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Where Does Love Rank in Your Life – Today?

Mini-Love-Lesson  # 273

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson is about exploring where love ranks in your life with a number of different, intriguing questions and the significance of those explorations being more valuable than the answers you arrive at, although they are good too.

Why Care About How You Rank Love?

Let me suggested that exploring questions about yourself and love is likely to help you get more love balanced, love satisfied and love potent even if you do not get final answers to the questions.  Once it was said that “the unexamined life is not worth living”.  While that may be a bit extreme, the concept applies to love and to yourself.  One of the best ways to explore yourself and a topic is with the use of relevant questions.  So, let’s play around with some self-exploration questions concerning love and you (see “Thinking Love to Improve Love”).

How Can You Tell What’s Most Important?

Most people agree that love is important but how important?  Is it identified and measured by what you spend the most time on or apply the most energy into?  For lots of people that would mean something like work, business, making money, wealth, economic power, and that sort of thing, would be the most important thing in their life.  Another standard that we use for what is important is what makes you happy?  For some it could be making others envious, status, popularity, fame and the like.  For still others it might be sports, art, music, nature, etc.

Then there are those who value most being productive, creative, or contributory.  For many, ranking highest in importance are a heartmate, their family, their children and/or their deeply loved friends.  Doing good, justice, democracy, peace, freedom, equality, ecology, and universal well-being all rank extremely high.  Then there is love itself. In relation to all these things just mentioned where does love rank with you? (see “Thinking about Love, How Good Can Yours Get?”).

Some think that the real measure of what is important to you is what will hurt the most to lose.  Others think that it is not until you start to lose that which is most important that you, that you begin to value it much more highly.  Health or a dearly beloved one are examples.  Lately, a vast number of people the world over have been re-evaluating what actually is important. That is because they have lost, or nearly lost, someone due to the pandemic.  Whatever they were putting their life energy into has become ranked rather lower than it was before the virus.  Lots of those now see love and love relationships ranking quite a bit higher. Link “Is Love the Most Important Thing in the Universe?

Lip Service Love

In several philosophies, quite a few religions and a number of approaches to mental health, the high importance of love is stressed.  Unfortunately, no small number of those disciplines do not seem to accurately have much to say or do concerning the actual how-to’s of love.  They seem only to give it a fair amount of lip service.  I have often wondered why seminaries have so much to teach about faith and so little to teach about love.  That also is true of most of the behavioral sciences even though really good research is mounting concerning love.  I am heartened to say that Russia, somewhat surprisingly, is now the only country I know of in which some of the universities have degree programs in Loveology (see “Is There Really a New Field Call Loveology?”).

There are organizations providing courses, seminars and workshops focusing on love.  However, many are not relying on the new, well researched, wonderful and exciting knowledge about love.  They are often really about sex, or just improving bad communications or parroting the same old same old myths and hunches about love, and/or are just giving love lip service.  However, there are others that are quite good.

So, now please ask yourself this question.  Do you give the importance of love lip service and not too much else?  I suspect because you are reading this, the answer is no.  You are really delving into the subject of love by reading this and perhaps by reading other mini-love-lesson at this site.  If I am right – good for you!

Ranking the Kinds of Importance...

There are different kinds of importance.  There is immediate importance, pervasive importance, circumstantial importance and others.  Different things rise and sink in importance as life goes on.  For many people, if love is important at all, it is in the pervasive category that is taking somewhat of a backseat to the things of immediate importance.  It becomes of immediate and even extreme importance only when something goes very wrong in a love relationship. Unfortunately for many, then it is too late.

Love disasters and catastrophes are best handled like other emergencies before they arise.  Those who learn a lot about the how-to’s of doing love healthfully tend to be the ones who best avoid the love tragedies that afflict so many couples, families, parent/child relationships, friendships and the positive relationship with oneself.

For you personally, is it more important to love or be loved?  Is love something you hope to get around to later, after you handle X, Y or Z?  For you, does love have a spiritual importance?  Who or what do you love that might be important enough to give your life for?  Who or what is important enough to spend your life loving them or it?  Are you important enough to yourself to spend your life loving yourself as you love others?  Is it important to you to not only love but to love well?  For you and your life  – which kinds of importance are involved in each of those questions?

Are Some Aspects of Love More Important to You Than Others?

Which aspects of love are most important to you is another question worth considering.  Is feeling love, lovable or loving the more important aspect to you?  Is doing love or feeling love of more major importance?  In your life, what do you think is the significance of this statement, “Feeling love comes to us naturally. Doing love takes learning, practicing and then learning some more – always.”.  How about this statement, “Love is not an emotion but it can cause at least 100 different emotions.  Do you know them?”

