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Love Learning Action Plan

Dr. Cookerly's suggested


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Here is a plan that is designed to make a great big, positive difference in your life and in the lives of those you effect.  Of course, that only works if you work the plan.  Just like swimming, it takes actions added to mindful learning plus practice before you get to experience the many great benefits and joys possible.

I suggest you start by reading through the seven points of this plan to get some basic familiarity with it.  Know that it is quite alright for you to adapt the plan to fit your situation and what works for you.  I do suggest that you first use it as it is, or as close to that as possible, before experimenting with alterations.

Over the years, I have developed and used the seven elements of this system and have gotten very good results in a variety of settings.  I have used it with hundreds of individuals, couples and families in my counseling practice, in US coast-to-coast workshops I have conducted, at child and parent guidance centers, in psychiatric and psychotherapy clinics, medical clinics and hospitals, in college and university classes I have taught and in all I have seen very positive outcomes and received lots of appreciative feedback.  So, I suspect if you use this plan, you likely will get some very good results like so many others already have.

This Love Learning Action Plan is aimed at helping you achieve the many benefits of regular, consistent learning as apposed to the disadvantages of sporadic, occasional and crash course learning efforts.  It also is a plan for helping you toward enjoyably learning about the wide, wide, exciting and fascinating new world of knowledge about love, about love’s incredible uses, about love’s immense power, love’s numerous enriching feelings and love’s many action-how-to's.

Love Without Learning

Failure to learn the ways of love tends to lead to failure in love.  Love without learning is love without growing, healing and improving which tends to lead to love-relationship stagnation and eventual death.

A Fundamental Love Learning Dynamic:
Love feelings come naturally
Love relating comes with learning
Love skills come with practicing what you learn
Love victories come from love learning, plus practice, plus skillful love actions

Why a Love Learning Action Plan?

1. Knowledge is power!  Love knowledge is love power ready for use.  Love knowledge is best acquired by consistent, planned and repeated love learning actions.
2. Working a plan is how most big, important things get done.  Love is a very big, important thing.
3. Growing love is much like growing crops on a farm.  Both are best done by continuous learning coupled with well-planned, continuous actions.
4. Doing regularly planned and scheduled learning about love tends to work for attaining more numerous and higher quality improvements in how you think about love, feel love’s many feelings and behave routinely with healthy, real love.
5. Love enriches life.  Consistent, periodic love-learning leads to fuller and more frequent, recurrent love enrichment.
6. Planned, periodic, regularized love-learning builds on itself which results in much more complete learning in ways that more casual, irregular and erratic learning cannot match.
7. Planned and regularized learning about love makes for better love skills development and more frequent usage of what has been learned.


I. Get Committed
Get committed to learning a lot more about love and using what you learn in your life.  Get committed to experimenting with regular and consistent learning of all sorts of things about love and, in the learning process, enrich your life and the lives of those you touch with what you learn.

I suggest you commit to a certain number of months (3, 6, 12) in which you will work your love-learning-plan as diligently as you can, no matter what interrupts, diverts or works to sabotage your efforts.  When those things happen, return to your plan’s path as soon and as well as you can, and keep going.  In addition, consider complementing yourself for having allowed only a temporary derailment and then continue forward with the plan. (This is a more healthy, self-love way to proceed after any setback as opposed to beating up on or shaming yourself, doing self disparagement, or guilt which likely only leads to discouragement and de-powering yourself).

Part of anchoring in and strengthening your commitment can be to get yourself ready for making serious study efforts.  That might be done by selecting and arranging your primary study space, figuring out how you are going to record what you are learning, the thoughts generated by your learning, arising questions and anything else you want to add.  For most people, that means keeping a love-learning notebook (or a dictating and recording device) into which you can put all sorts of different things that relate to your love and your love studies.  Some do it by journaling, others include poetry and pictures, and still others keep action goals and calendars to review and stick to goal accomplishment.  Writing or dictating notes is a necessary part of this love learning action plan.

II. Subscribe Today
Sign up for regularly getting two, entirely free mini--love-lessons every month.  (Note: This is your first act of commitment to regularly learn about love so notice how you feel about that.)  There are no strings attached and nothing you have to buy.  To subscribe just click here.

III. Read and Study Regularly
As soon as possible after each mini-love-lesson arrives, and preferably in a comfortable study space, start reading the lesson.  As you do so, it is good to mark in whatever way you like (highlight, underline, circle, copy, etc.) the parts that grab your attention for whatever reason.  Those may be the parts chosen in your subconscious, possibly because they could be of extra importance in your life.  Commit to making at least one brief note about what you are reading for every mini-love-lesson and then do so.  Making notes helps because when you write, you use different parts of your brain usually resulting in different and additional, better thinking than when you are just thinking.

As you study each mini-love-lesson, consider making not only notes but also sketches, diagrams, graphs, lists, symbols and any other symbolic representations  of your understanding along with colored abstract designs which can be important projections of your innermost feelings.  The notes and other entries are just for you alone and to help your conscious and subconscious, right brain and left brain, outer, mid and deep brain, etc. to learn love at many levels.  You might want to journal your feelings as well as your thoughts as you go.

There is another study technique I especially want you to use.  It has to do with the illustration in each mini-love-lesson.  I suggest you spend at least a little time pondering the illustration and guessing into the picture your interpretation of what you will decide it means for you and to you.  It is okay to puzzle over what it means according to others but the more important part is what you read into it.  There are no right or wrong interpretations; your interpretation is likely to be the one most right for you.  As you do this, consider the colors used, placement and sizes of different parts of the illustration and the empty places.  They all can be meaningful.  Then make some notes about all that.

IV Revisit and Reencounter the Lesson One Week Later
After a week goes by, take a look at the things you marked as having grabbed your attention, review the notes you wrote and any other type of entry in your love-learners-notebook (or recording).  You also can reread the lesson.  What are your new thoughts?  Do you have different feelings than you had a week ago concerning or related to this lesson?  Either way, what are your feelings telling you about you and love now?  Make some additional, brief notes about this one week later, re-study effort.

