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Starting Friendships That Turn Into Love: The Surprising Big Factor

Synopsis: How to begin on the path toward real friendship love; sometimes go on to real and lasting mate or spouse type love; and the surprising and often determining factor that most people do not know makes the biggest difference in getting started on that path is revealed and well reviewed here.


From Strangers to Best Friends to Lovers

So often the best, strongest and healthiest love relationships once were just budding friendships.  It all started when strangers became new acquaintances.  From there they moved on to deepening friendships and then to true and lasting loves – or not.  What made the difference between those who stayed at the acquaintance level and those who got to a friendship that later turned into an ardent, romantic, real, love relationship?  Some, of course, continued on in deepening friendship love while others traveled the love-mate route.  Either way healthy, real, long-lasting and super enriching love was at the heart of those relationships.  Many of the happiest spouses were once best friends, close friends, dearest friends, great friends or long-term friends.  Those were the people who did not do the fall in love thing but rather did the grow in love thing.

With a little knowledge about love relationships and how they begin, you may be able to start on the path toward great friendship love and/or great spouse type love.

First Comes Getting from Acquaintanceship to Friendship

When you meet someone new, they go from being a stranger to being a new acquaintance.  It is that first impressions important time.  But the most important, early impression’s factor may surprise you.  It could, in fact, be one you might never have thought about because it turns out few people have.  First, it will be good to have a little background knowledge.

Do you know that in the first 30 seconds of meeting someone new, a very important non-conscious process begins to happen deep in your brain.  It is one that may determine whether, or not, you and this new person get to move on to real friendship or stay at the acquaintance only level.  Once you learn about it, your conscious mind can work with that subconscious process to get really good and better results.  By doing that, conscious plus subconscious synthesis, forming a real friendship that could become a mate love union becomes much more possible.

The Surprising, Biggest Factor That Can Start the Friendship Process to Begin

It is not so much what you say nor is it all about the qualities and intonations of your voice.  Neither does it have much to do with how you dress or your general appearance.  The big surprise is that the most important factor in starting a face-to-face, personal interaction that then can move toward friendship probably is your physical movements, or lack thereof.  Yes, that's right, apparently how you move makes the most substantial difference in the beginning of befriending a new acquaintance.

That is because the deep subconscious mind, where mostly we think friendship choices largely are made, evaluates people for friendship by the way they move their hands, arms, legs, body, head and most importantly their facial muscles.  Each of these gives clues to who a person is psychologically.  The subconscious reads and interprets all those movement clue and starts to render positive, negative or neutral valuations.

Some years ago, a UCLA psychologist reviewed the relevant research and concluded that in face-to-face, personal interactions about 55% of your general, emotional impact on another person has to do with your facial expressions.  No other factor got that high a percentage.  Since then, other research has added to and elaborated that researcher’s findings.  Those research efforts have given us a much more complete picture of positive, personal interaction formation, i.e. friendship beginning.

More recent research has discovered such things as the fact that within 30 seconds of meeting someone new, deep in your brain (in the amygdala and posterior cingulate cortex -- for the medically minded) yay or nay friendship choosing unconsciously already has started to occur.

If the choosing is more yay, another part of your brain (the ventral tegmental section) will help motivate you toward increased, assertive, friendly interactions with a new person.  It also may motivate you to start moving various muscle groups in ways more likely to be interpreted by the person you are talking with, as emotionally positive and friendly.  Consciously, you probably are not likely to notice any of that happening.  However, adding conscious awareness and thinking about this non-conscious process can make it all work far better.

How to Use This Friendship and Love Knowledge

If you greet someone new by first boldly striding toward them, head up, shoulders back a little, arms swinging open a bit and with a big smile on your face, for many you probably are off to a pretty good start before you have said a single word.  If you do the opposite of those things, walk up to them with timid steps, hunched over, stoop and shrug, look down and away, keep your arms close to your body and immobile without any hand gestures, frown, scowl or look stone-faced – very probably it will not get off to a good start.

The trick is to be a bit mindful of your movable parts.  The subconscious of whoever you are talking to is likely reading your movements and is psycho-emotionally moving minutely toward or away from friendship with you because of these movement factors.

You do not have to fake anything.  Genuineness counts and phoniness sometimes can be perceived quite well.  You just have to ask yourself, are your movements genuinely representing you and who you want to be at the moment.  If you are not feeling so great, you might have to re-center your focus and mobilize your energy toward genuinely desiring to get off to a good start with this new person in your life.

When Your Movements Are Most Important

Here's another surprise from research.  Changing your facial expressions, your stance, posture, hand gestures, head turning and other movements all become increasingly important while you are verbally silently listening to your new, potential friend talking.  A nod when you feel a compatibility with what that person is saying, a look of interest with a bit of leaning forward when you are seated, looking attentive and making other small, appropriate, facial, expression changes for whatever emotions are being indicated, all help to move your joint interactions to go toward friendship beginning.

It is important to realize that your movements, in essence, are talking while you are verbally not speaking as well as when you are talking.  If your body language is talking in a harmonizing way with the new person you are interacting with, things are likely to go well.  If your motions convey your feelings are positive about that person, real friendship bonding becomes much more likely.  However, if you are not making pretty good eye contact, doing movements that convey you are disinterested, distracted, or bored or even worse uncaring, interaction harmony probably will not occur and you will be stuck at the acquaintance level, at best.

