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Compersion: A Newly Identified Emotion of Love?

Mini-Love-Lesson #214

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson introduces and discusses a newly identified emotion opposite to jealousy; it tells of couples’ experiences with it; its surprises, some of its problems, its proclaimed benefits and the growing attention being paid to it.


Learning About Love’s Many Emotions

We are starting to comprehend that love is not an emotion but does involve and manifest, not just one but many different emotions.  There are the different emotions of feeling loved, loving and lovable.  There is passion, compassion, serenity, tenderness, ebullience, protectiveness, empathy, union, kindness – and many, many others.  Increasingly, love is understood to be a powerful, natural, vital, life process more akin to great life processes like metabolism, circulation, breathing, etc. than to just feeling an emotion, even a strong emotion (see “Definition of Love Series”; “Many Good Feelings Brought on by Love”; “An Alphabet of Loves Good Feelings”).

With these understandings, we also are beginning to identify the many emotions of love and discover how they influence our health, well-being and relational life.  In the 1960s, an emotion of love was newly identified and named at the highly influential Kerista commune.  This emotion only has started to come into a broader awareness and usage, and only in some relationally-focused communities.
This newly identified emotion has always been here.  However, it seems to be rare, especially in cultures producing a lot of personal insecurity.  It is seen as an emotion which is opposite to the feeling of jealousy.  It is described as a wonderful blessing to the lives of the individuals and couples who experience it.  The name the Kerista community gave it is “compersion”.  It is pronounced sort of like the “com” in compassion, plus “Persian” as in a person from Persia.

A Couple Feeling Compersion

I first professionally encountered the emotion of compersion many years ago though I did not know its name then.  While counseling a couple, they told of having unexpected, strange but extremely wonderful, love-filled feelings for one another while sexually adventuring experimentally with another couple.  They reported no jealousy, only joy at observing their own spouse having new, different and very pleasurable sex with the other couple.  They both struggled to described the feeling they mutually experienced.  One said it was like being allowed into an incredibly rare and very beautiful, very personal, intimate sharing experience with their spouse.  The other related being awestruck by seeing how their beloved was with first one and then both of the other couple.
They both further related that they felt amazingly closer and more deeply connected to one another as a couple after all four were satiated and resting.  They also were quite relieved that there was no jealousy or other bad feeling involved, as they had worried might happen.  Through their story, I was introduced to this emotion, later recognized as compersion.

This couple previously had successfully completed some couples counseling.  This time they had returned wondering if something was wrong with them for having these new, strange but wonderful and perhaps addictive pleasures.  They had entered the adventure hoping for some “hot, naughty, go wild” excitement vowing it would be just a one time only, long held, and shared fantasy-fulfilling event.

Now, they cautiously wanted to figure out if repeating the adventure with the same or other couples could be a good thing because it had been such a big, totally unexpected, good thing in their lives so far.  They also had promised each other to be reassuring and comforting of each other if either one felt insecure, threatened, jealous or anything else negative, which so far they did not.  So, they asked the question “are we crazy and is something wrong with us for feeling the way we do, or what?”.
That session ended with them agreeing to do some research on what other couples had experienced in similar situations and find out if there was reliable information about couples doing this sort of thing.  They came to the next session excitedly telling about discovering what the Buddhists call “MUDITA”, a feeling of joy in another’s joy, coming from joy being shared and experienced with someone else.  This couple also had discovered what the polyamorists were saying about the happiness of couples sexually, romantically and even maritally being involved in other love relationships.

They also had uncovered a range of problems that sometimes go wrong in such arrangements.  Then there was the potential of dangerous, sexually transmitted diseases which this couple was beginning to take more seriously.  Those discoveries led this couple to the conclusion that, for now, they had done enough adventuring and when STD’s were more medically manageable they might revisit the issue.  Until then, they would enjoy sharing their memories and creating erotic fantasies together.
Since then, I have counseled couples, throuples (see post “Throuple Love, a Worldwide Growing Way of the Future?”), polyamores and other alternate lifestyle relators who expressed having similar experiences and feelings.  Thanks mostly to the polyamore community, the word/feeling compersion and its definition, understanding, etc. is spreading.