Here is a big question.  Are you really ranking love important enough to learn how to do love well, practicing it to constantly improve and strengthen it, so as to take care of life’s big love challenges when they arrive in your life?

Well, there are a bunch of the questions you can explore and work with to understand where you are with love in your life and then, perhaps, even re-explore.  I suggest, it is the exploring that likely does you more good than finding the answers.

One More Thing

Who might you ask these questions to and talk them over with?  Doing that sort of thing can lead to amazing mutual explorations.  Discussion may add quite a bit to what you understand, can use and also enjoy talking about.  If you do that with one or more others, please mention this site and its many mini-love-lessons. Thank you.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: Are you having fun pondering the many puzzlements of love?

Fatal Attraction Syndrome - A False Form of Love

Synopsis: This mini love lesson first explorers a real life example of this false form of love’s deadly attack possibility; then answers what is a fatal attraction; and what is a fatal attraction syndrome; is there a difference between men and women with this syndrome; and what can be done.

A Deadly Attack

Dark was just falling and she slowly pulled her car deep into the shadows of the overhanging trees, across the street from her lover’s house.  She looked into a large bay window where his dining table was set for the evening meal.  Her furor grew as she watched her lover and his wife and their three children laugh and cheerfully sit down to enjoy a time of family love together.  She kept thinking “kill the mother, kill children and he will have to turn to me.”

When she saw her lover reach over and kiss his wife on the cheek she put the car in forward gear.  His wife kissed him back and he obviously enjoyed it.  Her foot stamped down on the accelerator and she took aim with the car.  Then at full power and with insane rage she raced full speed at the bay window. Her last thought was “Even if I kill all of us, I will have him with me in eternity”.  This is what she later related sitting in a women’s prison convicted of attempted murder.

Due to very good house construction no one died but all sustained serious injuries , one child crippled for life.  More than a year of family, individual and couple’s counseling brought the family through the ordeal that followed.  Expert testimony presented the perpetrator of this tragedy as suffering from the most dangerous of all ‘false forms of love’, that of the Fatal Attraction Syndrome.  That diagnosis, however, did not qualify her for an ‘innocent by reason of insanity verdict’ as her lawyer’s psychiatrists recommended.

This is but one of a number of traumatic and tragic fatal attraction cases I have dealt with in my work with the families of murdered victims, and as an expert witness.  Let me say that I also have worked with a number of people trying to escape from being the victim of a fatal attraction syndrome and with those suffering this affliction, and with that perspective I can tell you – it is not easy work.

What Is A Fatal Attraction?

A fatal attraction is simply defined as an attraction that can and sometimes does lead to death. Think ‘moth to candle flame’.

The fatality may be of the one who is attracted, as in the case of the moth.  The targets of the attraction also are in danger of dying via murder when the full, fatal attraction syndrome is at work.  Sometimes both die, as all too often happens in a murder-suicide termination of a fatal attraction relationship.  Whoever stands in the way of a person suffering a fatal attraction syndrome, and various innocent bystanders, also can be in serious danger of being the victims of fatal attraction syndrome dynamics.  In other words, no one dealing with a person in a severe fatal attraction syndrome dynamic should consider themselves safe.

What Is a Fatal Attraction Syndrome?

A fatal attraction syndrome is a fairly complicated, false love phenomenon involving a very destructive, obsessive and compulsive pattern of relational behavior.  It begins when a person first finds themselves, sometimes suddenly, very strongly psychosexually attracted to another person.
Quite commonly there grows up a delusional, fantasy conviction that the target of their attraction is, or certainly will become equally attracted to them.  The person afflicted with this syndrome then becomes increasingly, sometimes rapidly obsessed with seeking a possessive, controlling, intimate, exclusive, love-getting relationship with the targeted person.

Increasingly little or nothing else matters but the growing, consuming drive to have the targeted person become and be constantly available, and when that person is present for them to be fully focused on satisfying the desires of the one suffering this affliction.

This consuming drive eventually obliterates healthful, normal, interpersonal functioning though sometimes a semblance of outward normality superficially can be maintained.  In one fashion or another the behavior becomes more and more abnormal and extreme, and the emotional needs of the person experiencing the syndrome become increasingly impossible to satisfy.  When that happens truly crazy thinking mixed with horrible to experience emotions dominate and all too frequently lead to deadly behavior.

This syndrome is a form of False Love because it is not motivated by a desire and drive for the well being of the loved one, as is healthy, real love.  Instead, it is motivated only by a desire to get love.  People afflicted by this syndrome easily move toward harming the supposed loved one while real love is healthfully protective of the loved one (See “The Definition of Love” at this site).

How Does A Fatal Attraction Syndrome Work?

