being so prone to panic, and Bill and Kendra agreed not to keep secrets from Helen.  They all agreed they would aspire to greater, loving communication of their important truths to each other, no matter what it was about, and they set out to do just that.  They made a ‘no big secrets contact’ with each other and that seemed to help a lot.  They further agreed that trust was built on ‘truth mixed with love’ and they made that their family goal.

What do you suppose you would do if you made a discovery similar to Helen’s?  Would your trust in your loved ones be shaken?  Would you lose trust in your own judgment?  Would you do as well as they did in patching things up and recovering from this episode?

Let me suggest the best thing to learn from this example is when experiencing strong mistrust do not jump to conclusions.  Quick conclusions are your enemy.  I can’t tell you how many love relationship problems I have helped people get through that were started by, or made much worse by, people drawing premature, erroneous conclusions.  Related to this is a second, huge, common, trust issue problem.  It’s the problem of keeping secrets.  So many mistrust calamities could have been avoided had the people involved been able to get their truth out in the open and discuss it, even if it hurt.  In successful, love relationships it takes sharing truth and that builds trust.  Hiding, avoiding, denial, distortions and mis-representations of the truth, more often than not, work against ‘trust building’ even when they are done for well-meaning reasons.

Trust Issues and Their Surprising Complications

Trust and mistrust issues are among the biggest problems in love relationships.  Do I trust you to be faithful?  Do I trust myself to remain faithful?  Can I love you and not trust you?  If I forgive you does it mean I have to trust you?  Do I trust myself to keep being loving no matter what?  Do I trust myself to have enough ‘attraction power’ to hold you or should I secretly spy and pry into your life to make sure you’re not betraying me?  Do I trust you not to turn into my mother, or my father?  Do I trust us enough to make a go of it?  Do I trust that our love can be strong enough to hold us together and survive what the world throws at us?   Do I trust in trusting?  Yes, there are great many trust issues that many people give no thought to until they have occasion to experience very upsetting mistrust.

It’s not only with lovers and spouses that we have trust issues.  Shall I trust my kids do what I have taught them?  Should I trust myself to be a good parent?  Can I trust that my family will support me in a crisis?  Will my avowed, true friends be there for me when I need them?  Will I come through for them when they call on me in crisis?  With every love relationship there can be heavy-duty trust challenges.  So, let’s ask this question.  How does healthy, real love guide us in facing all these trust issues?

Understanding Trust Itself

To answer the above questions let’s first look at a few ways trust is understood to work. Here’s a concept about how trust operates considered to be a little radical.  It goes like this:
All smart trust is really self-trust.  There’s no such thing as trusting other people.  There’s only trusting yourself to handle what others may send your way.  If you do not unconsciously, sufficiently trust your own ability to handle what someone else may bring to your life then you consciously will not trust them.  All trust and mistrust is projected self-trust or the lack there of.  The highly self-trusting find it easier to forgive and try again, while those who have low self-trust don’t.  It’s hard for them to forgive because they secretly know they can’t handle what might be done to them, or so goes this understanding of trust dynamics.  There is some research to support this kind of thinking.

Those who come to re-trust a person after betrayal tend to trust their own ability to handle things well even if they are betrayed again. The more ego-weak a person is the less they trust in others.  This apparently is true of many people, but not all.  Those who have a high self-trust tend to either easily choose to trust or not trust, but they seldom spend much time in uneasy, anxious mistrust of others.  There also is some research which suggests that the most highly mistrusting people are not to be trusted.  The na├»ve and innocent also give trust too easily.  And the frequently traumatized, abused and misused tend to place little trust in anyone.

Another viewpoint on trust goes like this.  All trust is a gamble and should be seen as such.  In love when we trust someone we are gambling on the person we love and on the love in the relationship.  Intelligent people know that some of these love-gambles will pay off and some will not.  Some people gamble on love and win enormously and some lose enormously.  In gambling the saying goes “if you can’t afford to lose, don’t bet”.  However, in love and other great life experiences the truth is "you can’t afford not to gamble".  Consider the old wisdom teaching “it is better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all”.  For most people that’s probably true.

Consider this concept.  The adventures of love bring people their biggest and most meaningful life experiences, even when they don’t win at love.  Some think nothing defines or develops a person so much as their love relationships.  However, those love relationships take great gambles of trust, or they are far too limited.  Whether it be love of a spouse, a child, a family, a people, a nation, a cause or a deity, to win big takes gambling on trust big.

