Over 250 FREE mini-love-lessons touching the lives of thousands in over 190 countries worldwide!

Talking Styles That Hurt and Help Love

Synopsis: We start with how talking styles matter; and go on to understanding your talking style; can attracted opposites talk?; making improvements; and more.


Talking Styles Matter

You have a common style of talking whether you know it or not.  You actually may have several styles dependent on situations and who you are talking to.  Talking styles come in many forms or patterns of speech. They can be lively or dull, submissive, assertive or aggressive, interesting or boring and a whole host of other things.  Your talking style can greatly harm or help your love relationships and you may not even know that is happening.

A dictatorial style will usually promote passive/aggressive resistance or overt rebellion.  A submissive talking style  accidentally may reward mistreatment, and a matter-of-fact talking style can assist emotional distancing and abandonment to occur.  On the other hand, a democratic talking style assists a sharing partnership to occur, while an appreciative and affirmative talking style promotes emotional closeness and bonding.  The good news is you can improve your talking style by working on it and, thereby, improve your love relationships.

Understanding Your Talking Style

Most likely you got your main talking style from the style of verbalizations occurring around you as you grew up.  It also is likely you modeled your speech patterns to some degree on whoever subconsciously seemed to be the most effective person in that childhood environment.  Your larger environment also had a great influence.  Urban or rural, more or less educated, ethnic, nuanced or unambiguous, refined or rustic – they all could have influenced you.  And they all influenced how you have influence on others, including those you love.  Probably if you are like most people, you never have really given much thought to your style of talking (actors and announcers excepted) or how it effects those you care about.  But now let’s think about it.

Is your style of talking working for or against your own important love relationships?  Is your common or most usual way of talking seen by others as frequently insensitive, angry, dictatorial, demeaning, defensive, aggressive, generally negative or what?  If it is any of these or other ‘negative’ talking styles, it is likely to be doing more harm than good.  That especially can be true in your romantic or spouse-style loving.

Negative talking styles also can have a great influence in the love of your children, family, friends and even yourself.  On the other hand, if you usually are perceived to be talking with a mostly ‘positive’ style, that is highly likely to be helping all your love relationships flourish, grow stronger, become more resilient, be more enjoyable, more healthful and to generally prosper.  If others perceive your style of talking as commonly affirmative, friendly, sensitive, democratic, appreciative and especially loving, or in any other way generally positive, your talking style is helping your love relationships even more.

Your style of talking also can be perceived as generally neutral.  A neutral talking style may result in you being viewed as colorless, vacillating, indifferent, bland, disinterested, remote, ineffective, uninvolved, uncaring and worse.  None of these interpretations will help your love relationships’ health and well-being.

Can Attracted Opposites Really Talk?

Jesse Lynn was from and very much a part of the deep southern USA where talk was often slow, graceful and gracious.  However, at times it also was honey coated, full of hidden innuendos, diplomatic carefulness and polite but demeaning and insidious commentary.  Joe was from the New York Bronx where talking styles tended to be heard as aggressive, brash, harsh, fast, full of criticism, sprinkled with abrupt discounts and punctuated by crude put-down humor.  Both Jesse Lynn and Joe were very attracted to those who seemed to be quite opposite to themselves.

On meeting each other they immediately found each other refreshingly different, then got very mutually attracted, and quickly grew ‘electrically’ enamored of one another.  To Jesse Lynn, Joe was rough, tough, and primitive making him a surefire, big, sexual turn on for her.  To Joe, Jesse Lynn was a gorgeous ‘Babe’, southern flower ready and eager for deflowering.  Both could be said to be strong candidates for a ‘Shadow Side False Love Syndrome’ involvement.

After a great deal of passion-filled months, they got to a time where soft, tender, intimate, reassuring talk would have done Jesse Lynn a world of good.  Joe sort of tried but his efforts just didn’t match what was wanted by Jesse Lynn.  Had Jesse Lynn been able to clearly ask Joe for what she exactly wanted, he probably could have done better than he did.  But trying to work with her innuendos, hints and many confusing nonverbal clues just got him frustrated and mad.  Her lack of simple clarity and his loud anger clashed and before long their relationship was over.

As is usual in these abrasive talking style altercations, they both blamed each other and found themselves to be largely innocent of any causation of the demise of their affair.  Jesse Lynn came to view Joe as a disgusting, brutish, barbarian and wondered how she could have ever been attracted to him.  Joe now saw Jesse Lynn as a cloying, saccharine, impossible and deceiving “slut/ bitch” and concluded he was lucky to be rid of her.