No one knows for sure how fatal attraction syndrome works because doing research on it, as you might imagine, is quite difficult.  Psycho-dynamically the thinking goes something like this.  A person encounters someone who sub-consciously reminds them very strongly of the mother they had when they were an infant, or father they had as a young child.

This sets off an infantile need to obtain the targeted person’s caring attention, focused nurturance and other behaviors indicative of love.  This grows into a regressive drive to have all needs satisfied by this one other person, which of course is impossible.  Thus, this insatiable drive becomes infuriatingly frustrated, which in turn triggers infantile rage.  Sometimes in uncontrolled fits of anger, and sometimes in diabolical well-planned and carried out actions destruction results.

Another theory is that there is a neuro-physiological or neuro-chemical maladaptive occurrence in the brain which is triggered into malfunctioning when psychosexual attraction mechanisms are activated.  It is hypothesized that this brain process may be a primitive mechanism going slowly out of existence but once was helpful in acquiring and retaining mating partners.

Since it so commonly is unsuccessful and so frequently results in the death of those who cannot escape it and in the death or incarceration of those who perpetrate this syndrome, it is speculated by some that it could be a way to wipe out the weak.  Thus, it would represent a ‘survival of the fittest’, evolution mechanism favoring those who go about love in a more loving, adult way.

Still others think that if ‘obsessive/compulsive disorder’ brain chemistry and ‘mate attraction’ brain chemistry mix with each other they may make a monstrous neuro-chemical mess in a person’s brain causing this syndrome.  This especially is likely if there is the added complication of severe ‘parent/child attachment insecurity’ in the background of the afflicted person.  All these explanations are hypothetical, educated guesses; no one knows for sure.

What About Sexuality in a Fatal Attraction Syndrome?

Sexuality usually plays a big role in this syndrome, but not always.  Quite frequently the sexual desires of the one experiencing the syndrome are part of the ‘need package’ they want satisfied by the person they have fixated on.  It frequently seems that the sex desires of the afflicted grow more peculiar, then bizarre and extreme, and finally dangerous.  When the sex desires get to a level where they cannot be satiated, violent sexuality may result.  This is where death sometimes occurs.

Does Loving a Person with This Syndrome Make a Difference?

So far the evidence available would suggest that in the long run, even with lots of healthy, real love being showered on the fixated person, it probably won’t have a sufficient, curative effect.   Certainly there may be cases where love has made a sufficient difference, and that probably especially is true in the early stages of this difficulty.

Some people who suffer from this syndrome become stalkers and in other ways keep invading the privacy and personal lives of their targets.  They never get close enough to be loved but in the process they can cause lots of fear and misery in their target.  The love of family and friends may help somewhat.  Also putting stalkers, privacy invaders, etc. (especially the scary, threatening ones) in prison long enough that they may mature, seems to help some.

With other people the syndrome seems to start after a relationship has been going for awhile, and they indeed could be loved by the one who becomes their obsessional target.  Once the syndrome takes hold, the love given to the obsessed person becomes ‘never good enough’, ‘big enough’ or ‘right enough’, or so it seems.

I consulted on a case that involved what seemed like a quite romantic and erotic relationship, that was doing well for more than a year.  However, when she wanted a little more time to herself he became compulsively domineering, insisting that her career be put aside along with her family and her friends, and that he be the only person in her life.

This led to a violent breakup.  He then followed her, bugged her house and all sorts of similar invasive things.  Physically violent fights erupted in public.  Restraining orders, and injunctions, arrests and other legal and police actions only seemed to make it worse.  It ended when he smashed down her front door with an ax, and then smashed through the bathroom in which she was hiding, and at the last possible second she brought out the gun the police had advised her to carry, and when he still raised the ax and advanced on her she shot him through the heart, killing him instantly.

Is There a Difference between Men and Women with This Syndrome?

No, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference.  Both men and women are susceptible to becoming dominated by fatal attraction syndrome.  Some people think that females who had more difficulty being loved by their fathers and males by their mothers experience this syndrome, but no one knows that I’m aware of.  One group that some people think is less susceptible to being afflicted by this syndrome are those who seem to be fairly strongly bisexual.  Another resistant group is made up of both the men and women who become strongly, healthfully self-loving.

What can be done?

For those men and women who suspect they may be in the destructive throes of this syndrome, seek therapy with a psychotherapist who is experienced and works deeply and powerfully.  If medicines are prescribed, take them.  If hospitalization is recommended, go.  This is a serious condition that all too often only gets worse without help.

For the friends and family of people they think might be caught up in a Fatal Attraction Syndrome get them to therapy.  If they are violently acting out already, get the police involved.  Then love them a lot, and if requested to go to family therapy to help also.