It now is coming into wider usage to explain these feelings of joy when observing an intimate other’s sexual, romantic, even marital, joyful experience.
I think learning about loving in all its varied ways, even when unusual or different from what one is used to, can expand one’s thinking and perception of what love encompasses; this certainly has been true for me personally and professionally.

What do we need to know about the Emotion of Compersion?
This word is understood a bit differently in several different communities.  There are those who see it as unhealthy and perverse.  In others, it is argued that compersion is a proof of real, strong and healthy love.  That is because compersion is thought to reveal a person whose love surpasses jealousy, envy, insecurity, possessiveness and the cultural training to feel those things in romantic, love relationships.  Arguably, it also shows a person able to be happy for the happiness of the person they love, being happy without fear concerning the source of a heart-mates happiness.

Among poly, throuples, swingers, trans, bi and certain religious groups, there is a debated point that goes something like this:

If you and your partner, who you deeply love, can feel joy at seeing each other take joy in having sex with others, doesn’t that give evidence of you and your partner possessing a very strong and secure love bond?  Doesn’t it also offer evidence of your healthy self-love being quite strong?

If you and your heart partner both can observe and participate in sex with another, feel joy without jealousy or feel threatened, being insecure, angry or fearful, is that not proof of having a powerful, unconditional love for one another?  Isn’t it also evidence that you and your love mate have freed yourselves from society’s training and programming effects which often result in destructive jealousy, possessiveness, suspiciousness, mistrust, distrust and fear-based ways of seeing each other?

In its broadest usage, compersion is related to feeling love-related-joy whenever you see someone you love have happiness in their experiences with another person, irrespective of whether or not those experiences are sexual, romantic or of marital type love.

Examples can help.  Here are two:

After a counseling session, I saw an adult daughter happily introduce her mother to her father’s girlfriend.  Then all three of them went to pick up the father and go to dinner together.  It had been arranged that the girlfriend was going to spend the night with the father and mother, and that the daughter would fix breakfast for all of them the next morning.  In a follow-up session, all related that they were quite happy seeing each other be happy with each other and with the whole experience.
A husband and wife both told of how happy they were to rush home and tell each other about the dates they had just gone on with romantic others.  They took joy in each other’s date experience, often getting sexual with each other in the process, but not always.  Sometimes they were just happy for the other one’s happiness.

Compersion is related to another newly identified, similar emotion called “frubble”.  Feeling frubble means feeling joy when those you love are actively expressing their love to one another.  It may or may not be about sex, romantic love or marital type love in some communities, but in others it definitely has to do with sex or some manifestation of adult to adult love.

In certain religious circles, there are those who can relate compersion to the Buddhist emotion of mudita and/or to the ancient Greek koinonia which, as an emotion, has to do with the feeling of a joyous love unity with the Deity and simultaneously with one’s own gathered and similar feeling community of faith.

More specifically and more usually, compersion has to do with a person feeling not jealous, but love-filled joy when experiencing someone they intimately love have a happy, sexual and/or love experience with a third-party.  It definitely is an “I’m happy when I see you happy because I love you” kind of emotional experience.

Some think compersion may happen more easily in those language groups who do not have a possessive case way of talking or perhaps even thinking.  It also may be easier for those growing up in cultures with multiple person marriage systems and non-monogamous emphasizing societies.

Do You Want to Feel Compersion?

Compersion can be strongly recommended over feeling the destructive anguish of jealousy or lifeless indifference.  Of course, if feeling simple uncomplicated trust can be achieved via monogamous couple love, that also can be quite desirable.  Learning to feel compersion might save you from a painful breakup, or divorce, or a lot of horrible fights, or times of fear-filled loneliness, and depression.  Compersion also might be the only way leading to success in certain love relationships.
Compersion for many, means first battling jealousy, possessiveness, insecurity and its related low self love, suspiciousness, defensive anger, compulsion to control, tendencies to start to fight or take flight, avoid risk and conform, and a host of other problematic things.  A great deal of tolerational love (see “A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love”) also may be necessary.