What Went Wrong?

From the point of view of a linguistic sociometric analysis, Joe and Jesse Lynn never had a chance for a lasting love relationship.  Their talking styles were far too incompatible to handle the challenges of deeper, relational communication and the work of ongoing, real, love relating.  However, they did feel like they learned some important things, acquired some great “hot” memories and also had gotten some things out of their systems that needed to be experienced before they could go forward.  Later on, they both also figured out that just because two people use the same verbal language it does not mean they know how to adequately communicate with each other for ongoing real love.

Most couples’ talking style problems are not as clear-cut as Jesse Lynn’s and Joe’s.  However, talking style differences are thought to hamper but also to help just about every love relationship.
If you can figure out what is helpful about your talking style and what is causing some difficulty, you could make corrections and come to understand each other much better.

Switching Styles

Everything in Franklin and Janie’s relationship got better when Franklin, a Chief Master Sergeant in the military, learned that when he came home from the base he had to remind himself he had a fine wife in a wonderful partnership marriage, and he must not keep talking in the commanding, bossy style he used all day at the base.  Every day he parks in the driveway and talks to himself for a minute about making the switch in talking styles before going into the house and greeting his wife and children.  Several times he had forgotten to do this and he started giving orders and everything got bad real fast.

Things got even better when he and Janie learned a little schema.  The schema says, with your love mate you have to know whether you are talking head-to-head (thought, logic, reasoning, etc.), heart to heart (love), gut to gut (emotions) or genitals to genitals (sexuality).  When one person is talking from one of those symbolic centers and the other person is coming from a different one, they miscommunicate.  So Franklin and Janie learned to identify and switch to talking from the same center.  Thereby, they got what people call “on the same page” much more often.

Do You Have An Improving Loving Talk Style?

It often is extremely important to develop a loving style of talk and to use it frequently throughout a love relationship.  Lots of people talk rather lovingly in the ‘courting’, early phases of a relationship and then that fades away.  Remember, love works like a nurturing food, and talking lovingly gives that food to those you love. That especially is true if someone’s best way of being loved is through talk.  So, don’t let your loved ones go love-starved or love-malnourished.

Ask yourself what characterizes your main style of talking and is it helping or hindering your love relationships?  You might want to ask loved ones for their honest answers to the same question.  You also might want to ask what is the best and the worst about the way you communicate when interacting with your loved ones.  Can you hear their answer lovingly?  After that you could follow it up with questions about what they want to hear change, add or eliminate in the way you come across.  At first they may not have answers.  In that case you can ask for feedback when they get ideas about this.  Be sure to ask for positive feedback about what they do like when talking with you.  Then use that information to make improvements.

Dare to Check!

When listening to others tell you how they hear you come across, check to see if you hear any common complaints regarding your talk style.

Here is a list of such common complaints: doesn’t listen; is always trying to tell me what to do; doesn’t care about what I think; is too judgmental, close minded, controlling, dictatorial, critical, condemning, blaming; is too authoritarian, too pollyanna; twists what I say all around; talks too long; doesn’t talk – instead lectures; makes light of what is important to me; doesn’t show feelings.
And a few more: thinks they are the only one that’s right; can’t listen without getting upset, angry; guilt trips me; all complaints and no praise; never gives compliments, appreciation or thanks; only looks for what’s wrong; is too laa laa or frou frou; too serious; can’t see other’s viewpoints; won’t allow differences of opinion; gets threatened and defensive too easily; gets hurt too easily and too often; is insensitive, bossy, wishy-washy; just doesn’t show much love .

If any of these comments get said to you, or anything even close to the above statements concerning your style of talking, know that you must be doing something right because someone is being bravely honest with you and thinks you are okay enough to hear these harsh truths.  If you do not get told any negatives, you probably are not getting the whole truth and you may need to come across more friendly and receptive.

Hopefully your self love is strong enough for you to hear negatives about your talking style, and then just go on to make improvements.  If you do not get any positives about what they like in the way you talk, ask for them.  You also might lovingly suggest they need to learn to be more balanced in their critiques.  Remember, you can use both negative and positive comments to improve.  With a negative try some changes.  With a positive work to make it even better.