Let me suggest spending some time pondering what your movements are usually saying and what you want them to convey.  May I also recommend researching and studying some of what is known about nonverbal communication (sometimes called expressional communication) and, maybe then, its effect on friendship development.  After that try practicing micro-movements in the mirror followed by more practice of the same with friends, family and finally with strangers.

One stone-faced fellow I suggested this to reported practicing flashing smiles at strangers in a department store.  The very first day he attempted that, a rather strong personal connection occurred which quickly led him to becoming a no longer, lonely single.  So, be careful with all this because you never know what it may lead to.

If you would like to go deeper into this subject, I recommend checking out “Amity, The Journal of Friendship Studies” from the University of Leeds, UK and Stanford University's ongoing, friendship research projects, publications and courses to take.  Also, check out these other mini-love-lessons:  “Friendship Love and Its Extraordinary Importance”, “Behaviors That Make and Grow Friendship Love”, “Understanding Friendship: from Mild Geniality to Profound Love”.

Of course, there is so much more to learn and practice concerning starting friendships and the love they might lead to.  Hopefully, this mini-love-lesson will help you to get off to a really good start, if that's what you want to do.

One more thing

It might help to start or deepen a friendship by talking about the things in this mini-love-lesson with someone else, perhaps an acquaintance.  If you do that, please mention our site and its many mini-love-lessons, thereby, helping to spread love knowledge.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Love Question:  To have a truly loving friend, do you have to know how to be one?

Getting Yourself Heard: A Big Important Self-Love Skill!

Mini-Love-Lesson #222

Synopsis: What being well heard consists of; its many faceted importance to your life and loves; and the basic how-to's of getting started on making it happen are presented here.


To be heard well is to be loved well

What does it mean to be heard well?  To get yourself heard well you had best first understand an answer to this question.  I suggest it means that someone cares enough, and knows how to listen to far more than just words and what they mean in the dictionary sense.  It means to pay attention to the feelings being expressed in tones of voice, facial expressions, gestures, and posture changes (see “How to Talk Love Without Words”).  Sometimes it means listening to what is not being said with words but maybe implied, hinted at or satirically (or euphemistically) verbalized.  Mostly it is hearing the emotions along with the meaning of the words.

To be well heard, also usually means that the hearer is what is termed an active listener.  Active listening involves good eye contact, occasionally making small empathetic sounds as the talker talks, having a great many different facial expressions appropriate and corresponding to each thing the talker communicates, shifting body postures indicating attentiveness and care, and doing gestures that represent being with and for the person being listened to but not necessarily in agreement with whatever is getting said.  This especially is important if you are listening to people in disagreement with each other.

To hear well with love, means to have and convey loving care as you listen.  Those who lovingly hear well, do well to ask themselves over and over, "am I really showing I care about this person I'm listening to".

I have had a part in training a wide variety of counselors, nurses therapists, psychologists, caseworkers and psychiatrists.  Some knew how to listen accurately but not lovingly.  Some knew how to listen actively, and that helped, but when loving care was absent, clients/patients knew it.  Genuineness in loving care is very important as one attempts to listening well with love.  The same is true for spouses, parents, dear friends, lovers and even in the way you listen to yourself.

What About the Words?

I get asked "Are not the words said important?"  Yes, they are very important but more with some people and situations than others.  For a great many to whom words and their meanings have high importance, focusing on and having memory for the words they say is imperative.  For a great many others, words are clumsily inaccurate stabs in the dark for what they are trying to get across.
Those who listen well can reflect back what you just said and also label an emotion they think you were feeling as you said it.  Silently they are repeating what you just said to themselves so that they can remember it and simultaneously registering an interpretation of your emotions.  Those who listen well are well practiced at doing this so it comes kind of automatically for many good listeners.
Vocabularies vary greatly.  So do styles of speech, use of colloquialisms, slang, jargon, code use, fad terms and even cadence and rhythm.  There are a great many parts to listening well.

One of the signs of those who listen well is that they can identify what they are not sure about and easily ask questions about it.   For instance, a person who listens well might occasionally say something like, "I know I'm interrupting a bit but I want to ask about something.  I noticed you really sped up when you started talking about person X.  Do you have a feelings or thoughts about that?".

Does Your Silence Get Listened to?

There is a saying "silence screams the loudest".  Those who listen well also listen well to your silence and often hear a lot in that silence.  They do what is called hearing with their eyes.  If it seems you are stuck, they might softly say something like, "Think out loud, maybe?"

What Those Who Listen Well Don't Do

Listening well means NOT just pause listening (only listening for pauses so the listener can start saying their stuff).  They also do not over talk other’s speech and, thus, demonstrate they are not listening at all.  Nor do they give not-asked-for advice, or try to answer questions that are not real questions but only statements in question form.  Also they do not attempt to tone-down harm-free, cathartic expression.  Nor do they attempt to block, suppress or limit obnoxious, profane, bizarre, irrational, degrading, sexual, anti-decorous and antisocial verbal expression before their cumulative meaning has been heard and well listened to.  Yes, there is quite a lot to this thing we call good listening and getting yourself heard well.

Why Do We Need to Get Ourselves Well Listened Too?

The simple answer is because it does us a tremendous amount of good.  For one thing, well listened to people get to feel well loved.  Well loved people are healthier, function more happily and are more productive than not well loved people.  Another reason has to do with the way our brains work.  It turns out we listen to ourselves better when we say things out loud.  It is even better when we talk to others who listen well.  Silent thinking can be quite good but if emotions are involved, even happy ones, it is better to have a loving listener or at least a good listener participating.

