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It Might Be Healthy, Real Love ...

1.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner is kind to you in small, medium and large ways.

2.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner praises and compliments you frequently and honestly.

3.    It might be healthy, real love it your love partner doesn’t put you down or make demeaning, degrading or devaluing statements about you to you or to others.

4.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner is protective of you but not overprotective.

5.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner strongly supports your growth, development and advancement, and does not act to hold you back, suppress or repress you.

6.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner is understanding and tolerant of your mistakes, foibles and unsuccessful efforts.

7.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner supports your efforts to love the people you love.

8.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner enjoys seeing you enjoy life.

9.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner actively helps you with your interests and nurtures your cherished involvements.

10.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner lovingly touches you back when you give a loving touch.

11.    It might be healthy, real love if what is important to you is important to your love partner just because it’s important to you.

12.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner shares their emotions with you and wants the same from you.

13.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner treats you democratically and as an equal.

14.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner treats you with honesty even when it might lead to difficulty.

15.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner frequently is joyous about loving you and being loved by you.

16.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner keeps desiring to know all about you – your current thoughts, feelings, actions, hopes, plans, dreams, preferences and all that’s special about you.

17.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner enjoys having ‘emotional intercourse’ as well as sexual intercourse with you.

18.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner wants to help you achieve your wants as much as they want to achieve theirs.

19.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner is not sexually selfish.

20.    It might be healthy, real love if your love partner is seldom indifferent to you.

21.    It be healthy, real love if when ‘making love’ mutual pleasuring is more important than performance.

22.    It might be healthy, real love if you and your love partner clearly and easily ask each ask each other for what is wanted, instead of relying on hints, ‘mind reading’, or the false idea that love gives magic, automatic knowledge.

As Always, Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Which of these statements grab your attention the most; and what do you suppose that is telling you?

Love Is Not Provoked to Wrathful Anger

Mini-Love-Lesson  #245

Note: This is the 8th in our What Is Love?: A New Testament reply series based in Paul’s description of love and relational science. 

Synopsis:   The great importance of this teaching for love relationships; powerful and weak interpretations; a fuller understanding of wrathful anger; the high and often overlooked significance of “not provoked”; the power of emotional equanimity for achieving this way of love; some help from a bit of Hindu/Buddhist/Christian integrated teaching – all potently come together in this discussion informed by relational science.

Most Important?

Speaking from a relational specialist and therapist’s point of view, this might be one of the very most and important things on Paul’s list of what is and is not love!  To me, therefore, it deserves your considerable attention.  But then again I’m biased about this.

Please first note that this proclamation of Paul’s has two foci.  One is what we might call provokability and the other is, in this translation, wrathful anger.

Why Is This So Important?

No one knows how much human misery and destruction wrathful anger has caused.  Some think that more than one half of the harm humans do each other would not happen if we did not allow ourselves to be provoked into intense anger, rage, hate and other forms of wrathful anger.  How many love relationships are harmed or destroyed by episodes of anger acted out?

We know from research that most spousal murders, cases of battered children, incidents of familial physical abuse, elder abuse, acrimonious divorces and friend related physical fights resulting in hospitalization involve fits of unrestrained anger.  The vast majority of all this harm involves people who said they loved one another.  Additionally, there are all the couples and families who, via frequent angry fights, limit and block the amount of happy, healthy love they could otherwise have.  On top of that, are all the seriously stressed and often traumatized, bystander children who witness those angry parent and family member fights (see “Anger and Love”).

Paul’s assertion proffers that with real love all of that agony and destructiveness can be made preventable.  As a therapist, I have had a lot of first hand experience seeing couples, families, parents and others with severe anger problems prove Paul to be right.  In my work with the families of murdered children, hardest was where the victim and an almost murderer were within the same family.  But even there, the ways of anger could, with family therapy, be replaced with far better behavior.

I came to this work because I grew up in an alcohol influenced, fighting, Irish family destroyed by endless rage attacks and counter attacks. As could be expected, after that I had my own anger issues to overcome.  The good news is, with a lot of hard work, I and countless others like me worked and grew out of a life of angry self-sabotage and relationship sabotage.  Now, it has been a long time since I have allowed myself to be provoked to wrathful anger.

To get to the how-to’s, we first have to cover a few basics.

