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

Scam Love

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson begins by talking about vulnerability to scam love; how it is different from Spouse Acquirement Syndrome; and ends with ideas about how you can protect yourself from scam love; more.


“I was incredibly hungry to feel loved, valued, wanted and not alone in a relationship.  That hunger blinded me to all the warning signs I should have paid attention to.  Consequently, I easily got seduced into thinking I had a new, real love.  Then I got conned out of a ton of money and in return all I got was broken hearted and ashamed of what a fool I was!”

Could that be you?  Unfortunately it is the sentiment of a great many people who have been scammed into thinking and feeling they were being loved, when actually they were being conned, used and manipulated by those who use affectionate, romantic, erotic and other love connected behaviors to fool you and harm you for their own personal gain.

Scam love occurs for a variety of reasons besides money.  Almost everyone is familiar with the people who say “I love you” to help others convince themselves it is okay to have sex with them.  To give themselves permission to have sex with someone, a lot of people ‘scam themselves’ temporarily thinking they love and are loved when at a deeper level they know better.  Sometimes the reasons are not entirely selfish.  Listen to Eric who said, “I just had to have a mother for my infant son.  My wife had abandoned both of us and there wasn’t any way I could make my life work trying to raise him by myself.  So, I convinced the first acceptable girl that came along that I really loved her so she would marry me and pick up where my former wife left off.  That worked for a while but now I’m trapped in this marriage I don’t want and I’m having affairs I don’t really want either.”

Then there’s Pauline who commented, “My family would have disowned me if I hadn’t hooked up with a guy.  They were on the verge of deciding I was a lesbian, which I am, so I did what it took to convince a guy I was in love with him.  I know it was wrong and when he finds out it’s going to break his heart.  He’s such a nice guy but I have to hold onto him until my sick and fragile father passes away.  So, I guess I’m going to be living this lie a while longer because it would destroy my ailing father to know I can only fall in love with girls.  If I hurt my father, at the last of his life, my family will hate me forever”.

Many a child molester has scammed many a child or adolescent into being convinced the child molester really loved them.  Sometimes the child molester convinces the child or adolescent’s parents that they have a pure, filial love for their targeted youth.  Sometimes children and other youth are love-scammed as part of a larger scam directed at gaining status, security, wealth, etc. from the parents of the love-scammed youth.

Some people do scam-love to attain status, social position and more luxurious living. Some people do scam-love to attain stability, safety and security.  Some people do scam-love because they don’t believe in real love or its value but also see the advantages it might bring.  Some people do scam-love to escape misery, abuse, poverty and sometimes just a boring, ordinary life.  Others do scam love in order to attain power and various other advantages over others.  Cults do scam-love to obtain control over members.

Scam-Love Explained

Scam-love occurs when a person sets out to purposefully deceive another into thinking that they are loved by the scammer.  It usually involves deceitful manipulation of the target person into believing that they love the scammer also.  Once this is achieved the scammer then sets out to obtain some hidden agenda goal from the target person.  Often this ends up being very harmful to the targeted person.

Here are two brief examples.  Jessica said she followed her mother’s training and examples by marrying the richest man she could find, artificially giving him everything he wanted in a woman and then divorcing him for a considerable amount of money, and then going on to an even richer man to do the same thing.  Bernard targeted Beatrice because she came from a high status, old money family and he was from a low, blue-collar background; Bernard very much wanted entry into the elite and exclusive levels of society.  As soon as he was established there by way of his wife, Beatrice, and her family he took a mistress and later divorced Beatrice.

An All Ages Phenomenon

It isn’t just the young and immature who get love-scammed.  Older people are a particular target of love-scammers.  They know that retired people who have lost their spouse are often particularly easy targets for love-scam manipulation.  Some older, retired couples also are easily conned into thinking they had just made a new loving, and ever so helpful friend who just happens later to suddenly and desperately need a bunch of money quickly.  AARP, the American Association of Retired Persons, has a fraud fighter hotline (800-646-2283) which provides counseling, education and victim advocacy for cases of their members who have been love-scammed and for other more senior citizens.

Love-Scams and Spouse Acquirement Syndrome

Romantic love-scams are similar to the false love pattern called Spouse Acquirement Syndrome, but are also different in some ways.  (See the mini-love-lesson, Spouse Acquirement Syndrome, at this site)  Usually in an acquirement syndrome a person either unconsciously or semiconsciously talks themselves into believing they really are in love with who they are marrying.  Sometimes they see this as the way marriage is done, by deceptive acquirement rather than truthful love.  In that case they may have been culturally programmed for this acquirement behavior.  In the scam-love situation there is premeditated, purposeful and planned, selfish deception with a hidden agenda and goal.  The love scammer is fully aware they do not love the person they are scamming.  Their actions demonstrating love are all false and manipulative and will cease once their hidden agenda goal is attained.

How Can You Protect Yourself?