Very important is not to get offensively defensive, be in denial, try to explain how they are wrong, or just feel bad about the negatives.  Another point to remember is that their evaluation may not be wholly accurate and you always have at least ‘51% of the vote’ about yourself.  Of course, if they are willing, you can ask your loved ones to hear how you hear their talking styles.  Remember to do that with love.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question
What is your guess as to what is ‘best’ and ‘worst’ about your main talking style?


Monogamy for Love & Monogamy for Sex

Synopsis: Two real-life, sex and love faithfulness dilemmas starts this mini-love-lesson; followed by the question ‘why monogamy’; ends with concepts and information about how monogamy dilemmas get resolved; and more.


Faithfulness in One and Not the Other

“I keep having this struggle,” Lacey said with an anguished look.

She continued, “I sincerely love my husband and I certainly don’t want to do anything to mess up our really good marriage.  However, every so often I have to have sex with somebody new and different.  My sex life with my husband is good and I know he deeply loves me, and not only that, but he always turns me on.  I wouldn’t change any of that for the world.  But then I get really attracted to other guys and sometimes gals, and I end up in bed with them.

“Sometimes I go back to the same person if we develop a real friendship, but usually the sex part slowly fades out and then we’re just friends, even good friends.  I don’t want my husband to find out because he would be really hurt and I never want to hurt him.  I’m still in love with him and think I always will be.  Outside of sex, he definitely is the one and only for me.  I mean as a life partner he is definitely the one I want to spend my whole life with.

“I struggle and keep trying to become sexually faithful and sometimes I manage it for maybe six months.  In my work I get to go and come as I please, and make my own schedule, and meet a lot of interesting people.  Some of those I bed and have a really erotic, passionate, exciting and very different experiences with.  It’s different from what happens with my husband.  With him it’s more about love with sex.  With the others it’s just about sex but it is usually great sex.  I guess my heart is monogamous but my body is not.  What’s wrong with me?  What am I to do?  This has been going on this way for years.”

It was rather the opposite for Lowell.  He came into counseling saying, “I’m in love with two women and I can’t break it off with either one.  Both of them say I’ve got to choose one of them and let go of the other.  I’ve tried that with each of them, more than once, and it never lasts.  One way or another we just get back into the same three-way thing.  It’s not a sex thing.  Sex with both of them is good.  A few times all three of us tried sex together but neither of them wanted to keep doing that.  I am really in love with both of them.  I am told I can’t really love two women at the same time so it must not be real, but I think it is.

“After all, I love my two parents, and my two children by a former marriage, and both my brother and my sister, so why can’t I love two women at the same time?  They both have tried breaking up with me but then they both have come back, and we start up again.  What am I to do?  I hate to see both of them hurt.  I tried breaking up with both of them at the same time so I wouldn’t hurt them anymore, but that didn’t work for any of us either.  Is there something wrong with me because I can’t choose?  I so don’t want to keep hurting them”.

Why Monogamy?

For ages in many cultures marriage was about the four P’s: procreation, progeny, privilege and property.  Custom ruled at first, and later religion, and then the law.  At certain times in history, love in marriage was even considered embarrassingly wrong and sinful.  In many places and times, monogamy was something married women had to do but not husbands.  That was to ensure progeny or that the man’s official offspring was actually the man’s offspring and not some other man’s.

Love had nothing to do with it.  It was with the rise of the democracies that monogamous love, sex and marriage began to get intertwined and eventually melded together in the minds of many.  Since then more and more, the idea of having a special, monogamous, life partner for love and sex and maybe for offspring has been becoming the desirable way to do things.

Around the world and throughout history that has and is, by no means, the only way.  Nor has monogamy proven to be all that successful a way.  There are those that argue that especially ‘sexual monogamy’ is anti-natural, and attempting it causes more personal and societal harm than health.  There also is evidence that the ‘monogamy of the heart’ tends to work better than the monogamy of the genitals.  In this day and age, many, perhaps most, people have to deal with the issues of monogamy or non-monogamy of sex and/or of love.

The Two Monogamies, Apart and Together

Of course, the two monogamies  do get very mixed up together and are seen as inseparable in a fair number of people’s minds.  Making love is not just having sex but is doing both love and sex simultaneously and, therefore, is one thing as many see it.  It is hard, or nearly impossible, for some to separate the two.  Therefore, to them monogamy means both marital loving and having sex with just each other.  However, it seems for a great many people, they may be monogamous in their spouse-type love but not in their sexuality.

For a large group of others, they come to have romantic or spousal love for more than one person but they remain sexually monogamous with their official spouse.  They have ‘affairs of the heart’ but not of the body.  In those social spheres, countries and cultures where love and sex is supposed to be only with a spouse, this presents many heart wrenching conflicts and dilemmas.  Those dilemmas frequently destroy relationships and even lives.