What Did Paul Really Mean?

Paul wrote his teachings and inspirations in ancient Greek and for this one he used “ou paroxunetai” which has been translated into English a diverse number of ways.  From a psychological point of view, some of these translations seem a bit questionable.  They include “love does not become angry”, “does not easily become angry”, “is not touchy and vindictive”, “does not blaze out in passionate fury”, “does not fly off the handle”, “does not get upset with others” and “is very slow to take offense”.

Another group of interpretations renders this, in what seems to be a softening and somewhat understating way, making Paul’s pronouncement seem milder than was perhaps meant.  They include versions like “love isn’t irritable”, “isn’t easily irritated”, “doesn’t aggravate easily”, and “is not prone to being quickly upset”.

Lastly, another group of scholars translates telling us “love is not provoked to anger”, “is not easily provoked”, “is not quickly provoked”, “is not provoked to wrath”, “is not stirred to wrath”, and “is not easily or quickly provoked to wrathful anger”.  These scholars include a focus on the provoked concept while others seem to avoid or miss that point.  This, in a psychological sense, appears to be crucial to having an in depth understanding of and the dynamics of anger, along with the workings of anger therapy and ways of conquering wrathful anger.

I have been told the Greek, root form Paul relies on is “paroxuno” to which our word “provoke” is thought to be historically connected.  Couple that with the Greek “ou” which is considered to imply something like “take what follows in the strongest way” and, consequently, we see no reason to make this teaching seem mild or less than powerful.  Thus, we discern “love is not provoked to wrathful anger” and/or “love is not easily provoked to wrathful anger” to be the most powerful and useful of all the English translations we are aware of.

What Is Wrathful Anger?

To get an understanding and sense of “wrathful anger”, look at these somewhat synonymous words and terms: fury, rage, malice, vengeance, ferocity, savagery, vehemence, furor, outrage, hate, spite, unforgiving bitterness, acerbic criticism, intense and pervasive ill will, asperity and violent anger.  Basically, this is the kind of anger that does not just cathartically release frustration or empower the expression of an opinion but rather it is the kind of anger that causes real harm and destruction.

What Does “Not Provoked” Really Mean?

To provoke means to stimulate, give rise to, evoke, arouse or trigger a strong, usually negative emotional reaction.  It also can mean to incite, goad, spur, prod, badger, urge, encourage or agitate anger, unhappiness, violence, hate or any other destructive, hurtful or harmful reactive behavior.

Provocation, connotes something a bit different than saying you, him, her, they or it made me feel bad.  That connotation implies a provoked person had something within them that could be provoked or triggered in the first place.  Therefore, it hints at the psychological truth that the provoked person owns at least part of the responsibility for their own reaction.  This is because the something that was provoked is inside the provoked person and in their personal domain.  That is wonderful because what is inside you, you can usually do something about.

If I think you have all the power to make me feel bad, then it follows I think I am powerless, weak and an emotionally vulnerable and helpless victim.  Thinking that way can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  At the same time, it is a way of escaping all responsibility for one’s own feelings.  I don’t make me feel bad, you do and, therefore, my bad feelings are all your fault and I am blameless.

We learn to think that way in infancy and childhood when we are indeed powerless, weak, emotionally vulnerable and helpless creatures made to do and feel a great many things not of our own choosing or desire.  We start life largely outer and other controlled.  Maturation, to a fair extent, is a matter of becoming increasingly inner and self controlled.  Emotionally, on the maturation road, many people never make it very far.  They remain highly provokable and, as a result, are prone to malfunction in love relationships (see “Changing Your Emotions Via Love and Love Smarts”).

Paul’s “not provoked” speaks to the often unrecognized truth that most people can become very largely unprovokable.  Therefore, you probably can learn to live not much affected by things like criticism, putdowns, angry blaming personal attacks, condemnations, etc..  By doing so, you can be and live unprovoked to wrathful anger and its extremely relationally destructive and health sabotage filled ways.

One step in accomplishing this is buying into and owning the fact that you can, with work and love, have a lot more good feelings and a lot fewer bad feelings.  In doing so, you also can have better and better love relationships with others as well as with yourself.