V. Set Love Action Goals
In setting your love action goals, it usually is best to start with only one or two, small and very specific goals at first.  An example of what I mean by specific might be an action like I will place my hand on grandfather’s forearm and say “Grandpa, I know you aren’t used to me saying it but I wanted to tell you, out loud, I love you”, while lightly squeezing his forearm and smiling, then departing unless he starts talking.  Accomplish this by Sunday evening.  Notice how behavioral and easily observable this kind of goal is.  That makes it easily counted as accomplished or not accomplished in your love learning notebook.  Remember, to record your feelings and their degree of intensity (Mild, moderate, strong?) maybe right after your targeted goal time has passed.  You also might want to record your thoughts on how this goal behavior could be improved-on in the future.

Don’t forget healthy, self-love, action goals which actually sometimes are the best to start with.  Here is an example.  Look in mirror and say out loud, with a big smile – “good for you; you truly are working at learning lots more about love – and, as a reward, go eat one piece of dark chocolate candy or put on my favorite music”.  Then make a brief note of what you did and how you felt about it.  When you ponder inventing love action goals, it helps to target particular people, groups of people like families or pets, as well as yourself.  Then it is good to do a brief, imaginary rehearsal of your planned love action.  Things probably will not go exactly as you plan but the little rehearsal likely will help it go better than it would have otherwise.

Know that even if your planed love action goes seriously awry, it still is a victory because you can learn and improve from it.  It also is a victory because you had the gumption to do something instead of doing nothing.  Of course, if it turned out quite well, bravo and then learn from that too.  I had a great professor who told me “go fail at some things because that’s the route to true success”. I did and it was.

VI Talk What You’re Learning
Talk, at least a little, to one or more others about what you are learning, thinking, feeling and doing about love.  Do that every week or at least every month.  Mark it on your calendar as a to do and check it off when its done.  When we talk what we are learning, it tends to anchor the learning and help it stick.  Talking about what we are learning also uses parts of our brain that silent thinking does not.  Like writing, that tends to produce different and additive, beneficial ideas to our thinking.  Sometimes we can be quite surprised by what comes out of our own mouths.  We then realized we did not know that part of us knew something the rest of our self did not.  It can be astonishing how much talking, out loud, about love can lead to a new thought we hear for the first time just like another person we talk to hears it.  That kind of thing happens more easily with people we love and trust.  Some people do this talking love by teaching.  They teach what they are learning about love to their children, give a talk to a club, teach a class or even a course in one setting or another  It is an old, tried-and-true formula.  To really know something, read about it, ask questions about it, do it,  then teach it.

While you are talking about what you are learning concerning love, be sure you to do your fair share, or more, of listing to what others have to say.  Once in a while that is where you can learn the most important things about love in your life.

VII. Expose Yourself to Other Love Knowledge Sources
All around the world and down through the ages people, and other higher-order creatures, have been doing things with and about love.  You may learn from them all.  A Dakota medicine woman once told me “dogs were put in the world to teach humans love” and I believe her.  So for learning about love, study your pets and especially dogs.  Surviving more than one broken heart also taught me a lot.  I really do not tend to recommend that danger-filled route unless you already are very good at healthy self-love.  Spiritual and religious sources are plentiful and sometimes superb but also sometimes are rather questionable and even at other times are downright unhealthy.  Psychological sources also abound but sometimes they can be quite shallow or meaningless.  Loving grandparents often exhibit the best features of love so watching them might be a good learning experience.  There are lots and lots of good, bad and time-wasting books on love.

As you read our mini-love-lessons, occasionally you will come across books I recommend.  Different books suit different people in different ways, so you have to discover the ones that speak best to you.  Also you can pick love-related topics, like jealousy or forgiveness for example, and use our site’s search feature often to find mini-love-lessons concerning the topic you are interested in.  Even though we have over 200 mini-love-lessons, there are lots of topics we have not covered yet so you may have to use Google or some other search engine to see what you can find on your topic of interest.  Generally concerning love, I am not very impressed with about 4/5's of what search engines turn up.  However, the other 1/5 occasionally can be quite excellent.

Your job is to search for resources that speak to you and involve yourself with them.  As you search, you probably will have to sort through a lot of nonsense, stupidity, ignorance, misinformation, sick, totally wrong stuff along with downright anti-real love and even evil, supposed love information.  So, it is important to be very discriminating and discerning as you search for other sources.  Nevertheless, it is very worthwhile to seek out both the wisdom of the ancients and the most modern scientific discoveries concerning love, plus everything in between.  Searches like this frequently can become inspiring, strengthening, healing, growthful, useful, empowering, enriching, fulfilling and fun.  That is part of the plan.


Remember, it is okay to adapt, alter and add to this plan.  Do what works for you.  If you are working a learning plan with another person, or with several people, be sure to work at synthesizing what works for all who are involved.  As I see it, to really learn love, it takes a combination of reading, writing, pondering, talking, then doing and redoing, along with lots of practicing love oriented actions.  Someone said “love without action is dead”.  So, make love live in your life as you study it.

There you have it, my seven step action plan for learning to put more healthy, real love in your life and into the lives of those you care most about.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Starting Friendships That Turn Into Love: The Surprising Big Factor

Synopsis: How to begin on the path toward real friendship love; sometimes go on to real and lasting mate or spouse type love; and the surprising and often determining factor that most people do not know makes the biggest difference in getting started on that path is revealed and well reviewed here.

From Strangers to Best Friends to Lovers

So often the best, strongest and healthiest love relationships once were just budding friendships.  It all started when strangers became new acquaintances.  From there they moved on to deepening friendships and then to true and lasting loves – or not.  What made the difference between those who stayed at the acquaintance level and those who got to a friendship that later turned into an ardent, romantic, real, love relationship?  Some, of course, continued on in deepening friendship love while others traveled the love-mate route.  Either way healthy, real, long-lasting and super enriching love was at the heart of those relationships.  Many of the happiest spouses were once best friends, close friends, dearest friends, great friends or long-term friends.  Those were the people who did not do the fall in love thing but rather did the grow in love thing.