There are important problems and exceptions to the above thinking.  Quite sadly there are far too many people who make the gamble of love with someone who will literally destroy them one way or another.  So many murders and terrible abuse tragedies are stories of love gone wrong.  So many people who die of a substance addiction were started on that addiction path by way of a poor or false-love relationship.  So many suicides, heart attacks, strokes and other sudden health failures occur after the loss of a love.

All too frequently the trust-gamble of love poorly chosen results in tragedy.  The good news is that people who learn about love and its workings make much better gambles of trust.  They, therefore, win at love more often and far bigger.  Another good news factor is that the vast majority of people win more than they lose when they gamble on love.

Romantic love, or mate or spouse love probably is the most problematic when it comes to trust issues.  Pet love and grandparent’s love of grandchildren probably are the types of love with the fewest, trust foul-ups and the most, trust related, good results.  Still every kind of love relationship can have trust problems.  Therefore, every love relationship deserves some thinking and probably talking about trust issues.

Mistrust In Love

One view of mistrust holds that the more untrustworthy you are the more you will not trust the people you love and who you hope love you.  If you are highly prone to deception you will suspect others are likewise deceptive.  Suspicion and mistrust can ruin an otherwise good love relationship.  Here’s what Marcia said, “You tapped my phone, secretly went through my things, had me followed, read my diary when I ask you not to, and now you’re asking me to trust you.  Not a chance!  I thought we had a good thing going.  Now I see how sneaky you are.  If you can’t trust me I don’t want to have anything more to do with you.  We are through, and that’s final!”  Love often demands that we gamble ‘trust in another’ and if instead we rely too much on mistrust, and the behaviors that mistrust leads to, a love relationship can become poisoned.

Romantic Love and Trust

In romantic love there is a terrible, fascinating truth.  The more we don’t trust our own worth, value, love-ability and attraction power the more we can become insecure.  The more we are insecure the more we subconsciously believe someone better than ourselves will come along and be more desirable than we are.  That "more desirable person" will steal our loved-one away from us and we will be abandoned, alone and unloved.  Therefore, we must mistrust and guard against our loved-one looking at other attractive people, talking to them, being around them without our supervision, looking at images of attractive sexy others, etc. and generally we must keep our loved-ones ‘on a short leash’ to keep them to ourselves.

That indicates we might feel like our loved-ones are our property like a dog, or a slave, who is going to run away.  With this kind of thinking any suspicious involvement with another must be punished severely and the leash shortened.  Usually the final result of the ‘short leash approach’ is to drive our loved ones away and possibly into the arms of someone better than us.  Mistrust frequently is, in effect, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A Self-Strengthening Approach to Building Love Trust

The best way to build trust is to become ‘psychologically big and strong’ enough to handle being very truthful in a loving way.  To be big in healthy self-love so as to be able to own up to one’s mistakes and problematic behavior is a highly desirable part of the trust-building process.  It also is important to become big and strong enough psychologically, and especially emotionally, so as not to be destroyed or irreparably harmed when a loved one disappoints, betrays or otherwise dishonestly deals with you.

Furthermore, it is quite important to grow big enough to maturely and magnanimously handle the truth when it comes your way, no matter how much it hurts, bothers or scares you.  Trust is built on truth-telling, truth-hearing, truth-sharing and generally dealing from strength.  Mistrust is built on weakness, deception, inability to accept and compassionately, lovingly deal with truth.  So, build your psychological strengths, especially those having to do with love and you will be able to handle your trust challenges far better.

As always – Go and Grow in Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question Are you as love trustworthy as you want the people you love to be?

Becoming Well Loved and More Loved – Three Main Ways

Synopsis: Here you get to learn about the counter-societal, teaching idea of getting yourself well loved; and three main, different than usual, ways to achieve that; a three level understanding of love actions you can take; and dealing with the question of who is to be in charge of the love in your life; plus some fine book and mini-love-lesson recommendations.

The Importance of Getting Yourself Well Loved

Since you are reading this you probably have an understanding of the importance of love in your life plus you are being proactive not just relying on luck, fate, etc. to take care of your loved needs.  What you may not know is just how widespread and deep the importance of love goes and some of the major things you can do to put healthy, real love into your life.

The evidence is mounting.  Research in a wide array of scientific fields points to those well loved as living healthier and longer, happier, more productive, more successful, living more balanced, having better sex, helping others more, contributing more to the general well-being of all, recovering from illnesses faster, having better friendships and having greater success in all types of love relationships.

The converse also is appearing to be true.  Being poorly loved or unloved looks to be bad for your health and well-being in just about every area studied so far.  You might read Love and Survival by Dr. Dean Ornish.