Lots of this is accomplished with new and better self talk.  Instead of thinking somebody made you feel bad, try the more accurate statement “you and I together made me feel bad and I can change my part in that and not let your part affect me.”  Then add “I absolutely will not give my power away to you to upset me, make me angry, etc. and I will believe and own that I am just fine enough for right now and I can stay that way no matter what words you throw at me.  After all they are only words with tones and facial expressions having only the power I give them.  Your actions tell me you are upset and about that I can care – and perhaps come to show you some of that care” (see “Healthy Self-Love and Not Giving Your Power Away”).

Paul’s “not provoked” has an additional inference.  That is with love’s help, Christians especially but really everybody would do well to learn and develop the love skill of being not provoked and then teach it broadly.

A Big How-To for Becoming Not Provoked

You and your loveD ones together, or all by yourself, can become more and more not provoked.  It might take a long time to accomplish this but as you do it slowly will make life easier and happier as you go.  You can let go of your habit of letting others upset you, make you angry, etc., etc. and learn to replace that with something far better.  This is the best of a number of ways that I know of for not letting wrathful anger, or any other destructive habit reaction, negatively affect your relational life.

The essence of it is this, you learn and work to replace your proneness to be provoked with emotional equanimity and the behaviors that display it.  Remember, it always works better to replace a habit or tendency with a better one rather than just trying to stop that habit or tendency.

What Is Emotional Equanimity?

Ordinary equanimity means when you can mentally, non-prejudicially and dispassionately be able to see both sides of an issue including yours and theirs.  It means being able to see through another’s eyes, take into account another’s differences, viewpoints, understanding, experiences and feelings and, thus, give due consideration to diverse and opposing concepts to your own.  Technically, it means seeing things equally.

Emotional equanimity means to do the above with empathy and love for both your adversaries and yourself.  Both mental and emotional equanimity usually include a mental and emotional calmness when facing provocative attempts to disrupt, derail or emotionally destroy you and what you are all about at the time.  Any person trying to get you angry, confused or feeling bad about yourself in any way or to feel like you are losing and they are winning is included here.

Like learning to easily catch a fast thrown hardball without hurting your hands, you coolly catch and handle whatever negative attributions or accusations are thrown at you without letting your emotions get hurt.  You do not ignore what is thrown but you more dispassionately evaluate it to see if anything is useful in it.  Mentally you also may remind yourself that whatever is coming at you probably tells you more about the sender than it tells anything accurate about you yourself.  Emotionally, you own your own okayness and do not give it away.  You do that by internal, self affirming self-talk if you need to.  At the same time, you emotionally care about the person or persons sending you the negatives while pondering what this tells you about them and what emotional state they might be in.  Then behaviorally you see if you can find a way to show them some of your care while continuing to be care-giving to yourself.  Hence, you love others as you love yourself.

Emotional equanimity is very similar to what the Hindu and Buddhist teachers call the fourth mind or primary way of love.  In Sanskrit, it is expressed as “Upeksha” which includes a loving heart while being nondiscriminatory, unbiased, open, egalitarian and impartial as you sincerely and lovingly consider viewpoints, positions, values, emotions and ways of behaving other than your own (see “Listening with Love”).

Upeksha has been said to offer the love-filled wisdom of seeing things equally.  One of its more recently acclaimed understandings includes it being self lovingly self protective.  Simply put, it does this by being a way of not letting things get to you.  This is not a way of being emotionally detached or indifferent because love is very much involved here along with kindness and compassion.  It is an excellent way of working toward “I win, you win to, no one loses” outcomes and a fine way of integrating and synthesizing the best of people’s differences.  For more on this, you might want to read two books. Teachings On Love and Living Buddha Living Christ both by the world renowned monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

In my opinion, developing your emotional equanimity, or your Upeksha mindset of love is not the easiest or quickest way to not be provoked to wrathful anger but it is, I think, the best way offering the most useful gains and positive advantages for love relating.  It is also is my suspicion that had the ancient Greek language had words for and concepts of emotional equanimity and/or upeksha, Paul might have used them along with “not provoked”.  In any case, arguably to me at least, those concepts seem implied in what he tried to teach us about not allowing ourselves to be provoked into wrathful anger.

One More Thing  You especially might want to talk all this over with a religionist, cleric, person of the cloth, etc. and see what they have to say.  If you do, please mention this site and say that we welcome their input also.  Thank you.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Question:  Do you think there Is wisdom you can use in the Samurai teaching “first to anger, first to die”?