With a little knowledge about love relationships and how they begin, you may be able to start on the path toward great friendship love and/or great spouse type love.

First Comes Getting from Acquaintanceship to Friendship

When you meet someone new, they go from being a stranger to being a new acquaintance.  It is that first impressions important time.  But the most important, early impression’s factor may surprise you.  It could, in fact, be one you might never have thought about because it turns out few people have.  First, it will be good to have a little background knowledge.

Do you know that in the first 30 seconds of meeting someone new, a very important non-conscious process begins to happen deep in your brain.  It is one that may determine whether, or not, you and this new person get to move on to real friendship or stay at the acquaintance only level.  Once you learn about it, your conscious mind can work with that subconscious process to get really good and better results.  By doing that, conscious plus subconscious synthesis, forming a real friendship that could become a mate love union becomes much more possible.

The Surprising, Biggest Factor That Can Start the Friendship Process to Begin

It is not so much what you say nor is it all about the qualities and intonations of your voice.  Neither does it have much to do with how you dress or your general appearance.  The big surprise is that the most important factor in starting a face-to-face, personal interaction that then can move toward friendship probably is your physical movements, or lack thereof.  Yes, that's right, apparently how you move makes the most substantial difference in the beginning of befriending a new acquaintance.

That is because the deep subconscious mind, where mostly we think friendship choices largely are made, evaluates people for friendship by the way they move their hands, arms, legs, body, head and most importantly their facial muscles.  Each of these gives clues to who a person is psychologically.  The subconscious reads and interprets all those movement clue and starts to render positive, negative or neutral valuations.

Some years ago, a UCLA psychologist reviewed the relevant research and concluded that in face-to-face, personal interactions about 55% of your general, emotional impact on another person has to do with your facial expressions.  No other factor got that high a percentage.  Since then, other research has added to and elaborated that researcher’s findings.  Those research efforts have given us a much more complete picture of positive, personal interaction formation, i.e. friendship beginning.

More recent research has discovered such things as the fact that within 30 seconds of meeting someone new, deep in your brain (in the amygdala and posterior cingulate cortex -- for the medically minded) yay or nay friendship choosing unconsciously already has started to occur.

If the choosing is more yay, another part of your brain (the ventral tegmental section) will help motivate you toward increased, assertive, friendly interactions with a new person.  It also may motivate you to start moving various muscle groups in ways more likely to be interpreted by the person you are talking with, as emotionally positive and friendly.  Consciously, you probably are not likely to notice any of that happening.  However, adding conscious awareness and thinking about this non-conscious process can make it all work far better.

How to Use This Friendship and Love Knowledge

If you greet someone new by first boldly striding toward them, head up, shoulders back a little, arms swinging open a bit and with a big smile on your face, for many you probably are off to a pretty good start before you have said a single word.  If you do the opposite of those things, walk up to them with timid steps, hunched over, stoop and shrug, look down and away, keep your arms close to your body and immobile without any hand gestures, frown, scowl or look stone-faced – very probably it will not get off to a good start.

The trick is to be a bit mindful of your movable parts.  The subconscious of whoever you are talking to is likely reading your movements and is psycho-emotionally moving minutely toward or away from friendship with you because of these movement factors.

You do not have to fake anything.  Genuineness counts and phoniness sometimes can be perceived quite well.  You just have to ask yourself, are your movements genuinely representing you and who you want to be at the moment.  If you are not feeling so great, you might have to re-center your focus and mobilize your energy toward genuinely desiring to get off to a good start with this new person in your life.

When Your Movements Are Most Important

Here's another surprise from research.  Changing your facial expressions, your stance, posture, hand gestures, head turning and other movements all become increasingly important while you are verbally silently listening to your new, potential friend talking.  A nod when you feel a compatibility with what that person is saying, a look of interest with a bit of leaning forward when you are seated, looking attentive and making other small, appropriate, facial, expression changes for whatever emotions are being indicated, all help to move your joint interactions to go toward friendship beginning.

It is important to realize that your movements, in essence, are talking while you are verbally not speaking as well as when you are talking.  If your body language is talking in a harmonizing way with the new person you are interacting with, things are likely to go well.  If your motions convey your feelings are positive about that person, real friendship bonding becomes much more likely.  However, if you are not making pretty good eye contact, doing movements that convey you are disinterested, distracted, or bored or even worse uncaring, interaction harmony probably will not occur and you will be stuck at the acquaintance level, at best.

Let me suggest spending some time pondering what your movements are usually saying and what you want them to convey.  May I also recommend researching and studying some of what is known about nonverbal communication (sometimes called expressional communication) and, maybe then, its effect on friendship development.  After that try practicing micro-movements in the mirror followed by more practice of the same with friends, family and finally with strangers.

One stone-faced fellow I suggested this to reported practicing flashing smiles at strangers in a department store.  The very first day he attempted that, a rather strong personal connection occurred which quickly led him to becoming a no longer, lonely single.  So, be careful with all this because you never know what it may lead to.

If you would like to go deeper into this subject, I recommend checking out “Amity, The Journal of Friendship Studies” from the University of Leeds, UK and Stanford University's ongoing, friendship research projects, publications and courses to take.  Also, check out these other mini-love-lessons:  “Friendship Love and Its Extraordinary Importance”, “Behaviors That Make and Grow Friendship Love”, “Understanding Friendship: from Mild Geniality to Profound Love”.

Of course, there is so much more to learn and practice concerning starting friendships and the love they might lead to.  Hopefully, this mini-love-lesson will help you to get off to a really good start, if that's what you want to do.

One more thing

It might help to start or deepen a friendship by talking about the things in this mini-love-lesson with someone else, perhaps an acquaintance.  If you do that, please mention our site and its many mini-love-lessons, thereby, helping to spread love knowledge.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Love Question:  To have a truly loving friend, do you have to know how to be one?

Checking It Out - As a Love Skill

Synopsis: The cheating lover; conclusions are your enemy; is your reality real?; self-fulfilling prophecies; learning to know you cannot know; what’s the loving way?; assumption mistakes; loving checkouts use love; how to receive check out questions.

