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Showing posts with label problems. Show all posts
Showing posts with label problems. Show all posts

Adultery And No Divorce Love

Synopsis: Bennett’s dilemma, What most couples are not doing about adultery, Adultery’s bigger definition, Bennett’s relief, Adultery commonality, Three major questions to grapple with, Accepting multiple causation, Changing mindsets, Adultery of the heart, Agony, struggling and no divorce love.


Quote: "Everybody’s telling me I should divorce my wife because she’s been having sex with somebody besides me.  Even my priest has said my wife is an adulterer and that provides me with perfectly acceptable grounds for an annulment in our church.  He even offered to help me with the paperwork.  Both my brothers and my sister say “divorce her” and that’s what they would do.  I know she’s committing adultery but I just can’t bring myself to divorce.  I love her way too much to end it.”  Bennett lamented all this in a very anguished individual counseling session late one evening.  I replied, “Perhaps not going toward divorce is going to turn out to be a good thing.

You see most of the people who don’t divorce after adultery are glad they stayed married.  Not only that, but most of the people who do divorce because of adultery a year later are not at all sure they did the right thing.  Many wish they had stayed and worked on their marriage a lot more than they did.  At least that’s what I see in my practice, and there’s also pretty good research that largely backs me up on this.  It seems that more and more people don’t think adultery is worth getting a divorce over, even though adultery is usually an enormous, hurt-filled problem”.

As used here, the word adultery means having secret, sexual or powerfully romantic, emotional relations with someone other than your spouse in a way that involves betrayal, lies, deceptions, a lack of self disclosure and honest sharing, usually accompanied by the creation and maintenance of false and incomplete understandings.

Bennett said, “I’m so glad to hear something different than what I have been hearing. I want us to be one of those couples that didn’t let adultery break them up.  I am going to go home and ask my wife to come to couple’s counseling, and tell her I am willing to do everything I can to help us get past this issue if she will just give it a try with me.”  To make a long story short, he did just that and they came to couples counseling together, and now after some pretty hard work they’re doing great.  In fact they both suspect they are probably doing better than they ever would have had they not learned to handle their adultery problem with lots of new and better ways to do healing love, and re-start their love relationship in bigger and better ways.

Are you aware that the majority of marriages in the Western world, and especially in the USA, go through at least one major event involving adultery (cheating, affair, unfaithful, etc.) and most do not divorce over it.  Of course, for many couples it is immensely difficult and there is a great deal of agony, struggle and recovery work to do.  (See the entries under Dealing with Love Hurts”).  The good news is many couples do the work it takes, and though it is a hard way to get there, their marriage becomes stronger and better than it ever was before.

If you’re facing an issue like the one Bennett was facing here are three hard but important questions to ask yourself.  Is your love greater than your hurt?  (Great love conquers great hurt!).  Is the love you have with your spouse more powerful than what you have been taught to think, feel and do about adultery?  (What you have been trained to think, feel and do may defeat love if you let it!).   How did you help your spouse go toward adultery?  (possibly by demonstrating your love for your mate too poorly, too narrowly, too infrequently, or possibly by behaving with very anti-love actions?).  Notice in this last question we have said “help” not cause.  Primary causal responsibility rests with the primary actor, but other people and assisting factors are to be considered for a full understanding.

Seldom is it wise to see one spouse as 100% victim and the other as 100% perpetrator when it comes to why someone commits adultery.  In couples group therapy Jerry said it quite well when he remarked, “I stopped getting her flowers, writing her love notes, telling her how much she meant to me, taking her where she wanted to go on dates, and in just about every way I no longer showed her the love I felt for her.  So, of course, she had an affair.  What else could I expect?”  Linda said, “I did worse than that.  I kept putting my husband down, criticizing him, not acknowledging his achievements, taking him for granted, I didn’t really listen to him and sometimes I purposefully frustrated him about sex, and was way to prudish.  I did almost every single thing you call anti-love behavior.  The other woman did the opposite of all that, so guess what, he committed adultery with her.  I might have done the same thing if I were in his place.”

There are lots of other important question/positions, but I suggest starting with these three: If you’re love can be bigger than your hurt that’s a fairly good indicator that you both may be able to recover together.  If you develop your own thoughts and chosen actions beyond what you were taught to do, adultery can be responded to in all sorts of new, different and healthier ways.  If you can discover and ‘own up to’ how your actions probably helped adultery happen, and then improve, there’s lots of hope.  These questions are not usually easily or quickly answered, and each leads to other questions you may need to struggle with.  But they often help people move toward the love healing needed.

People’s mindsets are changing in regard to the magnitude of difficulty having sex outside of marriage represents.  Gloria said, “When I found out he had sex with someone he met at work I thought it meant he didn’t love me anymore, and that he wanted to replace me with her.  That was devastating and terrifying to me.  Eventually I discovered he just wanted to see what sex was like with a woman different than me.  That was disturbing but not nearly as horrifying as what I had first thought.  Now we are working it through, and I think we’re going to make it”.

I got asked a sort of peculiar question at a weekend retreat workshop I was conducting on love relationships.  A participant asked, “Just what is the importance of one penis in one vagina as opposed to multiple penis’s in multiple vaginas”?  How would you answer that? Follow up questions in that discussion were, “Do we give too much importance to penises in vaginas or other sex acts”, and “How is it that in some parts of the world people enjoy their spouse having sex with others, while elsewhere others can’t even stand the idea of that happening”.  Perhaps those are questions you might do well to ponder.  It is true that in some cultures and at various periods in history adultery has had almost no importance at all, while at other times and places it has had enormous significance.  There are even societies in which there is no word for adultery in their language, while in others there is a whole vocabulary indicating widespread importance.

If you are struggling with an adultery issue in your life, a great big thing to examine is the influence of your societal, subconscious programming or conditioning concerning the subject of adultery.  You see, your feelings and many of your thoughts may have been pre-programmed into you, and in a sense may not even be your own, true, self-derived thoughts and feelings.  Likewise, what is your training and your subconscious programming concerning love and loving forgiveness?  Do you find yourself more in the “love can conquer all and, therefore, forgive all” category, or are you in the “adultery is marriage’s unforgivable sin” category?  Which of those do you really choose to be in and which is the most healthful for you?

Let’s look at ‘background’.  There are those who think that in olden times the only real reason adultery became the singular, allowable reason for divorce was because the ancient religious elders who made the rules were sexually insecure, immature and quite possibly sexually inadequate.  If that’s true they quite easily were threatened and, thereby, motivated to make big, strong rules protecting themselves.  Naturally, to reinforce their defense they said it was God’s will, and they were but the messengers.  Others point out that patrilineal societies tend to have much stricter prohibitions and punishments for adultery than do matrilineal societies.  Then there are the cultures in which not having sex with guests, visitors and the like, outside of the pair bond is grounds for divorce.  Also consider the societal groups in which everyone is expected to be having extra pair bond sex, and those in which a woman having children by different men is held in higher esteem than a woman having children by only one man.

Here in modern times and places there is a growth in finding ‘adultery of the heart’ to be far more grievous than ‘adultery of the body’.  Marla said, “Just so long as he doesn’t bring home a disease I don’t care who he does what with, except he better not fall in love with her because that’s totally forbidden in our relationship”.  Thomas remarked, “My wife and I can have sex with somebody else but three times is the limit.  After that it might get too emotional and neither of us wants that.  We love each other tremendously and want each other to have all sorts of pleasures, and at the same time we want to safeguard our love because it’s so precious.”  People who think like this in the Western world are a minority, but be not mistaken it’s a growing minority.

There also are a growing number of couples who tell of their love of each other being far more significant than mere sex with others.  “Adultery is a forgivable sin if you really love somebody, so that’s what I’ll work at,” said Jonathan who was struggling with this issue in his marriage.  “Adultery is just not worth getting a divorce over,” said Sondra who was also battling to save her marriage.  “When you have kids getting a divorce because of adultery is just plain selfish and shortsighted.  If you really love them and your mate see if you can stick it out and make something better happen,” remarked Brenda whose marriage was coming back together.  Charles proclaimed, “We have a great deal of love for each other so we’re not going to let adultery defeat our love, and that’s all there is to it”.  So, you can see many couples have a strong “no divorce love”, or at least a no divorce over adultery love relationship, which wins the day for them.