Dealing With Love Hurts: Shared And Unshared Pain

Know that there is great value and importance in sharing your love related hurts.  When you share any of your feelings you share an important part of yourself.  This is especially true of anything that involves your hurt, and also your joy.  When hurt is shared the people in a relationship can join together to work against the harm that the hurt is trying to lead you away from.  (Remember, hurt’s purpose is to help you avoid harm – see blog entry “Dealing with Love Hurts: Pain’s Crucial Guidance”).

Hurt shared also can lead to stronger, more loving, intimate connection, thus, strengthening a love relationship.  Hurt handled alone usually takes longer to get past and may be unnecessarily worse.  Shared hurt has cathartic or ‘venting’ value and with the right loving people gives you a chance to replace it with an input of love.

Too many people try to hide their love relationship hurt and handle it secretly on their own.  Of course, it can be satisfying and individually strengthening to know that you handled it on your own.  However, that may not do much for your relationships and it may be harder to deal with on your own.  Lots of people want to tough it out and avoid the shame or embarrassment of failing at love, or be seen as weak and love-needy.  Toughing it out can be done but it’s ever so much slower, and often less curative of love hurts than when they are shared with caring others.

Sharing your hurt with friends and family, carrying counselors, clerics, therapists and helping professionals of many types, along with one’s higher power all can be marvelously assistive.  It’s important to know that frequently it is not so much their advice but the receiving of a sense of loving care coming your way that makes the difference.  Loving listening (see blog entry “Listening with Love”) can be the great healing medicine for love related hurt.  This is especially true when hurt is intense.  Knowledge and suggestions, however, can come more and more into play as the hurt reduces.  That’s where counselors, therapists and the lore master’s of love can be ever so helpful in assisting you not to repeat the actions that lead to love related hurt and to possible harm.

So, if you’re hurting because of a love relationship situation going poorly, or badly, or one that is over, think about who are you going to share your hurt with.  Probably it will be whoever you feel closest to.  Perhaps you will hear a message in your head that you don’t want to burden anyone with your hurts.  If that’s the case be sure to offer to do the same caring listening for whomever you share your hurt with if they are hurting some day.  I’m prejudiced but I like to suggest that the very best person to share your pain with maybe an empathetic, love-wise counselor or therapist.  That way you also probably can learn what you need to learn from the hurt.  A very love-centered cleric, teacher, physician or other helping professional, and those wise people who do seem to know more about love also may do quite well.

When you share your love related hurt with someone that you see as the cause of your hurt there are special things to be aware of and special things to do.  First, be aware that a person you think has caused your hurt is likely to hear what you are saying as an attack, full of blame and accusation.  They then may respond with defensiveness which will come across to you as offensive.  A fight may then erupt.  You may be able to avoid all that by starting your statements with “I feel…”, “I’m experiencing…”, “I want…” and other “I” statements instead of “You did…”, “You should have…”, “You should not have…” and other “you” statements”.

Also avoiding angry blaming looks and sounds helps sharing a love hurt to go better.  You also likely would do well to acknowledge that you probably helped or played a part in the causation of your hurt.  The way you caught, interpreted, perhaps misunderstood, and otherwise processed what the person you’re talking to said or did possibly has as much to do with your hurt as does the actions or words of the other person.  Here’s another thing to be aware of.  As you share your hurt the person you are talking to may feel guilty, inadequate, unworthy and in other ways simply bad.  None of that may help them help you with your hurt.

To get the help you want from them you may have to ask them exactly for what you want.  Do you want to ‘blow off steam’ and have them just listen with care?  Do you want a hug?  Do you want them to express empathy that you hurt?  Whatever it is, its best if you ask them clearly.  Otherwise you may not get what you desire to help with your hurt.  It usually helps a lot to say something like “I just want you to listen to me express my hurt, and I want you to show me you really care that I hurt by saying you care, and give me a hug, and not do anything else, like give me advice.  And I don’t want you to have any problems with what I’m saying if you can – OK?”.  Sharing your hurt with someone who helped create the hurt, when done well, can lead to improved loving, a closer relationship, better understanding, and an avoidance of similar hurts in the future.