The good news is you can get yourself well loved.  The not so good news is much of what our love-ignorant world tells us to do to have love, find love, etc. doesn’t work very well.  And then there also is the myth that you should do nothing until love finds you or your love fate is determined by mystifying forces over which you have little or no influence.  One educated estimate reports that relying on that myth gives you about a 15% chance of succeeding at love.  Luckily, certain in-depth analytical works suggest your subconscious probably does not believe in that myth and naturally pushes you to actively go searching for love whether you consciously know it or not.  Now, if you add conscious learning and thinking about love, like you are doing right now, you can vastly improve your chances with some well-chosen and well informed actions.  However, those actions are not commonly understood very well.  They fall into three major categories which I will present you with right now.

I. To become well loved – become more lovable and then even more lovable!

We can know that basically you already are lovable because you grew and got enough love to survive your first two years of life.  Otherwise, you would have died of a failure to thrive illness like marasmus because that is what happens to unloved infants.

Your Lovability is something you can do a lot things about.  First, it helps to understand what being and becoming lovable means and what those things you can do about it are and are not. One thing to do, if you do not already, is to own-up to the idea that you already are in possession of at least some natural, lovable attributes.  Your job is to grow them and your all over lovableness, add to it, practice it and then show it.

Being lovable itself can be simply defined as having and exhibiting attributes, traits and characteristics which attract and draw affection and loving thoughts, feelings and actions to you.  So, what do you know about the traits and characteristics associated with being lovable?  It is important to know that lovability has both a more surface and a more deep meaning.  Both are worth consideration.

Lovability at the more surface level means exhibiting traits like being adorable, amiable, charming, cheerful, cute, complimentary, engaging, embraceable, fetching, genial, pleasing, rewarding and winsome.  There are others you may want to add.

Being lovable in a deeper meaning way includes characteristics like being kind, caring, compassionate, able to be tender, emotionally warm, accepting, supportive, trustworthy, harmonious, positive, non-judgmental, affirmative, self disclosing, tolerant, friendly, assertive rather than aggressive, and most of all easily willing and able to be sincerely loving.  Here too, there are other characteristics you might want to include.

Now, you might want to start evaluating your own having and exhibiting lovableness traits and characteristics, along with goals and actions for making improvements.  Consider journaling those.  I also heartily recommend reading Lovability by Dr. Robert Holden, a book that could really help you grow your own lovability.

II. To Have Love – Become Loving and Then More and Better at Being Sincerely And Actively Loving!

This is an old teaching literally going back at least to the year one when Ovid put it forth in his teachings and writings on love and sex in his famous The Art of Love.  Modern, behavioral, science research suggests he was quite right.  Those who are good at being actively loving to themselves as well as to others are the ones most likely to get good, healthy, real and lasting love coming their way.

Becoming more loving requires learning what being loving is and how it is done.  It is a bit more involved than you might suppose.  Therefore, you may have to study it rather closely and repeatedly.  You may have to learn to think more lovingly and more about love itself (see “Thinking Love to Improve Love”).  You may have to cultivate getting yourself in touch with the many emotions of love and feeling them more fully (see “An Alphabet of Love’s Good Feelings”).  Most of all, it takes learning and practicing the behaviors that convey love and help you gain skills for getting love to happen.  For your healthy self-love, it helps to greatly enjoy doing all that.  Some of love’s sages teach that if you are excited and joyful in the process of learning to be more and better at loving, it is a good sign indicating you are doing it well.

To help you learn what the behaviors of love are, I recommend you familiarize yourself with this three level, 12 point schema.  Remember, love is complicated and this will actually make it more clear and simplify it – some.


Cardinal Behaviors of Love (those of comprehensive and inclusive preponderant importance)
Nurturing love actions (growth, developmental, actualizing)
Protecting love actions (guarding, prevention, defending)
Healing love actions (healthcare, recovery and well-being)
Metaphysical/Spiritual love actions (meditation, prayer, ritual)

Crucial Behaviors of Love (those that are acutely important and decisive in major, ongoing love relationships)
Affirmational love actions (affirming the value of the loved)
Self-Disclosure love actions (sharing oneself, transparency)
Tolerational love actions (tolerance, acceptance and forgiveness)
Receptional love actions (receiving love well gives love)

Core Behaviors of Love (those that are basic and foundational)
Tactile love (connection, affection, sexuality)
Expressional love (facial, tonal, gestural, postural)
Verbal love (words spoken and written)
Gifting love (object gifts and experience and service gifts)

To learn and have a fuller understanding of these categories, I suggest you consult the Behaviors category in this site’s labels links below and start with the mini-love-lesson titled “Behaviors That Give Love – the Basic Core Four”.  My book, Recovering Love, covers the Crucial and Core Behaviors more fully and very usefully.  The Five Love Languages, by the Rev. Dr. Gary Chapman, has helped a lot of people with the how-to’s of being loving with a different and somewhat simpler, action-oriented approach.