These dilemmas and their destructive outcomes don’t happen all that much or all that severely everywhere.  Monogamy related dilemmas, to a fair extent, have been resolve in a number of social spheres, cultures and countries.  Historically, polygamy, polyandry and other ‘poly’ approaches have prevailed and worked rather well for at least a sizable percentage of people.

Some cultures or sub-cultures developed a system where a person has a main life partner who is dearly loved but there are also other lovers and even in some places ‘sub-spouses’, or people who also are loved and in which sex relationships occur in an ongoing manner without there being much conflict about it.  Of course, in the monogamy-emphasizing societies, people are not raised to think or operate that way, and so most live either in faithful love and sexual monogamy or in deceit, deception, angst, ongoing conflict and guilt.  A small percentage go ‘outside the cultural box’ and make alternate life styles like polyamour and swinging succeed.

How Do Monogamy Versus Non-Monogamy Conflicts Get Resolved?

For a great many people in the monogamy stressing cultures, resolution comes at great cost.  Heart ache, agony, anxiety, depression, anger and a host of other bad feelings occur, along with breakups, divorces and fractured families.  The final resolution also frequently comes with very emotionally wounded survivors of all that.  For others they go through the same agonies but come out stronger and wiser.  Sometimes those people are much more able to discern how to create and grow real love while avoiding the traps of false love.  Still others just repeat the same, unsuccessful pattern again and again.  For those who go to a good counselor or therapist, there can be repair and improvement along with quicker resolution.

Let’s look at what Lacey and Lowell managed to do for the resolution of their monogamy dilemmas.  Lacey got interested in going back to college which she had never finished.  In doing so, she got really interested in a new career, got fascinated with advanced learning, finished her degree, went on for a Masters and entered her new field.  As she accomplished these achievements she did have sex with several men and a woman but her interest in doing so faded.

Her interest in living honestly and doing love with self-disclosure grew, and with it, a desire to risk her husband knowing a more complete truth about her.  Still, she did not want to hurt him so she remained quiet about her sexual involvement with others.  Then on a trip to Sweden where they met a number of people who practiced what might be called ‘open marriage’ he got a little drunk and let it be known that he knew about her affairs or at least some of them.

He also told her he had known for some time that she had to have others occasionally, and if that is what it took for her to be happy, and their marriage to continue being good, he decided long ago to accept it.  He did wish that she had trusted him enough to open up and tell him about the affairs ages ago.  He then confessed that he had a few involvements with other women of his own but had not wanted to hurt her or risk disrupting their marriage by telling her about them, because those involvements were quite unimportant.  In reaction to that knowledge, Lacey experienced a great, tumultuous, bundle of mixed feelings.

Relief mixed with jealousy, irony mingled with anger, confusion was contradicted by a long desired, beginning sense of closure.  Most surprising was a greater sense of intimate closeness with her husband.  All these feelings went up and down, and around and around like a merry-go-round in her heart and gut.  That was followed by long, emotion-filled talks, lots of hugging, crying, laughter and tenderness, finally ending with a fine sense of mutual serenity.

They both made the agreement with one another that if they got a strong desire to have sex with anybody else, they would talk with each other first and figure it out, sort of on a case-by-case basis.  Most importantly they would not hide anything from each other anymore.  Then together they got very involved as volunteers teaching English to disadvantaged immigrants.  The whole thing about sex with others became a sort of ‘been there done that’ and ‘might do it again, but probably not’ resolved dilemma.

Lowell came to a very different solution.  In counseling, he came to view his problem as one of ‘giving his power away’ to both women.  Like a good ‘male hero’ is supposed to do, he was automatically thinking he had to do what his two ‘damsels in distress’ wanted him to do to alleviate their pain.  He came to the point of view that ‘the difficulty’ actually belonged to ‘those who owned the hurt’.  He could be empathetic, sympathetic and even more loving to them both, but it would be acting against himself to quit either relationship.

Since the women had the pain, they owned the pain and, therefore, owned the responsibility of doing something about their own hurt and dissatisfaction.  He saw that with this approach, one or perhaps both of them eventually might go away, or they might just go on in this three-way relationship for, heaven only knows, how long.  However, as he now thought he didn’t have to sacrifice himself and what he wanted, to solve what was essentially their problem, not his; his resolution was to do nothing different.