To protect yourself ask yourself these questions.  What do you have that someone might want other than love?  How are you useful to someone who is supposedly professing love for you?  Does it seem like you are being rushed toward a committed relationship or anything else by a person who supposedly is a love source?  What do you really know about this person and their previous love involvements that didn’t come from them?  Do you know others that can tell you things about this person?  Are you going to be patient enough in this relationship to be sure that things really are as they seem?  Are you finding that some of the things your supposed lover tells you do not seem to quite be true?  Are you prone to be a rescuer, helper, fixer, etc. in relationships?

If you are getting answers you don’t really like it doesn’t mean that you’re being scammed but it does mean you might be.  Take more time, look deeper, don’t be afraid ask probing questions, and check up on answers you get.  Remember, protecting yourself is part of good, healthy self-love.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
How questioning and honest are you with yourself about what’s really going on when you are in a romantic love situation?

The Huge, Hidden Reason So Many Fail at Love?

FREE Love Lesson #175

Synopsis: Rediscovering a ‘becoming invisible’ cause of our huge number of love relationship failures starts this mini love lesson. It then is followed by a listing of 12 major love failure syndromes; the best source for learning about all this; more.

What Used to Be Understood

Did you know that 50 and more years ago there was a widely accepted but mostly now forgotten reason for failing at love.  This reason was commonly understood and very helpful in protecting people from many of the traumas and tragedies which now beleaguer masses of those struggling to make their love relationships work.

What was that reason and its accompanying solution?  Before we get to that, let’s give a couple of clues to see if you can figure it out.  Clue 1. Are you aware that once upon a time the most popular magazines list included titles like “True Love”, “Real Love”, “True Romance” and “Real Romance”?  Clue 2. Have you heard these terms: twitterpatted, smitten, having a crush, amentia, bewitched, gaga over, enamored, beguiled, stupefied, calf love, puppy love, spellbound, infatuated, gone dottie over, and love crazy.

Clue number 1 helps us see there was a widely accepted implication that untrue love, unreal love and/or false love really and frequently existed.  The words and phrases of Clue 2, and others like them, were all terms used to indicate various versions of that same thing – false love.  They also were widely used to help a person not jump to the possibly, disastrously, mistaken conclusion that one was entering into a state of true or real love.  In other words, false love was seen to be a reality of perhaps multiple types, and everyone had best beware of false love because some of its forms might be highly misleading, very painful and quite destructive.  It would seem, that was the common mindset.

Somehow, strangely, the subject of real versus false love is not much looked at these days.  For many that means the protection this concept gives is no longer acting as a safeguard.  Typically now, too many people quickly conclude if “it feels like love, it must be love” and in fact it must be real, true and therefore, highly desirable and dependable, healthy love that will last.  More times than not, this conclusion can be flat out wrong.  So what is happening and what can be done about it?

The Secret That Is Re-Revealed

Perhaps the reasons for a 50% or higher divorce rate and an estimated 75% love relationship breakup rate in many countries may be due to false love.  The solution to false love, of course, is real love, learning how to tell the difference and how to stay away from the false thing, and instead, do the real thing.

Couples whose relationship is based in a false rather than a healthy, real love are bound to experience one kind of love failure or another.  It seems this used to be well understood and broadly recognized.  It also seems those who worked with this conceptualization better protected themselves from the many failures inherent to false love.  It likely is that such couples who do this now can be much more successful in finding, developing, creating and growing real love and, thereby, attaining its many healthful and more lasting benefits.

With this thinking, would it not be wise for those who teach and write about love to once again contemplate, do research and put forth information and ideas about false versus real love?  Isn’t it time that once again we shed light on that which has slipped into the shadows and has become again a sort of secret.  It seems like a mysterious truth is being kept from the vast number of people who dearly need to avoid or escape from the living disasters of love going wrong.  Shouldn’t it be proclaimed that there is healthy, real love but there also are toxic forms of false love that can harm and even destroy your life?  Isn’t it also true that the more we look at love relationship problems in this light, and the more we learn how to recognize the differences between real and false love, the better off we all will be?

Below is a list of a dozen forms of destructive, false love patterns or syndromes thought to exist by investigators, researchers therapists and others of notable expertise.  It was compiled from work done in a broad array of fields by a wide variety of those who give serious thought and effort to these issues.  Each is accompanied by a very brief hint about what some of these false love forms have to tell us.


1. The IFD Syndrome
    (Hurts and harms most people at least a little and many a whole lot)

2. Spouse Acquirement Syndrome
    (Peaks as graduations approach)

3. Thrill and Threat Bonding
    (Rescuers, victims and excitement junkies beware)

4. Unresolved Conflict Attraction
(Why we marry our abusers – again and again)

5. Limerence
(No matter how great it feels, it’s over in 2 to 4 years)

6. Love And Lust Confusion
    (Great sex/romance and then more great sex and then “see ya”)

7. Imprint Mating
(How odd that I should desire who I desire and so strongly)

8. Relational Dependency & Codependency
(Take care of me so I don’t have to grow up and do it myself)

9. Meta-Lust
(I want you totally so I can discover all of me and then – we’re done)

10. Shadow Side Attachment
    (Why we fall for ‘bad’ boys and ‘bad’ girls)

11. Nympholepsia
    (Can you really fall in love with a ghost and what about a sprite?)

12. Fatal Attraction Syndrome
    (This one actually can get you killed – really!)

The Best Source

In my long practice as a relationship focused therapist, I discovered that hundreds of individuals, couples and families benefited greatly by working with the concepts involved in the real love versus false love issues.  My international work showed me the real love versus false love factors were applicable worldwide.  From my extensive experience, every kind of love relationship problem bears at least some examination viewed from the perspective of real love versus false love issues.  Especially is this true for every individual and couple wanting a romantic relationship or involved in one, as well as those recovering from a failed love relationship.