III. To Become Well Loved and More Loved – Become Love Active, and then Much More Love Active!

Go create your own new and better chances for love.  You can do that by going the same old places you always go, with the same old people but risk acting in more loving, new and different ways.  You also can do that by risking going to different places and with new groups of people while acting more loving in your new and different ways.

Take what you are learning about love and put it into actions again and again.  Go out and about being lovable and loving!  Make the places you inhabit your experimental love lab and your practice fields.  Have fun with honing your skills when helping people feel more loved, valued, attended to, cared about and enjoyed.  Give some thought and a little planning to quick hit-and-run loving, fast guerrilla attack love and brisk who was that mysterious stranger love actions.  Get some images in your mind of what those terms might mean and enact some of them.  Practice on just about everybody including yourself.  Do be sensitive to other’s adverse reactions and tame it down a little when necessary.  But if done with a smile and sincere good-will, you probably will get positive reactions and will be modeling good loving and lovability in the process.

It can be very important for you to pay the price of discomfort as you go explore new and different groups of people.  To do that well, it is important for you to ponder what you think of them rather more than be concerned about what they think of you.  Remember, socially it works better to be the chooser than the chosen and certainly far better than being the beggar.  Usually, the trick is to be friendly assertive (not aggressive) as you listen and ask questions more than you talk or work to impress.  It is very okay to target people you are attracted to but don’t forget attraction and love are very different things (see “Attraction or Love or What?”).  Much of what you do probably will not work very well, especially at first.  Healthy, real love usually does not usually come easily nor should it.  It works best if you count your victories as a whole lot more important than your losses.  You can learn how to succeed from both victories and losses.

Who Is Going to be In Charge of Your Love?

Doesn’t your life of love belongs to you?  Yes, you can share ownership with those you love and those who love you but isn’t it your joyful job to not only give but get yourself well loved?  That, of course, flies in the face of much cultural training which teaches going after love gets in the way of getting it, that it is egotistical and selfish and it is not the way love is supposed to work.  Could it be that those ideas were invented to keep the competition de-activated?  Could it also be that, regarding love, whoever said “the race goes to those who dare to run it” was right?  I might add that it also goes to those who learn to run well and practice a lot.

If you really get determined to get yourself more lovable, more loving and more love active and you use the three major ways (Core, Crucial and Cardinal behaviors) plus employ everything else you can learn to do about healthy, real love, it is likely but not guaranteed that your life of love will be a much bigger, better success.  Work happily to become more lovable, more loving and more love active and see what happens!

One More Little Thing

Who can you talk this over with who may enjoyably disagree or challenge these ideas or your ideas about these ideas?  While you are at it, we would like it if you tell them about this site and its many, totally free, mini-love-lessons.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: Who and what got you to think the way you have in the past thought about love and how well has that worked?

Other Ways to Say I Love You

Synopsis: Why say “I love you” in different ways; a dozen other ways to say the “I love you” message; creating and improving your own love expressions.

Why say “I love you” different ways?

The simple words “I love you” are wonderful and in love relationships it’s great if they get said quite often, even daily.

However, variety can be the spice of both love and life.  Having some different ways to get this basic love message across can add that bit of spice or variation that makes expressing your love a bit more artistic and impactful.  Verbally conveying love well is a good skill to develop and having variations helps that.  Having lots of different ways to say “I love you” can help those you love feel extra special and better loved.  It can show that you have given them extra thought and when it comes to love skills you may have more interesting things to offer.  So, I suggest you study the following list and add your own special ways of conveying the “ I love you” message.

A Dozen Other Ways to Say the “I Love You” Message

    1.   I love you sooooooooooo much!
2.   Every day I love you more!
3.   I could not, not love you!
4.   Loving you is the most joyous thing I do!
5.   My whole being loves your whole being!
6.   I love you is my grandest and most glorious truth!
7.   The very core of my being loves you so incredibly much!
8.   I know I will love you even more tomorrow than I do today!
9.   Loving you is such a fabulous blessing!
10. I am in amazing, fantastic, marvelous love with you!
11. Every time I see you I love you bigger!
12. I can’t find big enough words to tell you how much I love you!