The trick, of course, is doing it well.  It is important not to think a loved one who helped create your hurt will know what to do to help you get over the hurt.  It’s your hurt, you own it, and you are the one most likely to know what to do to make it better, while you’re loved one just may be confused.  It’s a mistake to think that because they love you they’ll know what to do.  So, at least guess what will help you and then request that as clearly as you can.  If you completely don’t know what will help either try saying something like “Give me a break until I figure it out” or “I want to see a caring look on your face, hear caring sounds and words, and feel loving, caring touch” because those things usually do help soothe love related hurts and help them diminish.

As always, Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question If and when you are baffled or overwhelmed by your hurt in a difficult love relationship situation how easy is it for you to share your hurt and seek help from the loved one(s) involved in the situation, or a friend, family member, or helping professional?

Dealing With Love Hurts Series
Dealing with Love Hurts: A Dozen Love Hurts to Know and Grow From
Dealing With Love Hurts: First Aid Tips
Dealing With Love Hurts: Pain's Crucial Guidance
Dealing With Love Hurts: Shared And Unshared Pain

Love Does Not Insist on Its Own Way

Mini-Love-Lesson #243

Synopsis: A right to insistence or not; what about different translations; the real meaning of insist on its own way; and the relational psychology of insistence with systemic examples all work to broaden and deepen an understanding of Paul’s seventh item for describing love.

Note: This is the seventh in our series on a New Testament answer to the question What Is Love with additional understandings from relational psychology.

Does Love Give You the Right to Insist?

Some people believe that loving someone gives you the right to insist on a lot of things, make a lot of demands, give orders and mandate rules.  Some believe this is only true for husbands and fathers and other venerable elders.  Paul apparently saw it differently.  By this translation, Paul seems to be telling us love is not a motivator for insisting and demanding behaviors.  That seems especially true when what we are insisting on gives us some type of gain or control over someone we supposedly love.

But wait.  We have some translation problems.  The version or translation of the Scriptures you consult may read differently.

Translation Issues

Paul used the biblical Greek “ou zetei ta eautes” to convey the message describing this important element of love.  It has been translated a number of other ways.  Some examples are: love does not force itself on others, love is not self-seeking, love is not selfish, love does not seek its own advantage, love seeks not its own, love does not demand its own way, love does not seek to aggrandize itself.  There are quite a few other translations, each of which puts a slightly different spin on what Paul was trying to tell us.  Some scholars have suggested a fuller meaning is love does not seek for its own profit and pleasure or edification as a goal in itself.  Love does not strive for one’s own advantage over others is another possibility.

Here we are relying on the widely influential Revised Standard Version and the English Standard Version translations partly because of the enormous amount of scholarship that went into trying to accurately interpreting what Paul meant.

What Does “Insist on Its Own Way” Really Mean?

The understanding here seems to mean love does not motivate us to demand, order, mandate or dictate how those we love should think, act or feel.  The implication seems to be that our loved ones are to be treated democratically and with equanimity.  Therefore, love pushes us to take into account our loved one’s views, feelings, situations, needs and idiosyncrasies.  This necessitates developing good listening skills, seeing through others’ eyes and not being blind or unresponsive to the desires, emotions or ongoing changes occurring in or for our loved ones.  When differences or conflicts occur, working to compromise, or better yet, synthesize differences and working to have an “I win, you win nobody loses” outcome focus is what love requires.

This understanding of love also means not trying to control, predetermine, manipulate or force one’s own desired outcomes but, preferably with love, relying on requesting, trading and negotiating rather than insisting.

Insistence is related to having to be right, anxiety, insecurity, domination and sometimes dependence on sameness.  None of which are thought to be very loving.

The Relational Psychology of Insisting

Frequently insisting and demanding your own way comes across as intrusive, controlling, autocratic, stressful, selfish and unloving.  When it is seen this way, it usually causes the recipient to emotionally move away from the one doing the insisting and thereafter they tend to avoid that person.  Emotional closeness definitely can be prevented or destroyed by too much demanding and insisting.

There are a number of different interaction patterns to insisting things of a loved one.  Some people comply with what is insisted upon while secretly and increasingly becoming more and more resentful.  One result of that is to get even with retaliatory, passive/aggressive sabotage of the one doing the insisting.  Another thing that happens has to do with the suppression/explosion dynamic.  If too much insisting and demanding comes at a person for too long and they keep complying with the demands over and over suppressing their negative feelings about it, they may one day explode in anger and rage.  That has been known to lead to sudden violence and/or surprise abandonment.  Especially if alcohol and certain drugs are involved this can be quite dangerous.