It is with that background and the reasons involved, that my ‘40+ years, love mate/partner, Kathleen McClaren, RN’ and I wrote the e-book REAL LOVE, FALSE LOVE: Answers and Solutions (currently exclusively available at this website).  This book covers the above named and listed 12 Syndromes, complete with amazing and inspiring case histories and the how to’s of avoiding, escaping and recovering from false love, along with, and when possible, how to change false love into real love.  Yes, of course, that is a plug.  But it really is a fine book presenting highly engrossing and useful information you will not find all together anywhere else.  And from the feedback we are getting, REAL LOVE, FALSE LOVE is doing lots of deep good for its readers.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: Do you know and can you tell the differences between healthy, real and toxic, false love?

Lies And Love

Synopsis: This mini love lesson covers Lying for Us-ness; Lies and Breakups; How to Get Yourself Lied to A Lot (A Baker’s Dozen Ways); Sabotaging Truth-Sharing Sabotages Love; How Lies Limit Love; When Love with Truth Is Not Allowed; and What to Do.

Lying For “Us-ness”

“I lie to save my marriage.  I’m pretty sure sooner or later I will get caught and our marriage will be over.  Until then, lies are the only way to keep my marriage going.”  So said Benson who was working hard at trying to learn how to live authentically.

He freely admitted that his career and personal life was saturated with falsehood but he vehemently testified that, nevertheless, he did love his wife.

Jolene stated, “I lie a lot to my husband just like my mother and grandmother did to their husbands and so taught me.  I really don’t know any other way that could possibly have a chance of working with my husband. Truth be told, I don’t know how any spouse can not lie a lot if they want to make their marriage work.”  Ginny and Josh in couples counseling were trying to figure out if their relationship could survive if both of them told each other several difficult truths. They had confessed that to keep their marriage going smoothly there had been a lot of deceit, both by the commission of out-and-out lies and even more by omissions of the full truth about a lot of things.

What is to be done about the lies, deceptions, half-truths, distortions, concoctions, perjury, beguilements, exaggerations, misrepresentations, evasions and out-and-out fraudulent deceit which occurs in a great many love relationships.  Some answer “nothing can be done” because all the lies are protective, softening, palliative and in one way or another useful in keeping a love relationship going.  Others say love needs the truth and without the truth real love will die.  Still others recommended that it’s okay to lie about some smaller things but not the big stuff.  However, people can vary on what they call ‘big stuff’.

There are those who comment that our culture and our love mythology especially teaches everybody to tell a lot of lies in love relationships.  “Don’t risk your relationships by telling the truth about anything that would hurt someone’s feelings” is something I once over heard an aging, Southern Bell tell her granddaughter. Of course there are those who want to know all the truth from others but they aren’t about to give anyone their own full truth.

Then there are the people who lie about love itself.  Tatiana said, “I admit I live a very two-faced life.  One face is for my husband and that face lies to him that I love him.  Another face is for my lover and that face tells the same lie but in different ways.  Since I don’t really believe love exists everything I say about love to men is a lie.  But they say it too.  They tell you they love you but all they want is sex.  But men are easily fooled.  They want to believe women are all about love.  I’m about wealthy pleasure and men are very useful for attaining that”.

So, what do you think?  How do you operate when it comes to telling lies, small, medium and large lies in a love relationship?  Do you want the truth no matter what it is?  Can you handle the truth no matter what it might be?  Before you decide for sure let’s look at some different things.

Lies And Breakups

“If he just hadn’t lied to me we might have made it”.  “She was just too deceitful. I never knew what to believe.”  “I thought I didn’t want to know the truth but in the end it was all the deceptions that destroyed us.” “Now I know I really did lie by what I didn’t tell and that is definitely what sank our ship.  I kept telling myself a lie, that omitting the truth wasn’t really lying.  If only I had admitted to myself that that was complete bullshit then I might not have lost the love of my life.”  “I really did not expect she would stop seeing me or even talking to me just because I told another lie”.  “We lied to each other a lot and in doing so we never faced our real issues.”

Every week I hear things like the above quotes when doing post-divorce and breakup recovery counseling.  The truth, at least as I see it, is that lying usually is more dangerous, or just as dangerous, to love relationships as is telling difficult truths.  At least for the strong of heart, truth (even very tough truth) is likely to give you the healthiest, long-range outcome.

It is true that some people cannot or will not work with certain truths that may arise in a love relationship.  It also is true that some love relationships are not strong enough and the love not healthy enough to enable the people to deal with certain truths.  In those cases breaking up or divorce may be painful but best in the long run.