Creating and Improving Your Own Love Expressions

With a little work you can create your own, improved “I love you” messages.  One way to do this is to use the name of the person you’re talking or writing to.  Another is to use terms of endearment like sweetheart, darling, honey, beloved, dearest, etc..  Still another way is to use special nicknames.  One caution here, be sure that nicknames don’t have any negative or put-down quality to the person you’re saying them to.  Some couples go through the meditation exercise of discovering what is known as their special, spirit names and using them with each other, which is said to add great power to one’s “I love you” messages.

Alliteration is sometimes helpful. “ Loving you, Barbara, is beautiful” and “I am crazy in love with you Carol” are examples.  Of course if you can be poetic that helps too.  In any case why not see if you can vary the way you get your “I love you” messages across and, thereby, make your love expressions a little more interesting and able to have a little more impact.

As always –Go and Grow in Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Have  you given thought to and expressed to your loved ones how they might best tell you of their love or you?

Gratitude As a Love Skill

Synopsis: Are you a “thanking” person, good at the love skill of gratitude?; how to develop gratitude awareness; how gratitude improves your physical, mental and relationship health; how to grow your gratitude love skill, and healthy, real love via gratitude.

Are You a ‘Thanking’ Person?

A month after our most loving and appreciative guests left we were still finding little Post-it notes secreted away in different hiding places telling us about different things our guests were grateful for during their stay with us.  Each note came as a tangible, little, friendship-love surprise gently touching our hearts.  It endeared them to us even more than they already were.

This is an example of highly love-skilled people who found a special way to express their gratitude.  True thankfulness grows out of gratitude.  Gratitude, let me suggest, is a highly worthy sub-classification of love behaviors related to the larger major category of ‘affirmational love’.  To have gratitude one must have awareness of what one can be grateful about.  This takes a mind-set focused on the good things coming one’s way.  Then one must have at least a minimum amount of healthy self-love and confidence to risk showing appreciation.

It is amazing how many people fear that if they show their gratitude it will be unwanted, or they fear they will do an inadequate job of showing gratitude.  Some fear their way of showing gratitude will be regarded as silly or somehow inferior and, therefore, they stop themselves from the full expression of their gratitude.  Some people think that their show of gratitude must be done in some large and impressive way and if that can’t be accomplished they don’t show it at all.  Notice in the above example of the Post-it notes the people doing this could have thought such notes might be annoying or regarded as cheap or insignificant.  I suppose people poor at ‘receptional love’ indeed might be so inclined.  I hope you’re not among them, but if you are remember help is available here and at other love-focused places.

Gratitude Awareness

Let me suggest you have more to be grateful for than you will ever be able to be aware of, let alone give thanks for.  To start with, you were born as a great, amazing bundle of miracles.  Even a rock is miraculous but you are so incredibly more than a rock.  Be grateful!  When you were born you were loved enough to keep you alive.  Many are not and they die of marasmus and other ‘failure to thrive’ diseases of infancy.  Be grateful!  Then you began the incredible, miraculous process of maturing and discovering the incredibly miraculous world you were born into.  Some who are born cannot do that, so be grateful!  You were at least minimally loved, laughed with, played with, and taught something of the world.  Be grateful!  You also were able to learn on your own and that learning ability was a gift some do not have.  Be grateful!

Then there were the people of your life, some of whom were not so great.  Others, however, probably influenced and guided you better than you are aware of.  If they had not you never would have learned to read what you are reading now, nor would you be able to think about it as well as you can, and probably you wouldn’t be able to grow from what you’re thinking as well as you can.  Be grateful!

Gratitude Improves Your Health

Recent research shows that those people who actively feel and show gratitude improve their physical health in a number of ways as they do so.  Mental health also is advanced by loving gratitude which triggers neurochemical improvements in our brains.  Longevity also has been linked to gratitude and, as might be expected, those who are good at gratitude are measured as having significantly better interpersonal relationships.  Those who are poor at gratitude are measured as less physically, mentally, emotionally and relationally healthy and they live shorter lives on average.

Undervalued Gratitude

There are dangers to not feeling, showing and receiving expressions of gratitude.  Some people shrug off showing gratitude as a waste of time and an unnecessary action.  There are those who are embarrassed when gratitude or thanks is shown to them.  Sometimes that’s because they don’t quite know how to receive it or reply but that can be learned.  Then there are the people who have been trained to quickly dismiss expressions of gratitude so as not to seem egotistical.  This may discount the gratitude-giver which might harm the relationship with that person.