The process of being lovingly listened to quite well is a process which seems to trigger all sorts of healthy neurochemical and neuro-electrical functioning in our brains.  This, in turn, reduces loneliness, provides motivational energy, decreases depression and anxiety, erases a sense of isolation and greatly assists several biological, health processes.  Usually that makes getting yourself well heard quite uplifting.  It also tends to produce a greater clarity of thinking and an increase in person’s sense of self-worth and general significance.

If you want to have a sense of belonging and being part of a community, first do a good job of being a good listener and then occasionally do a good job of getting yourself heard.  That will help with your connectedness as you hone your interpersonal interaction and communication skills with that community.

Becoming Better Heard and Better Understood

As you may have guessed by now, there are not a lot of people who truly are good at hearing others well.  If you think just because someone loves you they are able to hear you well, you are likely to be wrong.  Listening well and especially listening with love is not a skill commonly learned.  A few learn it growing up in a loving, listening well home.  Some others learn it in schools that teach counseling skills.  Some stumble across it accidentally but may do it clumsily.  Everybody else has to apply themselves and learn to listen well with love – purposely.  This is where you and healthy self-love can come in.  By getting yourself well heard, you help yourself and those you love do your love relationship better.  Of course, you must do your share of hearing well those you love to make it really work.

Now that I have explained what I think is hearing well is, let's start with the basic how to's.

How To's & How Not To's

With healthy self-love, take responsibility for getting yourself heard well.  How do you do that?  By asking for what you want directly, clearly and lovingly (see “Requesting Not Expecting – A Love Skill”).  By reading this mini-love-lesson, you may know more about loving listening than anyone you know.  That means you are on the way to being able to ask for it, and describe what it is you want more exactly.  I suggest you take the position that, as an adult, it is your job to go after what you need, what you can use, and what you want, including being well listened to.  The simplest way to do that is to straightforwardly ask for it, describe it and then interactively cooperate in making it happen.  You also can do this a bit more diplomatically.

1. You might say, "I've been thinking that I don't do a very good job of getting myself really listened to, and I want to feel very listened to, so I'd like your help in getting there.  Would you be willing to help me with that?"

Probably, do not say something like, "You have never really listened to me and I hate you for that!"

2. You might say, "I've been reading about how many couples don't listen to each other very well because they don't know how.  Did you know couples and families even get physically healthier and feel much more loved (even those that already are pretty okay) as they work on their listening skills together?  How about we work together on that?"

Probably, do not say anything like, "You probably wouldn't ever be interested in learning how to talk about your feelings and my feelings in our relationship, right?"

3. You might say, "I hear lots of couples are getting into this thing called loving listening and it's making their relationships even better.  Let's read up on that and see if we want to do the same, okay?"

Probably, do not say anything like, "You are never going to learn how to communicate with me, are you!  You don't really love me enough to do anything like that, do you?"

link “Listening with Love”, link “Listening with Love and IN and OUT Brain Functions”, link “Listening with Love, Are You Good at It?”

The best way to make your request, is with love.  If you use loving tones of voice, loving facial expressions and the best words you can figure out to say, if you talk about wanting to feel truly heard, really deeply well heard and lovingly heard, you might just have started on a good trail with anyone who loves you.

What can go wrong?  Lots.  What if the loved one you are talking to feels accused and says things like "don't you think I hear you well enough” or “you don't listen to me either" or something else negative?  Well, that brings us to the next point of getting yourself well heard.

Before you ask to get really heard, and with love, it helps a lot to start working on and really striving to better hear those you love.  The adult principle is if you want it, become willing and able to give it.  To do that, you must study and practice -- part of which you are doing by reading this mini-love-lesson.  Keep it up.  Learn more.

The next good thing to do is to ask to be heard really well as you also offer to do the same with the person you are asking.  Then suggest that you work on it as a team studying, coaching and helping each other learn better to lovingly listen better to each other.   You can practice on each other and on others like your children, family, friends, etc.

Maybe Another Way to Start Getting Yourself Better Heard?

How about starting on this by going to one or more friends, family, special other, etc. and say you read this thing about getting well heard and would like to hear their ideas about it?  In the process you might introduce them to our mini-love-lessons designed to help people go about love in ways that work better and better – okay?

There is so much more but hopefully that is enough to begin with.

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

Quotable Love Question
If we listen with our hearts, and not just our heads, do we hear a fuller and finer truth?

Is Doing Love More Important Than Feeling Love?

 Mini-Love-Lesson #285


Synopsis: Two questions: what happens if we are programed subconsciously to mostly focus on love feelings more than doing love?  And what happens if we choose to focus mostly on the LOVE DOING approach?  Reportedly the Love Doing approach has many positive, life-changing aspects.  Accompanying is a brief introduction to Doing Love at Three Levels and the 12 Major Action Groups of Love Behaviors by which love is done according to our research.


A More Important Question Than You Might Think!

Do you know about LOVE DOES?  Love Does is the name of at least three things.  One is an international organization working to save children and other victims of sex crimes and abuse worldwide.  Another is a straightforward easy-to-read book about doing love and its importance.  It is by Bob Goff, an international law professor activist for human rights.  The third is a socio-philosophical position in the new natural science of Loveology which holds that feeling love is important but doing love is more important!