One of the worst of all patterns involves an implosion syndrome.  This is one where one person is repeatedly insisting and demanding and the other surrendering and being compliant until one day they surrender to what another insists on, one too many times, and have a mental or physical breakdown.  Sometimes they even die seemingly to escape a no longer tolerable relationship situation.  It is amazing how many people suffering some form of serious, chronic illness suddenly start getting well after, one way or another, they lose their problematic spouse or they disconnect from their high stress family.

It is important to know that giving-in to demands and insistence rewards the one doing the demanding and insisting, because it works.  This, in turn, increases the likelihood of an increase in insistence behavior.  Some people mistakenly believe that their surrendering to what is insisted upon eventually will get them treated better and their life will get easier, plus they finely will be better loved.  Seldom does that happen.  Anything that works is more likely, not less likely, to be increasingly repeated.

It is very sexually exciting for some people to be in the submissive, surrendering role while their love mate is coming across as strong, domineering, demanding and insisting of much, both inside and outside the realm of the erotic.  So long as this is a game the couple plays where both agree to play with adequate safety features, and it does not develop into a total lifestyle, a couple can be healthy and okay.  However, sometimes things go too far or go on too long.  This is when an alteration from the dominance/submission pattern of behavior needs to occur without any loss of love in the relationship.  That usually takes some careful, loving work.

Another dynamic of the love relationship that has too much insisting going on is the open warfare pattern.  In this, the participants get to battle openly for who will get their way.  This battling can look really awful but actually often is healthier than more covert interaction patterns of behavior.  That probably is because it is more open and cathartic.

Some, mostly quite insecure people, enjoy being ordered around and having a lot of things demanded of them.  It offers reassuring proof to them that they and their compliance is wanted and valued.  The problem often is that the one doing the insisting seems to usually start devaluing the compliant one.  Their surrendering ways become identified as weakness.  This weakness eventually is disrespected and seen as unchallenging and boring.  The other thing that happens in this pattern is that the compliant one grows stronger and gets tired of always complying.  Breakups ensue.

All in all, being an insisting and demanding person in a love relationship usually does not work out well.  Neither does being too much of a submissive, compliant, surrendering person work out well.  That seems to be largely because, as the French Courts of Love ruled in the 1100s, love is best done by equals and not in relationships where one is dominated and the other domineering which they saw as was required to occur in marriage (of that time), and as it is best done in love relationships in our time.

One More Thing.

Lots of people seem to get a lot out of talking-over things religious and scriptural.  Likewise, relational psychology can be pretty intriguing and fascinating for many.  So, you might use what you have just read for such a discussion.  If you do, please mention this site and all that it offers.  Thanks

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

Quotable Question: Is it true that the more overtly strong a person tries to appear the weaker they must covertly be?

Dealing With Love Hurts: Pain's Crucial Guidance

While life’s greatest joys can occur because of love some of life’s greatest hurts also can occur because of love going wrong, gone wrong or love lost.

Love relationship failure and its profound agony, the despair of love leaving, the brutal stab of love rejection, the anguish of love betrayal , the angst of love in doubt, the sickening emptiness of love never present are but some of the hurts we humans face when dealing with insufficient and malfunctioning love.

Few people are raised with good examples, helpful knowledge and useful guidance concerning dealing with the many types of hurt possible in love relationship situations.  The good news is we can learn the skills it takes to cope and even grow from these painful experiences.

What to do when we are deeply lonely for a love that is absent?  What to do when we are involved in a love relationship that is becoming more agonizing than enriching?  What to do when in spite of our best efforts destructiveness is mounting and constructiveness disappearing?  Right this minute around the world there are countless millions facing how to cope with abandonment, feeling unwanted, continuing on when profoundly neglected, being repeatedly demeaned, seriously disregarded, suddenly displaced, and worst of all is not knowing how to get back up and try again after being disastrously love defeated?

Well, I know something of the answer to these questions both from my own personal life love hurts and from working with all the suffering people who have come to me for help with their love hurts.  Take heart and be hopeful if you are hurting or have hurt from similar difficulties!  You can surmount the pain and, like the Phoenix rising from the ashes, fly again more beautiful, more powerful and far higher than ever before.