The Cheating Lover

The love skill of ‘checking it out’ is super-important.  Here’s an example.  She suspected her lover of cheating and secretly followed him to the train station.  She saw him greet with a hug and kiss a very pretty, young female that she did not know.  Her suspicion was mounting.  Unnoticed she followed them to a small, romantic looking, Italian restaurant and through the window she saw how they laughed together, held hands across the table and acted in little ways that could only be called personal.  She could feel her anger mounting.  Then she followed them to his house where she hid all night furiously imagining what they were doing.

The young woman and her lover did not emerge until late the next morning.  They came out smiling with his arm around her.  In an overwhelming, jealous rage she pulled out a small pistol from her purse and shot her cheating lover dead.  Then she shot but only wounded the female.  She was confused to see other people run out from his house, and with others on the street they captured her.  Soon she was in custody.  It was only then she learned a terrible truth.  The attractive, young girl was her lover’s niece just returned from college in Europe, and the people who emerged from her lover’s house were the niece’s parents who had arrived at the house earlier the day before.

This is the worst example I know of a person not checking out their conclusions and as a result causing agony and tragedy.  Most other bad outcomes are not nearly that serious but, nevertheless, they are important and often hurtful.  This lack of ‘checking it out’ causes countless mini-tragedies, not to mention ever so many hours spent on clearing up misinterpretations, misunderstandings, misperceptions, miscommunications and relationship misses of all types.

Conclusions Are Your Enemy

“I know what you’re thinking.  You’re thinking I’m not good enough for you; I know that because I can tell it by the look on your face.  Don’t deny it”.  The reply was “No, honestly I was wondering how we can get past this problem with my parents and worrying that I’m going to be late for work.”.  The retort to that reply was “You’re a liar.  I’m through with you.  I can’t trust you to tell me the truth so I don’t ever want to see you again.  I can’t stand liars and this just proves you are a damn liar!”.  This sort of dialogue is all too common in the lives of many couples, and families and even some friendships.  It makes relationships deteriorate and sometimes even die.  When I give this kind of example at workshops and seminars I often hear the question, “Dr. Cookerly, what makes this sort of interaction happen and what can be done about it?”

Is Your Reality Real?

So much of so many people’s ‘reality’ is created by their fears or their desires. Let’s look at an example.  She perceived he was leering at her, day after day at work, until finally she felt so uncomfortable she officially complained that he was sexually harassing her.  Then she learned he was so nearsighted he was nearly legally blind.  It turned out he also had a gay lover.  Later in counseling, she confessed to herself that she both feared and secretly wanted him to lust for her.  Both her desire and her fear combined together to give her an interpretation of her perceptions that was totally mistaken.  Repeating her mistaken interpretation day after day made it seem absolutely, without a doubt, true because it happened over and over everyday.

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

He noticed that every time his wife came into the bedroom she seemed to have a frown on her face.  He interpreted this as meaning ‘no sex tonight’.  He silently got increasingly bitter and subtly hostile.  She noticed that every time she came into their dark, shadow-filled bedroom he seemed to act irritated and looked stoney.  This she silently interpreted as him rejecting and not wanting her sexually or any other way.  She concluded that he was no longer attracted to her, and suspected he no longer loved her, and with that she became depressed.

Finally with a counselor’s help to stop the rapidly deteriorating relationship situation they had accidentally created, they found out the truth.  It turned out she came into the bedroom frowning trying to see what was happening in its darkness especially trying to see his facial expression revealing his emotions.  He secretly feared he was becoming sexually inadequate and she didn’t want to make love with him anymore.  He saw his fear as his reality.  He did not check it out.

She feared she was unlovable, unattractive, unwanted and that became her reality.  She did not check it out.  Thus, in a sort of ‘accidental teamwork’ they prophesied what they feared and almost made it come true.  Had they not sought help through couples counseling they might never have discovered the truth which saved their relationship.

Learning to Know That You Can’t Know

Have you ever said or heard someone say “don’t tell me what I think”.  More elaborately some people have heard “don’t tell me what I feel, don’t tell me what you’re sure  I did, and absolutely don’t tell me what you’re sure I’m going to do.  You can suspect it, propose it, hypothesize it, recommend it, or warn me about its possibility, but don’t be arrogantly sure and act like you know it, or like you totally know me”.  The truth is all perceptions are misperceptions, at least a little.

Consider this lover’s statement.  “If you tell me the thoughts you know I’m having, or the emotions you’re positive I’m experiencing, you dishonor me as an independent-equal-other.  I have the democratic, human freedom to change, surprise and live in many different ways.  None of us knows the future, and the best any of us can do is make educated and lucky guesses.  People are infinitely variable.  Know that you cannot fully know who I am today, and know that our knowledge of each other is constantly going out of date.  Therefore, our knowledge of one another is repeatedly in need of refreshment.  That’s part of what makes a good love relationship loving.

We always must be checking to see what the new variations are, always be alert to the surprises both large and small, positive and negative.  Let us always be exploring each other, and always checking out what we think the other one is doing, thinking, feeling, hoping for, fearing, dreaming and everything else.  In that way we can be forever new to one another.  So, my lover, never ‘know for sure’ that you know who I am today, and please always be interested to find that out, just as I am curious to discover you.”

“You’re mad at me” is better said “Are you mad at me” or “What are you feeling right now”.  “You’re depressed” might better be said “Maybe you’re depressed”.  “You’re horny” might better be expressed  “I think I’m seeing signs of you being horny, and I  sure want to be right about that” or just “ I hope what I’m seeing means you’re horny”.

Learning to talk with checkout statements instead of pronouncements and declarations is a love skill that many people have to work at because they didn’t grow up around people talking that way.  Talking from conclusions, that never get checked out, often is heard as rude, as an attempt at being controlling and quite disrespectful, although it only may be a speech habit someone grew up with.  We all can learn how to say things better with love.

What’s the Loving Way?

Basically the more loving way goes like this.  You perceive that a person you love is feeling , thinking or doing something.  Do not conclude that you perceive accurately.  As almost any perceptual psychologist will tell you, no two people looking at the same thing, hearing the same thing, or in any other way perceiving the same thing will have the exact same interpretation of what they have perceived.  It’s amazing how different it is ‘over there’ in the minds of other people, even those you know well and love well.