For quite a long time feeling love seems to have received the bulk of attention.  Do you love me?  Do I really love so-and-so?  Is this real love?  Do we love each other enough?  Those, and many other similar questions, are all love feeling-focused queries that loom large in many people’s lives from time to time.  They join with social edicts like “you will know it’s true love when you feel it!”  And “let your love feelings guide you”.  Plus, “true love is that overwhelming emotion that makes you do what love insists you do, no matter what”.

Love, Not a Feeling, Not an Emotion, Instead a…

The preponderance of recent, scientific evidence points to love not being an emotion or feeling but rather a natural, inborn, vital system that triggers or produces many diverse emotions.  This evidence gives confirmation to love being a systemic process occurring naturally in the brains of higher order lifeforms, and maybe others, which is then manifested in love behavior or love doing.

Sometimes we feel love and sometimes we don’t because we are busy feeling other things.  However, once a love connection is well-established we usually can consciously tap into it and feel its presence.  Think of loving your child, grandmother or anyone really dear to you and you are likely to know and briefly feel your love for that person.  Remember, emotions actually are mostly felt short-term and then replaced by other emotions.  Established Love is long-term, even lifelong, whether at the moment you are feeling it or not.

Don’t Make this Great Mistake!

There is a very mistaken and destructive teaching about feeling love.  It is that all we need to do love is feel it.  Like, somehow our feeling love will guide us to do the right love relating actions and the magic of love will take care of everything else.  Maybe there will be a few emotional bumps and scratches leading to then living happily-ever-after, or so goes the myth.  Although our conscious, reasoning mind can doubt this, another part of us so dearly wants to believe this is a truth of love, that we often do believe it.  Sadly, acting as if this is true can ruin a budding or false love relationship that might grow into the real thing.

If this myth were true, the divorce rate would be far lower, parental child abuse much more uncommon, spousal murder unheard of and every lover’s anniversary would get remembered, romantically planned and well celebrated.  The truth is love feelings come and go naturally and are only erratically related to love relating.  Love relating is learned and is best skillfully developed and practiced to be successful.  Love feelings turn out to be only so-so guides to love actions.  Consistent, quality love or best-love behaviors mostly are a matter of skill acquisition and development, just like all other high quality actions.

How We Learn Doing Love

If we grow up in a loving home, we subconsciously may have absorbed love’s best practice knowledge and do it sort of automatically.  Otherwise, high-quality love actions can be purposefully learned and continuously improved, just like any art or skilled craft .

Sometimes people put enough thought into the how to’s of doing love in romance, into child raising or some new deep friendship and then, once the love relationship is established, for various reasons the love behaviors begin to fade or they quit doing the actions that convey love.  If that happens, the love relationship suffers and may even die.  At best, it will become only mediocre compared to what it might have been.

Good love consistently enacted takes good habit formation and updating with renewed new learning.  As Ovid, the great love poet of Rome taught in the year one, lasting love takes skill!  Skills are learned best by repeated practice with skill improvements being deeply enjoyed.  Becoming skillfully love actionable, loving and lovable usually does an amazing amount of good and brings on an astonishing array of good feelings for all concerned.

The Do Love Approach

Doing actions of love can be accomplished whether we feel love or not.  They can happen out of a commitment to be loving, a belief love behaviors are of high value and importance, out of religious faith or philosophy, and out of a sense of gambling on doing caring love actions as a best practice when we don’t know what else to do. “When in doubt do love” can be a guiding best practice when we know what the love action options really are.

To help become aware of those options we briefly introduce Love Actions at Three Levels and their component 12 Action Groups of Love Behaviors.

THE THREE BEHAVIOR LEVELS OF LOVE AND THERE 12 ACTION GROUPS OF LOVE

Level I ,   Core Love Actions                                                                      

(Basic concrete, more specific love actions which form the building blocks of higher-level love doing behaviors)                                    

Core Action Groups of Love

1. Touch love behaviors

2. Expression love behaviors (facial expression, tonal expression, gestural expression, postural expression, etc.)

3. Verbal love behaviors

4. Gifting love behaviors (object gifts, experience gifts and service gifts) 

Level II ,   Crucial Love Actions

(Behaviors essential to ongoing, quality, lasting love relating)

Crucial Action Groups of Love

5. Affirmation love behaviors

6. Self-Disclosure love behaviors (being emotionally transparent, open, intimately self sharing, going psychologically naked, etc.)

7. Tolerance love behaviors

8. Reception love behaviors (actions obviously indicating positive reception of love showing it has been received)

Level III ,   Cardinal Love Actions

(Higher order, broader range love behaviors, often with larger and longer impact and effects)

Cardinal Action Groups of Love

9. Nurturing love behaviors

10. Protective love behaviors

11. Well-Being love behaviors (includes differentiated love actions of healing, altruism, humanistic, humanitarian and benevolent love behaviors)

12. Metaphysical/Spiritual Love Behaviors

There is much more to learn about each of the above groups of behavior that express, demonstrate, send, transmit, create, cycle, channel and generate love.  Research exists on each showing they are statistically differentiated, separate yet interconnected, independent categories of how love gets done.  Furthermore, some indications exist that each of the 12 action groups of love may have somewhat different physical health, psychological health and relational health benefits.  More information about each can be found at this site and others.

We hope to provide a “how to” book more fully delineating each of the 12 action groups of love in the not too distant future.  We are pleased and boastful to say information about the 12 action groups of love given through workshops, in various presentations along with use in counseling has been quite helpful to many people already.

