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To Win at Love, Study Love

Mini love lesson #177


Synopsis: First is the idea that you can win at love if you learn love’s ways; presented with a bit of the ancient and modern evidence supporting that concept; how to win at love by studying three main things; reading recommendations; more.


You Can Win at Love If You Learn Love’s Ways

The evidence is mounting!  Those who study love are far more likely to win it love.

Those who depend on fate, luck, the stars, kismet, magic, predetermination, etc. are much less likely to win at love.  Why should we be surprised at this?  Ovid, the great Roman teacher of love, in the year one taught that love skills are what makes love lasting.  Love skills like any skills take study and practice.  St. Paul gave us what can be seen as 16 points on how love works and how to do love well.  Rumi, the incredible Sufi master of Islam, devoted his life to teaching about love and it’s better ways.  The ‘how to’s’ of compassionate love were the central theme of the great Buddha.  Lao Tse, the founder of Taoism, led the way for understanding sex with love and love with sex.

It was not until the Middle or Dark Ages, that a very destructive teaching about love took hold.  This was the idea that your love life was dependent on what the heavens had in store for you and there was nothing you could do about it but accept what fate had already predetermined for you.  Some thought magic and witchcraft might alter this but your own efforts could not.  For too many in a sort of semi-conscious way, this dark ages teaching still prevails guiding them to think love cannot be understood or influenced but only by luck can be experienced.  They think they just have to accept love luck and that’s it.  This is a teaching that is pro-ignorance and quite disaster prone.  Is it any wonder then that breakup, divorce, spousal abuse, love relationship suicide and lover murder rates are so high in so many parts of the world that have experienced this kind of cultural brainwashing.

The good news is, as both the wisdom masters of old and modern science reveals, those who win at love study love and practice what they learn.

What Does It Mean to Win at Love?

The best wins are where there are no losers.  That is frequently true when we win at and win with love.  To win at love means you and whoever you are aiming your love at and whoever else may be around might all benefit from your love actions.  This is not always possible in certain romantic, family and friendship situations.  Nevertheless, it is a worthy love-oriented goal.  Sometimes the victory comes far later.  In Family Therapy I have seen families estranged for over 30 years reunite and re-bond with love.  By way of loving forgiveness I also have seen long-term, hate filled relationships of couples and others overcome betrayal, infidelity, terrible abuse and even attempted murder which finally resulted in win-win, healing resolution.

More exactly, to win at love means to have healthy, real, love relationships that fulfill the five major functions of love.  This means to have love which produces a strong, positive, love connection sense and set of actions in which ongoing, healthy, psychological nurturing nourishes the healthful growth and well-being of the participants, loving protectiveness is available when needed, as are love healing actions and efforts, and the love relationship rewards its participants with deep, abiding joy and other positive healthy feelings in excess of whatever negatives occur over time (see “A Functional Definition of Love”. It is this which is the self rewarding nature of an ‘I win – You win’ love relationship that keeps the connection, nurturing, protecting and healing functions going and, thereby, the love relationship is sustained.

To win at love, also means to get good at giving love, receiving love, getting love and avoiding the empty, toxic and destructive forms of false love (see Real Love, False Love by Cookerly & McClaren).

The Revelations of Modern Science

Love has begun to be studied in a wide array of scientific fields.  Especially is this so in the life and health sciences.  The results of these research efforts help us see real love as ever more amazing, beautiful, vital healthy and wondrous.  Love is revealed as a huge, powerful life process somewhat akin to the life process called metabolism. ,It appears to be largely processed in the limbic system of the brain but perhaps also by other parts of the brain and body.  Healthy, real love is seen to work much like nourishing food and sometimes like healing medicine.

Syndromes of False Love also exist and can be seen as operating like junk food, toxic agents and poison.  Like food, love is part of our natural world.  Also like food, healthy, real love takes a lot of learning, practical knowledge and proficient practice to know how to get enough of it, and the right kinds delivered, at the right times and in the right places.  Growing healthy food and growing healthy love, preparing the same and delivering the same, all takes lots of learning and lots of active practice.

Are All Kinds of Love One Love?