It seems a fair number of those who come to feel compersion fairly easily, often had to fight their way there by way of lots of internal struggles.  They went back and forth between compersion and jealousy, or felt both simultaneously, as they worked to keep a primary love relationship alive and growing and with those struggles they grew a deeper, more intimate love.  Others continue, and with enough healthy, real love and loving support, may likely win their struggle.  Frequently self sabotage from a jealous and insecure, internal self is the biggest problem.  Those who succeeded are reportedly very happy about it.  Others have tried and given up but hopefully they grew and learned a lot in the process.

Paul, of the New Testament, tells us love is not jealous.  He did not tell us that love, instead of jealousy, could manifest the emotion of compersion maybe because no one knew about it or had a word for it.  However, now you do know about it and even might want to do something with that love knowledge, or not.

One More Little Thing

Wouldn’t you find it interesting and enjoyable to spread some love knowledge by talking over compersion with someone, and if you do, please mention this site and its many totally free love lessons.  Thanks.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question:  What do you think of the idea that if you have enough healthy self-love you won’t be jealous?


Self-disclosure Love and Vulnerability

Mini-Love-Lesson #283


Synopsis: How to carefully be self-disclosing and handle hurt if doing so backfires; 5 kinds of self-disclosure to consider; and how self-disclosure is needed for intimate relationships are part of this mini-love-lesson.

Vulnerability is an aspect of self-disclosure, admittedly sometimes a scary one.  Risking exposure can set one up to being hurt or harmed.  It also can open one to closeness, intimacy, inclusion and to being better liked and loved.

Five classifications of vulnerability have been identified in psycho-social research:

1. Emotional vulnerability

2. Relational vulnerability

3. Social vulnerability

4. Physical vulnerability

5. Material and economic vulnerability

Regarding self-disclosure, each of these five have a variety of different benefits and different dangers in sundry relationships.  For love relationships, relational and emotional benefits and dangers are the most common.  However those that are physical and economic sometimes may be the most severe.

Although self-disclosure is one of the major ways to go from a shallow relationship to a more profound one, it behooves us to be careful about disclosing too much too soon.  If a relationship is not ready enough, an overly revealing self-disclosure can backfire.  Making known what we think, feel and want in a love relationship is important to the health of that relationship, but timing is also important.  Relationships usually have to have time to develop and strengthen before heavier aspects can be successfully tackled.

If after a self-disclosure, a rejection, considerable emotional pain, hostility, distancing, alienation or abandonment occur, the relationship probably was not ready or mature enough to handle that self-disclosure.  Self-disclosures from the deepest layers of the self, need to be considered precious and treated protectively.  Therefore, to offer them up too early can be a mistake.

Clinical research suggests that healthy self-love and doing what is called owning your own okayness decreases the risk factor and may increase the benefits of sharing our private self.  Therefore, it is advisable to do risky self-disclosures only when your healthy self-love is strong enough to stand adverse reactions that may occur.  If we have substantial anxiety about being rejected, embarrassed, shamed or seen as inadequate, inferior or deficient in any other way, we might need to work on our self-love and self-affirmation before risking too much vulnerability.  Every day suggestions for doing that involve the following:

Five Everyday Ways to Be and Stay Okay

1. Own your power and don’t give it away – every day.

2. Always be 51%, or more, of the vote on your own okayness – every day.
    (see “Number 51: Your Super Tool for Self-love”)

3. Identify yourself as the hero and not the victim in your own life story      (no matter how many secret advantages victimhood might seem to offer) –every day.

4. Focus far more on solutions than blame or fault finding – every day.

5. Actively love yourself as you love others whether or not they love you back – every day.

There is a grand reward that often comes from becoming vulnerable through self-disclosure.  When we take off our outer, protective layers and expose our innermost selves, while we join with others doing the same, we can experience a profound comfort of loving togetherness.