Why explore other times, other cultures and other people’s ways of doing love and sex?  Because it is one way we are more likely to make informed choices in our own love relationships instead of reacting out of subconscious programmed determined ways.

You may be finding it hard to wrap your mind around these ideas, and your heart may be aching, and your gut churning, because for most people grappling with adultery issues is one of the hardest things they ever do.  Adulterous behavior for many leads to almost unbearable agony, great fear, and a great sickening of the heart.  Even so, the message here is take heart.  While most couples will face a real-life challenge in this area most will, with love and hard work, get past it and many will end up in a better functioning love relationship than they started with.  My bias is the smart, the practical, and the most loving seek out the help of a love knowledgeable, nonjudgmental couple’s therapist and get past the difficulties together with help and insight.  With competent couple’s counseling they do this far faster, more thoroughly, and with less pain than they otherwise would have.

Also very important is the fact that by way of counseling they do it with far less destructiveness for all concerned.  Even though adultery can be terribly painful to a couple, divorce or breaking up is quite frequently not the best answer.  Of course, if there is little true, healthy love, lots of emotional and/or other abuse, repeated lies, betrayal and deception, and an unwillingness to truly work for improvement a couple may be psychologically divorced already.  However, adultery’s effects so very often can be overcome by a strong ‘no divorce’ committed love when two people keep working to grow their healthy, real love.

In regard to adultery a ‘no divorce love’ is one that makes an established, shared love more important than relations outside that established shared love, more important than fear, more important than hurt (but not more important than harm), and more important than social pressure and past teachings.  It also must be one in which those in the established, shared love are willing and able to mutually work on the improvement of their love relationship giving it extremely high priority in their lives.
It is my sincere hope that these thoughts will be helpful to you and those you share these thoughts with.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question Are you, or will you be working for your love (spouse type) to grow so strong that it can, if necessary, survive an adultery challenge?


Love Complaints Versus Love Requests

“She’s always griping, complaining and blaming me for everything!  I’ve had it with her endless moaning and groaning.  I’m through listening to her bitching.  If it doesn’t stop I’m going where I won’t ever have to defend myself against her stupid accusations again.  I will leave and get a divorce”.

So said Andrew in a couple’s counseling session.  Rachel, his wife, angrily shouted, “You don’t ever listen to me.  You just wall up and ignore what I need.  You don’t really love me or you’d listen to me and give me the love I need”.  “See what I mean” was Andrew’s reply.

With some work it became clear to both Andrew and Rachel that she actually was attempting to get what she felt she needed and what she very much wanted, not by asking for it but by complaining and blaming about what she wasn’t getting.  It also became clear that Andrew had come to hear just about every thing she said as a complaint, gripe or a personal attack to which he got angrily and offensively defensive. 

With some more couple’s counseling things began to change for the better.  “You’re always yelling at me” became “sweetheart, could you say that in a softer tone please?”  “You never listen to me” was replaced with “Honey, I would like you to really hear me very carefully for the next few minutes.  Would that be okay?”  “We never go anywhere and you never take me out” turned into “Darling, I would really like us to go on a date this weekend, just you and me with real positive, romantic attitudes, OK?”  “You’re a damned sex addict” and “You sexless prude” turned into “Let’s make some time for just love, and then some time for love and sex together.”  “That sounds great.  How about Friday night for one and Saturday night for the other?”.  “You don’t love me anymore” became “I’m really hungry for your special love so could we cuddle and hug a lot tonight?”

Rachel and Andrew learned that requests are not easily heard when they sound like complaints.  Desires expressed as gripes and longing framed as blame don’t work.  Nor is anger easily understood as the hurt and frustration that usually underlies it.  Frowns are more likely to be seen as disapproval than worry, and agitation often is not viewed as the fear and anxiety it often stems from.

With help Andrew and Rachel learned, practiced and built new, far more loving ways to go after what they wanted and help each other obtain their desires.  They discovered that loving requests are usually not heard as attacks to defend against, desires well stated are not interpreted as criticism, and well expressed wants are not to be interpreted as demands or control efforts to be rebelled against.

Rachel and Andrew created their own version of some simple but very helpful rules to follow:

1. Talking about what’s wrong seldom leads to creating what can become right.  Therefore, talk about what ‘right’ would look like to both of you.  Then synthesize your two views if possible.
 
2. Talking about what went wrong doesn’t automatically lead to how you can make something go well.  Therefore, talk about how you want something to go rather than how it went.
 
3. Talking about a past event that felt bad seldom gets a couple to a future event that feels good.  Go directly after ‘feel good’ future events and keep talking in the future tense not in the past tense when you want something to improve.
 
4. Talking about who’s to blame seldom leads to who’s going to make an improvement or how to make a joint improvement.  Talk about what is to be done in the future and who’s going to do it and when it will be done.
 
5. Talking with words that are demeaning (stupid, feather-brain, idiot, brute, etc.) destroys teamwork.  Honestly praise and compliment your partner frequently (yes, there usually is something to praise, however small) and use many terms of endearment.  It’s OK to say “Lover, right now I am very mad at you” but not “You ignorant bastard”.
 
6. Talking in unclear, imprecise, vague terms seldom gets you what you want or what is needed.  Identify what you desire clearly and then ask for it in behavioral terms.  Then add when you want what you desire.  For example “You’re not affectionate” can become “I want a hug”, or cuddle, or to make love, or a compliment, or a date, or for you to look lovingly into my eyes, etc..  Remember to identify the time frame you want it in.
 
7. Talking with a bad or negativistic attitude, or a bland blah neutral attitude is divisive and de-motivating, and will not lead to happy togetherness.  Therefore, talk with a loving and whenever appropriate upbeat attitude, and lovingly request the same of your partner.  To do that, first purposefully center yourself in love not in anger, hurt, power, manipulation, etc.

I find most couples can benefit from these seven ‘rules’ and I hope you find them useful.

If you lovingly talk in the future tense where improvements can happen you may get to a love-filled future.  If you talk in the past tense it will likely take you to the past and all you will do is repeat it.  It can be OK to talk the negative, painful past if the talk can be devoid of blame, and does not re-create the bad feelings of the past, and also is accomplished with well demonstrated, two way loving empathy.  Otherwise, avoid it.  Attempting to get agreement on the past is often an unattainable and unnecessary endeavor.  Focus on what is ‘now’ and ‘next’ instead.

Most of all learn to make truthful, accurate, clear behavioral requests with a loving attitude and do it frequently.  Then, of course, work hard to really hear your loved one’s requests from a love-centeredness.  We often make a mistake so common in our culture.  It is the mistake of trying to make improvements in a relationship by talking in the negative i.e. griping, complaining, blaming, criticizing, etc.

Relationship related complaints are often founded in love hunger and an appropriate desire to be better treated, or are founded in some hurtful experience to which well expressed love will be the cure.  The trouble with talking in emotional negatives is that it usually doesn’t get you to go toward emotional positives or anywhere else you want to go.  Even if your complaint is well-based in something love related, it is only the exceptional, highly love able people who are likely to hear it that way.  If you want to be well loved speak in strong, assertive, love filled ways, asking for what you want clearly.  Then do a really good job of listening to what is wanted by those you love.

As always, Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question
When you were growing up did the people around you communicate with unhappy sounding gripes, complaints, blame and criticism, or with loving requests?  Do you talk the same, better or worse now?


Breakup Survival, Then - Love & Life Thriving

Mini-Love-Lesson  #226


Synopsis: Fresh approaches and powerful ways to survive a major breakup and go on to a full, thriving love life are introduced, along with some practical how-to’s and go-to’s.


From Hell to Heaven

Breakups and their aftermath can be so incredibly painful, tragic, draining and disastrous but then, if you survive, such a helpful and good thing!  Handled well, breakups can lead to love and life thriving better than ever before.  There are three reasons I know this.  The first reason is I survived more than my fair share of agonized breakups.  The first one literally nearly killed me.  After that, they were less and less bad as I moved up to better and better, and finally to my now 40+ years with Kathleen and being the best loved guy you will ever meet (see “Why Love Problems Hurt so Bad”).

The second reason I know you can go from relationship hell to heaven is that I have assisted several hundreds of people to survive and then thrive after breakups, divorces and other love loss situations, plus I have taught and supervised a fair number of other relational counselors and therapists to know how to do the same.  That is part of the good news.  There, however, is bad news.