When the loving way is used well it helps relationships be ever more interesting.  Once you have your perception, understand it is best conceived of like a scientist with the hypothesis, yet to be proved, or disproved and replaced with a better hypothesis.  So, what you say to a loved one is a checkout statement.  Checkout statements can go something like this:  “Whatcha feeling, Honey?  Your looks suggest that you’re feeling something.  What is it?, I am getting the impression that you’d like something but I’m not quite sure what it is.  Could you tell me, Sweetheart, so I don’t have to guess and maybe get it wrong.  Would it be okay if you tell me what’s going on with you?”, “I’m suspecting that you’re depressed, or maybe angry, or something.  What are you feeling right now; I want to help if I can”.

Assumption Mistakes

I trust you know the old adage that says “to assume makes an ass out of you and me.  So often assumptions set us up for relationship chaos, or worse. Here’s such an example.  He assumed that the cake on the table was for him and the rest of the family so he ate some of it, and oh did he get screeched at for not checking it out because that cake was for her club’s party that night.  However, she soon figured out she had assumed everyone would know that, and would leave the cake alone. Another example: he assumed all women like love making soft and tender.  She assumed real he-men like it rough and tough, just the way she does.  Both were very disappointed until they were able to check out their assumptions and find out the real truth.  After that, things got better.

Sometimes it’s hard to know that your operating on an assumption because they’re sort of automatic.  People who love each other can help each other discover their own, and each other’s assumptions; that can be part of the loving ways to check each other out.

Loving Checkouts Use Love

As an act of love, it’s good to check out just about everything that might be important.  As an act of love, bear in mind that what you remember is always different than what another remembers.  It’s sad that so many arguments are about whose memory is the correct one.  It would take a time machine or somebody video and audio recording an event for us to really know.

Memory research tell us ‘all memories are distorted and slowly undergoing change’.  So, regarding memories, check out what your loved one remembers and don’t fight about it if it is different than what you remember.  You might want to say something like “Darling, it’s my memory that X, Y, Z happened.  Is that your memory?”  If it’s not very similar to yours see if you can operate from both.  It’s surprising how often that can be lovingly  accomplished.  When you are checking things out the basic idea is to sound and look loving, and maybe use terms of endearment, and also some loving touch.  This gives a checkout a good chance of being a love-filled experience for both of you.

How to Receive Checkout Questions

It’s important to be lovingly nice when a loved one asks you checkout questions.  Sometimes that’s hard to do because sometimes the request comes at an interrupting time.  Angrily replying “Can’t you see your interrupting me”, or huffing and puffing to nonverbally send the same message, likely will sabotage the next hour or more of your precious time.  Almost always, love is more important than whatever else you’re doing, so be loving.  Remember, all things can be said with love and in a love relationship that’s a goal to aim at.

Sometimes checkout questions come across pretty awful.  Here’s an example.  In fear and anger she said, “I know you’re just going to the gym so you can ogle those sexy sluts that go there.  I’m sure you’d rather take one of them to bed than me.  I know I’m right, so don’t deny it.  It’s true isn’t it?”

Well, in a very poor way, that at least is an effort to check something out, but it’s not exactly love-filled, however, his reply was.  He responded with, “Sweetie,  I suspect you’re feeling pretty insecure and could use some reassurance right now.  I really love you and would never get involved with anyone else because you and I are so very bonded in love together, and those girls are just part of the passing parade”.  She sort of whimpered and moved closer to him as he held out his arms to embrace her.  She more softly said, “You do like looking at those girls though don’t you?”

He replied, “Yes I do and probably always will, but looking is the extent of it.  You are the only one I’m ever going to put my time and love-energy into.  The rest is just eye candy, and I’m already well fed.  None of them can hold a candle to you in anything that really counts, so be reassured”  They hugged and things were good between them.

It is important to see that when someone negatively suspects something of you, and it’s true, you best agree and share it truthfully, but with lots of love.  That too is part of the love skills involved here.
So, check it out – often and with love.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
How would you rate yourself on “checking it out” instead of making concrete conclusions about what your loved ones are thinking, feeling or otherwise doing?  Are you superior, rather good, fairly okay, poor, or inferior? (Whatever you are, you can improve if you want to and work at it).

Getting Yourself Heard: A Big Important Self-Love Skill!

Mini-Love-Lesson #222

Synopsis: What being well heard consists of; its many faceted importance to your life and loves; and the basic how-to's of getting started on making it happen are presented here.

To be heard well is to be loved well

What does it mean to be heard well?  To get yourself heard well you had best first understand an answer to this question.  I suggest it means that someone cares enough, and knows how to listen to far more than just words and what they mean in the dictionary sense.  It means to pay attention to the feelings being expressed in tones of voice, facial expressions, gestures, and posture changes (see “How to Talk Love Without Words”).  Sometimes it means listening to what is not being said with words but maybe implied, hinted at or satirically (or euphemistically) verbalized.  Mostly it is hearing the emotions along with the meaning of the words.

To be well heard, also usually means that the hearer is what is termed an active listener.  Active listening involves good eye contact, occasionally making small empathetic sounds as the talker talks, having a great many different facial expressions appropriate and corresponding to each thing the talker communicates, shifting body postures indicating attentiveness and care, and doing gestures that represent being with and for the person being listened to but not necessarily in agreement with whatever is getting said.  This especially is important if you are listening to people in disagreement with each other.

To hear well with love, means to have and convey loving care as you listen.  Those who lovingly hear well, do well to ask themselves over and over, "am I really showing I care about this person I'm listening to".

I have had a part in training a wide variety of counselors, nurses therapists, psychologists, caseworkers and psychiatrists.  Some knew how to listen accurately but not lovingly.  Some knew how to listen actively, and that helped, but when loving care was absent, clients/patients knew it.  Genuineness in loving care is very important as one attempts to listening well with love.  The same is true for spouses, parents, dear friends, lovers and even in the way you listen to yourself.

What About the Words?