As always, Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: Is going psychologically naked with a loved one more or less frightening than going physically naked?

Serene Love - A Gentle Power Flowing

Synopsis: Here you are consciously introduced to a calmly flowing form of love you probably experienced very early in life and likely would do well to experience a great deal more--Serene Love.


A Love You Know and Can Know Better

You have heard of Passionate Love, Compassionate Love and maybe even Adamant Love but what do you consciously know about Serene Love?

Healthy, real love flows into its serene dynamic when it becomes calmly happy, safely and joyfully tranquil with emotional warmth and a sense of sanctified harmony.  You might have (or hopefully have) experienced Serene Love as an infant in the protective arms of a loving parent, perhaps gently rocking you into a sense of deep, secure, love-filled, connected contentment.

Or possibly you might have felt something like Serene Love in utero in the later stages of development when your mother lovingly stroked her tummy and talked softly to you.  Those and similar experiences probably planted Serene Love deep in your subconscious.  It also helped save you from dying of the infant killer – marasmus and other failure to thrive syndromes.  Now, with conscious knowledge of Serene Love, you may be able to add many enrichments to your personal and relational health and well-being.

What Is Serene Love?

Serene Love is what its name implies, love with serenity.  And it is much more than that.  Healthy, real love takes on its serene form when it is flowing calmly, peacefully yet powerfully all-around and all through us.  Serene Love puts us into a state of feeling encompassed by very nurturing love while at the same time feeling very serene, fully content and profoundly tranquil.  It includes a sense of being safe and secure with peaceful joy.  When shared with a loved one (s), it often can come with an intense sense of being joined together and united with that loved one (s) in Serene Love .  It is sometimes described as blessedly spiritual, intimately inspiring and providing a sense of total well-being and complete contentment.

How Serene Love Comes to Us

As an adult you may have experienced Serene Love when intimately “spooning” as you went to sleep with someone you dearly loved and who loved and cherished you.  Or perhaps it was when being preciously treated and gently held or tenderly cuddled.  It may occur again when feeling deeply and very personally understood, thoroughly accepted and peacefully core connected while wrapped in heartfelt unity.  Often Serene Love immerses us in its warm, gentle, restorative flow when we accept being cared for, consoled, comforted and especially highly, intrinsically valued by someone very important to us.

Sometimes Serene Love arrives and helps us to thrive via sharing tender precious intimacies, at other times with a soft sunny lightheartedness and yet still at other times as we feel a deep awesome spirituality.  When people experience Serene Love they are apt to smile and occasionally say awesome things like the following lovers quotes: “today feels like God is in his heaven and all is right with our world”; or with a loved one “right now with you I’m completely happily saturated with what seems like a perfect moment of our togetherness” or “it feels like we are soaring together as we flow into, around, through and totally with each other as we ascend into the cosmos itself.”

Serene love can be experienced in shared, tranquil closeness with another.  It might happen walking hand-in-hand under the stars, being jointly swept along with great music, holding each other as you look at your children sleeping or just being quiet and entirely with who you love and are loved by.Mindfulness and Serene Love
You may miss out on the greatness of Serene Love experiences if you are not pausing to pay mindful attention to the possibility of their gentle, flowing arrival.  This is because Serene Love often is experienced as a sort of quiet, subtle, placid drifting forward on a stream of contentment and connectedness, easily rushed past in a busy life.  A full experience of Serene Love takes lingering in awareness of the existential now after turning off the troubling concerns of the past, the future and the outside distractions of the present.  Then it is useful to start purposefully and appreciatively focusing on love and whatever might be serenely enjoyed in that moment.  Doing that can bring you the rich, golden, healthy, halcyon happiness of Serene Love.  When it is shared with someone you love, it can come with extra fine touches of tender, intimate, personal specialness.