From Doing Love to Feeling Love

Feeling love can lead to doing love but it can also work the other way around.  A great many people find that once they are doing more of the actions of love, they start to feel it more and especially is that true of love’s many joyous and great to feel emotions.  Also occurring while or after doing love actions are love’s emotions of being deeply touched, profoundly moved, greatly empowered, awesomely affected, passionately inspired and heart-warmingly infused.  Even when those great emotions are not felt, love action gets an lot of good done and that is a huge positive to be proud of and pleased about.

One More Thing

With whom might you enjoy talking over this Mini-Love-Lesson?  Who else might you mention it to?  Who do you know who might benefit from it?  Help spread the word that love relating knowledge can make love relating better by telling them about the several hundred of mini-love-lessons available at this site – Thank you!

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

♥ Love Success Question: After reading this Mini-love-lesson are you probably going to be a more doing love oriented person?

Picture Thinking for Making Love Work Better and Better

Synopsis:  Thinking in pictures may be uniquely advantageous for making lasting advances in love and love relationships.  How and why that may be a brain truth.  Thinking creatively and constructively about love and love relationships with mental pictures; using other’s pictures for your own deeper love wisdom; and a thinking in pictures training exercise introduces this rather novel approach to creating love improvements in your life.

Picture Thinkers Proclaim

"It wasn't until I got into thinking in pictures that I found my way to a love that works and just keeps getting better and better."  So said Jake after his second divorce and several serious love affairs had crashed and burned.  A fair amount of regular talk therapy kept him going but did little for helping him get the love he so longed for.

Lacey’s experience was different.  She said, "It was like I couldn't get past the first line in a song.  Every time I got going with a new love interest, which was hard enough, it just didn't work out one way or another.  Then an art therapist got me into thinking with pictures.  Wow!  I saw what I could never have explained or understood with words alone.  That almost totally changed my way of going about love, romance, dealing with my family and dealing with myself.  Now, thinking pictorially guides my way with my marriage and my two lovely step-children as well.  It's probably not for everyone but it sure works for me."

What is it exactly that Jake and Lacey did that made their love relationships start working and then work better and better?  To really understand that, a little background information is needed.

Thinking in Pictures

The majority of people think primarily in words and some may not be able to think in pictures at all.  However, most can, and with some work, they can get good at it.  Some seem to be naturally good at it like many visual artists, architects, design engineers, etc.  People good at visual imagery and symbolic cognition often can reason pictorially, gain insights and have more global understandings which might be very hard to accomplish by words alone.  By doing so, they sometimes can arrive at fresh, creative and improved approaches and solutions to any of life's challenges.  This can include those challenges and problems having to do with love.  In fact, for many solving love problems and making advancements in love by way of thinking with pictures actually may prove to work better than trying to do so with words.  The reason for that has to do with the way your brain works.

Your Brain and Thinking in Pictures

When you think with pictures, your brain uses more and different parts than it does when you think in words alone.  Using those parts that deal with pictures frequently gets different and often better results than when you think only in words.  My experience with thousands of clients dealing with love issues tells me these picture or visual image ways of cognition can do just about everyone a great service with each and every type of love relating.  Using picture techniques often has been of considerable healing value in conducting individual, couple, family, sex and divorce adjustment therapy.

When we are doing picture thinking or visual cognition, brain scans and other brain activity diagnostic procedures shows a lot more going on in the deeper regions of the brain where it so happens that love largely is processed (see “What Your Brain Does With Love – Put Simply” and “Limbic Love & Why You Will Do Well To Know About It”).  Certain forms of therapy like Gestalt, Psychosynthesis and art therapy have developed ingenious techniques that appear to make great use of these brain phenomena involving picture thinking.  If you want to know more about this you may want to read Visual Thinking by Dr. Rudolf Arnheim and Upside Down Brilliance by Dr. Linda Kreger Silverman.

Three Kinds of Picture Thinking

Let me recommend you consider learning to use at least one of these three kinds of thinking about love with pictures so as to improve the types, quality and quantity of love going on in your life.

1. The Insight and Wisdom Gathering Approach
First, an example.  In a semi-hypnotic state, I asked Alex to visualize in some detail his three exes standing in front of him.  Then I asked him to see them slowly merging into one being.  Finally, I requested he tell me what he saw.  Alex immediately said, "My grandmother, but as a young woman.  She was the only woman who ever really loved me and I now know what to do next!  I have to stop trying to find a copy of her and I have to stop trying to make-over other women into her.  I have to love them for who they are and not compare them to her which I didn't know I was doing until right now.

Alex's sudden insight was fairly rare so let's look at another example.

Shelley drew an ugly sketch of her wounded heart which looked deformed and had a bleeding gash in it.  Then she was asked to draw a sketch of her heart healing.  This to her seemed impossible at first.  A week later she came back with a healthier looking heart sketch that was stitched up and there were mountains in the background and musical notes floating in the air around it.  In much better spirits, Shelley related her heart was indeed healing and she had been greatly helped by drawing this picture several times and listening to beautiful music and then going to the botanical gardens twice in the last week, as it seemed to her the drawing had pushed her to do.  Shelley titled the picture "I'm going to be okay after all".  She later described her drawings as being done by her wise and loving, internal, core self that she had mentally met by doing a drawing of an elderly, Cheyenne, medicine woman.  Shelley also described now being more comfortable with herself than perhaps she ever had been.