Kindly and tenderly he talked all this over with each of them.  Both women got extremely upset, furious, threatening, crying and emotionally thrashed about hysterically, at first.  Then when that didn’t change anything, they both calmed down and they all went on as before since they both were getting some good things from the relationships.  Eventually one of the women became involved with another man, and that led to some very sad goodbyes.  Lowell and the remaining lady then went on lovingly together.

Lacey and Lowell found resolutions, perhaps different than you might want to find if you were in their place.  What I have seen in dealing with a great many of these kinds of situations, is that each individual, or couple, or threesome, with heartfelt love and careful work can find their own, unique, healthy solution.  Those solutions vary greatly but they are solutions.  Being open to multiple outcome possibilities helps tremendously.  Avoiding ‘my way, or no way’ approaches, being pressured into cookie-cutter solutions, making anybody the enemy, doing guilt trips, blaming and judgmental-ism, getting lost in feeling negative, or inadequate, inferior or at fault, clears the way for constructive and sometimes surprisingly creative solutions.

As always – Go and Grow with Love!

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question: Which is more important to you, monogamous love or monogamous sex, or perhaps non-monogamy for either or both?


Nurturing Love



Mini-Love-Lesson # 286


Synopsis: The reparative and advancement benefits; the input for optimum healthy real love developing; the general aid to relationship wellbeing; the lack of nurturing in many false love syndromes; the sabotage of nurturing love that can occur; and the joys and necessity of the love that nurtures are all well introduced. 

The nurturing kind of love gets healthy growth to happen, helps find and develop all types of talents, spurs on achievement of goals and assists discovery and actualization of hidden potentials.  It also encourages the discouraged, revitalizes the worn down and helps the recovering to keep going.  Furthermore, nurturing love brings confidence to the unsure, gets the fearful to be courageous and the shy to go boldly forward. It is because of nurturing love that many people meet and surmount challenges, come to know and believe in themselves, make contributions to the greater good and become far more than they otherwise might have become.

With nurturing love, relationships of every type can become healthier, deeper, broader, climb higher, get closer, become richer and can be happier than they would be with an absence of nurturing love. Without nurturing love, many relationships would fail, would not reach their potential or would only exist in mundane mediocrity.  These are some of the reasons nurturing love is so important to relationship success. 

When we have nurturing love to give, we want for the well-being of who we love.  When we have nurturing love, we not only want for but also act for the benefit of those we love.  Sometimes nurturing love inspires us even to live for what we love like humanitarian causes, altruistic enterprises and other worthy endeavors.  The nature of nurturing love is to be helpful, constructive, caring and additive.   With nurturing love, we cannot help but care about and care for the ones we love.  Nurturing love is what moves families to function well, kids to get raised, spouses be sustained, friends to be supported, good causes to be worked for and important things to be cared about. Nurturing self-love keeps us healthy, makes our life richer and sustains us through hardships. In every way, nurturing love is broadly considered to be of great importance to the well-being of just about everybody and everything worthwhile.

A great sense of fulfillment and deep joy can be found in those people who live and love by nurturing the well-being of others.  Nurturing love virtuosos almost automatically seem to take pleasure in helping and watching their loved ones grow, mature, become successful, blossom, and find and develop their positive potentials.  They also take pleasure in seeing the continuance of what they have fostered.  An abiding sense of serene satisfaction often occurs when they observe those they have nurtured come to benefit and live well.  Their healthy pride tends to grow knowing that with nurturing love they have assisted the life and success of those they love.  When a nurtured loved one does well, achieves or advances, the most common statement is “I’m so proud of you”.  At the same time usually there is some pride knowing they played a part in that positive attainment.  In fact, seeing a loved one’s victories, happiness, good experiences, good fortune and goal attainment can bring as much, or more, joy than having won those victories themselves.

Interestingly, one of the ways false love syndromes seem to differ from real love is this joy factor in nurturing love (see our book Real Love, False Love: Which Is Yours? Answers & Solutions).  In most of the forms of false love there is an absence of happiness in seeing another’s advancement or betterment.  Rather, with false love quite often there is envy, jealousy, disappointment, resentment or indifference when a supposed loved one achieves or experiences something positive.  Instead of celebrating a life improvement, acts of sabotage, belittling, spoiling or even feelings of being threatened followed by anger and discouragement may occur.  Nurturing real love is constructive.

