Explaining The Madness of Our Relationships : Your Love Code and the Child Behind It


10556898075_4567588606_zBabies and youngsters are often described as little bundles of love and joy. Even the most jaded and hard-bitten of us who have had a baby placed in our arms have watched in awe as our defenses melt and a mystical and magical aura envelopes us.  We somehow know that we are in the presence of a love that is limitless and supernatural. We are humbled to be in the company of an absolutely egoless, non-judgmental being, a “little buddha”, one whose heart is fully open, whose mind is still and whose beauty and worth is unquestionable. Babies and youngsters are examples of the magnificent head start we all get at being human.

Yet even today few children or adolescents make it through their formative years and enter adulthood knowing, trusting and being able to fully give themselves over to love. And, as a result, our adult love lives become problematic, dysfunctional and even destructive. The heartbreak, cynicism and withdrawal from life that result from broken relationships can shape or moreover tragically misshape many lives.

To be able to survive our formative years with an undiminished and unsullied capacity for true and lasting intimacy with another to remain intact, we had to have four emotional conditions met by our caregivers. In childhood – the most defenseless, vulnerable and dependent time of  our lives – we had to feel reliably and consistently safe, loved, valued and known. Let’s examine these fundamental ingredients more closely now, because their presence or absence in our developing consciousness has determined our Love Code, the subject of this blog, and the critical (yet almost totally unconscious) factor in what determines our love lives.

Safe – Growing up you had to feel safe in every imaginable definition of that term. You had to feel physically safe. You had to feel sexually safe. You had to feel emotionally safe to even develop the awareness and learn to communicate your authentic feelings, needs and wants to your trusted caregivers.

Loved – You had to feel understood, accepted and loved for simply being here and for being just who you are. You had to know and experience that your intrinsic worth and beauty were not tied into any external or worldly measures of success – grades, looks, athletic performance, intelligence or popularity contests. You had to have at least one parent who was always there for you, who protected you, who had “your back”.

Valued – Every child has an intrinsic emotional and spiritual dependency need to be the object of rejoicing. To be celebrated and honored as a gift of inestimable value by their parents and family. To be loved not for what they are but for that they are.

Known – All of us, perhaps even more so children, are constantly feeling and going through one thing or another. Did someone pick on you today at school? Did your “best friend” elect to play with someone new instead of you? Did your teacher or classmate say a mean thing to you or someone else? The need to have at least one parent able and willing to non-judgmentally enter your inner world, understand it and support you through it was indispensable to your sense of security in the world.

Now let’s move to an examination of how your key experiences as a child in these areas form your Love Code, the unconscious template and matrix of beliefs that you, as an adult, unknowingly use to define love, select a partner and participate in a relationship.

For illustrative purposes, let’s be extremely generous and favorable in assessing how often in your childhood you felt totally safe, loved, valued and known by your caregivers. Let’s say that you experienced this kind of individual attention and care 5 moments out of every 10. That is to say 5 moments out of every 10 your fundamental dependency needs were met, while 5 moments out of 10 they were not.  This becomes what you know love to be – a benevolent force or presence in your life that is characterized by its erratic and confusing lack of dependability.

Let’s flash ahead twenty years. You are now an attractive and charismatic young adult at a party, open to romance. Behind and beneath the chemistry and interest you are developing for someone at that party,   you will be attracted to someone who has the capacity to make you feel safe, loved, valued and known 5 moments out of every 10. Someone who could offer this to you 8 or 9 or 10 moments out of every 10 you will find boring, dull, not quite “your type”. But someone with a little edge, someone who is more dramatic, someone who could and will vehemently accept and reject you down the road will be your perfect “cup of tea”. Why? Because they can and will love you 5 moments out of every 10 and this ratio is your comfort zone or Love Code.

One other restrictive aspect of your Love Code really seals the deal. Even if you are drawn to someone who has the capacity and desire to love you 10 moments out of every 10, you will only be able to allow love in 5 moments out of every 10. Unconsciously you will have developed walls and barriers within yourself that will reduce the full torrent of love’s presence to a small trickle because it is what you know best and are most comfortable with. Inevitably your partner will be blamed for the restrictive and intermittent love that you are experiencing and you will decide that you must move on to find someone new who could love you more (while taking your identical Love Code with you). Can you see the hidden roots of how repetitively maddening and exasperating our relationships can be?

Conventional wisdom often suggests that men marry some version of their mothers and women some version of their fathers. More penetrating observers begin to see that even if we don’t marry some version of our mothers or fathers, we turn them into these emotional replicas. Behind and beneath the appearance of all this, what we are really marrying is some version of our Love Code.