I get asked "Are not the words said important?"  Yes, they are very important but more with some people and situations than others.  For a great many to whom words and their meanings have high importance, focusing on and having memory for the words they say is imperative.  For a great many others, words are clumsily inaccurate stabs in the dark for what they are trying to get across.
Those who listen well can reflect back what you just said and also label an emotion they think you were feeling as you said it.  Silently they are repeating what you just said to themselves so that they can remember it and simultaneously registering an interpretation of your emotions.  Those who listen well are well practiced at doing this so it comes kind of automatically for many good listeners.
Vocabularies vary greatly.  So do styles of speech, use of colloquialisms, slang, jargon, code use, fad terms and even cadence and rhythm.  There are a great many parts to listening well.

One of the signs of those who listen well is that they can identify what they are not sure about and easily ask questions about it.   For instance, a person who listens well might occasionally say something like, "I know I'm interrupting a bit but I want to ask about something.  I noticed you really sped up when you started talking about person X.  Do you have a feelings or thoughts about that?".

Does Your Silence Get Listened to?

There is a saying "silence screams the loudest".  Those who listen well also listen well to your silence and often hear a lot in that silence.  They do what is called hearing with their eyes.  If it seems you are stuck, they might softly say something like, "Think out loud, maybe?"

What Those Who Listen Well Don't Do

Listening well means NOT just pause listening (only listening for pauses so the listener can start saying their stuff).  They also do not over talk other’s speech and, thus, demonstrate they are not listening at all.  Nor do they give not-asked-for advice, or try to answer questions that are not real questions but only statements in question form.  Also they do not attempt to tone-down harm-free, cathartic expression.  Nor do they attempt to block, suppress or limit obnoxious, profane, bizarre, irrational, degrading, sexual, anti-decorous and antisocial verbal expression before their cumulative meaning has been heard and well listened to.  Yes, there is quite a lot to this thing we call good listening and getting yourself heard well.

Why Do We Need to Get Ourselves Well Listened Too?

The simple answer is because it does us a tremendous amount of good.  For one thing, well listened to people get to feel well loved.  Well loved people are healthier, function more happily and are more productive than not well loved people.  Another reason has to do with the way our brains work.  It turns out we listen to ourselves better when we say things out loud.  It is even better when we talk to others who listen well.  Silent thinking can be quite good but if emotions are involved, even happy ones, it is better to have a loving listener or at least a good listener participating.

The process of being lovingly listened to quite well is a process which seems to trigger all sorts of healthy neurochemical and neuro-electrical functioning in our brains.  This, in turn, reduces loneliness, provides motivational energy, decreases depression and anxiety, erases a sense of isolation and greatly assists several biological, health processes.  Usually that makes getting yourself well heard quite uplifting.  It also tends to produce a greater clarity of thinking and an increase in person’s sense of self-worth and general significance.

If you want to have a sense of belonging and being part of a community, first do a good job of being a good listener and then occasionally do a good job of getting yourself heard.  That will help with your connectedness as you hone your interpersonal interaction and communication skills with that community.

Becoming Better Heard and Better Understood

As you may have guessed by now, there are not a lot of people who truly are good at hearing others well.  If you think just because someone loves you they are able to hear you well, you are likely to be wrong.  Listening well and especially listening with love is not a skill commonly learned.  A few learn it growing up in a loving, listening well home.  Some others learn it in schools that teach counseling skills.  Some stumble across it accidentally but may do it clumsily.  Everybody else has to apply themselves and learn to listen well with love – purposely.  This is where you and healthy self-love can come in.  By getting yourself well heard, you help yourself and those you love do your love relationship better.  Of course, you must do your share of hearing well those you love to make it really work.

Now that I have explained what I think is hearing well is, let's start with the basic how to's.

How To's & How Not To's

With healthy self-love, take responsibility for getting yourself heard well.  How do you do that?  By asking for what you want directly, clearly and lovingly (see “Requesting Not Expecting – A Love Skill”).  By reading this mini-love-lesson, you may know more about loving listening than anyone you know.  That means you are on the way to being able to ask for it, and describe what it is you want more exactly.  I suggest you take the position that, as an adult, it is your job to go after what you need, what you can use, and what you want, including being well listened to.  The simplest way to do that is to straightforwardly ask for it, describe it and then interactively cooperate in making it happen.  You also can do this a bit more diplomatically.

1. You might say, "I've been thinking that I don't do a very good job of getting myself really listened to, and I want to feel very listened to, so I'd like your help in getting there.  Would you be willing to help me with that?"

Probably, do not say something like, "You have never really listened to me and I hate you for that!"

2. You might say, "I've been reading about how many couples don't listen to each other very well because they don't know how.  Did you know couples and families even get physically healthier and feel much more loved (even those that already are pretty okay) as they work on their listening skills together?  How about we work together on that?"

Probably, do not say anything like, "You probably wouldn't ever be interested in learning how to talk about your feelings and my feelings in our relationship, right?"

3. You might say, "I hear lots of couples are getting into this thing called loving listening and it's making their relationships even better.  Let's read up on that and see if we want to do the same, okay?"

Probably, do not say anything like, "You are never going to learn how to communicate with me, are you!  You don't really love me enough to do anything like that, do you?"

link “Listening with Love”, link “Listening with Love and IN and OUT Brain Functions”, link “Listening with Love, Are You Good at It?”

The best way to make your request, is with love.  If you use loving tones of voice, loving facial expressions and the best words you can figure out to say, if you talk about wanting to feel truly heard, really deeply well heard and lovingly heard, you might just have started on a good trail with anyone who loves you.

What can go wrong?  Lots.  What if the loved one you are talking to feels accused and says things like "don't you think I hear you well enough” or “you don't listen to me either" or something else negative?  Well, that brings us to the next point of getting yourself well heard.

Before you ask to get really heard, and with love, it helps a lot to start working on and really striving to better hear those you love.  The adult principle is if you want it, become willing and able to give it.  To do that, you must study and practice -- part of which you are doing by reading this mini-love-lesson.  Keep it up.  Learn more.