2. Diagrammatic Comprehension
In my practice, I met with a number of engineers in the aircraft and related industries along with their families in couples and/or family therapy.  Quite a few, at first, thought things psychological and emotional were impossible to deal with and were fuzzy, amorphous, intangible things.  Early on, I discovered that if I showed an engineer a diagram of his issues, or situation, or his own inner workings, the therapeutic process started working and then sped up.  Diagrams also were quickly useful in helping engineers talk to their family members about their feelings which otherwise often were quite difficult for them.  Sometimes later I would help them create their own diagrammatic understandings and subsequent solutions.  Implementing these solutions took more work but without the diagrammatic picture they might never have been arrived at.

I remember an architect who visualized all the rooms in his psychological heart-house and, by doing so, figured out what he needed to do in each room – to become more romantic in the bedroom and the dining room, to be nurturing in more different ways in the kitchen, to have more time to himself in his den, etc.  I also remember a metallurgist who in thinking in stress analysis diagrams, figured out how his destructive, quick temper could be dealt with better.  That helped his family situation tremendously.  Then there were the families who created family interaction diagrams together and, in the process, worked out more loving ways to relate to each other.

Working things out diagrammatically did not always work but it helped more often than not.  It also showed me understandings of what to do with individuals, couples and families I don't think I would otherwise have been able to arrive at.

3. Planning and Practicing Love Advances
This is a technique used a lot in sports and in the performing arts, especially dance.  It is one in which you visually create a mental movie of exactly how you plan to move, speak, touch and otherwise behave, so as to enact your love.  In doing that, you both create a plan and practice or rehearse the plan so as to do it better than you otherwise might have accomplished it.  Here is an example to use right now.

Mentally picture someone you love or want to have a love relationship with.  Spend time really seeing them in your mind's eye.  Picture their facial expression, posture, gestures if any, clothing or lack thereof, and everything else your mind’s eye can see.  Then mentally, in slow-motion, see yourself going to that person and watch how you lovingly look at them, touch them, speak to them, listen to them and interact with them.  Now, visualizing the mental movie again, improve it. 
Visualize and mentally experiment with different ways of touching, standing a bit closer, further away or sitting, varying your facial expressions, making your voice more loving, etc.  Once you have it just right, practice it in your mind several times.  Then go do it.

Of course, it is not likely to occur or turn out just the way you pictured it.  Every football player knows that no matter how many times in practice you run the play, in the actual game it will work differently but it will work better than without the practice.

Now, you may have been taught that all of love is supposed to be spontaneous and so planning and rehearsing seems phony or not genuine.  Let me contest that with the questions, “Isn't love important enough to do skillfully, and isn't the best of love often planned, practiced and, therefore, often better executed?

Using Other People's Pictures

Another way of thinking with pictures is to look at other people's pictures and discover what pops up in your own mind for the interpretation.  The idea here is not to try to figure out what the artist meant or was trying to convey, but rather let your own subconscious mind project into the picture its own meaning.  Then have your conscious mind become aware of your subconscious conceptualization and its understanding or message.

For practice, look at the illustration accompanying this mini-love-lesson.  Start with the three hearts with question marks at the bottom of the illustration.  Ask yourself to let these three parts represent three questions in your mind concerning you, and love, and your own love relationships.  Imagine, guess, or just make up the three questions.  Let the colors also have different meanings.  For instance, green might have something to do with growth.

Now, go up to the, framed pictures and imagine they represent a symbolic reply to the three questions.  Your job is to guess or pretend you know the meaning and give it to yourself.  For instance, if the green were to represent the question “how do you grow more self-love?” and the picture of a sailing ship appeared to mean you have to sail away from your current life, and land on a different lifestyle shore to grow more self-love, you would have an answer to ponder, integrate with other self-awareness, or struggle with it if you just could not just accept it.

Next, look at the flowing, multicolored arrow pointing to the single heart with the ! in it.  Might it symbolize a synthesis of the three questions arriving at a single answer or conclusion?  If so, for you and your questions what might that synthesis be?  Can you let your subconscious tell you right now, or perhaps tonight in a dream, or in an abstract sketch you might draw tomorrow?

You also might ask yourself what is your projected meanings for how the pictures are framed, colored, positioned, and what about the parts that are covered up.  Perhaps they all can be meaningful to you personally if you let them.  This works because whatever you think comes from you, and represents you and probably your deeper, inner processes which may be much wiser than you know
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Now, here is another thing you can do.  Most of the mini-love-lesson comes with an illustration.  Can you find a hidden meaning or message in every one you examine?  Some of them have blank spots or empty places.  What meaning or message will you find there?  Don't forget to think about the colors and what they might mean to you.  With a little work, every illustration can be used to tell you about you, and love in your life, because that is what they are all about and because your deeper, non-conscious mind can project into them messages for your conscious mind, if you work at it (see “Love Your Brain – Why & How”, "Listening With Love and In & Out Brain Functions”).

One More Little Thing

Might you do well to share this mini-love-lesson with somebody else and see what they think?  If you do please tell him about this site and all the totally free love lessons.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question:  If your psychological heart were a house, what would it look like and what would be going on in its basement, in its attic, as well as in the other rooms?  (You might try to sketch or draw your reply)

Cheating and Love, in Love Relationships

Mini-Love Lesson   #221


Synopsis:  A rather fresh view of cheating and its problems; surprising origins; dynamics; multiple causes; possible outcomes and what to do about it lovingly is quickly, yet broadly and very helpfully, covered here.