One final question at this point begs to be answered from disillusioned and disheartened lovers everywhere: Can you change your Love Code? The answer is a definite “Yes”. Inner work, the path of individual emotional and spiritual healing, is one way to do that. I will have more to say about this therapeutic undertaking and possibility in a future blog.

One Hundred Per Cent Accountability For Your Love Life: The Pre-Requisite to Discovering Your Love Code

13594495493_193d444bda_oThis blog is the first of two parts. It will introduce you to what I have found to be the single most important factor in truly healing and transforming your love life from what you have known it to be to what you want it to be – 100 % accountability. The next blog will discuss your Love Code – that which can fully explain to you why your love life has turned out the way it has to date. Your Love Code is the almost totally unconscious blueprint or formula that you are operating with (see it as an unconscious and broken compass in your mind) that you have been employing from your earliest years for finding and receiving love or, at least what you have thought love to be. If you would like to understand your Love Code more fully read my upcoming blog and go to my YouTube video entitled Your Selection Process.


Have you ever felt baffled, righteous or victimized by how your love life has turned out? Perplexed beyond belief by how a relationship that began with such enthusiasm and excitement as a constant source of love and understanding devolved into a pale shadow of its former self or, worse yet, a hostile mess? It is in times when our seemingly best intentions have yet again crashed on the rocks of another failed relationship that we may be most open to learning a very deep and humbling lesson about love. And one of the most difficult, initially unflattering but ultimately liberating lessons in the domain of human relations that I know of is that each of us, as individuals, is 100% accountable for everything that has happened in our love lives.

What does it mean to be 100% accountable for everything that has happened in your love life? Please let me start by emphasizing what responsibility is not. Responsibility is not about making yourself feel guilty that what has happened is all your fault. When we look in part two of this blog at the unconscious factors that have determined your selection process of a mate – a term I will call your Love Code – you will see forces at work that have determined how your love life has unfolded from the time that you were seven, or nine or, at the oldest, twelve years of age. Should a seven or nine or twelve year old child be found guilty for what he has come to believe and conclude (on the basis of what he has experienced and how he has felt treated) about how lovable he really is? About what love actually is? About how she can expect to have love treat her? No, to make her feel guilty about what she has learned from her earliest, most vulnerable and most impressionable years about these matters would be the real crime.

So being 100% accountable for how your love life has turned out is not about your feeling guilt, or its next-of-kin shame, or blame or bad. It is just about seeing that what has happened to date couldn’t have happened without you. That you have been an active and extremely influential (albeit ignorant or unconscious) player in it. And that you unknowingly have been following your Love Code to a tee, with the drama and heartbreaking results being identical to that which the emotional climate of your family of origin generated many years ago.

A wonderful depiction of personal accountability, without judgment or blame, for what has happened in our love lives came from a battle-scarred but increasingly enlightened male client in his fifties who was on the verge of the painful ending of his third marriage.  This is a very close paraphrasing of the words he spoke to me in his opening session: ” You know Joel, I am now in the death throes of my third marriage and my umpteenth relationship with a woman. And I’ve noticed several recurring patterns in all of them. The first is that they start out like gangbusters, full of ecstasy and passion, wonder and excitement. Then I find in them or they in me one or more faults or negative character traits that would simply be too hard to overcome and live with permanently. There is then a slow, unspoken decline and ultimately a loveless or even hostile breakup. But I’ve noticed one more pattern about each and every one of those numerous relationships: “I’ve been in them!”

That is what I mean by 100% accountability. Accountability means that, without self-judgement and self-recrimination, that you are willing to acknowledge yourself as cause and not just as effect of what has happened in your love life. As effect, you will inevitably see yourself only as a helpless, fallible, powerless victim, “done to” again and again by men or women or love or fate. As cause, you elect to see yourself as having agency, power, choice, and freedom. Though it may be initially confusing, embarrassing or painful to 100 % own what you have created in your primary relationships to date, with some emotional healing work, you can start to determine what else you can cause. Seeing yourself as cause puts you behind the steering wheel in life. Seeing yourself as effect or victim puts you in the back seat.

With this understanding of what 100% personal accountability means, have you noticed as my client deduced, that you have been in every relationship in your love life that hasn’t worked out? That awareness as well as the sincere and deep willingness to get to the bottom of it is the requirement for not just becoming aware of repetitive, exasperatingly painful and self-defeating patterns in your love life but truly transforming those patterns and leaving them behind for good. Being a “blame-thrower” will spell only the continuation of your darkness and the failure to learn difficult, unflattering but potentially liberating and transforming lessons.

Having only awareness of this concept is the booby prize. But being willing to embody and practice 100% accountability fosters your becoming  truly open, available, humble and discerning in your relationships and experiencing a qualitatively different love life. This is the real achievement and reward for taking 100% ownership of what has happened in your love life to date.