It is a sad truth that not everyone survives a breakup even with good, breakup, recovery help.  Breakups precede quite a few suicides, no small number of murders along with a much larger number of often injurious, unsuccessful attempts at each.  Falling into or relapsing into addictions of one type or another, starting to have serious health problems, getting in trouble with the law, losing one’s job, dropping out of school and literally dying of a heart attack also are much more likely to occur in the aftermath of a love relationship breakup.

You do not have to do any of those things.  The third reason tells us why.  It has to do with what research tells us.  Breakup recovery is getting better and better as we learn more about what breakup survival and recovery takes.  That research tells us most people do survive breakups.  This appears to be true for both real love and false love patterns of romantic relating.  It often is tough going at first and it can be quite dangerous for both mental and physical health.  But the research shows that even with severely agonizing breakups, if you get through the first 12 weeks of post-breakup suffering, you are very likely to get mostly okay enough in 20 weeks.  Then with more good therapeutic work, you can get to where you are living and loving happily within a year or two of even the severest breakup.

These time periods can be shortened.  I once was part of a in-house, psychiatric hospital, pilot, research effort investigating patient recovery from serious suicide attempts after romantic breakups.  This involved even patients suffering from severe IFD (see “False, Forms of Love: The Devastating IFD Syndrome”) and Limerance  (see “False Forms of Love: Limerence and Its Alluring Lies”) -- false love syndromes which were thought to be especially difficult to recovery from.  We found that with a healthy love, and self-love treatment focus, our less severe outpatients, as well as our more severe hospitalized (at first) patients, substantially recovered  in about six weeks.  They then all became quite glad they had not suicided.  At a sister facility, somewhat similar patients receiving treatment for only depression required 12 to 30 weeks to approximate the same level of recovery.

First Survive

In the aftermath of a severe breakup, the first thing to do is just stay alive.  In about 12 to 16 weeks you will be very likely be glad you did.  You probably can shorten that time estimate by quite a bit by engaging in certain therapeutic actions.

How to survive?  Well, first know that you may have to lay around and then thrash around for a while in all sorts of terrible feeling emotions.  For a time, it is kind of like suffering a prolonged hangover with a bad, full body sunburn, while being repeatedly water boarded and bitten by a vicious pit bull.  Later there often is rage which can sort of help with depression.  Catharsis (getting it out of your system) can help so long as you do not harm anyone or anything important including yourself.  Using a punching bag, chopping wood, stomping around cussing the cosmos, breaking up cheap stuff, etc. all are ways to get some needed exercise and emotion releasing relief.  My favorite is to go outside and for 20 minutes throw ice cubes at a brick wall or at a chalk outline on the driveway of whoever you want to hate for a while.  Ice shatters nicely and cleans itself up.  Know that too much inactivity is not your friend but a lot of sleep may be for a while.

At some point, you have to start forcing yourself out into the world briefly doing ordinary stuff.  Then lengthen the time doing that.  It will not feel good at first but rather kind of dead like.  Then there will come maybe only a 10 second bit of mildly positive emotion where you may grin or even smile.  Keep going and 10 second events will stretch to 30 seconds and maybe even contain some laughter.  Eventually you will get to feel positive for 10 minutes and then, at long last, 10 hours or more.  Downtimes will likely get shorter and shorter, and further and further apart but when they happen you may be pretty far down for a bit.  Uptimes will get longer, and higher and higher in an erratic pattern.  You can help that along by listening to upbeat music, going to see funny or exciting movies and doing all activities that distract you and that are not dangerous or downers emotionally.  Being around people and pets who care about you, and then forcing yourself to briefly start doing new things and meeting new people, all slowly will make your recovery a reality.  Avoiding doing these things will just make it all take longer (see “Heartbreak Mending and the Deep, Multi-Love Remedy”).  Of course, everyone is different so just use this as a guide to an average recovery but one to aim for.

Eventually, you will get to new romance if you want to.  New romance is dangerous but usually not as much as the old romance.  That also is true for new and past sex partner involvement.  I usually recommend working at a new “romance light – playing the field” approach at first.  To do that, work toward including at least two, maybe three, no more than five mild, romantic involvements.  Be open and honest with them all about the existence of the others.  Then weed out the ones who will not or can not handle sharing you.  Suspect they probably would turn out to be insufficiently self loving, be too possessive and too insecure.  In this way, you let the best ones rise from the pack and you do not let yourself settle for less, while also going more slowly, safely and constructively forward.

Get Busy but Not Frantic

Diving into work, school, projects, voluntary efforts or anything helpful to others, productive and highly distracting is part of the cure for many.  If you compulsively think often and hurtfully about your ex, the past and what went wrong, consider doing it this way.  Suspect that a part of your subconscious is trying to tell you that you have more to learn from that expired relationship than you have so far.  So, plan and schedule an hour or so to concentrate on that every day for a while.  During that time, do concentrated study, especially focusing on ideas of what to do new, better and different in a next relationship.  Also look at your other relationships going back to the ones you had when you are a child.  Look for patterns.  Study to see if your most recent romantic involvements show a pattern of each one being better than the last.  If so, that is a very good sign.  If they all are about the same or getting worse, radical change may be in order and a good love knowledgeable therapist can help.

Plan the ending time for that concentrated study and plan what you are going to definitely do right afterwards.  Keep notes or a journal.  Consider pretending to talk to your broken heart as if it was another person and ask it questions.  Then pretend to be your broken heart giving you the answers which you can make up even if they’re silly.  Very likely, some of them will be surprisingly fresh and spot on.  Gamble on the idea that your subconscious can tell you good answers your conscious does not yet know.  When the hour ends, get up and actively go do more of your regular or new life.  Get and stay busy enough to be distracted from thinking about your old life and relationship.  Gamble on the idea that your subconscious will let you alone after you have learned enough from the old relationship.

On to Life and Love Thriving

At some point along your path of surviving, you also can start toward thriving.  Thriving means doing really well and living and loving enriched, fulfilled and in profoundly satisfying ways that include lots of healthy, real love.  Remember, a lot of others have suffered through the same sort of things you are going through and then they have gone on to thriving so you probably can do this too.  There is a lot of wisdom in the idea that if you can survive you can thrive.  Gamble on that idea.

Grow Your Use of Love Sources

With healthy self-love you can be your own source of healing, strength and even joyous love.  Decide you definitely are important enough to yourself to learn and practice lots of healthy self-love (see “Self-Love and Its Five Healthy Functions” and “From Self-Love to Other Love and Back Again”).  Gamble on the idea that the better you love yourself the better others will also.  Spiritual love also has been known to do wonders for people of all faiths, and even those of no faith who attempt to tap into it as an unknown source or one they do not believe in but are willing to experiment with. Link “Spirituality and Love Great and Grand”

Of course, love from okay others is highly desirable.  I often have gotten good results by suggesting to those who are alone, isolated and lonely, to start with a loving pet.  Then go around new people (see “A Dozen Kinds of Love to Have in Your Life”).

If you do not have okay others in your life, friends, family and the like, gamble on the idea there are okay others searching for you right now.  Your job is to make it easy for them to find you and you to find them.  Yes, you could get hurt or hurt again but with lots of healthy self-love, pet love, maybe some new friend love, plus powerful new love knowledge you likely will not hurt nearly as much, as long, or as deep as before (see “Living Well via Loving Well”).

Keep carefully adventuring forward in love and love relationships as you grow your love skills, and great and good things can happen.  Remember – Do only old actions, you’ll get only old results.  Do not much, and probably get not much.

To Break All Ties or Not?

Love breakups, especially those involving false love syndromes, distort nature in ways that are similar to substance addictions.  This happens neurochemically in your brain.  Every time you re-encounter an addictive substance, or trigger, you are in danger of restarting a brain-made addiction process.  That can lead you back into a bad relationship or just cause you a lot of fresh hurt.  Safest is to not have anything to do with the ex lover for at least two years.  That is not at all possible in lots of life situations like if you work together or share children.  Try practicing a few coping tricks to help you get through times of temptation and re-triggered suffering.  Here’s one.