These things not only are true for couples but also are true for all other kinds of love relationship also.  Time and again I have heard someone scream at a family member in family counseling “you lied to me”.  Often the “because” of why the lie was told doesn’t seem to matter.  Usually the wound caused by the lie and whatever the lie is about can be healed with enough love, and with the guidance of good family therapy.  Friendships, even deep and long-lasting friendships, may be killed by the telling of lies.  It seems that every type of love relationship can be endangered by lies.

How to Get Yourself Lied to A Lot

How do you help get yourself lied to?  Notice in this question I did not use the word cause’ but instead the word ‘help’.  As I see it, the person who tells the lie causes it.  However, we all can set things up so people will frequently choose to avoid telling us the truth if they can.  Here are a ‘baker’s dozen’ ways you can be pretty sure to assist yourself not getting told the truth or certainly not told the whole truth.  Each of these ways also can be quite destructive to the development of a healthy, real, love relationship.

1.  Be very condemning and judgmental when you hear a truth you don’t like, so people learn that telling you the truth is far too costly emotionally, and in energy and time consumed.

2.  Be so sure you’re right that no other view could possibly have validity, so your loved ones learn there is no use in even trying to tell you there truth.

3.  Come across very weak, fragile and delicate, so no one dares telling you a tough truth for fear you will break or be crushed.

4.  Play ‘overt victim /covert persecutor’ by showing that you feel supremely agonized at being blamed, or full of suffering martyr guilt, or you feel excessively at fault every time there’s a possibility of an unpleasant truth to be dealt with, so everyone will either dodge dealing with you or do anything to placate you, instead of just working at dealing with unpleasant truths.

5.  Become quickly and strongly upset, hysterical, incoherent, irrational and emotionally overwhelmed, so loved ones are busy trying to sooth you and their truth telling gets postponed, perhaps indefinitely.

6.  Demand and then deny evidence, insist your version of historical events is the only accurate one, and try to overwhelm with logic and oratory much like an aggressive lawyer in court, so that unpleasant truths get bulldozed and lost in the fray.

7.  Lash out with rage, personal attacks, putdowns, criticisms and personal negations of loved ones without mercy, and as you do so clutter the discussion with angrily stated irrelevant, unconnected to the original topic accusations, and miscellaneous material, so there isn’t a chance for a person’s truth to get a real hearing.

8.  Subtly, or overtly by your behavior, threaten loved ones who tell you uncomfortable truths, helping them fear that your vengeance will fall upon them and consequently cause them to protect themselves by hiding truth from you.

9.  Become unlovingly cold, distant and uncaring with elements of silent dismissal and attitudinal demeaning or condescension which is covertly obvious and, thereby, making yourself be seen as pretty much unapproachable.  If that doesn’t work withdraw and go into mysteriously hiding, so truth can not reach you.

10.  ‘Awfulize’ (make it far worse than it is) everything a loved one says, jump to all sorts of awful conclusions, and prove that telling you the truth blows everything out of proportion, so truth telling will always be a long ordeal to be avoided.

11.  Act indifferent by not listening carefully or showing any emotional care or concern, and project that you regard what you’re being told as irrelevant and unimportant. (This is particularly good for getting deceptions of omission to come your way).

12.  Use the truth a loved one shares with you against them later on, thus, punishing them for sharing their truth with you, and teaching them to avoid the risk from now on.

13. Ignoring the truth being shared and firing back or countering with something negative about the person telling you their truth, thus, devaluing their truth and deflecting dealing with it.

Sabotaging Truth-Sharing Sabotages Love

Each of the above 13 ways and a number of others act to sabotage both the telling of truth and the growth of love.  Lots of people do not realize that they get lied to partly because they make telling the truth have really bad outcomes.  Yes, it’s true we all should have the courage to tell the truth anyway, but that often is not the case.  Yes, we all should have sufficient love to be dedicated to giving our loved ones nothing but the truth, but that too is often not the case.

If you can lovingly hear the truth people are ever so much more likely to tell you there truth.  That often takes a good amount of healthy, self-love and the ability to do what is called ‘owning your okayness’ and ‘not giving away your power’.  See the entry “Healthy Self-Love and Not Giving Your Power Away”.

How Lies Limit Love

If I lie to you I do not present you with the real me.  If you send love to that false me it does not reach the real me.  I either know or doubt you would send your love if you knew the truth I am withholding.  Therefore, I am not reached and I’m not nourished by your love.  My lie may help me, or you, or both of us escape a painful conflict but by lying I also escape the chance of the real me being loved by the real you.  Thus, I cause us to elude the chance of sharing and experiencing intimate, real and perhaps healing love together.

When Love with Truth Is Not Allowed

She said, “If I ever find out you even think of having sex with another woman I will divorce you!”  He secretly and silently interpreted this as “I can never share with you the truth of my real sexuality. Therefore, I had best begin to look for someone else I can be real with”.

He said, “You know I’m right and I refuse to hear you say another word about this subject!  So, eventually she was in the arms of another who could and would listen to anything and everything she had to say.