There are those who don’t show gratitude for egocentric reasons, believing themselves to be somehow superior rather than just different from others.  Some overly power-oriented people think showing gratitude demonstrates weakness.  That can lead to fear and away from love.  Then there are those who are suspicious of gratitude, thinking it is merely a manipulation setting them up for some sort of misuse.  All of these people who undervalue gratitude miss out on the health benefits mentioned above and on the very real joy that results from truly being grateful.

One of the more interesting findings in gratitude research has to do with people becoming thankful for something, and then showing that gratitude which then appeared to open the door to solving a life problem they were having.  Research also has shown people good at gratitude get through hard times easier than others.

Did you know that Gratitude Groups are being experimented with in some prisons, nursing homes and certain schools.  Groups discussing what they have gratitude for and how they will demonstrate that gratitude are producing a variety of surprising, positive results.  Gratitude exercises in couple’s love education classes and workshops are resulting in couples more deeply bonding with each other.  Guided gratitude facilitation in family love education retreats and seminars show similar results for whole families.

How to Grow Your Gratitude

Of the people who have influenced your life who are you most grateful for?  For each decade you have lived can you think of some people you can genuinely say you were quite fortunate to have had in your life?  Of the people who are in your life now who most merits you showing gratitude to.  Are there people in your past who have passed away to whom you wish you had shown more gratitude?  Who are the people you would most enjoy showing gratitude to?  Who are the people who would be most surprised by you showing gratitude to them?  Perhaps you will want to spend some time thinking about these questions and you may want to make some lists.

Suppose you were to give some of the people you just thought of a call, or send them a note, or visit them expressing your gratitude for what they have meant in your life.  Then again you might do it in an anonymous way.  It is good to feel gratitude and that does you healthful good but expressing it may be even better.  The more you focus on and feel gratitude and then express it the more you are likely to grow your gratitude-giving competence as one of your love skills.

Love Via Gratitude

How soon can you genuinely thank somebody for something?  The sooner the better.  How soon will you pay attention to something someone has done for you, or that benefits someone you care about, and lovingly tell them of your gratitude?  As you encounter people today and tomorrow will you make yourself aware of at least some small thing they do that you can appreciate.  Will you then be at least a little grateful.  Some think our world leads us to notice the things we don’t like more than the things we can like.  Many people’s families or a sub-society they grew up in taught them mostly about griping, complaining, whining and being ungrateful.  This anti-gratitude way of going about one’s life approach now is seen to be surprisingly stressful and to shorten life.  Train yourself in appreciation-awareness and to feel and give gratitude as part of ‘affirmational love’ giving and your life will be a happier, healthier place to live in.

Large numbers of people just don’t have much of an awareness of gratitude and the good it does.  Especially our love relationships can be benefitted by people who feel and frequently show genuine gratitude for the love acts of others.  So today and tomorrow and the next day too, I want to dare you to be grateful for something you would not have otherwise been grateful for and then show your gratitude in one fashion or another.

Gratitude can be shown with a pat on the back, a hug, a smile, just a few words of thanks, a note, a gift, doing a favor for, public bragging on another person and in a host of other ways.  I want to challenge you to challenge yourself to make yourself good at the love skill called gratitude.  Hopefully this little love lesson will assist you in that endeavor.

As always – Go and Grow in Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question The concepts of healthy self-love suggest that you give gratitude to yourself for having helped yourself live as well as you have.  So, are you doing that?

Betrayal in Love and Handling It Well

Mini-Love-Lesson #208

Synopsis: The agony of betrayal; what the recently wounded can do to recover; learning to heal and protect oneself; five most things not to do; the no blame inventory with seven crucial questions for betrayal avoidance and recovery.

Stabbed in the Back?

What to do when someone you love, and who you were sure loved you, seriously betrays you?  They did what you thought, hoped and believed they never would.  They were treacherous betraying you and the love you shared and it hurt so very very much.  You trusted them and they violated that trust.  Now it is hard to believe that someone who loves you could do such a thing.

Agonizing questions arise.  If they could hurt you this way does that mean they are not who you thought they were, you were not really important to them, your love relationship with them was false, something is seriously wrong with you or this wouldn’t have happened; they are evil, sick, wanted to hurt you, or what?   Painful quandaries and confusions abound along with sorrow, anger, destabilization, insecurity, profound disappointment and pervasive mistrust.  Do you give up on them, end the relationship, retaliate and get even, figure ways to punish them, or do you forgive them, just suffer through it and try to keep going, look for a way to start over, seek outside help individually or together, or what?