Cheating In Spite Of Love

"I love them both, what am I to do?  I tried to break it off with one then with the other but it never works,  I secretly always go back and start up again.  Sooner or later, one of them will leave me or maybe even both will leave me at the same time so, I guess I'll just keep lying to the both of them until then."  "I'm sure I truly do love my spouse but I just have to have others, so I lie and cheat and hate myself for it but, for now at least, I won't stop."  "I'm very conflicted.  I don't know why I cheat, I just do but I also dearly love my spouse"  These remarks, and many like them, are commonly heard in the offices of every good therapist who works with love relationships.  The good news is they all represent situations that, with some hard work, usually are healthfully and positively resolved in those offices.

Many who really do love also cheat.  A great many more seriously consider cheating.  Others fearfully suspect cheating is occurring in their own love relationship.  Cheating especially is thought to occur eventually with people tangled in false love syndromes.  Studies show over 50% of the marriages in Western world countries experience affair problems usually involving a lot of destructive deceptions inherit to cheating.

Cheating often brings on a great deal of lying, mistrust, stress, anxiety, depression, conflict, guilt, shame, general misery, profound confusion, family harm, breakups and divorces even among couples who truly love each other.  However, most committed couples who experience a cheating problem do not break up or divorce.  They find another way and stay together.  Some even use the cheating experience to strengthen their love relationship.  Love can conquer and heal the harm cheating so often does.  Of course, there are those who get away with it but they usually do not escape the draining strain and stress that usually comes with cheating.  Then there is the fact that cheating is often very dangerous.  In all too many situations, it can get you beat up, hospitalized, possibly crippled or even killed.  Then why do so many choose to cheat?

It is true some people cheat because they really do not love their spouse or love mate, but quite frequently that is not the real problem.  You can love and still cheat on the person you love for a whole host of different reasons.  Nevertheless, most cheating harms love because it involves dishonesty.  Remember, It is almost impossible to build something real and lasting out of that which is false and contrived, even when real love exists.

The Importance of Getting Clarity

Cheating, deception, lies, manipulating interactions and all that usually go with cheating often cause a cluttered, conglomerate of confusion and inner conflict.  So, getting clear about some of the issues involved is highly useful.

Some say it really is not cheating unless you and another, or even third parties involved, have a clear, mutually understood agreement about what cheating is and what not to do.  In counseling I have heard people say "What I did wasn't cheating because I didn't love who I had sex with", "It was only a one night stand so that shouldn't count", "Yes, we stimulated each other to orgasm but we didn't have intercourse, so that wasn't cheating, was it?", "Even if you loved Joe only in your mind, that still is cheating on me", "If you so much as look at any other woman, you're being unfaithful to me", "Sex with others is okay but don't you dare fall in love with anybody else but me, because that's really cheating ".

Most people seem to think that everyone has the same understanding of cheating which is just like their own, but they don't.  Phenomenology shows us no one has exactly your understanding of everything, especially not anything having strong emotional impact.  So, it all has to get talked out and clearly agreed upon, hard is that often is.  If you are going to get clarity about cheating and everything related, it probably is going to take interactive, uncomfortable, mutual, hard, communication work.  Unspoken agreements are best thought of as disagreements in waiting.

Two Base Points of Cheating

In most love relationship, cheating is oriented around one or both of two points.  One point is love and the other is sex.  It commonly is suggested that males, especially psychologically immature and insecure males, are concerned mostly about sexual cheating.  On the other hand, females, especially more psychologically mature but insecure females, are concerned largely about cheating related to love.  Bisexuals and transsexuals are thought perhaps to be more equally affected by both.

What may be more important than gender orientation is the strength of one's sex drive and/or the strength of one's drive or need for healthy, real love.  Also, very much involved is one's sense of being secure about sexual adequacy and/or one's sense of security about being lovable and love able.

Cheatings Two Biggest Causes?

Cheating is thought to be pretty much nonexistent among a fair number of the indigenous tribes of South America.  That is because they share a belief that babies are best grown out of multiple contributions of different male’s semen.  Women seek out and bed men with different qualities so that their offspring will have those male’s various qualities.  Bedding just one male makes for too few qualities in one's child.  This belief system also expands the number of men who take father responsibility for helping the child grow up.

That example, and others like it, suggest and point to a possible, real root-cause of our problems with cheating.  That root-cause is our deeply incorporated, cultural training about sex, spouse type love and monogamy.  Had we been brought up with a mores like those indigenous peoples of South America, we might have no need for romantic dishonesty and, therefore, no need for cheating.

This also suggests that those who can get more free of our standard, cultural training about spousal love and monogamy may be able to better love their way through cheating and affair problems.  Indeed, freedom from cultural control may help explain why so many couples do not end their relationship when cheating and affair issues occur.

The second major reason for cheating being so prevalent may have to do with our biology fighting our cultural training.  There is a growing amount of evidence and analysis pointing to the conclusion that a particular biological imperative rules.  That is that 1) males are built and driven to plant their seed in multiple vaginas and, 2) females are built and driven to get the seed of different men who have various desirable qualities planted in their vaginas.  Especially, might this be a natural truth for both higher quality males and females who have more survivor qualities to offer the human gene pool for our species continuence?