If you cannot accept my truth how can I feel you accept me?  If you cannot accept me, flaws and all, how can I believe you truly can love the real me?  Please do not condemn or deny my messages of myself, and do not falsely agree with me either.  Please be willing to hear the real me as best as I can present it today.  Then tomorrow I may grow to have a better message and certainly a greater love for you!

What To Do

If you lie a lot, or perhaps you help yourself get lied to a lot, or if you are living some big lie, I like to suggest this.  By small, exact steps you can get to where you live authentically, without lies, or without being much lied to, and in the process you do no harm to anyone.

I like to suggest that for your own health and well-being, as well as for those you care about, cautiously working your way into a life of truth almost always is achievable and by far is preferable.  One reason for that is lies usually cause a lot of psycho-physiological stress, not to mention relational diminishment and danger.  Coaching by a good counselor often is just about invaluable whenever love is being sabotaged by lies.  Finally consider an old teaching question.  Can you build something real out of something false?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question Is your self-love sometimes too-weak for you to be able to hear the truth?

Farmer vs. Mechanic Love Fixing

Synopsis: The clashing and conflict of Farmer Frank versus Michelle the Mechanic, the yea’s and nay’s of our two contradictory approaches, what Michelle did not want to hear and was glad to learn, timeouts, help from the deep inner mind, making choices versus growing solutions, some practical guidelines, and the beautiful interweave of what Frank and Michelle do now.

“Dammit!  Stay here and talk it out with me!  Don’t you dare walk away!  We need to work this out right now, Frank, no matter how long it takes, how upset we get or how tired we get!”  These demands were blasted out by Michelle in loud, angry tones accompanied with ugly looks and defiant gestures.

Frank much more firmly announced “No, I don’t believe that’s true.  We need to take a break, give each other time to calm down and think things through, figure out what we really feel and then work on this problem one little part at a time”.  Who’s right?  Whose approach is better?  Which way of trying to fix a love relationship problem gets the best results, Michelle’s or Frank’s?  And while we’re examining this, think about which of these two ways is more like your usual approach to a love relationship difficulty?

In one way of looking at it there are just two main approaches to fixing love related difficulties.  One is the ‘mechanic’s’ approach and the other is the ‘farmer’s’ approach.  Michelle is using the mechanic’s and Frank the farmer’s.  The mechanic just gets in there and works on the problem until it is fixed, provided he or she has the know-how, the parts and the tools to fix the problem.  The farmer has to work on the problem then back off and let nature do its thing for awhile, then do some more, and then back off again letting Mother Nature do more of her share until the problem is fixed and the goal achieved.  If the farmer digs up the freshly planted seeds to see if there is anything more to be done with them, or to make sure they have started to grow, it’s likely that will destroy the developing roots and stop the growth process.  If the farmer hastens the harvest too soon the crops will be ruined.

The farmer must work with natural processes which require doing some start up actions, backing off, doing some additional tending actions, backing off again and finally harvesting the results.  This is the usual way of working with those things that live and grow or are in need of healing, like crops or people.  The mechanic can take apart and put back together whatever he or she is working on endless times, but for the farmer that could be a very destructive way of going about things.  Some of the farmer’s approach is very mechanic-like and some of it requires leaving nature alone to ‘do its thing’ and being patient.

Here is what Michelle with her mechanic’s approach didn’t want to hear.  Whenever you’re working with things that live the farmer’s approach (with a possible exception) works best.  In fact, it may be the only way many of the difficulties living things experience can be handled successfully.  With inanimate objects the mechanic’s approach works fine.  Perhaps you’re thinking, “What about emergency medicine and surgery; don’t they work by way of the mechanic’s approach”?  No, because after surgery or emergency room procedures the patient is sent to the recovery room where nature’s healing ways take over to do the rest of the job, just like happens on the farm.  The one partial exception is where there is a true emergency and you have to do all you can, as fast as you can.  Even then quite often afterwards there has to be recovery done in the farmer’s or nature’s way.

With the love problems of couples, families, friendships and with self love we usually have to work on the difficulty in the farmer’s fashion.  We have to work on it consciously, and then back off and let our subconscious and other natural health and healing processes work on things without external interruption or too much of our conscious mind’s interference.  Then we can come back and do some more direct, conscious work, and if needed back off again.  That’s why once a week counseling and therapy sessions are the usual frequency standard, whereas ‘intensives’ (extended, uninterrupted therapeutic work lasting many hours, a weekend or a whole week) to work on a relationship or psychological problems are the occasionally useful exception.

Couples and families need to be able to take time out and let everyone’s inner systems process what the conscious mind has taken in.  When facing difficult issues, after a certain amount of direct external work, we need restorative breaks, distraction and relief time, and time to allow our marvelous, deeper mind’s amazing sorting and creative inner systems do their work on our problems.  We need to have time for all our various inner parts or ‘sub-personalities’ to meet with each other and synthesize our often conflicting and uncoordinated thoughts and feelings.  Usually we must do all that internal work to get our best results before we next consciously deal with problems externally.