Relationship Is An Individual Sport

Eilidh_ChildRelationship is an individual sport. It may look like a team sport but it is really an individual sport. It has almost nothing to do with the other person. Yet although what happens in it has almost nothing to do with the other person, you will tend to place much more responsibility and even blame the other for the state of the relationship, especially when you don’t like the state of the relationship. Yet it is my contention based on my 30 years as a relationship therapist that it is your own truths, issues and dynamics that are determining almost everything.

Now don’t get me wrong. If the other person in your relationship were reading this, I would say exactly the same thing to him or her. What I am postulating is that in any relationship, two people independent of each other, are in their own right, fully and completely accountable for what occurs in it. 

Let me explain this further by postulating two Laws of Love that govern our relationships. These Laws have never failed over time to apply to every couple with whom I have ever worked who have been willing to dig into the often unpleasant but ultimately liberating underbelly of their own inner workings.


You get back what the other person perceives you are giving.

Children and puppies know this intuitively and holistically. But even we adults know and experience the difference between: 1) being loved and accepted fully for who we are, imperfections and shortcomings included (let’s call this love) 2) being “loved” on top of the buried judgments, hurts and projections of the other (let’s call this not love) and 3) no longer being loved at all (let’s also call this not love). It is simply human nature to give back to another what we perceive that we are receiving from them. Therefore, what you are getting back from another i.e. your partner, father, mother, sister, brother, son or daughter, with very rare exceptions, is a perfect, uncompromising reflection of what they are perceiving and experiencing that you are giving them.

So what are you getting back from the other at this time? Is it Number 1 from the possibilities listed above? Number 2? Number 3? If you truly want to receive a higher and more consistent love back, you will have to to take a good, hard look in the mirror to see the truth about the type of love and not-love you are really extending.

Putting this another way, you have to change first and change deeply and sincerely if you want to receive a higher and more consistent love from the other. To state it in the ways of the spiritual thought system of A Course In Miracles, to transform any relationship from a special relationship into a holy relationship you must see that the only thing missing from any relationship is what you not giving it. This is a far more challenging, closer-to-the-bone level of personal responsibility than most of us are willing to take. Yet for those pilgrims willing to stay on this intrepid adventure I have seen many unions marred in conflict and acrimony transform into solid, supportive and lasting shelters of love and peace.


I am attracted to someone, who, at the time of our union, has approximately the same capacity and incapacity for true and lasting intimacy as I have. And it will almost always look to me as if I have the superior capacity.

Let’s examine this second LAW OF LOVE more closely for the many significant challenges that it presents to our privately-held, ego-based belief system and the explanations we give ourselves about the cause of the state of the relationship.

If the second LAW OF LOVE is true, it suggests that your selection process for a mate is not arbitrary or random. You am drawn to someone who cannot be any more intimate with you, in an honest, open, real, vulnerable and lasting way as you can or want to be with him or her. So though you might see yourself as ready, willing and able to have a full-fledged mind, heart, body and soul connection with your partner, but are deprived and thwarted by his or her unwillingness or inability to do the same, the second LAW OF LOVE suggests that this is not the case at all. Instead, you are drawn (unconsciously) to someone who represents and keeps you in your comfort zone – that is, their love offering perfectly fits what you experienced love to be in your most impressionable childhood years and/or fits with the quality and depth of self-love that you have for yourself in the present. This powerful and illuminating concept which I call your Love Code is elaborated on in another blog.

The barriers and blockages to real and lasting intimacy in yourself and in your chosen partner may not look at all the same. In fact, they might look and show up in dramatically different fashion.

As an example, he may be an alcoholic but you choose partners whom you believe you can fix. This represents the attraction to a human project rather than a human being – a project that is a future-oriented, struggle-against-the odds, dark horse possibility that you believe your love alone can heal.

She may bring wounds from her childhood that show up as a reluctance to fully participate or experiment sexually. But though you prize yourself to be both fully ready and expressive in this area, you may not know the difference between sex as an extension of intimacy and sex as an escape from love and intimacy, and actually prefer it to serve the latter purpose. This would mean that your capacity for real, meaningful intimacy through sex is more or less the same.

Though he might be giving more to his work than he is giving to his relationship with you, you are giving more attention and care to the troubles of your family members and friends than to him.

So, if you are still reading this, and I applaud you if you are, your love life may have a great deal more to do with you than with the other person. Relationship problems and the inner work of healing a relationship is thereby an individual sport and not a team sport. A great deal of self-awareness, self-scrutiny, responsibility and self-forgiveness are needed by the individual who chooses to excel at it. Yet the sky is the limit for those who are prepared to give their all to this rigorous and demanding people-growing training program.