Recently Wounded? – Go Hide for Awhile!

If you feel stabbed in the back and it pierced your heart, the first issue is about finding safety from further hurts where you can start to heal.  We do not tend to handle things well when we are wounded.  We do not think straight, make good decisions, understand things clearly, have good judgment, see things accurately, do emotionally laden work well or even, if forced to fight, do it very well.  Everything we try to do may result in more harm or hurt, and yet we want to do something to end our suffering and make it all go away and be better.

Consider doing what wounded animals do.  Find a cave and hide out in it licking your wounds, helping Mother Nature start your healing process.  Your hideout cave maybe a cabin in the wilderness, staying with a friend or with family, getting a hotel room or just locking the door where you live and staying inside.  While you are there it’s okay to cry, weep, rant, rave, thrash around, pound, stomp, eat comfort foods, sleep a lot or do anything that is not destructive to yourself or others, or do anything valuable and important.  If you want to be with loving accepting others as you do all this, that’s fine.  Maybe you can do the same for them someday.  Alone is okay too for a while or with loving pets around.

When you are ready, and at first in small doses, help your healing by starting to study and learn what you need to from this love betrayal experience.  To assist you with that, just keep reading this mini-love-lesson, and then go to some other mini-love-lessons at this site.  I recommend that you next go to our series (in the Subject Index Problems and Pain all beginning with the words Dealing With Love Hurts) starting with the one called “Dealing with Love Hurts: First Aid Tips”.  Then you might do well to look at “Changing Your Emotions Via Love and Love Smarts” and “Through Heart Break Recovery to Full and Lasting Love”. These have been known to help and do much good.

Lasting Hurt from Older Betrayal

Sometimes it takes a long time for a love betrayal to cure.  Occasionally we can get stuck along the path of healing and not progress.  For both of those conditions some think it is because we need to learn something we are dodging, need to focus on something were not seeing yet or otherwise need to add to or alter our way of dealing with a love betrayal experience.  For those situations and possibilities, let me suggest you first finish reading this mini-love-lesson and then go on to “Dealing with Love Hurts: Pains Crucial Guidance” and “Trust and Mistrust in Love”.  I have gotten feedback on how much those two mini-love-lessons have helped others; I hope they help you too if needed.

Learning to Heal and Protect Yourself from Love Betrayal

Learning gives us options we did not have before.  So, let’s learn a little bit about love betrayal and some options we have for dealing with it.

Unfortunately, betrayals in love relationships of one sort or another are all too common.  Consider the research on marital infidelity.  Study after study shows that in the developed world well over 50% of married and unmarried couples face one or more problematic affair issues or crises at some time in the course of their love relationship.  The good news is most couples handle it, stay together and often even grow from it.  Nevertheless, it usually involves agonized dealing with lies, deceptions, broken promises, damaged trust, and the hard long work of relational healing.  What you learn now may help you avoid much of that.

Of course, there are a lot of ways love betrayals happen besides through duplicitous infidelity.  Sometimes they are quite complicated and confusing.  A son chooses not to follow in his father’s professional footsteps and the father expels the son from his family life feeling betrayed by the son.  But by his acts, has the father betrayed his son and, in essence, betrayed what loving fatherhood is really all about?  A daughter steals from her parent’s savings desperate to pay for her inclusion in a good but costly private, drug addiction, treatment program which her parents refused to help with.  Who really has betrayed who in this case?  Long-term and dear friends breakup over the public revealing of each other’s most intimate secrets, blaming each other for having started it.

Another issue is how value systems differ.  One person may see an act of betrayal as small and mild, while another as huge and severe.  “I only had sex with your brother once, and it wasn’t very good sex either, and besides that I was drunk so it shouldn’t count for much.  Actually, I think I did it just to get back at you for all the times you neglected me.  So, in a way it’s really your fault” said the rationalizing wife to her furious husband.  A lots of people assume their loved ones have the same values and also value things to the same degree as they do.  On close examination, that is hardly ever exactly true.

Lots of couples, families and friendship groups consciously and subconsciously fake values similarity for the sake of harmony until something comes along to reveal the differences.  When that happens, betrayal often is painfully felt and angrily accused. As you can see, love betrayal might seem more simple than it is until you start learning about its underlying causes and dynamics.  Not understanding that has caused lots of misinterpretation difficulties and wrong conclusion mistakes for many love relationships.  Consequently in love betrayal situations, it is best not to rush to judgment and to proceed slowly and carefully.