Think of 3 to 5 of the worst experiences you ever had with your ex.  Give each of those experiences a movie or book type title, and write those titles on a card you carry with you.  Before each encounter with your ex, read the titles.  With each title, ask yourself do you want to re-live another version of that experience again?  Then after that encounter, reread each title, emphatically choosing not to put yourself through that again.

Afterward, do a really good job of loving yourself and, if possible, letting a special, dear other person or persons do the same with you.  Pre-arrange for that.  Then celebrate your escape.

Thriving usually happens as you learn and develop your love skills.  So, how are your skills for loving life, yourself, your spiritual source, others, a super special other and the joy of living a fulfilled life.  For thriving, learn about and develop each of those skill-sets further.

Positivity Feeds Thriving

The results are in.  Realistic positivity works better than anything else.  Realistic positivity means (1.) With a spirited approach, planning and working to maximize the benefits, joys and other positives of any endeavor or situation while (2.)  Taking in to account and planning how to’s for converting or surmounting the likely trials, tribulations, torments and other negatives of any endeavor or situation and (3.) With some adaptability, not surrendering, giving up or giving in easily.  The old scout law had a phrase “and defeat does not down him”.  Taken to heart, that phrase has made the difference between victory and defeat for many an old scout, including this one.  It can for you too.

Positivity is not to be confused with being Pollyanna.  The Pollyanna approach tends to ignore the negatives while positivity aims to embrace and convert or surmount them.

The newer field of positive psychology and, with it, the newer profession of Life Coaching are adding much to the older approaches of focusing mostly on either psychopathology or mere normalcy.  With positivity, you can aim to go above normal in life and love.  So, let me recommend the book Positivity by Dr. Barbara L Fredrickson who heads up the Positive Emotions and Psychophysiology (PEP) laboratory at Chapel Hill’s University of North Carolina.

Are You Growing Your Lovability?

This question has two meanings and we mean both of them.  In the first meaning, Lovability works like magnetism, it attracts people to you.  To be well loved, become more lovable.  That was the Roman poet Ovid’s advice 2000 years ago.  Assertively lovable people get more love.  The assertive part comes from their strong, healthy self-love and the lovable part from their strong, healthy and well practiced love skills. Link “Becoming Well Loved and More Loved – Three Main Ways”  This leads to the second meaning.

Lovability also means your ability to love.  The more you do to learn and practice your ability to give, get, and receive healthy, real love the more you are likely to receive, get and give the same.

For all this and more, I recommend you read the book Lovability by Dr. Robert Holden, director of the love education effort known as The Lovability Program.

Going Further

For going further with all this, I suggest you consider, if you have not already, subscribing to automatically getting our totally free, mini-love-lessons every week and then, of course, studying them and applying everything you can to your life.  You also might mention this site to others, talk over some of these ideas with them and, thus, help spread some much-needed, useful knowledge about love to our love-hungry world.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable question:  If you hope that someone will come along and wonderfully love you into a new and better life, could it be that that someone best might be - you?

Anti-Self-Love Thinking and How to Defeat It

Mini-Love-Lesson #224

                                 

Synopsis: After a short self-exam and a bit of explanation, this mini-love-lesson presents 4 major things to do about the fact that a great many people are programmed to think negatively about themselves, and thus, harm their own lives and the lives they effect.


Take the Anti-Self-Love Thinking Test

Could it be that your head is programmed to think too negatively about yourself?  Could such subconscious programming/conditioning be automatically sabotaging you, causing self-defeat, holding you back, subtly messing up your life, blocking your chances for love, happiness and success plus working against your mental and physical health?  That is what happens to so many.

To find out see what answers pop up in your head to the following 12 simple questions.
Your first impression answers are probably best.

1. Are a good many of your thoughts about yourself critical, negative and/or disapproving?
2. Do you often think about your shortcomings and inadequacies?
3. Does what is wrong with you occupy your thoughts more than what is right about you?
4. Do you compare yourself to others a lot and find yourself coming out on the short end of that comparison?
5. Do you frequently worry about what others think and say about you and suspect it is not very positive?
6. When you accomplish something do you usually find things that are wrong with it causing you to feel less good about what you have done?
7. Do you put yourself down a lot for mistakes, blunders and less-than-perfect performance?
8. Do you suspect your friends, acquaintances and/or coworkers secretly look down on you?
9. Do you believe being critical and hard on yourself helps you improve and is the only way you have a chance at becoming successful or even adequate?
10. Do you suspect that if you like, love or approve of yourself you will be guilty of pridefulness, becoming egotistical, arrogant and no one will like you?
11. Do you sometimes suspect that you are not truly good enough to really deserve much praise, admiration or accolades?
12. Do you suspect or believe yourself to be unworthy of love and/or are unlovable?

Interpreting Your Results

Well, if you answered any of those questions in the affirmative, it is rather likely that you have been, at least somewhat, subconsciously programmed for self-defeat, becoming drained and de-powered, having higher anxiety, depression, limited success at best, as well as for living unfulfilled and far less happy than you could be.  The more questions or parts of questions you answered yes to, the more probable this interpretation could apply to you.

Now, it is important to note that you also have been programmed by nature to be positive about yourself because nature made you into an astounding creature with many positive potentials.  You also may be non-consciously programmed by those who loved you to be at least somewhat self-positive and in opposition to the negative programs.  Those opposite, positive programs probably are at war with the anti-you, negative programs in your head.  Part of your healthy, self-love job is to join forces with every, accurate, positive program and help strengthen them.

Nature programs us to be healthy and that includes our mental and emotional health.  The scientific evidence points to natural, healthy, real self-love being part of that program for being healthy.  The evidence also shows that good, healthy self-love does not lead to egotism, arrogance, selfishness, sloth, etc. (link “Self-Love the Enemy of Egotism”).  In fact, healthy self-love mostly leads to the opposite of all those bad things even though lots of traditional teaching says otherwise.  Frequently, it is the family, and sometimes even more the culture or subculture, we grow up in that teaches that self-love and positivity about the self is bad and will lead you to social rejection and relational ruin.

Join with the Positive

Your job, should you decide to accept it, is to consciously and purposefully join with your natural drive for health and well-being and become strong and more effectively loving to others by growing your healthy self-love. (Link “Unselfish Self-Love”)  Part of that is working against and combating your anti-self-love training and habits for thinking negatively about yourself.

If you are strongly programmed to be negative to yourself and about yourself, you are programmed for harming your physical and mental health.  That is what anti-self love thinking does to you.  It causes your brain to make neurochemicals that help bring on stress and stress-related illnesses, anxiety, depression, fatigue, cognitive inefficiency, immune system dysfunction and a host of other maladies.

Your job is to stop all that and do the opposite for your health’s sake and the sake of those whose lives you effect.  You see, when you are infected with toxic anti-self-love you tend to be bad for others, or at least not as good as you could be.

A Little Understanding Can Help

A little understanding of how programming works can help you reprogram for positive and healthy, self-love thinking.
A part of our brain/mind works pretty much like a computer.  It gets programmed to automatically give us certain thoughts which are triggered, or clicked on, by certain internal and external events and situations.  What is different is those brain/mind, programs also automatically trigger various downer emotions that come with the automatic, negative thoughts.  Many of those programs got into our subconscious from the early experiences we had with our parents, our family, other caregivers and local acquaintances.  Probably most of those people thought they were doing the right thing, or a good thing, for us but they may have been wrong, or only partially right.  Later, our programming experiences came from our exemplary models, playmates and peers, as well by as repetitious messages from various electronic devices.  Some, maybe even a lot, of that may have been healthy, positive and useful, at least for a while.  At the same time, some, maybe even a lot, may have been quite destructive.  The destructive parts, unless you discover and change them, negatively can influence you throughout life.  So, to be more fully healthy, discover these programs and work to delete them.   

Along with that work, is the work of replacement.  You must work to replace the negativity programs with realistic, accurate positives that are good for you and truthfully about you.  You have lots of positives but you may not know it yet.  However, first comes starting to counter the negative, thinking and feeling programs of anti-self-love and those that promote self-negation.

Using the Okayness Approach

One way to think about this is to say just about everything that happens to you can give you an okay message about yourself, or a not okay message about yourself.  If the you are not okay messages are stronger and more numerous than the you are okay messages, and if they get into your head, you are in for trouble, a lot of bad feelings about yourself and probably about life itself.  However, if you can work to de-power and delete the you are not okay, inner messages, you can start heading toward your natural birthright of okayness, sense of well-being and healthy love, including self-love.  Here are four ways you can begin to do that.