Apparently, this two-part, biological imperative operates somewhat independently of our natural, psycho-biological imperative to love-bond with others.  Successful, emotionally close, pair bonding (poly and throuple bonding) examples exists around the world and throughout history which have not been emphasized, where sexual monogamy has.  Our natural state in love relationships may be much closer to that of the bonobo apes.  They are seen as more family, friendship and small-tribe love bonded than pair bonded while still being very actively, multi-mingling sexually.  Interestingly, various indigenous peoples around the globe are found to have similar behavioral norms and to be without so many problems of jealousy, possessiveness, sexual insecurity, divorce or cheating.  Lots to think about, right?

Other Reasons for Cheating

"I had to cheat because I had to find out if I was still desirable".  "Actually, I cheated because the outside love and care I got gave me the fuel I needed to keep working on my marriage",  " I think I cheated mostly because that's what successful people do when they reach the status I have attained in life",  "It helped me a lot with my self-love",  "I did it out of vengeance",  "Everything else we both were doing in life was dishonest, so being dishonest in love and sex came easily",  "All my friends were doing it and it seemed like fun",  "To be truthful, I identified with being bad and cheating is so bad",  "Others I knew were getting away with it and I was so envious",  "It's what the people in my growing up family did, so why could I be any different",  "My spouse was far too goody-goody, straightlaced and normal.  I just couldn't live that way, so I started a secret life apart",  "I tried it out of boredom and got to really liking it".

These are but a small sampling of the multitudinous reasons people discover for their cheating.  Only occasionally the reason given is that a spouse is no longer loving, or attractive, or sexual.  Sometimes the reason is to escape or find somebody better than their inadequate or abusive spouse.  While the reasons are important, far more important is figuring out what to do about it.

Other Forms of Cheating

Cheating and deception can concern and does occur regarding money, substance and behavioral addictions (like gambling), family, status, personal history, religion, politics, food, health and a good many other things.  But it is the love and sex areas where cheating is the big deal that concerns us most here.

The Poly Cure for Cheating

In the history of Europe and the Americas, every so often there appears a new attempt at one approach or another for solving the problems inherent in monogamy, or if you prefer, serial monogamy.  Polygamy, communal sex, group marriage, swinging, open marriage, free love, and more recently, poly amore alternate lifestyles are but a few of the many examples available.  With each attempt, there are people who make it work quite well and those who do not.  Common to many of the attempts are emphases on open honesty and getting okay with people having both sex and love in multiperson ways.  Common also is condemnation by the more conservative and those threatened by the new and different.

With the advent of the social sciences, what makes these different love relationship ways succeed for some and fail for others is becoming more understood.  One answer may be this.  It seems that those who learn and practice the behaviors that demonstrate love well may be able to make any form of love relationship work better, including monogamy.  Those who more poorly, or less frequently behave in the ways that convey love, more likely fail at each form of love relating, also including monogamy.  So, perhaps it is not the form but the love abilities of the people engaging in the form that makes the difference.

Cheating is hardly ever a loving action.  It is an action that risks hurting and harming another person and perhaps several others severely.  Cheating in some situations may be the healthiest alternative available as well as the least dangerous and least destructive to all concerned but those situations are rare.  There are those who attempt open honesty and who are willing to work out "I win, you win, everybody wins" type solutions.  And there are those who may be truly unable, as well as unwilling, to go for "tri-victory" outcomes.  Likewise, there are counselors and therapists who do not have what it takes to help others achieve two party, let alone three party resolutions, when cheating and affairs have been involved.  But with other nonjudgmental counselors, it can be done.

The Couple's Cure for Cheating

In my experience working with couples who have a cheating issue and supervising therapists who deal with similar issues, what helps the most is a very love-centered couple’s counseling, largely done in conjoint sessions where the couple meets together with the therapist.  Such therapists work in an unbiased way, are rather loving, practical, highly truth oriented and willing to experiment with couples outside the box toward possible solutions for improvement.  Couples’ group counseling may follow and greatly add to the strength of improvements.

The Individual’s Cure for Cheating

For individuals, I have found individual group therapy to quite often be the most advantageous and efficient treatment, though singular individual counseling may work well too.  The challenging but supportive and non-condemning ways of a good positive-focused group therapy can work wonders to help people give up a cheating way of going about relating and to risk replacing it with ways that are much more lovingly truthful.

For more help related to cheating, you may wish to consult these mini-love-lessons: “Love Affairs: Bad?, Good? and Otherwise”, “Trust Recovery and Love”, “Protecting Those You Love from Yourself”, “Forgiveness - A Much Needed Love Skill”, “Checking It Out - As a Love Skill” and link “Conclusions, Confounding and Corrupting Your Love?”.   I also heartily recommend reading Sex at Dawn by Christopher Ryan & Cacilda Jetha.  In my biased view, serious cheating issues are best dealt with with the help of a good love knowledgeable therapist, well-trained in relationship therapy, not just individual therapy.  You might be able to find one of those therapists via your national marriage and family therapy and/or counseling associations.

One more thing:  let us suggest you talk to some people about your thoughts and feelings concerning this mini-love-lesson on cheating and this site’s many other love lessons.  Think about quoting and using the following quotable love question to include in that talk.

As always –Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

♥ Quotable Love Question:  If we can love two parents, several siblings, four grandparents and other relatives, including stepparents and multiple friends all at the same time, why do we think we can not have real love for two or even more lovers simultaneously?