Love is like food in another way too.  Food is one thing but it comes in a great many forms, and apparently so does love.  It is interesting that in several world religions it has been long taught that all forms of real love are of and come from but one, great, love source.   Therefore, at their core they are same thing.  From the results of the brain sciences, it can be argued that all real loves are probably variations of one, central natural process.

All types of love – romantic, spousal, parent child, deep friendships, altruistic, pet, great involvements, spiritual, and healthy self-love, etc. – are all but variations of that central process called love.  They all work to achieve the same, central, five functions: to nurture, to connect , to protect,  to heal  and to reward  with strong, positive feelings for doing love. (See five major functions of love in Subject Index).

To Win at Love, Study These Three Things

First, it helps to learn how to think about love.  Perhaps because of those Dark Ages teachings floating around in the back of our heads, a lot of people are baffled by the challenge to actually think about love.  Until you have training and learning, it is at first difficult, simplistic and sort of primitive to try to think about love, just as it is to first try to think about music, or any other art or any sport.  First efforts for new, different and deeper thinking about love often feel clumsy and awkward but you can start and improve with a little work and it will be worth it.

Second, learn about love’s many feelings and their guidance messages.  Love’s many rich and varied emotions as well as love’s physical feelings give us guidance among other things.  Love itself is not an emotion, rather it is proving to be an incredible, natural process.  However, love produces a host of different emotions among which are feeling loved, loving and lovable. (See “An Alphabet of Love’s Good Feelings”).  It can be a bit confusing.  Love malnutrition, love starvation and the threat of love’s absence also produce a number of different emotions which likewise offer lots of useful guidance for those who learn about love and its emotions.

Third, learn about the actions of love.  Eight, major groups of behavior have been discovered that convey love directly.  Four additional, broad categories exist which accomplish love action more indirectly.  Each behavioral group brings different relational, psychological and health benefits (See “A Behavioral, Operational Definition of Love“) . Learning about each of these behaviors enormously increases your likelihood of winning at love but remember your love learning has to include lots of behavioral action practice.  Learning about new and better love behaviors does not achieve new and better results without new and better love actions.  It is much like learning any participation art or sport.  You have to do it to really learn it.

Beware of False Teaching

To win at love, you need to know there are false forms of love, and false teachings and a lot of misinformation.  To learn about the major, false love syndromes that can trap and ruin your life, you may want to read our book Real Love, False Love. (See this site’s announcement).  There are so-called, love experts who really do not know what they are writing about and instead are writing about various forms of false love, old disproved and unproven concepts and, at best, are writing about shallow, silly notions; maybe worst of all, misidentifying and mislabeling sex as love (there can be love in sexuality but sex is not love).

The good news is that by learning to think about love you can begin to tell the difference between what is false, toxic and useless and what is healthy, lasting and real; otherwise you may get seriously misled and severely harmed.

How to Study Love and Its Workings

Different minds need to study in different ways, so your learning system needs to be tailored to what works for you.  There are some general guidelines that may help along with some specific recommendations.

The old, but valid, ‘medical model’ works well for many.  It goes something like this.  First read about it, second watch it done, third do it three times or more, each time discussing it with others, and then forth teach it also with discussion.  Here is a little example.  Suppose you read “love is kind, it gets people to act with kindness and makes kindness a priority”.  Then you go and watch the kindest person you know and see how they go about doing acts of kindness.  Then you copy their actions discussing what you are learning with colleagues, friends and mentors.  Then one day you teach and coach a young family member to do likewise.  Then, of course, you keep doing those four steps developing your loving kindness skills further and further.

By going about it this way, you are learning love and not just learning about it.  Learning about it is just the start.  Learning ‘about’ can be done not only by reading but also by Internet perusal, attending lectures, courses, workshops, retreats, conferences, etc. by reasoned contemplation, discussions with the learned, watching and listening to others as they win or lose at love, etc.  Like swimming, it can only be truly learned by full person immersion and then getting-in over your head.  That is when all the ‘learning about it’ actions start to pay off and really begin to make profound sense.

What to read?