Four simple Tools for Defeating Anti-Self-Love Thinking & Self Negation, Inner Programming


1. Talkback
Whenever you hear an inner, negative thought about yourself, talkback!  You might want to emphatically say something like “You’re just an old, negative program in my head and I’m not going to let you make me feel bad about myself anymore, no matter what you say!  I’m a lot more than only just my human shortcomings and tomorrow I’m going to be even a bit better.  You don’t get to bring me down and control my feelings anymore.  I choose to use my power to listen to what you say to determine if it has any use.  But I refuse to feel bad because whatever is not so good about me is only a smaller, sub-part of the total, amazing me.”  The more emotion you put into talking back at the negative inner message the better.  Remember, motion changes emotion so stomping around, shaking a fist, etc. will help your brain make the necessary neurological alterations for improvement.

I have seen this talkback technique work even with people who have serious mental illnesses and hear voices telling themselves very horrible things.  Usually the voices become weaker and go away as talking back is practiced.  With enough strong emoting and repetition, you likely can make it work too.

2. Question the Provenance
Ask, Who says, Why and Where did that come from?  Who programmed me to think that way, what is it for, does it do me any good today and, if so, how much good, or do I just want to toss it because it is out-of-date and more harmful to me than beneficial.

If your inner critic says something like “you’re stupid” or any other putdown term, question its origin and veracity.  Who told you you were stupid, or whatever, and what did they get out of doing that.  Just because there possibly is some truth in the negative message, does not mean you should give it a lot of your power.  For instance, we are all stupid about some things sometimes -- so what!  We also sometimes are brilliant, and much more important than brilliance is the fact we can love.

3. Do conversion thinking
If a self-negating thought appears, ask “Is there any way I can make a positive use of this thought?”  If there is, do so and feel good about having made that conversion.  If not, tell your inner critic to give you more useful things to work with, and to quit with this message.  Example: If you got an inner message like “You’re a lousy lover”, you might convert it into “I think I’ll start learning some more about how to be an even better lover”.  Then thank your inner critic for helping you get to doing some improvement thinking.  Staying stuck with the lousy lover constipation will not help.

4. Do self-affirmational self-love countering
Prepare a list of what is good about you.  Using that list, prepare a series of good, positive messages from you - to you.  When the negative, anti-self-love messages occur bringing on bad feelings about yourself, confront and counter them emotively with the positive messages from your list.  Use body postures, head movements and gestures of strength, pride and being victorious while doing so.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Most of the bad things we say to ourselves about ourselves have a strong, habit component.  Often they got in our heads by being repeated at us over and over.  That may have caused us to say them over and over to ourselves continuing the toxic conditioning or programming effect.  This means it probably is going to take you saying countering positives over, and over, and over to yourself.  The more vigorously you do this the better and sooner it works.  Dare to love and value yourself enough that you do the practice it takes.  There is lots more you can learn about deleting the negatives in your head and replacing them with positives but these four points provide a pretty good start.

Another Item.  Might you do well to talk over these ideas with someone else?  If you do, please mention our mini-love-lesson site and help spread the idea of purposefully learning more about the ways of love that work.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Love Question:  If we want others to think well of us, won’t it be good for us to do the same thing?

Is Depression Love Starvation?

More and more evidence is stacking up suggesting that much of what we call depression might just be, or be caused by, love malnutrition or love starvation.

Healthy real love, especially of the nurturing supportive type, can be said it to work like a vital energizing food and also like a very healing medicine.  People who receive the major behaviors of well demonstrated love seem to not experience much serious depression.

If they do experience depression they seem to get over it better and faster than others.  We know that severe love loss can result in severe depression for a great many people.  Loss of a major source of love often can lead to marked neurochemical imbalances and other biological problems, sometimes even resulting in death.

Abandoned infants who are physically well taken care of by others but do not receive the actions that demonstrate love suffer from failure to thrive, failure to grow and infantile depression illnesses.  We also know that several mammal species that experiencing loss of a parent, mate or offspring tend to exhibit the same biological and behavioral symptoms as humans do.  This includes observable symptoms of depression like pronounced lassitude, unresponsiveness to pleasure stimuli, sleep disturbance, eating disturbance, etc.

Being ‘loved on’ and veterinarian antidepressants are the preferred treatments for these animals.  In most cases similar treatment works well for humans also. Consequently with this evidence, and many more documented examples, we might conclude that a deficiency of healthy, real, nurturing love may result in one or more types of severe depression.  Receiving the behaviors demonstrating love from people who have the attitudes and feeling states of love seems to offer the cure in many cases of depression.

In the helping professions there is considerable evidence showing the similarity of, or connection between, love loss and depression.  A number of addiction counselors point to the most common cause of relapse in alcoholism and substance addiction as probably being one type of love problem or another.

All long, ongoing love life problems involve depression according to some relational therapists.  It seems that especially mate love, family love, deep friendship and comrade love, plus healthy self-love and spiritual love when lost, absent, or markedly reduced almost inevitably result in the same symptoms as diagnosed depression, according to certain counselors and therapists from various fields. In rehabilitative medicine good, supportive family love is known to be extremely helpful in helping amputees overcome the despondency that usually accompanies limb loss.  Love loss also can be seen as a major precursor to suicidal depression, a frequent trigger to fatal overdoses, and a strong contributing factor to fatal and near fatal accidents.  Depression along with love loss is thought to be a frequent factor in all these human tragedies.

What’s the Cure?

New or regained love often is seen to quickly alleviate depression in many people.  New and regained love are known to enliven and energize people making them more disease resistant, neurochemically more healthy, and prone to live healthier lifestyles.  Doing a good job of receiving nurturing and supportive love from any-and-all sources offering healthy real love can be a primary deterrent to depression.  This is especially true when there has been a loss, or great reduction of love, for a person who has only one major love source.  So, if you loose someone who loves you turn more to others who love you, and work at soaking up their love-filled care and concern.

If you don’t have anyone else go to a love-centered counselor who can help you get started on finding and building a loving network.  And don’t let anything get in the way of that.  Building or connecting with a network of healthfully loving people probably provides some of the best insurance against the depression that comes with love loss.  Those who are strongly participating members of a highly healthfully loving couple relationship, family situation or friendship group fair far better when it comes to handling depression than do those not having such love filled relationships.

Those who learn and practice healthy self-love behaviors are thought to be the people who are most quick to recover from depression linked to love loss.  Those who practice healthy self-love affirmations and behaviors may be the most depression resistant.   People who work together to improve their love behaviors toward each other and toward  themselves, and those who work to develop more spiritual love actions seem to recover from depression at faster rates and more thoroughly.

Cure your love life issues and you just might cure your depression.  That is the hopeful possibility presented here.  But wait, what is meant by ‘love life’?   That’s crucial to understand!  Lots of people think sex when they hear the term ‘love life’, or just hear the word love.  Ask a person how their love life is and you may get a blush, a leer, or an offended look because they think you’re asking about their sex life.  It seems a pity to me that sexuality has usurped, and perhaps somewhat blinded us to the much larger and more important meanings of a term like ‘love life’.

Here your love life has to do how well, how much and how often you give and receive the behaviors, communicate the thoughts, and experience the wide array of physical and emotional feelings which give evidence that healthy real love is occurring.  From that understanding there flows a number of questions you might want to ask yourself.   “How well do I actually do healthy real love?”  “How often do I show my love?”  “How good am I at receiving the demonstrations of love from others?”  “How well do I do at communicating my thoughts of love?  Do I have them?   How frequently?”  “Am I doing healthy self-love sufficiently?”  “Am I good at enjoying the feelings that love can bring?”  There is a lot to this meaning of ‘love life’.

If you are wondering how do we define healthy real love remember a working definition  is given, explained and discussed in this blog’s first entries, but in brief here is our more detailed working definition:
Healthy real love is a powerful, vital, natural process of highly valuing, desiring for, often acting for, and taking pleasure in the well-being of the loved.  Love is further defined by its five major functions: (1) to personally and profoundly connect us, (2) to provide competent balanced safeguarding, (3) to improve us in all healthful ways, (4) to heal us and maximize our recovery from being sick or injured, and (5) to reward our behaviors from and with love via the many joys of love.
Note that in this definition love is not an emotion, nor is it sex, nor is it everything else listed in the blog entry about what love is not.

