Romance, affection, intimacy, sharing and caring-these are the subjects in Dr. L. Michael Hall's new book, Games Great Lovers Play. Hall takes readers through all the steps in the "dance of romance," describing the methods that create lasting, happy relationships, and those that heal troubled relationships. He reminds us of the importance of listening and showing appreciation to the one we love. He explains that each individual maintains criteria for "feeling loved" as well as a strategy for "falling in love." When we are observant and astute enough to match our partner's criteria and strategy, we are well on the way to becoming caring, sensitive lovers.
According to Hall, couples maintain an unconscious "love economy," that functions as an emotional bank account where deposits occur through expressions of love, shared moments, and mutual pleasures. Withdrawals occur through arguments, misunderstandings, and distrust. Great lovers maintain a positive balance in their partner's emotional bank account, and the primary factor in maintaining that positive balance is holding oneself accountable.
Games Great Lovers Play explores the structure of fulfillment in relationships: self disclosure, sharing one another's passions, understanding and being understood, forecasting a shared future, and pleasuring. Hall explains how the presuppositions of NLP apply to the demonstration of love. Example: you can assume that behind your partner's troublesome behaviors, there is a positive intention. Another example: The meaning of your communication is in the response you get from your partner.
No book on love, and certainly no book on NLP or Neuro-Semantics, would be complete without addressing the crucial elements of communication. Hall states that "the communication is the relationship." His book constitutes a couple's primer on rapport, verbal pacing, and feedback. He tell lovers how to think and speak strategically, bond through loving words, communicate with directness and authenticity, and create a relationship that provides mutual safety and nurturing.
Hall devotes a chapter to "getting in sync" with the beloved, through a mutual exploration of meta-programs. Another chapter on sexual pleasuring tells readers how to adopt a sensual attitude toward self and other, allowing sex to be playful and experimental, using affection as foreplay, and adding variety to lovemaking. He also explores the psychological meanings of sex. He observes that sexual relationships will lead to disappointment when pursued for ulterior motives, such as proving a point, pay-back, or bolstering one's personal sense of masculinity/femininity or power.
In this book, readers will find a discussion of the factors that cause romantic love to cool off: familiarity, getting used to each other, and developing expectations:
"Expectations" mark a transition point in how we relate to our loved one. When we expect, we introduce demands, rules, laws, shoulds, musts, have tos, should nots, etc. into the Love Game. Prior to this, we simply desired. We hoped. We wanted. And with that, every response was a delight, a surprise, a gift. (p. 183)
What can we do to stay in love? Hall writes:
If expectations kill appreciative relationships, then at the heart of the secret of staying in love and experiencing a renewing love is reducing the semantic load on our expectations…To reduce the expectation load, shift your thinking: My loved one does not owe me anything, but is free to respond to give to me in whatever way seems appropriate…The secret is to reduce the pressure of expectations on our lover, to release our loved one from our rules. It is to put our lover under our grace and benevolence and to freely give…The secret for us is to do this knowing and believing that when our lover feels full, loved, safe, valuable in our eyes, appreciated, cared for, listened to, treated as special, etc., the responses we want will come…easily and naturally. It will be spontaneous. Out of abundance comes abundance. (p. 184-185)
Romantic love and intimacy can be a source of ecstasy or of hurt and a wounding of the spirit. When the hurt is too much, lovers reach a threshold at which they no longer value the relationship. Hall draws upon the early work of Leslie Cameron Bandler to discuss how to help couples decide whether to try again, or move on.
Hall explores the structure of bonding, making the point that successful bonding requires each person in the relationship to have a strong sense of independence, ego-strength, and self-esteem. Such resources permit trust and self-disclosure. They allow one to love from strength, instead of neediness. Bonding lasts and grows when lovers are responsive, responsible, and accountable to one another:
In a loving bond of responsiveness, two people accept their own responses and willingly invite the other to hold them responsible for what they say and do. They know that it is through saying and doing that they bond with each other and that the quality of their speech and behavior determines the quality of their relationship. (p. 241)
Hall presents an enlightening perspective on the value of "systems thinking" in relationships. In a relationship, the problem is never "yours" or "mine" but always ours---to be solved through shared endeavor. It means that each partner realizes that in some measure, he or she helped create the problem.
L. Michael Hall, Ph.D. is certainly no stranger to the pages of Anchor Point; his articles abound on its pages. His books on NLP and Neuro-Semantics fill our libraries! Games Great Lovers Play emerges from his earlier work with The Love Workshop he developed for couples in the 1980's and his work with meta-states and frame games concepts. The book's foreword tells us that he wrote this book because love is a "magical and mysterious experience" that constantly intrigues us, challenges us, and delights us. For all his scholarly and professional accomplishments, perhaps he is a romantic at heart!
Games Great Lovers Play offers astute observations about the psychological nature of romantic love. It tells us what makes us fall in love, stay in love, or fall out of love. It tells how to enhance and maintain a romantic relationship. It explains the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of intimate love.
Marriage therapists and couples counselors will enjoy this book because it is packed with nuggets of information on how to understand, guide, and heal couple relationships. It contains several exercises for couples that can be replicated in the counseling setting, or assigned as "homework." If you recommend it to your clients, prepare them for the fact that some parts of the book may prove too academic. This is a book for readers who can grasp and work with cognitive psychology, NLP, and Neuro-Semantics. It may be necessary for practitioners to translate some of the book's concepts into language their clients can understand.
If you buy this book, you will probably want to overlook quite a few grammatical and typographical errors. Nevertheless, you'll find lots of riveting ideas for adding some sparkle to your love life!
To purchase Games Great Lovers Play, and other books by Michael Hall contact:
P.O. Box 8
Clifton, CO 81520-0008