What Not to Do

1. Get Revenge. One option is vengeance.  I had a professor in graduate school who was fond of quoting “vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord God”, then adding “that’s because people can’t handle it”.  In my counseling career, the biggest thing I ever saw revenge accomplish was making divorce lawyers rich.  Otherwise, it did not work, brought on escalating retaliations, hurt children and other family and was a big waste of effort and time.  link “Anger and Love”.  Know that in love betrayal situations, recovery and revenge are usually antithetical.  Maybe you have heard, the only kind of revenge that works is living well.  I agree.  Go after living well, happy and wonderfully well loved.  Then show it off when you get the chance.

2. Live in Victimhood. Some people discover being a long-suffering victim has some advantages, at least for a while.  People feel sorry for you, give you attention and do stuff for you sometimes.  Also you do not have to do the work of finding out how to succeed at real love.  Furthermore, if you are good at being a martyr, there are those who are looking for someone in need of saving for example, professional damsels in distress, “frogs” and “beasts” who do not really turn into princes, and those who think themselves too weak to ever leave their rescuer until a better rescuer comes along.  You can do far better.

3. Never Love Again.  Some people are so hurt by betrayal, especially repeated betrayals, they decide to permanently withdraw from all attempts at love.  That is a lot like one might feel after food poisoning and wanting to never eat again.  We all thrive on the food and the medicine of love and we malfunction without it.  Remember, all forms of real love do us good starting and including healthy self-love, pet love, friend love, spiritual love, altruistic love and all the others.  Then, if you learn and practice the right stuff about romantic love, you much more likely will succeed there too.

4. Beat-up on Yourself.  Victims of love betrayal often are too hard on themselves and too good at self condemnation.  Commonly there is inner self talk which sounds like this.  “I must not be worth much for someone to hurt me like that”.  “It’s got to be that I’m not lovable or they wouldn’t have wanted to hurt me like they did”.  “How could I have been so stupid”.  “Everything I did was probably wrong”.  “If I had only tried harder”.  “It’s all really my fault”.  “I’ll always get betrayed and/or abandoned because I just don’t have what it takes”.  “I’m not good enough to get lasting real love”.  That kind of depressive thinking happens a lot in those who are programed to think that way.  You can learn to think in far more accurate, positive, energizing and love productive ways. “Healthy Self-Love and Not Giving Your Power Away” and “From Self-Love to Other Love and Back Again”.  Use those and you won’t be betraying yourself with self blame.

5. Play the Endless Anger and Accusations Game.  Some people who feel betrayed in love are endlessly angry and accusational about it.  Anger gives you a sense of power when you feel powerless and that can help for a little while.  A better power comes from learning from it, then letting it go and moving on to new better ways of doing love and life.  As is said in all sports “you can’t win them all”, and even if you could it usually might mean you should have been playing in a tougher league.

Now, those 5 above might sound hard-hearted, and we all might need to cathartically do a little of some of them when hurting.  The point is not to get stuck there – it is not healthy or self-loving.

Conduct a Rigorous Non-Blaming “Learn from It” Exam

If you learn enough from a love betrayal and grow from it, you may not have to experience love betrayal again.  To learn from it, you have to not dodge but straightforwardly examine it.  The exam has to be rigorously honest and as accurate as possible.  Blame does not lend itself to honesty or accuracy and that is why it has to be non-blaming.  Blaming yourself, or others, or God, the stars, fate, etc. may have some cathartic value but not much else.  A productive, good learn from it exam means facing and dealing with tough questions.  Here are seven you might do well to begin and continue with.

1. What did I do that helped (not caused) me to get betrayed, and how can I not do those things again?

2. What do I need to learn about betrayal, it’s workings and its causes so I can better protect myself from betrayal and its emotional pain in the future?

3. How are my betrayer and I different; are we too different?

4. If I continue our relationship, am I strong enough to go through more betrayal, or am I too vulnerable and too susceptible to a reoccurrence to risk it?

5. If I forgive my betrayer, can I also realistically protect myself well enough to stay/be okay as I explore and figure out what to best do with this relationship?

6. How do I need to change and add to my thinking about trust, people who are and become trustworthy, and those who are not and do not?

7. Can I, should I, and will I dare to love without trust?
If your suffering from betrayal goes on too long or is too excruciating, get some help from a love-knowledgeable professional.

One More Little Thing

Who are you going to talk this over with, because this is really a good one to talk over with others, and while you’re at it would you mind telling them about this site and all its free, mini-love-lessons?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: What might cause you to betray someone you love, and how do you feel about that?