Different kinds and styles of writing work for different people.  Luckily love is written about in just about every way possible.  Hopefully what you are reading right now is quite helpful so keep doing that with our mini-love-lessons and our books.  Some people get a lot out of the ‘classics’ approach so reading Ovid and Plato, etc. works well for them.  Certainly there is a tremendous amount of useful knowledge to be discovered via the classics approach.  A great many others get into what romance writers have to offer.  I’m sorry to say that a lot of that appears to be destructive or useless but some of it is good.

There are those that get all their love knowledge from song lyrics, a fair number of which are trash (not about how love works) and another fair number are full of workable wisdom.  Other people try to learn about love mostly through religion.  Some of that seems like a heaven-sent blessing and some of it seems to have come from ‘the other place’.  Likewise, self-help books present a very mixed picture.  Some are destructive, others blah and mundane, while still others are truly great.  Some, especially those based in science, are increasingly beneficial as loveology research grows ever more practical and profound. (See “Is There Really a New Field Called Loveology?”).

Here are seven, wide-ranging, possible reading suggestions that are known to have been enormously helpful to large numbers of people getting into studying love and improving their ability to win at love:

1. Give thoughtful, reasoned study to the 13th chapter of First Corinthians in the Christian New Testament, but use one or more modern translations because ancient language translation accuracy has come a long way in recent years.

2. The Anatomy of Love by biological anthropologist and ethnologist Dr. Helen E Fisher.  This book gives an astoundingly wide-ranging, well-informed review of what has been uncovered about love by various human sciences including the brain sciences, genetics and biological behaviorism, plus it is written in a largely fascinating and striking style.

3. The Five Love Languages by Rev. Dr. Gary Chapman.  This book has probably been more helpful to more couples in the Western world than any other current, modern book.  And this is despite the fact that it’s five language theory is thought to be a bit deficient in comprehensiveness and insufficiently accurate on a number of points.  Nevertheless, what it presents has been extremely helpful to many couples plus it is simple, clear and mostly interestingly written.

4. Why Love Matters by Dr. Sue Gerhardt, a psychoanalytic, child and parent guidance psychotherapist.  This is a hugely important work for every parent, educator, pediatrician, child care specialist and politician who wants to influence the welfare of children.  It presents the incredibly important neuroscience of love and loving relationships in the most useful, practical and pragmatic ways.  For helping a child healthfully develop through healthy real love, it is superb.

5. Love and Survival by Dr. Dean Ornish, a professor of preventive and integrative medicine at UC School of Medicine and one of “Life” Magazine’s list of 50 most influential people.  This is one of the most important books ever written about love and health and love’s most powerful, healing force.  It brings a wealth of varying scientific information together coupling it with sparkling insights and practical wisdom.

6. All about Love by Dr. Bell Hooks, a distinguished professor of English Literature at the graduate division of NY City University, one of “Atlantic Monthly’s” list of most leading public intellectuals, “Utne Reader’s” 100 visionaries, a worldwide charismatic speaker but known mostly for being an old southern, down-home master of heartfelt folk-like wisdom.  Her book on love is full of grace, clarity, artistry, uncommon honesty and rare, wise heart touching understanding.

7. The Art of Loving by Dr. Erich Fromm, a world famous psychoanalyst whose book has helped hundreds of thousands achieve rich improved lives by developing their hidden powers of love.  This famous, somewhat older work remains lastingly influential in the study of love, and justly so.

You also may wish to read these other mini-love-lessons: “Learning About Love Together”; “Upbeat Emotions and Learning for Love”; “Is Love Ignorance the Problem”; and the “Fourth Key Is Love”.

Egotistically I would like to recommend two of our own works, Recovering Love, acclaimed for helping couples and especially couples facing issues of addiction, and Real Love vs. False Love: Which One is Yours? written with Kathleen McClaren and the only book that deals with the wide-ranging varieties of false love and what to do about them. (see book announcements at this site).
Of course there are a great many other books I would like to recommend but so as not to overwhelm you at this time that will do for now.  Happy studies!

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question: would it help you to start a journal of your love studies, learnings, experimental love actions and your understandings of the guidance messages of love’s many emotions?


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