Increasing the pleasures of nurturing love can be achieved with mindfulness and purposeful effort.  Becoming happier when observing the growth and development of someone or something we love can be made a healthy, self-love goal.  Concentrating on purposefully lingering and mindfully enjoying another’s success can be achieved by this sort of self-training.  Gardeners who marvel and take joy in seeing the growth and blooming of what they have nurtured seem to do this rather automatically and quite well.  When we plant seeds and nurture their growth in others, we can nurture ourselves by enjoying the whole process.

Whether it is the small beginnings of new life like a child taking their first steps, a loved one earning a degree or a friend getting a promotion, if we encourage and support them, we can be enriched by purposefully enjoying what we nourished and helped to happen.  This applies to what we nurture in ourselves as well when we take joy in our own evolution and accomplishments.  These rewards, of course, will encourage us all to do more of this wonderful thing we call nurturing love.

As always – Grow and Go with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Question: Are you nourished by the independent and unique growth and development of those you love?

Unselfish Self-Love

Synopsis: Three contrarian questions lead off our mini-love-lesson; which then goes to eye-opening answers to those questions; some knowledge about the benefits of unselfish self love; more.


Three Contrarian Questions

Who do you think does more good in the world, the highly self caring or those who are frequently self-sacrificing?

Who do you think are more giving and helpful to others, those who are highly self-critical or those who like and love themselves a lot?  Who do you think attends more to the less able and less fortunate, those who are low or those who are high in active self-love?

Eye-Opening Answers

The research data shows, contrary to what many have been taught to think, the healthfully self loving are more effective and more frequently active in doing kind and compassionate love behaviors and working for the benefit of others than those in various other comparison groups.  It appears the self-sacrificing are not viewed as very good at self care.  Therefore, they are thought to grow depleted and less able to help others over time.

The self-critical often are seen to be too busy giving themselves negative attention to do all that much for others and are considered to have a lack of sufficient self-confidence which slows them down.  The emotionally needy and low in self-love put much more of their energy into confused attempts to get their own needs met, so they too often do not have much to give others.  The timid and guilty fear to act because they might do something wrong and they also are believed to back away from criticism, resistance and disagreements that arise in trying to benefit others.

Those who are healthfully self loving turn out to be the more unselfish, compassionate to others as well as to themselves.  They also are more likely to act altruistically, charitably and champion humanitarian causes, plus be more steadfast in encountering resistance and they are far less likely to surrender to criticism or opposition.  At least that is what a growing body of research points to.

There are other groups that are largely unselfish but it seems that without sufficient, healthy self-love and the self-care and self compassion healthy self-love brings them, for various reasons, don’t do as well.  There are those who think they have never done enough but the self-negativity that brings can be de-energizing and counterproductive.  There are those who have been taught that all pride is a sin, feeling good about yourself is egotistical and blinding to one’s own flaws, and all types of self-love lead to being self-centered, self-indulgent, self-seeking, smug, complacent to the detriment and expense of others.

So far at least, research does not support the contention that people who believe this way are better at being beneficial to others than are those who have strong, healthy self-love. Quite the contrary in fact.  There is evidence that points to the self compassionate and self caring being the most compassionate and caring to and for others.  Thus, they more than others, actually best fulfill the ancient admonition “Love others as you love yourself”.

Are the Selfish the Least Self Loving?

It can be argued that the highly selfish, egocentric, braggadocios, egomaniacal, etc. are just misguided and mistaken, and are attempting to make up for their own considerable lack of real and healthy self-love.  In essence the selfish are seen as trying hard to be self loving but they are trying in the wrong ways.  From this point of view they are doomed to real, self love failure.  Their’s, in fact, is seen as fake self-love.

The healthfully self loving are thought to more likely have a large sense of mysterious awe concerning their own nature, a great sense of gratitude for all that contributed to their own, unique selfhood, plus a tendency toward humorously accepting their own flaws and fumbles.  These are not characteristics thought to be easily found in the strongly selfish.  It is the unkind, uncharitable, unforgiving, un-thoughtful and insensitive to others who are deficient in self-love.

Those who are healthfully self loving are more likely to have what can be called ‘a full cup’ and, therefore, have a lot more they can give to others than those who are desperately trying to fill their very empty and leaking cup, so to speak.  The healthfully self-loving do not need to be egotistical because their cup not only ‘runneth over’ but does not leak.