The next good thing to do is to ask to be heard really well as you also offer to do the same with the person you are asking.  Then suggest that you work on it as a team studying, coaching and helping each other learn better to lovingly listen better to each other.   You can practice on each other and on others like your children, family, friends, etc.

Maybe Another Way to Start Getting Yourself Better Heard?

How about starting on this by going to one or more friends, family, special other, etc. and say you read this thing about getting well heard and would like to hear their ideas about it?  In the process you might introduce them to our mini-love-lessons designed to help people go about love in ways that work better and better – okay?

There is so much more but hopefully that is enough to begin with.

As always – Go and Grow with Love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Love Question
If we listen with our hearts, and not just our heads, do we hear a fuller and finer truth?

Talking to Feelings First, Then Topics - A Love Skill

Synopsis: This mini-love lesson explores the rule ‘heart before head’; then goes into ‘here and now’ versus ‘there and then’ talking; gender differences; talking to your loved one’s bad feelings; talking to bad feelings aimed at you by your loved ones; self-care while learning this love skill; and more.

Heart Before Head

When meeting her group of friends, with joy in her voice and with a great big smile Felicia proclaimed, “I’m so happy!  I got the job!  Now I’ve got to go shopping for the right clothes and brush up on my worker skills.”

Norman in rather ordinary tones replied, “Yeh, you better start practicing your work skills.  You’re probably really rusty”.  Josh blandly responded with, “I bet you already have clothes for the first week at least”.  Frank with a bright look on his face and an upbeat tone said, “You really look happy and I’m really glad for you”.  A couple weeks later Frank and Felicia became a couple and Norman and Josh wondered what he was doing right that they were not.

Frank had a very important love skill.  He knew that for helping a love relationship get started, or be maintained and grow, it was important to focus first and most on the feelings being felt and, if possible, to attend to those emotions before the topic being brought up is discussed.  He followed the lover’s rule ‘talk to your loved one’s feelings before you talk to your loved one’s topics’.

Felicia’s voice tones, face and words all spoke of her happiness.  Speaking to and sharing her happiness is speaking to her internal, personal self.  Speaking to her clothing and skills topics is okay but less personal.  Emotionally joining with Felicia in her feelings of happiness and success also conveys a pleasant, positive, personal connection with her and demonstrates the love skill of sharing heartfelt emotions.  Talking to a person’s topics without sufficiently speaking to their emotions may convey that the person is less important to you, and maybe that you are not very able to be personally, emotionally with them.  In a small, subtle way by talking to Felicia’s feeling of happiness Frank displayed a clue showing that perhaps he was able to do ‘emotional intercourse’.  Emotional intercourse so often is a major basis for romantic, healthy, real love development.

‘Here and Now’ Versus ‘There and Then’ Talking

By talking to Felicia’s happiness Frank showed he was emotionally with her in the ‘here and now’.  Talking about brushing up her skills and shopping topics left the emotional ‘here and now’ and went to the future, only addressing the pragmatic.  When we talk about what’s being felt in the here and now, instead of talking about the future and/or about practical matters, it gives more of a sense of emotional togetherness.  When we talk the topics first, after strong emotions have been expressed by a loved one, they may feel unattended to or develop a vague sense of being emotionally abandoned.  It may sort of indicate to them that their emotions are not important to you and only practical matters count with you.  Loving closeness is not likely to grow out of that perception.

Talking about the past can work if there is sufficient focus on the emotions that occurred in that past situation, or about the emotions that one now has about the past.  Without sufficient focus on the feelings connected to the past your loved one may develop a sense of being impersonally and non-intimately dealt with.  This is true whether you’re talking about your own feelings or the feelings of your loved one. And this feelings-absent talk is highly unlikely to help a love relationship.

Generally when a loved one is having strong feelings ‘in the present’, talking in the present tense is more powerful and more loving.  Talking in the future tense or the past tense without focusing sufficiently on the emotions involved in both may create more emotional distance than closeness.

Gender Differences

In many cultures men more than women seem to have trouble talking to their loved ones about emotions.  Some researchers think this is genetic but in some cultures men overcome this perhaps ‘genetic predisposition’ by good societal, communications training.  A major complaint from many women is about men not being able to talk to a woman about either his emotions or her emotions.  That in turn is seen as a major deterrent to healthy, love relationship development.  Interestingly women, while being better at empathetically talking to a loved one’s emotions, usually don’t know how to teach men how to do that form of much desired, personal communication.

Basic Instructions

To talk to a loved one’s emotions here is a simple procedure you might want to follow.
Step 1.  While your loved one is talking think “what emotion is my loved one feeling right now?”.  If you’re not sure, ask.  Asking shows you want to be with your loved one in what they’re feeling and, therefore, asking helps you to do that.  To ask simply say, “What are you feeling?” or “What are you feeling right now?” or “You’re feeling …(glad, sad, worried, upset, eager, etc.?”  Or just make a guess.  Guessing conveys you are trying and that counts too.  Remember, feelings usually can be ‘labeled’ and said with ‘one word’ each.  You can feel affectionate, fearful, excited, mad, serene, etc., there are hundreds of good labels for our emotions.  If your ‘emotions labeling skills’ are weak you might want to make a list.  Here’s a hint: There are emotion labels starting with every letter of the alphabet.  This is a homework exercise I often assign to those wanting to improve communications and learn to emotionally love a loved one better.

Step 2.  When you think you may know the emotion a loved one is feeling say that feeling label word.  “You’re happy”.  “You’re worried”.  “You’re upset”.  “You’re pleased”.  “You’re feeling eager” are some examples.  You can say these things with a sort of questioning sound or if you’re expressing it in written form you can put in a question mark.  This shows you are trying to get it right.  Remember, you don’t have to be right you just have to show your really trying to connect emotionally.

Step 3.  Really hear the response your loved one makes to what you have said.  Your loved one might say “No, that’s not quite what I’m feeling, it’s more like …(this other feeling)”.  Then again you might hear something like “you really understand, you’re wonderful”.