For those who are targeted, if you are being stalked or if you are experiencing other invasions like your computer being hacked or phone being tapped, seek the aid of police and possibly an attorney, then go to counseling for yourself.  Also take lots of safety precautions like double locking doors and windows and obtaining a good burglar alarm.  As much as possible be with people who can protect you.

If things are going from bad to worse, in spite of those safety actions, I’m sorry to advise doing what so many end up having to do to save their lives.  That is disappear.  Many people only have survived this severe syndrome by moving to another city, out-of-state or even out of the country.
A fatal attraction syndrome can involve incredibly powerful obsessions and compulsions, and in an especially bright person can be extremely difficult to escape.

I’m aware of a case in which he searched for her for three years and found her in another nation, forced her to put on scuba equipment, took her down deep in a lake, tied her to a sunken log, cut off her air supply, tied himself to a log and cut his own throat, so they died together in the only peaceful place he had ever known.
I’m also aware of a woman who after eight years found her targeted person and managed to secretly poison him, though he did survive and she’s in prison now, still writing him passionate letters.  The extremes to which fatal attraction syndrome afflicted people sometimes go can be both intensely frightening and quite astonishing.

For everyone else, watch out for people who are overtly domineering, perfectionistic and controlling, covertly needy and insecure, obsessional, compulsive, idealistic about romance, have few or no true close friends, are sometimes violent and have outbreaks of rage, who are actively substance addicted, false love addicted, are easily jealous, can’t hear criticism or negatives about themselves, and who were likely either ignored a lot or suffocatingly parented.

Again, arming yourself with real, love knowledge in order to identify false love behaviors and syndromes is self-loving protection and could save your life.  Good luck and beware.

As always – Go and Grow in Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question Do you love yourself enough to stay away from a person who might seem to be prone to fatal attraction syndrome, even though otherwise they seem to offer you everything you ever wanted in a love relationship?  If you suspect you may be afflicted with this syndrome do you love yourself enough to immediately go get deep, strong help from a loving but powerful therapist?

Blame Attacks Love

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson starts with some important questions, goes on to 10 things to ponder about blame and then follows up with ways to reduce blame destructiveness in love relationships.

Important Questions

Do you get blamed a lot by people you love?  Are you a ‘blamer’ of those you love?  If blamed do you ‘counter-blame’?   Do you do a lot of self-blaming?  Were you brought up in a blaming environment?  What do you think blaming does to love relationships?  How do you feel when someone blames you – guilty, defensive, inadequate, angry, compliant, submissive, hopeless, indifferent, or what?  How often does blame lead to constructive action in your life?  Have you been in a situation where blame helped a love relationship get better?

10 Things to Ponder about Blame

Do you agree or disagree with the following:
•    Much blame involves an attempt to feel better by making someone else feel worse.
•    Much blame involves an attempt to impose your value system on another.
•    Much blame is based in persecuting another by playing victim.
•    Much blame is a dodge and avoidance of taking responsibility for handling something poorly.
•    Much blame is an attempt to not feel inadequate, at fault, guilty, wrong, etc.
•    Much blame is an attempt to be blind to one’s own self.
•    Much blame as an attempt to feel superior.
•    Much blame as an attempt to get control of someone else and manipulate them to one’s own advantage.
•    Much blame is an attempt to feel righteous, right, virtuous, sinless, guilt free, etc. without having to do anything curative or constructive.
•    Much blame is an attempt to give oneself permission to be destructively judgmental.
In a love relationship whenever any of the above statements are true they probably are destructive to the love relationships involved!

How do you talk about something being wrong without blame?

Look at these different sample statements.  “That’s all your fault!” versus “I think we have to make an improvement.”  They both can be addressing the same issue but one tends to trigger defensiveness and the other may trigger corrective action.  Look at these two statements.  “You stupid idiot, how could you have done such an asinine thing!” versus “I think we have a problem that it would be good to do something about.  What do you think?”  Actually, just about everything can be said in a non-blaming way.  Blaming tends to distance people, or help them want to resist or escape from you.  If the blame is accepted the person accepting it usually is more de-powered than empowered.

Whenever one person in a love relationship is de-powered the love relationship (team) is de-powered.
In a love relationship if someone is de-powered the chances are emotional distancing from each other will escalate.  Also blame can trigger fighting which can harm the love relationship.  Wouldn’t it be better to work at teaching yourself how to talk more lovingly and cooperatively, without blame corrupting your love relationship interactions?   There are times when blame may have usefulness, but in your love relationships isn’t it usually much more destructive than constructive?

What about Self Blame?

Self-blame tends to attack your confidence and bring you down.  Healthy self-love tends to do the opposite.  You can admit a mistake or see that you might make an improvement without a lot of self blame.