Narcissism Versus Healthy Self-Love

Narcissism often is defined with the term self-love.  In light of a growing body of evidence concerning healthy, real love, it would seem appropriate to re-think narcissism.  Narcissism is understood to be a condition which blocks or at least lessens love for others.  More and more available evidence shows healthy self-love to enable and promote the love of others.  In fact, narcissism most accurately may be seen as a form of false self-love.  Perhaps it was not self-love that Narcissus experienced when he saw his image in the pool of water and fell in love with himself, but rather just a romantic infatuation, crush, or some other form of false love like love/lust confusion (see the entry) or even a case of time-limited limerence (see the entry).

One of the characteristics of the healthfully self loving is self compassion, well mixed with empathetic compassion for others in suffering and misfortune.  Narcissism is understood as making people so enamored of themselves that they do not notice or care about the suffering and misfortune of others.  Clearly healthy self-love and narcissism appear to be two very different things.

The Benefits of Unselfish Self-Love

It is very self-serving to be unselfish.  A bunch of surprising research results, show that when you act from altruism for the benefit of others you get all sorts of health benefits like improved immunity mechanism functioning, lowered bad cholesterol, better blood pressure and a number of other very, healthy things.  When you show compassion for the suffering of others, but also when you show compassion for yourself at the same time, or soon after, the likelihood of feeling depleted from giving to and caring for others is much less.  Likewise, if you show empathetic responses tor others, they are much more likely to show the same back toward you.

So, if you want to be good to yourself be good to others.  Once again, the amazing wisdom hidden in the simple words “Love others AS you love yourself” is being shown to have biological validity.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question Have you ever decided to make yourself feel good by going to do some kind of good for another?  If not, how about starting now?


A Romantic Myth That Kills Love

Synopsis: This mini-love–lesson first focuses on your danger; gives examples of the problem; looks at the sabotaging myth’s dynamics; views the “pretty poison fairytale”; touches on the problem of conflicting gender training; and gets you to the avoidance answers which usually work.

Are You in Danger?

Is a romantic myth hurting your chances at a happier and healthier relationship life, full of real love, and you don’t even know it?  That is what seems to happen to millions, sometimes even to the point of destroying an otherwise possibly good, love relationship.  Romantic myths can be so lovely and at the same time so “anti-love” in their effects.  How does that happen?

Romantic myths get into our subconscious as we grow up, and then they may guide us later in life without us consciously knowing it.  Sometimes they guide us into relationship disaster.  More times they just steal chances for happiness and make for a lot of difficult and miserable relational experiences.

Four Examples, One Problem

Abbey angrily said, “If I have to tell him what I want, that spoils it.  If he really loved me he would know, wouldn’t he?  When I told him exactly that, we had the worst fight ever!  I don’t know if it’s worth it for us to go on.”

In considerable frustration Fred related, “My lover plays this stupid guessing game, making me figure out what I’m supposed to do next, to show love I guess.  I almost never get it right and then I get punished with cold rejection.  But what I don’t get, and really need, is information about what exactly is wanted.  Once in a while I get some vague clues but even if I figure them out it doesn’t help for the next time it happens.  I’m at such a loss.  I’m about to give up trying it’s so frustrating.

In despair Jessica told of her guy breaking up with her, after she, as gently as possible, had told him he had gotten her the wrong birthday present, and not only that, but he had given it to her in the most unromantic way, and at the worst time and place.  How could he have gotten it so wrong?  And she lamented, “By now I would’ve thought he knew me well enough to know how to love me without me having to tell him”.

After a disappointing sexual episode Harvey reported he had asked Misty what exactly she wanted, and what was the right way to make love to her.  Misty then haughtily proclaimed that telling him answers to questions like that was such a total turn off.  Furthermore, telling him things he was supposed to already know made her feel unfeminine and like she was forcing him, and that would never work. It was then that Harvey decided to go back to his old flame, Sarah Jean, because there was no guesswork there, and they had the best sex together ever anyway.

As you can see, this myth can kill many special moments of love, make people feel pressure instead of love, spoil loving occurrences, and entrap people in love-dysfunctional assumptions and expectations.

The Sabotaging Myth

In each of the above cases the underlying, destructive myth goes something like this.  If you have to tell or ask for what you want from someone, who is supposed to love you, it spoils the giving and receiving of that love.  And your lover should know what to do without communication just because they love you.  After all, your mother knew what to do when you were an infant and unable to ask.  Doesn’t that prove that love just knows?”  This myth also teaches that ‘clearly asked for love actions’ are to be discounted and rejected.  It implies that true love gives the right knowledge and if you truly love me you’ll know what to do without me asking you, informing you, or Lord forbid, teaching you how and what works best for me.  However, sometimes I can give you a little glimpse of a clue.  But that’s all.  Thus, dream and crystal ball gazing are required.