A very important consideration is that there are false forms of love and they, unfortunately, may act to increase depression, not cure it.

Your love life may contain many types of love, or it may not.  Life partner love, sibling love, parent to child love, child to parent love, higher power love, and a host of others are all to be considered as important in your development of a healthy enriched love life.  Any, or all of those types of love can be important for countering depression and it’s effects.  That means there are a lot of wonderful, healthful, possible ‘antidepressant’ relationships you can’t get from a pharmacy but you can get from real life.  Don’t leave out healthy self-love.  Without love-filled relationships susceptibility to some form of depression appears to be much more likely and common.

It is important to know that some forms of depression may have nothing to do with love-malnutrition or love-starvation.  Some depressive conditions are caused by imbalances in brain chemistry or other neurological problems.  Remember your mind (including your psychological heart and gut) is in your brain.  Whatever affects your brain can very strongly affect your mind, heart (love), and gut (emotions).  Therefore, bad brain chemistry can get you depressed all by itself.

Whenever there is no evidence of  biologically or physically caused depression suspect a love problem.  Ask yourself “How goes your love life?”, which may include healthy self-love, romantic love, life partner love, family love, spiritual love, love of life, love of your life purpose, the healthy mix of love and sex, love of people, etc..  If there are areas that seem empty, confusing, or areas that emotionally hurt when you focus on them then maybe you have a love deficiency that might lead to depression.  You also could have the ‘emotional poisoning’ of a false love to deal with.  Remember, healthy real love works like a vital energizing food and a very curative medicine.  If the love in your life isn’t helping to fight your depression, or seems to be making it worse, it may be a type of false love.  If that seems to be the case a good therapist probably can help.

Now there is another great big important question to ask yourself if you are trying to understand your own depression or trying to understand a loved one’s depression.  The question is “How is your depression trying to help you?”  That’s right – help you!

Consider the proposition that all your parts, systems and the machinations by which our species has been adapting and hopefully improving over millions of years, are all trying to help you.  Therefore, depression, anxiety, fear and all other ‘bad’ feelings are trying to do you a ‘good’ service, just like physical hurt tries to help you.  For example, if the physical pain in your side gets you to the surgeon who removes your abscessed appendix before it kills you, then the hurt saved your life.  All ‘bad’ feelings are ‘good’ in that they are all trying to provide you some kind of assistance.  You might even say they are trying to love you.  Yes,  these emotional warning systems can overdo it, under do it, and mis-do it – like all human systems, but their basic purpose is to aid you.

It’s the hurt you feel when touching a hot stove that gets you to yank your hand away before there is any real damage.  Fear and anxiety get you to be more cautious possibly when you need to, anger gives you more power when you don’t have enough – although it is clumsy power, boredom tells you “that’s enough” of something and it’s time to do something else, and so forth.  They all are there to assist you and even though these emotions are not fun to feel,  it’s a much better idea to work with them than to work against them.

Now let’s take a look at depression, the non-chemically induced kind.  When you have a feeling of being depressed notice what you usually do.  Usually you don’t do much of anything.  You sit around or lay around mostly inactively.  Notice what you think about.  Usually you think about what’s wrong and all ‘downer stuff’ of your life.  That’s what depression wants you to do, to not do much so you’re not distracted from thinking about what’s wrong.  Depression does you the service of getting you to be still long enough that you can focus on the unpleasant things you want to dodge thinking about in your life. Depression gets you to think about those very things.  Depression is the ‘take inventory’ feeling.  Cooperate with your depression and take your personal inventory, and then make a plan to do something about what you’re depressed about.  That’s the way it’s supposed to work.

If when depressed you take a lot of pills, get drunk or anything else that dodges taking inventory  your depression will be your good friend and probably get worse until you take the inventory, make a plan and start carrying it out.  At least that’s how I’ve seen it work with a lot of people in my practice.  Yes, your depression could overdo it to the point you can’t think straight and, therefore, can’t take a good inventory.  A good therapist can help you with that.  If it were not for depression there would be a lot of things people might never face until it was too late.  Depression has helped millions of people get out of bad marriages, dead-end jobs, lousy families, repressive political regimes and unfulfilling lifestyles.

If it weren’t for depression, and the service it provides, those people might have stayed until their situations totally destroyed them.  The idea is ‘work with your depression’.  Find out what it’s trying to tell you, and make the improvements in your life which you probably have been avoiding out of fear.  At least that is often the case when dealing with purely psychological or “normal” depression. 

Perhaps frequently the improvements you will need to make have something to do with not getting enough of the right kind, or the right amount of healthy real love.  Possibly you’re staying in a loveless relationship out of duty.  Maybe you’re stuck in a meaningless career due to a lack of gumption that a healthy dose of self-love might give you.  You might think you’re trapped in a draining lifestyle because you love your kids, mate, etc..  You may need to fix the source, type or amount of love your getting, add new sources of love, or disentangle yourself from a love life situation more harmful than helpful.

Surprisingly some people discover that depression begins to alleviate the minute they start taking a realistic inventory, even though it hurts to think about the situation they are in.  Others find it doesn’t get better until they are enacting the plan that came from the inventory.  Sometimes when people start working their plan anxiety or fear arises because now they are facing their real issues.  Then they may back off from enacting their plan.  Often psychological or normal depression (which can be experienced as quite intense) gets worse when a person backs away from carrying out their plan for improvement.  That seems like a pretty clear guidance message to keep working the plan.  It also is the healthfully self loving thing to do.  Sometimes we go through life situations where our choice seems to be either to get anxious or to get depressed, take your pick.

With enough healthy self-love usually we pick the ‘anxiety route’ and go do what were afraid to do, but perhaps more cautiously.  That choice changes things for better or for worse, but it least it’s different and usually not depressing.  Often getting out of depression means forcing yourself to cross a sort of emotional desert before you can find new emotionally fertile land to live in.  With enough healthy self-love you will be important enough to yourself to persevere and make it across the ‘depression desert’. Healthfully loving friends and family can provide emotional oasis experiences along the way.

If you or anyone you care about struggles with strong or repeating depressive episodes there are three things to do.  First, check with a physician, possibly a psychiatrist to examine whether or not there may be a physical cause or contributor to your depression.  Second, and sort of simultaneously with doing the first thing, go looking for a good love oriented and hopefully love knowledgeable therapist.  Third, and more or less simultaneously with the other two, take a good, broad and deep look at the many parts of your ‘love life’ searching to see how you are going to improve it.

The good news is that almost everyone who learns to do this really well makes the needed changes and gets a largely new, improved and healthier life and love-life. Frequently, but not always, this alleviates the depression.  Aim to live undepressed and love enriched and you probably will do just that if you are willing to work at it.  I can say this with confidence because I have seen and helped literally hundreds of people do exactly this.

In closing I can say, not all, but much of depression does indeed seem to be, or stem from  love starvation – a lack of healthy real love of one type or another.  So often when a person experiences the powerful, vital, natural process of being highly valued, and when that person experiences someone desiring for, acting for and taking pleasure in their well-being they experience love and get better.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J Richard Cookerly



Can Love Overcome Incompatibility?

Synopsis: We start with worst-case incompatibility getting unstuck; then go on to compatibility choices; the better other choice; some how-to’s; deal breakers; and the great importance of experimenting.


A ‘Worst-case’

Tabitha, with tears running down her cheeks, wailed to her lover, Jamail, “We’ve got to face it!  We love each other but we are just two different.  We can never make it as a couple”.  Jamail looking very distressed pleaded, “We should try anyway.  Are we not taught that love conquers all”?

Tabitha responded, “You’re deep into your religion and I am an agnostic.  You are a capitalist and I am a socialist.  You want sweet and tender lovemaking and I want rough and tough passion.  You want to live in different countries and move around a lot and I want to put down roots and stay in one place.  You want to make a lot of money and retire early and just play.  I want a lifetime of doing good to others and giving back to my community.  You want rice with everything and I am allergic to it.  You want a passel of children and I’m not sure I even want one.  How in the world can you think we could ever be compatible enough to succeed?”