What To Do When You Are Blamed

One thing you might try is to say something like, “I hear blame” or better yet,  “Honey, I think I hear I’m being blamed, is that right?”  Not always do people talk more constructively and lovingly after hearing that question, but often they do.  Notice, talking this way avoids blaming someone for blaming you.  Sometimes two people in a love relationship make a contract with one another to work on taking ‘destructive blame’ out of their interactions.  Often that helps a lot.

What To Do When You Think You Just Have To Blame a Loved One?

You might try saying something like, “A part of me feels I just have to blame you for …  .  So, please, hear me out, and work with me on this so we both can get past it.”  Or you might say something like, “Let me bitch, and complain and blame you for a while so I get it out of my system.  Then love me anyway, if you can, and I’ll show you love too”.  This style shows you know you are blaming, and you take responsibility for it and want to move on to a more loving interaction.

What To Do When You Think You Are Blamed, and Maybe You Are Not

Some people heard so much blame growing up they hear it all the time now, even though that is not what is coming at them.  When you think you are blamed you might want to ask yourself, “Am I really being blamed, or is that just a complaint or is it identifying an issue and it’s not meant for me personally”.  Then after you’ve asked yourself, ask the same question of the person you think is blaming you.

Remember, how we treat others, lovingly or unlovingly, often says more about us than them.  Also, loving teamwork, done in constructive ways, usually can solve problems big and small.

As always, Go and Grow in Love

Dr. J Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question Are you really willing to examine your own blaming tendencies, and do it lovingly as well as accurately?

Couples Love and Relationship Education Succeeds

Synopsis: Joining the trend?; who’s helped by love and relationship education; what is helped; the many ways to learn about succeeding at couple’s love; the growing popularity of love and relationship education; what to do and not do in choosing love education programs.

Are you part of the growing trend of people getting into love education?  Are you and a beloved working together to learn all the incredibly useful things being discovered that can make couple’s relationships grow and become awesome?  Are you learning with another to practice the practical ‘how to’s’ of successful couplehood?

Who is Helped

Love education works!  Couples succeed more with relationship education!  Couple’s relationship, education research shows it works for all sorts of different kinds of couples who are in all sorts of different kinds of life situations and who come from all sorts of very different backgrounds.  Everyone from affluent Kuwaiti couples in a one hour workshop learning about love and communication to a 42 hour class for low income, Oklahoma couples being taught relationship success techniques  — the research shows couples do better with relationship education.

Well designed and well executed studies of both distressed and not distressed married couples, not married co-habiting couples, couples of multiple socio-economic status levels, couples of different races, ethnicities, religions, nationalities, etc., couples in which one has cancer, couples who have lost a child, couples about to have a child and couples who just had a child, military couples, same-sex couples, couples dealing with addictions, pre-release prisoners and spouses, court ordered parents — they all show improvement when they are involved in love and relationship education programs.

A great variety of different kinds of improvement have been discovered to occur with these couples, and the degree of benefit varies depending on the exact nature of the program the couples are engaged in, and not everyone shows improvement.  However, the data demonstrates that all-in-all improvements occur for all kinds of couples, in all kinds of situations and with all kinds of different life factors when couples engage in love and relationship education programs.  These improvements are well beyond anything occurring in comparison and control group couples who are not involved in these types of programs.

What is Helped

Love, giving love, receiving love, feeling love, feeling loved, growing love, empowering with love, love strengthening, love healing, lasting love, sexual loving and every other aspect of healthy, real love can be expected to improve in a good couple’s love education program.  But that’s not all.  The research shows a tremendous variety of different benefits accrue to those involved in couple’s relationship education.  Such couples significantly increase their chances of having healthy, happy and stable, lasting, bonded relationships.

These fantastic results are put forth in a survey of ‘30 recent research studies’ conducted by various universities, by various state and federal agencies in several countries, and by the U.S. Army and Air Force.

The aforementioned research endeavors showed couples achieving improvements significantly over control groups in factor areas like these: general relationship quality, relationship length, conflict control, relationship knowledge, relational happiness, lowered divorce rates, communication, decreased postpartum depression, decreased relational dissatisfaction, increased positive interaction, decreased negative interaction, decreased incidence of fighting and arguing and related conflict, better parenting, better relating in front of children, increased relationship commitment, relational satisfaction, resolution of differences in conflict, self-regulation, relational adjustments, co-parenting teamwork, parent/child functionality, the elimination of loneliness, greater spousal sense of friendship, dedication, relational confidence, empathetic interaction, intimacy, motivation to improve, acceptance, reduction of distress, coping with stress, mindfulness, relaxation, optimism, autonomy, decreased physical assault, aggression, anxiety, depression, psychological dysfunction and much improved sexuality.

