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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).

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