Another set of problems can arise in our ‘living’ system when we are pressured to use the mechanic’s approach too much or too long.  When we are pressured or rushed, especially at length, our brain begins to make too many stress hormones.  When stress hormones begin to flood our brain and body we tend to grow agitated, irritated, less able to think clearly, we grow angry and more prone to any quick, destructive action which will bring an end to the increasing production of stress hormones. 

Some people are more easily ‘flooded’ than others (which seems to result from how well they were securely loved as children) but everyone can reach their limit.  In addition to that, when we are rushed and pressured into using a mechanic’s approach we are faced with ‘making choices’ instead of ‘growing solutions’.  In love relationships interactively, mutually growing solutions tends to work far better than being forced into quick choice fixes.  This is true in many parts of life but it is especially true in issues of the heart and love relationships.

There are a few practical Guidelines for using the farmer’s approach.  First, agree to use and cooperate with anyone asking for a timeout.  Whenever a timeout is called for schedule how long it’s going to be and when the participants are going to meet next to work on whatever issues are being faced.  Timeouts can be extended if needed but always with a determined time to get back together agreed upon.  Otherwise, dodging the problem for too long or never getting back to it may occur. 

Another guideline is don’t let problem talk invade love or recreation time, and don’t do it late at night or when you’re also trying to handle other stressors.  Pick a start time and an end time to conduct problem talk and stick to that.  With lots of difficulties it’s good for people to ‘sleep on it’ for a night which allows our deep, inner subconscious mind time to ‘do its thing’ which sometimes is quite miraculous.

With some reluctance Michelle conceded the problem she wanted addressed wasn’t a true emergency and so she backed off her mechanic’s approach.  She learned to use Frank’s farmer’s approach more often, then he learned that he could use Michelle’s mechanic’s approach for some of the things they were contending with.  Once in awhile there was a true emergency in their lives and, much more cooperatively, they both went at it like good mechanics can.  They also learned to identify whether a problem they were facing needed a mechanic’s or farmer’s approach and in teamwork they learned to apply that knowledge which eliminated a tremendous amount of conflict they had previously experienced.  Perhaps you can do the same.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Are you more prone to the farmer’s or the mechanic’s approach when you are dealing with love relationship difficulties?

Compassionate Love, A Big Sign of True Love?

Synopsis: A vital question starts this mini-love-lesson; followed by discussions of empathy, compassion, their mix, what science says, low compassionate relationships, the question of too much compassion; and ends with what can help and “the answer”.

A Vital Question?

Can you have real love without it being empathetically compassionate? Some of those who look mostly at romantic love, passion-filled love, young love and sexual love tend to exclude empathy and compassion as essential for authentic love. Others think all forms of healthy, real love have strong elements of empathetic compassion. They also tend to think that if empathetic compassionate love is missing, it is evidence the love is false and will fail. So let’s take a look at what is empathetic compassion.

The Nature of Empathy

Empathy usually is defined as feeling another person’s feelings. This can mean experiencing the same kind of emotions another is experiencing and even the same kind of physical feelings. These can be both good and bad feelings, but more frequently the word empathy is used to describe feeling another’s pain. More exactly, empathy commonly refers to when you perceive another in distress or in a state of hurting, you rather automatically feel a corresponding, similar sort of distress and/or pain.

Many think this especially happens in true love relationships but it may happen when viewing any other in any strong state of feeling. Examples include, one seeing a child suffering and you start to similarly suffer, or walking into a group of people laughing you might start to laugh too, although you don’t know what they are laughing about, thus, you are experiencing empathetic humor. Expressing empathy especially to someone in a state of emotional hurt frequently assists love bonding to occur and grow.

Sometimes empathy causes people to distance themselves from others who are hurting so as to escape the hurting they experience seeing others in pain. However, it is thought that when there is love it causes a person to go toward, not away, from the one who is hurting.

The Nature of Compassion

Compassion is usually defined as having deep emotional feelings and emotional understanding of another’s distress and the concomitant desire for the alleviation of that distress, and usually a strong desire to assist in that alleviation. Compassion also is thought to involve heightened perception, caring and responding to another’s suffering. Some think that love relationships tend to wither and die when there is a lack of sufficiently felt and expressed compassion.

Compassion often is seen as a key factor in both the healing of the psychologically wounded and many damaged relationships. Compassion opens doors to giving needed care, offering forgiveness and unselfish, altruistic action. Many very helpful and healing behaviors begin with compassion. Well expressed and received, compassion also precedes improvements in relational closeness, cooperation and collaboration.

Empathy and Compassion Together

If in the middle of a difficulty, someone has and shows empathetic compassion for whoever is in agony or distress, amazing improvements often can start to occur. To accomplish this sort of thing, empathy begins the process. Someone feels the feelings of a suffering other, and then has compassion, resulting in actions that show and give care. From that improvements begin. Some may feel empathy but for various reasons may not have compassion and, therefore, actions of care can be weak or absent. Others may act out of duty, guilt, obligation and other sentiments in ways that may seem to be compassionate love, but without the empathy the acts, in various ways, are less.