Some follow-up studies of improvements show them still to be in existence as much as two years later.  There also were improvements in physical health.  Blood pressure improvements, decreased medical symptomatology in cancer patients, enhanced salivary oxytocin (a love bonding, neurochemical processor), reduced alpha amylase (a measure of negative physical reaction to stressors and a digestion aid), increased immunity functioning and general healthfulness all improved over that of the control groups studied. WOW, WOW, WOW!

Lots of Ways to Learn Love

Love and couple’s relationship programs come in many forms and many of them only are beginning to be well researched.  There are programs on the Internet, manuals and workbook usage approaches, classroom lectures, group discussion approaches, programs using home visits, dream sharing, guided meditation and mindfulness training, programs using follow-up booster sessions, and more.  Retreat, workshop and seminar formats are common.  The research referred to studied a fair number of those various approaches and found all types of programs produced improvements and could be useful. 

The population sizes in those research efforts also varied greatly.  The smallest was 14 couples in which one spouse of each couple had breast cancer.  The largest study had 5102 new parent couples in eight locations across the US.  The research also has shown that improvements can occur irrespective of race, gender, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, nationality and many other sometimes differentiating characteristics.

Growing Popularity

‘Love relationship education programs’ are becoming so popular that the New York Times recently featured a review of a book on this subject.  No Cheating, No Dying chronicles a couple’s journey into the world of relationship improvement education.  They describe themselves as having a good marriage when they decide to improve it further by sampling different couple’s love improvement approaches.  First, they try a published manual’s five-step, at-home program for re-romanticizing their marriage.  However, they quit after step two.  Then they get into a psychoanalytic, couples therapist’s program who wants them only to focus on disagreements, difficulties, what’s wrong, sick, etc.

This makes things much worse in this couple’s previously well functioning marriage.  Undaunted they quit that and get into a positive psychology focus by taking a course on “Mastering the Mysteries of Love”.  That, actually, brings lots of improvements especially in helping them with empathy and sharing.  Later they add a sexuality improvement effort and their erotic life excels.  This book makes it clear that not all couple’s relationship education efforts are going to get good results and a certain amount of carefulness is needed in selecting what is right for you.

What to Do and Not Do

If you want to take your couple’s love relationship to new heights, strengthen and grow your love, and discover the best of love relating I suggest you start getting deeply into learning the ‘how to’s’ of healthy, real, couple’s love.   Also if you want to add to or enhance the mending and healing of a damaged, wounded, or less than fully functional love relationship, do the same thing.  Perhaps you’re already doing that since you’re reading this.  Therefore, keep doing what your doing, maybe even more.  Then you might search for and review various programs available through churches, synagogues, temples, mosques, etc. along with college non-credit education classes and online programs.

Beware of programs that are more focused on what I call “pulling your weeds” and not focused enough on “growing your flowers”.  Some efforts seem only to want to talk about what can go wrong, or does go wrong, or what is wrong with you, or in other words “the weeds”.  Programs that offer ‘skills training and development’ demonstrating how to make advancements in the positive aspects of love relationships tend to be better than those that only are focused on problem solving.

Frequently problem solving is better handled in couples counseling while advancement and achievement often is better done through courses, workshops, seminars, online programs, etc..  Also be aware that some couple’s education programs are too simplistic, some are too mild and saccharin, some just wrong or stupid, and some flat-out crazy.  Most, however, have something really good to offer, so just be a little careful in your selection.

As I see it, the best ones are the ones that focus on how to give and get love as a couple, really communicating and relating with love, growing your ability to relate with love actions, solving difficulties with love approaches, and generally just doing love well.  If love is not a major element of a couple’s relationship education effort you might want to avoid it.  If love is mentioned but treated in an overly romanticized, vague or impractical manner, or confused with sex you might want to avoid it.  If, however, love is well emphasized, behaviorally related, more clearly defined, and treated as a natural, healthful phenomenon you may have found a good thing.

If you have a loved one who is resistant to, critical of, or disinterested in ‘love education’ you might want to share this entry and the benefits herein – of course, it is best to approach them in a love-filled way.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Can you identify and tell a beloved person in your life at least three specific things you want both of you to learn about giving and receiving love?

False Forms of Love: The Devastating IFD Syndrome

Strong, tall, handsome Trent came into my office with tears streaming down his rugged cheeks.  In a groaning, deep tone voice he almost whispered, “I have lost my reason to live.  I lost her – my one, true love.  She was so perfect and I drove her off.  I tried and tried and I can’t get her back.  How am I going to go on?