Jamail, with a strong, serious look replied  “I think we could each give up some things for each other, compromise on other things and just try hard not to fight about the rest.  I’m ready to sacrifice because I love you so much, and I know it’ll be hard but I bet we can do it if we try hard enough.  Do you love me enough to do that?”  Tabitha with a sad, soft demeanor replied, “I do love you more than enough to try and I think we could make it work for a while, but if we sacrifice, later we will grow resentful and depressed because we would be denying our true selves and I don’t think that can ever work”.

Jamail retorted, “Even if that’s true, we still try and if it doesn’t work we would know that we had done what we could.  Unless we try will never know for sure. I would hate to think that if we had only tried we might’ve made it”  Tabitha said, “I guess you’re right but I don’t want to spend my life trying what you suggest.  I have seen to many others do that and they were too incompatible to make it work.  I refuse to live like them.”  Jamail then beseeched, “Give it a year, six months, even three?  Tabitha with a hint of a smile responded, “Six months with the option to renew for six more – okay?”
Jamail quickly answered, “OK, and look at what we’ve just done.

With love and talk we have arrived at a compatible, next step from our mutual incompatible positions.  Maybe that’s a good omen.”  Tabitha laughed and said, “I don’t believe in omens but you’re right, and okay we can give it a try so long as we keep showing each other love during the hard times we are going to have.  I know if we don’t mix love into the times we get upset with each other, we will never make it.”  Jamail then said, “I know I have to do a lot of work to do in that area, and that is the first place we have to grow more compatibility in to make the rest of it work.  So, when I don’t come across loving enough, just remind me, and if it’s okay with you, I’ll do the same with you.”  Tabitha added, “Sometimes we both will need timeouts, so we have to not pester each other or get more upset with each other’s timeouts like we have before.”  “Yes, and see we’re doing it again; we’re working it out, replied Jamail.  Hugs and kisses followed.

Compatibility’s Choices

Most people seem to think that compatibility is something a couple just has or they just don’t have.  One finds it or can’t find it, or just hopes it will magically show up one day because they are so in love.  Our love mythology leads so many people to think couple compatibility is all a matter of luck or fate.  So, when they don’t find it they just break up or resign themselves to their miserable incompatibility destiny.

One problem with that view is that it takes a fair amount of time to figure out whether or not you are sufficiently compatible or not.  Lots of couples caught in a False Love Syndrome, slowly or after a few years of trying, sometimes suddenly raise into their awareness how incompatible they really are.  Several False Love Syndromes seem to be particularly good at blinding people from seeing their incompatibility.  Many such couples go into denial and repeatedly struggle on, until they finally do give up.  Some of those who give up, stay in the relationship trying to just live with and tolerate the incompatibility.  Several forms of False Love Syndrome lend themselves to overtly tolerating the incompatible difference while secretly or subconsciously looking for a new love that is real, and hoping to switch to a new, more compatible, better person.  That leads to affairs, divorce, and breakups.  It sometimes does lead to a much more compatible, real, love relationship that is far better, and other times not.

A lot of people do just find someone who is sufficiently compatible and that helps tremendously.  Nevertheless, such couples later do discover difficult differences and have to work at growing their compatibility.  Lots of couples, after the so-called honeymoon period, start discovering hidden differences and incompatibilities, some of which can severely sabotage or totally torpedo a couple’s relationship unless they start doing the work of growing their compatibility.  The research shows that no matter how compatible a couple starts out, they will experience compatibility struggles.

The Better Other Choice

Here is that really good news. More and more evidence points to what ‘successful couples actually do’ is not ‘find’ but instead ‘grow’ their compatibility.  Sure it helps to start out with at least a little compatibility, but even without much there is a way.  With enough healthy, real love, the right knowledge, plus dedicated and democratic, earnest teamwork, many, even severe incompatibility problems often are able to be overcome.  You see, Tabitha and Jamail are now 10 years together and most of those very happily together years.

See if you can wrap your head around the concept of lovingly and democratically growing compatible.  This actually is what most highly compatible couples have done.  Some of them started out with extreme incompatibility.  Of course, the more incompatible a couple is the more work it probably is going to take.  It is not magic, luck or fate.  It is work, or more exactly ‘teamwork’ that makes couples grow increasingly compatible.

Some How-To’s for Growing Compatibility

To start growing compatibility, you first might want to work on your ‘Toleration Love’. Tolerational love is one of the eight major groups of behavior by which social psychologists have shown that love gets given or delivered to another.  (You can read what you likely need to know about ‘Tolerational Love’ in Recovering Love.  There are several mini-love-lessons at this site which also will help.)  While you are growing compatibility, toleration love can get you through the disappointments, aggravations, irritations and frustrations of your incompatibilities.  One exception has to do with seriously unhealthy, destructive behavior.  There, it is important that your toleration not be enabling whatever is destructive.

A democratic approach and mindset is pretty much required.  If you have a “my way or the highway”, autocratic approach or mindset, growing compatibility does not stand much of a chance.  Two people in a relationship have to be willing to try each other’s ways, hear and consider each other’s thoughts no matter what they are, and have good emotional intercourse about everything felt (See the mini-love-lesson on Emotional Intercourse).

Constantly mixing in expressions of love in words and acts as you deal with whatever seems incompatible, and doing a good job of ‘Receptional Love’ at the same time makes the work of growing compatibility easier and more likely to succeed.  Be sure you do that in the way the one you love likes to be love (You might want to consult “The Five Love Languages by Gary D. Chapman for that).

Work to avoid ‘love destroyers’ and sabotage systems.  Especially important to avoid is diminishing your demonstrations of love in frequency or strength when dealing with incompatibility issues.  Also super important is to avoid demeaning your loved one because of their differences from you.  Guilt trips, putdowns, blame, indignation, making fun of, making derogatory comments, moralizing at your beloved, etc. are in no way helpful for growing compatibility.  Sometimes ‘making light of’ and having some fun with issues can be helpful if sufficiently, mutually enjoyed.  Slowing or stopping the demonstration of love is likely to be very detrimental.

Deal Breakers

Zea broke it off with Max a few days after their fifth get-together when he lit up a cigarette and explained he really liked smoking and had for years.  She knew she could not live with a smoker, having gone through the excruciating smoking-related cancer deaths of both her parents.  Her healthy, self-love would not permit it or risk it.  It had been far too painful.  Understand that, Zea was not being judgmental or condemning Max for smoking.  Zea was just realizing and ‘owning’ what was true about herself and acting on that knowledge.  She did explain it to Max and he tried to quit smoking, but gave up the effort after a little while, so Max and Zea were no longer ‘an item’.
This is pretty much the best way ‘deal breakers’ work.

No one needs to be unloving about it.  The truth is, some incompatibilities for some people are too big or too strong.  I like to suggest that couples who think this may be true for them in some area or another, first experiment with seeing if they can find a compromise, or a synthesis, or any other way to deal with whatever the incompatibility is all about.  Couples’ counseling can be a big help here.

The Importance of Experimenting

To earnestly ‘try on for size’ what your beloved wants you to do, to truly see if you can learn to enjoy what your beloved enjoys, to work to find ways to appreciate or at least tolerate the people your beloved values, to learn to look through your beloved’s eyes even though your beloved’s understandings are so opposite and different than your own, to clearly and frequently ask for what you want and to genuinely try to weave it together with what your beloved wants; all that and much more is involved in experimenting toward growing compatibility.  Of course, it must all be done with lots of well expressed love.

It is amazing how often experimenting leads people to genuinely like and be enriched by that which they did not like or want as it first was presented by their beloved.  It’s also amazing how often a synthesis with a beloved’s ways develops a new and third better way for both.  Experimenting and working to find the value in the differences a couple brings to each other is a grand way of growing compatibility.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question
What do you think of this statement, “You get to have it all your way, or you get to have love”?


Love Affairs: Bad?, Good? and Otherwise

Will a Love Affair be Good or Bad for You?  The answer may depend on whether you usually make most things go well for you and those you love, or not.

It also may depend on your subconscious ‘self-defeating’ or ‘self winning’ ways of going about life.  Another thing it definitely could depend on concerns what and how you think about love affairs.

