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Falling In and Out of Love ©Jon Lonergan 2010

NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) is the study of human experience. Applying it

can lead to the discovery of many interesting patterns and one of the most inter
esting is the process of falling in love and out of it again. The difference bet
ween these two transitions lies in just how we think of experience with our love
In both stages we deal with pleasure and pain in significantly different ways.
To fall in love we ASSOCIATE into pleasurable thoughts and DISASSOCIATE from pai
nful ones. Association is the act of thinking as though it were happening to you
and disassociation is thinking of it as an observer. The following exercise wil
l demonstrate the differences.
1 Think of an unpleasant time in the past and SEE yourself having a bad time.
This is Disassociation.
Now step into the picture and FEEL what that person is feeling. This is Associa
Step out again.
2 Think of a pleasant time in the past and SEE yourself having a good tome. Once
again, this is Disassociation.
Now step into this picture and FEEL what that person is feeling. Once again, th
is is Association.
Keep the memory this way.
The difference is profound. No wonder we seek out the other person when we think
of the good times like this. Some people process their memories by associating
into the painful ones and dissociating from the pleasurable ones. they can have
real trouble forming satisfactory relationships. Luckily we can learn to think d
ifferently and even create a positive outlook by reversing the pattern.
And to fall out of love we reverse the process too. Once we pass a critical thre
shold of negative events with our lover, w associate into unpleasant thoughts of
the lover and dissociate from the pleasant ones. Thus the good times are just P
ICTURES but the bad times are FEELINGS. And love lasts according to feelings mor
e than pictures.
Recently I talked with a woman who said she had never been in love in her life a
nd on investigating I found she thought of ALL her relationships in a dissociate
d way.
The development and decline of relationships generally follows that pattern. It
is possible to define the stages more closely. They are
attraction appreciation habituation expectation disillusionment THRESHOLD reorie
ntation verification termination
ATTRACTION We meet someone and find them attractive and interesting. This may la
st for one minute, one night or longer. It may lead on to
APPRECIATION of the other person s qualities which are just so great! We filter ex
periences to notice how superbly s/he meets our emotional needs, etc. At this st
age both parties regard themselves as a couple, whatever the legal definition of
the relationship may be. Next comes
HABITUATION which is the process of becoming used to something. An important ing
redient for a long-lasting relationship. We can feel secure that the other will
not leave us and the added strength from the security of having our emotional ne
eds met enables us to cope with life even more successfully. We feel more comple
Ideally, perhaps, we should cycle from habituation to appreciation and back agai
n with excursions to the exciting phase of attraction. Some try to recapture exc
itement through inciting jealousy in the partner but this is not a great idea; a
lthough it may prevent habituation, it destroys security (and its benefits) and
may lead prematurely to termination.
Unfortunately the stage of habituation can lead to
EXPECTATION in which we now take the good things for granted. We forget how it w
as and expect the positive aspects of the relationship to be ours as a right rat
her than a creation between two people. The negative results of this are quite o
bvious in love-making. It can become a duty instead of an enticement. Now we not
ice when things AREN T there, rather than when they are. Once it was wonderful whe
n s/he rubbed our feet, now we notice when s/he doesn t. There are more complaints
than compliments. This takes us to
DISILLUSIONMENT which we create by realising the other person isn t so great after a
ll. Paying attention to unfulfilled desires is a sure way to feel dissatisfied a
nd unloved. It s a pity that some of us respond to feeling unloved by concluding t
hat the other person doesn t love us and is even unloving by nature. When describe
d so simply,it makes us seem pretty silly sometimes, but remember this is a desc
ription of the process of what we do and not why we do it with all its complexit
ies and richness. The virtue of this description is that it helps us make change
s in what we do more easily, by focusing attention on how we are processing the
relationship in our mind.
Even at this stage of degeneration the relationship is relatively easily salvage
d. Not so once enough disappointments have occurred and a critical
THRESHOLD is reached. This is the stage where we start associating to the negat
ive and disassociating from the positive. Then follows a thorough
REORIENTATION where we decide we now know the REAL person and we don t like what w
e ve found. We are now aware only too well of their imperfections. Sometimes we de
cide that they have changed. He used to be so nice, but now ... With this new filt
er in place it s not surprising we find
VERIFICATION in the other s behaviour. I just don t know what I saw in her. Look at t
he way she behaves! The new filters verify through repeated detection of the othe
r s flaws, the uselessness of continuing with the relationship. Sometimes the effe
ct of crossing THRESHOLD can be neutralised by outside intervention, eg a counse
llor, but if that does not happen the the next logical step is
TERMINATION where love has died and ashes remain. Of course, some remain a legal
couple even for decades past this stage, preferring the misery they know to the
uncertainties of change

NLP studies maintain there are key activities needed to create (other than by ch
ance or fate) high quality, long-lasting relationships.
1 Know what you want and what your lover wants. Know what this means in sensory
experience; not just that you want to feel loved, but what you will see, hear a
nd feel your partner doing that makes you feel loved.
2 Have the commitment and flexibility to DO what your partner wants and the com
mitment and flexibility to to do what makes your partner WANT to do what you wan
3 Have the sensory awareness to know whether this is actually happening or not.
Pay attention to your sensory world, not just your ideas about what is happenin
g, or should be happening.
4 Have the commitment to learn, if necessary, how to take yourself and your par
tner back to Attraction, Appreciation and Habituation should it be needed.
Knowing these stages can help make us aware of just what we are doing with our r
elationships and whether we are still cycling through that fulfilling pattern of
Attraction, Appreciation and Habituation and back again. If we have passed that
but have not yet reached Threshold, we need to recognise the worth of what it i
s we have, perhaps comparing the present state with what it was like before we m
et the other. If Threshold has been passed, then it may be time to seek outside
help even to proceed to Termination. A life of conjugal misery is surely the lea
st rewarding option.
Using NLP or any other effective intervention is preferable to resigning yoursel
f to a static, negative relationship. As human beings we have a right to a rich,
rewarding life, one which invites and enables us to know directly, through our
senses and our spirit, the fulfilment possible to human beings.
For a fuller description of these stages, read Solutions by Leslie Cameron-Bandler