She won’t have anything more to do with me.  My life is ruined.  It hurts so bad”.  Then he spilled out the story of their relationship.
It was a familiar tale.  Like so many before him Trent had become a victim of one of the big, romantic love killers, the sometimes even fatal IFD Syndrome.

Trent had met and come quickly to think of Tricia as ‘perfect’ in every way.  Things went quite well for them until one day she cut short her long, flowing, gorgeous, locks which had been just right as Trent had seen her lovely hair.  Ever so carefully Trent told Tricia how her hair had looked ideal long and flowing.  He gently insisted she grow it back and never cut it again, plus he sort of pontificated that this was how females should look.  Soon after Tricia started wearing rather short skirts with low necklines.

With some frustration Trent told Tricia it was no longer appropriate for her to wear her clothes like that since they were now in a committed relationship with one another and that type of look was just for attracting men.  Soon thereafter Tricia’s skirts became even shorter and her necklines lower, plus she became rather flirtatious with other men at various gatherings.  As Trent saw it her femininity also was marred by her increasingly risqué talk.  Trent decided he must correct her ways and get her back to acting like she did when he met her.  He tried reason, guilt trips, cajoling, anger and everything else he could think of to get her to conform to the ideal girl he had perceived her to be at the beginning of their relationship.  The more he tried and failed the more frustrated he got.  Then Trent and Tricia began to fight about all sorts of stupid, little things.

That went on for quite a while and kept getting worse.  The end came one day when Trent, in a state of extreme frustration, risked saying “You’re just not the girl I fell in love with and if you don’t go back to being her we are done!”.  Trisha replied, “I am the same girl I always was and if you really loved the real me you would love me as I experiment with new, innocent stuff, go through ordinary changes and find little ways to be more me.  I haven’t done anything I’m ashamed of and you don’t have a right to censor me.  The core, real me is the same.  I don’t think you ever saw the core me and I don’t think you love the real me either.  You’re just in love with your image of me, so, yes, we are done”.  And done they were, leaving Trent defeated, demoralized, dejected and nearly suicidally depressed, trapped in the devastating “D” phase of a strong IFD false love syndrome.

Way back in 1946 a rather then famous linguistic psychologist, Dr. Wendell Johnson, published a book describing the IFD Syndrome and telling of how it negatively effects almost everyone sooner or later.  He called it a “disease” that is particularly common and devastating among university students, sending many into breakdowns and mental hospitals.  Unfortunately mental-health professionals mostly do not read linguistic psychology publications and so this phenomenon went largely unnoticed in the therapeutic community, although it was fairly well received in social psychology and for a time by the lay public.

An experimental psychologist introduced the IFD Syndrome to me when I was in my residency at a psychiatric hospital and we did an in-house study concerning IFD and suicide.  Our results showed that a significant 28% of our most seriously suicide attempting, young, adult patients made their serious suicide attempts in the “D” phase of an IFD Syndrome.  It appeared Dr. Johnson was right about the commonness and severity of this form of false love.  This pattern also showed up in other age ranges to a significant but somewhat lesser degree.

The IFD false love syndrome is thought to work like this.  First, in your childhood and youth you subconsciously begin to get ideas of what your ideal love mate will be like.  This grows into an idealized image of what ‘Mr’ or ‘Ms’ ‘Just Right For You’ will look, sound, act and be like.  Then one day you meet someone who seems to be rather like that idealized, just right, one and only love mate for you.  Your subconscious then projects your idealized image onto that person, blinding you from seeing who’s really there.  Just as you do not see the screen at the movies you only see what’s projected onto it, so too you only see your idealized, projected image and not the real person who is there.  The letter “I” in the IFD syndrome stands for “idealized image” or just “idealization”.

In time you begin to get glimpses of who is really there and you don’t like it because it’s different than your ideal image.  This can be said always to occur because people are dynamic, changing, growing, altering, maturing, etc. and because people are more complex than idealized images.  So even if a person stays pretty much the same for a time the person doing the projecting will start to see more than was seen at first and that will be unexpected, disconcerting and frustrating.  Of course for a time the person you project your idealized image onto may artificially act in accord with what you desire as a way to relate to you.

Eventually new and differing aspects of the ‘real person’ will emerge into your awareness and that will be more troubling to you.  Another way to think about this is that since no two things can be exactly alike your idealized image and a real person cannot be the same, and with time that will be discovered and become disturbing.

What comes next is growing frustration.  As you try to get your lover back up on your ‘idealization pedestal’ and try to get them to ‘act right’ they keep stepping down off your pedestal and being themselves.  After all, pedestals are very narrow, dull places on which to live even if, at first, they seem flattering and safe.  People who live on a pedestal come to feel unloved because in truth they are not loved but only idealized.  Healthy, real love accepts change, supports growth and understands the need for maturation and variety.