Some people’s thinking about love affairs is well informed, intelligent, rational and balanced.  Is yours?  There also are those whose thinking is na├»ve, gullible, poorly informed and vulnerable.  Is that you?  A good many tend to think romantically and sexually about love affairs, but not much past that.  Could that be you?  A large number think judgmentally and with considerable negativity, while others are caught between thinking hopefully and fearfully.  Does any of that apply to you?  There, of course, are those in both committed and uncommitted relationships who secretly think about love affairs with joyful anticipation, delicious desire, clever premeditation and scheming intrigue.  Describing you perhaps? 

Then we have those who just get a big, happy kick out of thinking, talking and maybe even doing love affairs.  And there are those who think about love affairs with sad regret and those who think about them with happy reminiscence.  So, how do you think when you think of love affairs?  If you’re going to participate in a love affair it’s probably going to make you think a whole lot about it and to consider what your love affair is all about.  To think healthfully and successfully about love affairs let’s look at things that you might need to be aware of and consider carefully.

Singles with high love desires, and singles with breaking hearts, couples who can’t stop cheating on each other, and couples joyously reunited and working at co-recovery, the wear and tear on some relationships from multiple affairs, affairs that bring both agony and ecstasy, secret pride and public shame, terrifying dilemma and soaring freedom, crushing defeat and exhilarating victory, all these and far more are encompassed in the simple term ‘love affair’.

Love affair issues are agonized over and struggled with in my counseling practice almost every week.  That consistently has been true for years and years.  This means I have worked with thousands of people in all sorts of different love, sex and other types of affairs.  As a health professional my primary goal is always to get to a healthful resolution for all concerned.  I take the side of health against pathology, dysfunction and destructiveness.  It’s sometimes pretty tricky but I don’t take the side of ‘him’ or ‘her’, of someone else, or of saving the relationship or ending it.

I am neither for or against any of those positions unless it coincides with what is healthful for all concerned.  Since illicit or secret affairs are the ones usually presenting the most difficulty we will deal mostly here with those.  Later we will deal with the ‘yeas’ and ‘nays’ involved in open affairs, uncommitted single’s affairs and other kinds of affairs.  Those too can involve great dangers and difficulties along with marvelously strengthening joys, and enriching experiences and can have extraordinarily happy outcomes.

I will brag:  In my work with affairs we usually get to the ultimate goal of a healthy resolution for all concerned.  However, getting there is, almost always, quite arduous and quite complicated.  Commonly in an illicit or secret affair there are two people in a couple relationship, one or more lovers, plus sometimes children and family, some close friends and maybe others that may be strongly affected by what happens in the love affair.  Without help seriously un-healthful outcomes unfortunately are quite common in the complicated tangle of illicit affair situations.

In the worst-case scenarios suicide, murder, substance addictions, child, spouse and lover neglect and abuse, severe physical and mental harm, career ruination, economic destitution, family dissolution and a host of other truly traumatic consequences can, and do occur in many affair situations.  More commonly, repeated experiences of severe emotional hurt, serious family, social and occupational dysfunction, along with high stress and relational chaos regularly occur.  Yes, elicit love affairs sometimes can be frighteningly destructive!  If you are contemplating an illicit affair, or already are in one, don’t undervalue or be in denial about how badly it could go for you or for others who are important to you.

Then there’s the other side which doesn’t get talked about as much.  There can be, and sometimes are, very positive experiences and outcomes involved in a large number of love affairs.  Even very problem-filled affairs sometimes produce good results.  There is an extraordinary strengthening that develops and emerges in some affair protagonists.  It is not unusual that coming out of a ‘bad’ affair people take new, and much better life directions (which is a good result).  That’s especially true when they experience the help of a good counselor or therapist.

Destructive affairs sometimes result in people beneficially overhauling their life approach and their life situation which they would not have done otherwise.  Losing a spouse or love mate to an outside lover has been known to help a neglectful mate grow a much greater understanding of how to love and treat their next major love choice.  No small number of couples report that without the affair they coped with they would never have grown as good a love relationship as they have now.  Therefore, even bad affairs can have good results although usually the process, for a time, is quite awful.

Also not talked about much are the people who have excellent, positive affair results, sometimes right from the start.  Some testimonials I have heard: “My affair made me know I was worth something”.  “If it wasn’t for my affair I never would have learned what love is and how to do it well”.  “My super secret affairs led me into all sorts of exciting adventures and the best times I have ever had, so I would not trade for them for anything”. “I had a series of affairs which finally got me to my new and far better marriage and the love I always wanted”.  “Without cheating my life just would have been too damned dull.”  “It was having an affair that saved my life because before that I was on the way to putting a bullet in my head or drinking myself to death”.  “I have to be really thankful for my affair.  I think it was God sent because, crazy as it sounds, it’s what helped my marriage and made it work.  It wasn’t until my husband caught me with my lover that we started to get real with each other, and that has made all the difference in the world.  We were okay before but we’re really good together now”. 

These real-life words give evidence that sometimes having an illicit affair turns out to be positive for some people.

Here are some types of love affair results that many people don’t know what to think of:  Marcia related she was very happy about the results of her affair.  “It was my goal to have a child by a very intelligent, highly talented man and my affair got me exactly what I wanted, plus years of ongoing contact with a remarkably interesting man.  Besides that, his wife also has been involved and quite preciously captivating”.  Dennis stated, “It was my affair with an exceptionally wise, older, married woman that gave me the courage to go after the kind of woman I really wanted but was afraid I could never be enough for.  I am profoundly indebted to her”.

Serena remarked, “My several affairs are what sustained me through the long illness of my slowly dying husband.  Those wonderful men enabled me to lovingly care for him and make his life as good as possible right through to the end”.  Here too then is evidence that affairs, commonly disapproved of, can do good in certain circumstances, although there are many who would want to deny and refute that truth.

The group you perhaps hear the least about are the ones who say things like this: “I tried having an affair and it was so so”.  “My affairs were never really very bad or good, they just were.”  “Having an affair was just something to try on for size, which I did, and that’s about all I can say about it”.  “For me affairs and illicit sex were just a hobby.  After I tried that for a while I got a boat”.  It would seem that the truth of affairs is that quite a few people have disastrous results, others have really fine results and still others have mediocre results – much like most everything else in life.

If you are contemplating or feel prone to having a ‘cheating’ type illicit affair contemplate this important truth: To accomplish an illicit love affair you likely will engage in deceit, deception and perhaps a life saturated with falsehood.  All that along with the overt and covert lying that you probably will have to do is likely to be destructive to you no matter what else happens.  If it’s a true love affair perhaps the love you give and receive in the affair will be worth the price you have to pay.  Perhaps there also will be other benefits that at least help to counterbalance the difficulties of an illicit love affair.  Then again, perhaps not.

As you review the possible occurrences and outcomes of an illicit love affair let me suggest you ask yourself a few questions.  First, are you strong enough to survive the possible and probable destructive effects involved in an illicit love affair?  You see, illicit love affairs frequently turn out to be very draining.  Second, do the likely benefits outweigh the likely deficits, difficulties and potential disasters involved?  Third, who may be harmed, and how much might they be harmed?  Fourth, what exactly are the good things you are looking for in an affair and are they really good enough to go after by way of a secretive love affair?  Fifth, is there a way you could go after these things more openly and honestly?  Last, are you willing to seek the help of a nonjudgmental counselor or therapist so that your actions have a better chance of going in a healthful direction?

If you are already engaged in an illicit, secret affair is it one where real love is being given and received?  If you’re not sure about this study the “Definition of Love series” found on this site.  Do you need help in figuring out what to do with this affair?  If so, who will you go to for help?  Be careful here because some possible helpers may have a vested interest in one outcome or another, rather than helping you get to a healthful way of going about things.

If you go about the affair carefully and with healthy, real love for yourself and others things may go well for all concerned.  This is especially true if you and perhaps the others involved get some good coaching/counseling to help you through the hard spots.  Keep watching this site for more information about love, sex and other affair issues soon to appear.

As always, Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love success question
Toward yourself and the others involved how compassionate, understanding and resilient can you be concerning a love affair situation that might come your way?


Previous Comments:
  1. January 4th, 2018 at 23:26 |

    Men are just not so straight species. They think they are having some fun time.and it will be for some time but they forget they are involving themselves with another woman who is not going to let go of that good time very easy….. Although men have a lot of maturity interms of business, money making, policies what not. They lack the discipline to manage their emotions. All I can say is they just start but finishing is not in their control.