The vast majority of the people I deal with who seek assistance with these love relationship agonies do recover, and learn to soar again going on to love victories greater than what they knew before.  Sadly, of course, there are some who don’t.  They let love relationship related pain bring them down.

Relapses into addiction, profound ongoing depression, long-lasting anxiety, fear-based living and self-destruction of many types are all too often the result of love relationship pain inadequately dealt with.  If you are hurting due to problems related to love I dare you to suspect you can recover.  If you’re not hurting right now but have before, then dare to suspect that none of that deep hurt has to happen to you again.  Dare to believe that “seek and you shall find” is true when it comes to getting over love relationship pain and going on to the victories and joys of a new and different healthy, real love done well.

So, let’s talk of some of what it takes to adequately and successfully deal with the pains that sometimes come along in our love life.  I like to suggest that you start with the idea that all hurt has something to offer.  You see, hurting has usefulness.  Hurt exists for the purpose of guiding us away from harm.  It is important not to confuse hurt and harm; they are quite opposite and are actually enemies of one another.  Hurts are feelings.  Harm is a condition of destructiveness.  Hurt causes you to jerk your hand away from the hot stove before your hand is truly harmed.

It is hurt that gets you to go to the surgeon who takes out your appendix before it blows up and kills you.  Thus, hurt saves your life.  Emotional hurt can get you to study how to do love well so your next love relationship efforts are better.  Yes, hurt in essence is your friend trying to guide you away from harm.  One of the most dangerous things in the world are those diseases which cause no hurt until it is too late.

Some of the most dangerous relationships are those in which one person, without warning, suddenly explodes with long suppressed, hidden hurt and in doing so suddenly causes another person great harm.  Had the hurt been expressed and mutually dealt with they might have worked out a better resolution for all concerned.  Hurt warns us something is wrong and tells us do something different.  Our job is to work with hurt against harm.  This is especially true for hurting, loveless individuals and for those in painful love relationships.

Therefore, a very important thing to do with the pain you experience in a love relationship is to go looking for the ‘guidance message’ in that hurt.  These guidance messages that come from pain can vary greatly.  Your hurt may be sending you a message that says, “Learn to ask for what you want better”, “Do more loving listening”, “Mix sex and love better”, “Stop taking everything so personally”, “Go to counseling”, “Get a divorce”, “Find somebody better”, “Run away” or a thousand other things.

Then, of course, you have to evaluate the message against all the other factors involved.  The trick is to act constructively not destructively.  If possible do that for all concerned.  Remember that hurt always says do something different.  If you don’t do something different expect more hurt.  Your love for someone may tell you to endure the hurt and that may be more important than hurt’s message to do something different.  However, remember that hurt warns you that harm may be coming your way unless you change something.  Hurt becomes harmful when it grows too big for you to be able to get its guidance message.

Often that happens because you have not paid attention previously and sufficiently to hurt’s guidance message.  Here’s a simple example:  Joe kept falling for cold, distant, difficult women.  Once he had such a woman the agonies of dealing with her became intolerable.  Each of these relationships hurt more than the one before.  Finally he heard his hurt’s guidance message and established a lasting relationship with a warm, close and easy to get along with female, so unlike his mother which is where it all started.

Consequently, a really good thing to do with love hurts is to look for and discover their guidance messages.  You can try to reason that all out and sometimes that works quite well.  Often better and quicker is to do a ‘gestalt internal dialogue’ or ‘psychosynthesis – two sub-personalities exercise’.  It works like this: say “Hello” to your love hurt and ask it “What are you trying to tell me?”  Then in fantasy you become your hurt and say, “Hi self, I am your hurt and what I’m trying to tell you is …” followed by the first thing that pops up in your thoughts.

At first this may take some practice but those who practice usually get surprising and surprisingly useful replies from their subconscious.  When you practice these techniques more they usually help you go much further and get excellent results.  Some people learn from their hurt by journaling or writing out what their hurt is telling them, others draw or use other visual arts, some achieve understanding through music and others through dance therapy techniques.

Love hurt is likely to increase and repeat if you don’t learn its guidance message.  Of course, after learning the guidance message you have to heed that message, and do something different and hopefully better.

As always, go and grow with love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Can you list what you have learned from some of your past love hurts?  Is that learning still with you or will you have to learn it again?