So many couples in my couples counseling get immensely happier and far more functional as a couple when they give up that myth and start asking clearly for what they want from each other.  Some are unhappy about giving up the myth but they get so much more when asking that it ends up not mattering after all.  Others are unhappy because they have to go to the trouble to actually identify what they themselves do want and then communicate it clearly.  But that too is the adult way that actually works, as I see it.

I like to suggest, and perhaps you’ve heard me say before, love and restaurants work the same.  No matter how great they are, they both require people to do a clear job of asking for what they want.  Try going to a nice restaurant and do not ask for what you want, then see what happens.  About the same thing that happens with many couples who don’t ask– not much.

A Very Pretty Poison

This lovely, poisonous myth started getting into our heads when we were little children by way of fairytales.  Consider the fairytale scenario.  Prince Charming always, and usually immediately, does exactly the right thing without having to ask the advice of a wizard, wise elf or anyone else.  Nor does he go get a consultation from a White Witch, ask other princes what they did, or find a magic manuscript that will tell him what to do.  He just knows and he knows instantaneously.  In Snow White, he suddenly opens Snow’s casket and kisses her dead body, and lo and behold, she pops to life.  Love’s magic know how got him to do that.

It is pretty much the same story in Sleeping Beauty except for the adult version where she needs a spanking to wake up in a fit of pleasure – pain ecstasy?  In Rapunzel the right prince is the only one that figures out to tell her to let down her extremely long hair so he can climb up and save her.  So, we learn that true love means you will do exactly the right thing when you need to.  If you don’t, it either means your love is not real, or you are too ignorant, or you are being mean.

Jump to modern romance novels where the main hero automatically knows just how to romance and make love to the main heroine without her having to tell him anything about what she likes.  It must be real love because he is the one who knows.  No talking is necessary.  Sometimes in the modern versions it is the gal who automatically does the right romantic thing.

You might ask, why does this work in fiction and not in real life?  The answer is that in the ‘love and romance stories’ one brain, the author’s, writes all the scenarios.  In real life relationships two brains are involved and that necessitates communication because no two brains think all that much alike.  With years of knowing each other, better guesses can be made, but even there changes and surprises sometimes occur.

Our Conflicting Gender Training

Part of the problem is our conflicting gender training.  For ages, as kids, most of us guys avoided the romantic scenes while many of you gals were paying rapt attention.  You learned what romance was supposed to look like, and we did too to some extent, but mostly we were interested in things like football and making gadgets work.  Culture is changing now but the changes are nowhere near complete.  About sex, love and romance the guys and gals still are not learning the same stuff and the old romantic myths still have a lot of power.  That sets us up for many disappointments, brings on much misunderstanding, and results in a lot of couples being unhappy and sometimes breaking up.

Where Do We Get the Right Know-How?

The often unseen or avoided answer to this question is – from each other!  It can start with using the adult viewpoint that tells us to take responsibility for learning and identifying what we ourselves want, then clearly ask for it.  Know that you ‘own’ your desires because they are in you and, therefore, it is your responsibility to do your part about satisfying them which is also the adult way, is it not?  If you want a soft, tender kiss or a big, passionate bear hug, make it simple and ask for it directly.  That is the most likely, successful thing you can do in most relationships.  And then, of course, enjoy it fully.

What If Asking Still Spoils It for Me?

In simple terms the answer is, work at getting over it and giving it up.  Work on learning to enjoy the marvels of getting more exactly what you want, more often and sooner because that is what usually starts to happen in the good, functional, couple’s life where people identify and ask for what they want.  If it does not happen that way, then it is time for a bunch more communicating.  Remember, to also ask with love.  That means with loving words, loving tones of voice, maybe a loving touch, and any other way you can make your request an act of love itself.  Be sure you are not ‘anti-love’ asking, like “You never hug me anymore, never take me anywhere, don’t fix my favorite meal”, etc.  Those are gripes, not requests.  It is surprising how many people don’t seem to know the difference, and the different effects they may bring.

Clearly ask for what you want and you just may get it.  Don’t let this old, love-destroying, romantic myth kill your relationship.

As always – Go and Grow in Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Have you ever examined what you take for granted (? subconscious programs maybe?) regarding the way love, sex, romance and marriage are supposed to go?