Science and Empathetic Compassion

Recently the brain and behavioral sciences professionals have been researching empathy and compassion and coming up with very important findings. Did you know that when you feel empathetic compassion you trigger your brain into more healthfully adjusting your own heart rate. You also cause your brain to make better and more healthful, neurochemical changes which result in feeling better both physically and emotionally. Feeling empathetic compassion also produces hormones involved in the brain’s motivating and processing interpersonal interactions. That in turn makes for better interpersonal harmony and love bonding.

Loving feelings become more common and stronger while stress reduces. Care giving actions increase and are felt as more rewarding after empathetic compassion starts to be felt and expressed. Another interesting fact is that empathetic compassion in loving relationships causes people to live longer and spend less time in medical care. Love relationships with low empathetic compassion are seen as having the opposite of these effects.

Can Low Compassionate Love Relationships Be Helped?

It is thought, and the data suggests, that those relationships where there is low expressed, empathetic compassion, tend to fail or at best function far more poorly than they might. Questions arise like, what can be done, can compassion be learned and increased, or are low compassionate relationships doomed? Are the people who lack sufficient empathy and compassion condemned to live sicker, shorter and more loveless lives while repeatedly having more love failing relationships?

About such questions there’s good, bad and indifferent news. Some of the good news is that according to Stanford Medical School’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research, compassionate training can significantly assist people in learning to have and show compassion, receive compassion from others, and get good at self compassion. All of that improves the activation of the brain’s regions most associated with love, kindness, general positiveness, stress reduction and it results in improvements in general health and positive affiliation and connectedness with others. In other words, compassion training improves people, relationships and the love in love relationships.

The bad news is that people low in empathetic compassion usually don’t know how bad that is for their love relationships and for their own health. Sadly there are quite a few people who see empathy and compassionate love as weak and useless, or worse. Many of them have been taught that being tough, unfeeling and compassion-free is a virtue of the powerful and the successful. It goes along with being tough-minded, efficient, practical and this is needed for survival in a tough world. The research on love and health, especially couples, family and comradeship love, would suggest just the opposite is true.

The indifferent news is that a lot more research is needed about all of this.

Can There Be Too Much Empathetic Compassion?

Like most things, empathetic compassion probably needs to be balanced with good sense and other factors like the ‘love that challenges’ (see the mini-love-lesson titled Are You a Challenge Lover?). There seem to be people who are made dysfunctional by their overwhelming compassion or empathy, but they are quite rare. If empathetic compassion is effecting your physical and/or psychological well being it may be too much. Or it may be that you might need to learn how to be compassionate and self-caring at the same time.

Are Some Totally Lacking in the Ability to Be Empathetic or Compassionate?

There are those in the clinical fields who think that, for all practical purposes, the answer to this question is “yes”. Psychotherapists, clinical psychologists and psychiatrists tend to diagnose such people as either sociopaths or psychopaths. They also tend to say that they are likely to be both incapable of love and of being cured, though they frequently can fake love and mental health rather well. This especially is true if it is to their own advantage and to other’s disadvantage to do so. Others think that with long term, quality, therapeutic help even the sociopathic and psychopathic can learn to have empathetic compassion and, therefore, can learn to do healthy, real love. In some Family Studies and Family Therapy professional groups the inability to have empathetic compassion is seen as evidence of the inability to have genuine love.

What can help?

Education, training, counseling, psychotherapy, relational therapy, self-examination and friendship all can be of considerable assistance in helping individuals and relationships grow and benefit from increases in empathetic compassion. Especially useful is the kind of training pioneered at Stanford called Compassion Cultivation Training (CCT). Research in applying CCT in counseling and therapy is occurring and looking quite promising. Joint couples and family members education concerning empathetic compassion also may be quite helpful. Asking yourself and loved ones about how you might work together to increase and better express your empathetic compassionate love might also be a good way to go.

The Answer

The original question was “Is empathetic compassion a big sign of true love? Here’s the answer, as I see it. Healthy, real love does indeed require an element of empathetic compassion, and if it does not exist in a love relationship then healthy, real love probably doesn’t exist in that relationship either. We must acknowledge that others disagree. So, what do you think?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Can you think of two ways you could improve your expression of empathetic compassion to your loved ones?

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?

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

Listening With Love and IN and OUT Brain Functions

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson presents a super common, communication, love problem; and then goes on to explain how the OUT part of the process works; vent assistance and interference; how the IN part works; and some of what to do and not to do.

A Super Common, Communication, Love Problem

See if you can figure out what these common questions have to do with each other.  “Why do I feel shut down when my lover wants to fix my problem instead of listening to me?”  “How come it helps me more to vent to a person who shows care than to just vent and blow off steam when I’m alone?”  “Since venting, even with someone who shows love, doesn’t really change anything or solve any problems why do so many people want to do it?”  “How is it that just about every time I try to advise or analyze my lover’s problems it starts an argument and we both end up feeling bad?”

Couples, parents with upset children, family members, friends and others in love relationships of one type or another very frequently get into dysfunctionality in ways that lead to these types of questions.  Often worsening feelings, emotional distancing, estrangement and even breakups occur because people don’t understand the In and Out brain process involved.  With that understanding all this trouble usually can be avoided.