Step 4.  Now, ask yourself what you are feeling having heard your loved one is feeling and whatever thoughts they may have added.  Are you happy with your loved one’s expressed feeling, or angry, or upset, or proud, or threatened, or what?  Remember, ‘thoughts and feelings are very different from each other’.  A thought usually takes a sentence to identify and a feeling usually takes only a single word label.

Step 5.  Share the labeling word that expresses the feeling you’re experiencing having heard what your loved one feels. You may want to elaborate on it a bit.  Examples might be “joy, I am feeling joy hearing what you just told me”, or “my insecurity is going up and down”, or “now I’m feeling closer to you”, or “I’m getting angry but let’s talk about this”, or “after hearing what you said I feel a little more comforted”, or “I’m noticing I’m starting to feel more nervous thinking about what you just said”, or “I’m beginning to care more about how you feel and maybe understand you better”.  Yes, sometimes you will have to deal with their bad feelings or yours but usually that’s better than letting them fester.

As people practice this ‘talking to feelings love skill’ they can and usually do create improving emotional intercourse.  Then they usually start getting its many benefits.

Talking to Bad Feelings

When you’re beloved says, “I feel bad, mad, upset, scared” or anything we might call a bad feeling the usual best response is to care.  Therefore, quite often the best thing to say is “I care”.  You might include the feeling you heard them say and then “I care.” for example, “I care that you’re hurt”, or “you’re really feeling bad and I care about that a lot”, or “you’re feeling angry and that’s hard to hear but I love you so I care about how you’re feeling”, etc. are a few of the many ways you might lovingly demonstrate that.  When a loved one expresses bad feelings what’s usually best is a lot of really attentive, good listening which usually helps them get all their feelings out while your care comes into them.  That’s sort of like getting the poison out and the medicine in.

Common Mistakes

The biggest, most common mistake is to jump in, talking from your head instead of from your heart.  Analyzing, explaining, instructing, teaching, talking in a way that tries to ‘fix’ what caused the feelings, or in any other way tries to deal with the topics involved, before talking to your loved one’s emotions, usually doesn’t work.  In fact, sometimes it makes things far worse.  Once you talk to a loved one’s feelings there may be no need to do any of the explaining, fixing, etc. because what often ‘fixes’ the problem is being a really good listener.  When your loved ones expressing feeling bad, what they often need is well expressed, loving care.  Heart-felt messages do far more good than anything your intelligence is likely to come up with, no matter how bright it is.  Again, “heart before head” is the short way to say this.

Lots of people, especially guys, try to express their care through talking about how to fix, solve, mend, correct or cognitively understand the problem that’s causing a person’s feelings.  None of that directly deals with the feelings. That’s especially true for bad feelings.  Thus, “head talk” misses the ‘first point to be attended to’ – the emotions themselves.  After the emotions are brought into awareness and talked about, those other topics may, or may not, be relevant or need discussion.
It does not hurt to ask a person if your analysis or advice, etc. is desired and if it not, don’t give it.  Remember the adage, “don’t teach a course for which no one has signed up”.

Talking to Bad Feelings Aimed at You

“I’m so upset with you”, “I’m very angry at you”, “How could you hurt me like that”, and many other bad feeling statements may come your way from your loved ones.  What are you to do?  First, examine your habits.  Maybe your habit is to interpret such remarks as you are being attacked, judged, blamed, punished, unfairly picked on, threatened or even damaged.  If so, that probably triggers your primitive ‘fight or flee’ feelings.  If you think you’re under attack you may desire to defend yourself, perhaps with lengthy reasons and explanations, or with a powerful counterattack.

Then again, your habit might be to feel guilty, inadequate and get depressed.  Later you might decide you need revenge and to get even, so you may aggressively or passive-aggressively ambush and sabotage a loved one so they feel as bad as you feel, or worse.  Maybe it’s your habit to beg forgiveness, or fake sorrow and manipulate for forgiveness.  If you do any of these things you probably have learned that none of these habits do much good to change the dynamics of the interaction nor do they usually feel very good to do.  Mostly love relationships can be damaged by the habits just described because they are quite anti-loving.

What really is happening is probably markedly different than what you think is happening or interpret is happening.  A likely, more accurate, interpretation of your loved one’s statement usually goes like this.  My beloved is hurt or somehow upset, and needs to express it, and needs to experience my care coming in as their bad feelings flow out.  Again, it’s a case of ‘poison out, medicine in’.  To deliver the medicine my beloved also may need to be reassured that they are truly, deeply loved and are extremely important to me.  Furthermore, my beloved also may need to experience that I am really listening to how they feel and what they want, plus that I am sincerely willing to look at ways to make improvements and, if I agree, that I am willing to implement those improvements.


Remember the ancient admonition is to love others AS you love yourself.  Taking good care of yourself as you learn to practice this love skill is part of what is needed.  The way you do that is to ‘own your own okayness’ and remind yourself that any skill is learned by repeated practice.  If it were easy it probably wouldn’t be called a skill.  You also may need to remind yourself that usually the best defense is no defense.  That’s because your loved one’s ‘at you talk’ probably will turn into ‘with you talk’ as soon as hurt, or fear, or both are adequately expressed and enough of your loving care has come into them.  Staying emotionally OK while you do loving listening and perhaps do comforting behavior, is for most of us a pretty tall order in highly emotional times.

Surprisingly it’s even hard for many of us who were not well trained, by the families we grew up in, to talk to feelings that are happy and upbeat.  Talking any feelings may be hard for some people no matter what kind of feelings they are.  Nevertheless, working to develop any love skill pays off handsomely and, therefore, is an act of healthy self-love.  So, get busy and meet the challenge of developing this love skill.  See how it saves everybody a great deal of misery and brings a great deal of good-feeling closeness to you and your loved ones once you get the hang of it.

This love skill can be used in all kinds of relationships – with parents, children, family, friends, acquaintances, fellow workers, even with people you don’t know well.  If emotions are involved it’s best to attend to them first, then attend to the topic.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
If you learn and practice this love skill of ‘talking to feelings before topics’ and do it well, do you think your relations with love ones will get vastly improved, substantially improved, moderately improved, mildly improved, or not at all improved?  Now ask your loved ones what they think.