For a time in the “F” phase things progress in a troubled way.  As you observe more discrepancies between your static, idealized image and the dynamic reality of the person you are with, often you compulsively and sometimes even desperately attempt to get your lover to regress to what you first saw them to be.  Frequently that person resists overtly or covertly, and you become ever more frustrated, often angry and perhaps even violent.  [It is important to note that the one you think you love must exist as their real self to be healthy, because if they are forced or submit to other than who they really are they often may deteriorate into depression or some other illness.]  But, as you see it, any change is “for the worse” not change for the better.

Usually the relationship becomes increasingly conflicted, difficult and full of more frustration, along with fewer and fewer demonstrations of love.  Unloved people subconsciously, if not consciously, go looking for love and this can lead to cheating and all the frustrations that go with that.  Escape into some form of destructive, self abuse or addiction also may occur to either person if the “F” phase of an IFD Syndrome is prolonged.  The “F” in the IFD stands for “Frustration” and the fight for and against getting the idealized lover to return to the projected ideal.

After living in the “F” stage of an IFD Syndrome finally, by one means or another, the relationship fails completely.  Then the person who did the idealizing (Trent, in the example above) enters the “D” phase of the syndrome.  This happens when the idealizer realizes they’re not going to get their ideal lover, that person is lost, unattainable, and the ideal they had fixated on is likely never to be realized.  If that happens to you in a love relationship you enter a phase of feeling devastated, demoralized, dejected, defeated and all too often temporarily, clinically depressed, even sometimes to the point of being suicidal for a time.  The “D” in the IFD Syndrome stands for those “D” words in the sentence above: demoralized, depressed, etc..  The clinical depression can happen because love situations effect the neurochemical processes of your brain, sometimes quite positively and sometimes quite negatively.

By the way, know that IFD dynamics can occur with lots of different human endeavors.  Some people idealize their parents, or their children, or their spiritual leader, or religion, or political philosophy, or their country, etc..  The results of strong idealization are inevitably the same.  After idealizing someone or something the one doing the idealizing becomes frustrated when he or she sees that which they idealized is falling short or differing from the ideal.  Then the idealizer becomes demoralized when he or she realizes ideals exist only in the mind and not in reality, and the ideal, therefore, is unobtainable and impossible.  However, love and romance-related idealizations often are the worst type to experience when they enter the “D” phase.

Trent, who was quite bright, was helped enormously by learning of the IFD dynamics and how they worked.  He also was helped quite a lot by spending time in a therapy group where others told him of having gone through the IFD Syndrome and come out just fine, often in a surprisingly shorter time than predicted by their mental health professional.  Some mild, mood stabilizing medications which blocked Trent from sinking too low in his depression also had short-term usefulness.  A word of caution here.  Those who have suffered from IFD Syndromes sometimes are thought to have been confused with much more long-lasting mental illness conditions and, thereby, may have been over-medicated and otherwise improperly treated.

For those who get seriously depressed in an IFD pattern just staying alive for 6 to 12 weeks seems to get them over a hump.  That’s because by then for most people the brain adjusts and produces healthier brain chemistry that helps the sufferer to better process the whole relationship dynamic they have been through.  Most unfortunately a number of people in the “D” phase of an IFD pattern are thought to have successfully committed suicide before that amount of time has passed and they could feel better and see clearer.

So, if you think someone is in a serious “D” phase of an IFD Syndrome try to get them to a good therapist who can help them through this sometimes dangerous phase and on to healthier love relating.  It also is important to know that some people get stuck in repeating the IFD Syndrome with a whole string of lovers.  Others get married in the “I” or “F” phase and then divorce in the “D” phase.  Some do this over and over.

The good news is most people who go through an IFD Syndrome come out of it and go looking for new and better understandings of how healthy, real love works.  They have a good chance of developing the real thing.  Again, a good love-knowledgeable counselor or therapist can help make that outcome happen a lot more likely, more quickly and much more completely.

Trent recovered fully and went on to a healthy, real love that worked well.  Later he got to know Trisha again in a much different situation.  His final comment about her in a counseling session was, “Trisha is OK but frankly I don’t know what I saw in her that I was so passionate about.  She seems nice but she’s not someone I’d want to spend a lot of time with”.  His closure statement is representative of most of the final IFD Syndrome outcomes.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Do you have an ideal love mate in your mind, against which you unrealistically compare all real people?  If so what are you going to do about that?

False Forms of Love Series
False Forms of Love: Limerence and Its Alluring Lies
False Forms of Love: Meta Lust
False Forms of Love: Shadow Side Attachments
False Forms of Love: The Devastating IFD Syndrome
False Forms of Love: Unresolved Conflict Attraction Syndrome