How the “Out” Part of the Process Works

One person starts talking about a difficulty or bad experience they’ve had, and as they do they begin to vent their bad feelings.  The bad or negative emotions they have experienced are, in essence, stored up inside them causing increased muscular tension, strained ligaments and tendons, digestive fluid imbalance, blood pressure difficulty, stress hormone production and a number of brain chemistry imbalances, along with various unhealthy malfunctions, all of which they are not consciously aware of.

Several forms of toxicity are occurring in several biological systems, and will continue unless a venting process is engaged in.  Expulsive and cathartic talking with a fair amount of well demonstrated, unhappy emotions being expressed through tone of voice, facial expression, posture and movements, along with certain kinds of verbiage like complaining, cussing, blaming, griping and generally bemoaning, etc. start and facilitate the venting process.

The venting process then releases, relaxes, relieves, reverses and re-balances the neurochemical and biological, unhealthy processes mentioned above.  When that occurs we feel better, or at least much less bad, because we are neurobiologically better after venting than before venting.  So long as nothing destructive occurs while venting, it is a healthful process.

It is the limbic system of our brain that primarily processes our emotions.  Venting is an appropriate word neurobiologically.  That’s because it is thought that our limbic system operates in a way to trigger the removal of the toxicity and harmful hormones which occur with bad feelings, and assists sending them on to our waste removal system when we are venting.  As we get clear of the toxicity and harmful neurochemistry our brain chemistry re-balances and begins to function better.
Consequently, we feel better and after some recovery we think better.

Vent Assistance and Interference

My very Irish uncle once said, this is what the elves taught him.  “Presenting your concepts to someone having a crying jag or temper fit is like serving a meal to a vomiting man.  Both will give you results no one wants”.  I think he was right.  Trying to teach, advise, reason, analyze or do anything very cognitive with a strongly venting person usually can be experienced by that person as selfish, inappropriate interference.  Until that person’s neurochemical system has had cathartic release, then cleared, followed by recovery and re-balancing their cognition system may not be ready to operate well.  Thus, their thinking about what you’re trying to tell them just won’t happen, or won’t happen very well.

When someone you love needs to vent it’s usually best to let them vent!  You might say things like, “Go ahead, let it all out”, “Tell me all about it”, “I want to hear all your feelings”, and “My heart and gut are right here with you”.  Things usually not very good to say are, “Don’t cry”, “Stop being mad”,”You’re making too much of this, be reasonable”, “If you would just stop and think it wouldn’t seem so bad”, “I told you that wouldn’t work” or any ‘fix-it’ talk, unless the person venting specifically and maybe repeatedly asks for help with their problem.

Caring statements said in soft, loving tones may do some good, but it’s the tones not the words that usually bring about the benefit.  None of the above ‘fix it’ or ‘teaching’ statements emotionally join with a person, or assist them in venting, and though they may have some immediate benefit to you their longer-range benefits are not so likely.

How The “In” Part Works

If, as a loved one vents their bad feelings, you look at them with caring eyes, you speak to them with loving tones, your facial expression shows earnest caring love, your gestures are open to them, and your posture leans toward them in a friendly manner, then you are helping to pour your healing love into them, replacing the emotional poison pouring out of them.

If you do not contaminate their outpouring by feeding them too many words or concepts, but just show care in these or similar ways you may see your efforts bring about healing and facilitate recovery from what was a toxic event for them.  Adding a few words showing emotional understanding also may help.

In ‘brain functioning terms’ this pretty much is what happens.  Your looks and sounds of love, perhaps coupled with loving touch triggers the wounded loved one’s brain to start making healing, neurochemical compounds that then are carried to many parts of the brain and throughout the body.  Everywhere they go, healing and re-balancing occurs.  Your loved one then may report that your loving listening has made them feel so much better.  You see, emotional poison or toxicity is pouring out and being replaced by healthful neurochemistry which results from receiving behaviors that convey love.

Some of What To Do and Not To Do

If your loved one is hurting, angry, afraid or experiencing any other strong, ‘bad’ feeling, those feelings are being processed in their brain’s limbic system.  To help them you must do things that stimulate the limbic system, more than the prefrontal cortex, cognition (thinking) system.  Loving facial expressions, tones of voice, gestures, friendly posture changes and loving touch can stimulate a person’s limbic system into doing healthful things.  Logic, reason, facts, analysis, etc. will more likely only do good after the limbic system has processed emotions sufficiently.

Softly saying things like “I care” with a loving look usually does far more good than an intellectually, brilliant solution to your loved one’s problem, which might better be said after their emotions are sufficiently and thoroughly expressed.  The emotional wounds first must be in greater repair before that brilliant solution is offered.

Sufficient venting and healing has to occur before your loved one can hear and maybe use a cognitively helpful idea.  Therefore, do love actions first and lots and then if needed do the thinking together.  Know that sometimes the loving listening is enough and the person who was venting will feel like you filled-up their heart’s gas tank, and they will run on that and do the solution part on their own.  Remember, we all must work with our brain’s way of functioning, not against it.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
How good are you at giving active, silent love to a hurting and venting loved one?

Adultery And No Divorce Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

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