Mild, Moderate and Intense Serene Love

Some experiences of Serene Love are only mild and momentary.  They, nevertheless, are precious and to be cherished.  In love relationships, a look of love, a few words of appreciation or affirmation, a certain loving tone of voice, a just right hug, an act of extra kindness, an intimate personal self-disclosure and thousands of other small showings of love can produce both mild and moderate Serene Love experiences (see “A Behavioral (Operational) Definition of Love”. However, it tends to work best, for those who will notice and linger a bit, in mindful awareness of the possibility of Serene Love being present.

Serene Love also can be experienced intensely, especially by those who organize their lives to include time for this possibility.

For couples, romance can help.  Savoring togetherness and not rushing on to the next thing is essential.  It is important to make sure that romantic experiences are fully enjoyed and shared as they transpire, and are not just goal-oriented steps toward sexual satisfaction.

With children, parents, other family members or friends, having carefree, real appreciation of each other can open one to the mild, the moderate and occasionally even the more intense Serene Love experiences.

Being with yourself alone while being meditative sometimes can open you up to joining with a sense of universal love and your purely positive connection with the universe.  That, in turn, can bring on great experiences of intense, serene love even having a Nirvana-like intensity.


Your Brain and Serene Love

Via the brain study sciences, we can point to Serene Love facilitating a neurological, parasympathetic brain pattern sometimes dubbed the deep relaxation response.  That pattern sets off a group of body wide reactions generating a general state of calm contentment.  Relationally, that state then tends to be followed by a greater propensity to being cooperative, kind, appreciative and affectionate toward others.

Experimentally, those understandings were arrived at after research subjects, who were evaluated as being in healthful love relationships, meditated on those they loved while brain activity and various other neurological measurements were being made (see “What Your Brain Does with Love”).  Here, the evidence is tentatively interpreted as suggesting the experimental subjects were experiencing at least a mild state of Serene Love which induced, or triggered, the deep relaxation response in their brains.  That then resulted in increased relationally positive behavior tendencies.  Thus, we might postulate that Serene Love thoughts beget more love feelings which, in turn, beget increased love actions.  Or put more simply, love begets love just like the ancients taught.

A wide range of fields at a variety of universities and research institutions are involved in this type of brain/love research.  At those, a number of repetitions and variations of the above described type of experimental procedures are ongoing, as are further analysis and interpretation of the existing experimentally obtained data.  The works of Dr. Daniel G. Amen, Dr. Helen Fisher, Dr. Gerald Hüther, Dr. Geoffrey Miller and quite a few others may be consulted for further science-based knowledge on the subject.


The Many Wonderful Benefits of Serene Love

First of all, the evidence strongly suggests Serene Love is very good for your physical health, for your loved ones and everybody else.  Stress-related illnesses and early deaths, according to some studies, are rampant and increasing in many parts of the world.  In those places, they may account for, or be involved in, at least half the visits to physicians, more than half the prescriptions written and a majority of hospitalizations involving strokes and heart attacks.

Serene Love experiences are seen as both a very helpful preventive measure and an assistive antidote for all that.  Serene Love provides a potent path toward achieving the therapeutic serenity viewed as essential in the treatment of addictions.  Being able to experience periods of Serene Love is thought to positively influence just about every biological process going on in your body.  It has been surmised that recovery and rehabilitation from all sorts of different wounds, accidents and debilitating conditions can be assisted and enhanced by Serene Love.

Second, the evidence also strongly suggests that Serene Love is very good for your psychological health.  Depression and anxiety in particular, but virtually all other psychological maladies are thought to at least somewhat, and often to a major degree, improve when patients participate in periods of feeling Serene Love.  This probably can be done through self-love, couple love, family love, friendship love, pet love, spiritual love or any other kind of healthy, real love.  It is surmised that recovery and rehabilitation from most types of psychological and psychiatric difficulty can be therapeutically enhanced by Serene Love.

Third, Serene Love is absolutely great for all sorts of different forms of love relationships.  Experiencing Serene Love together with a love mate or spouse has been known to help cure the worst of lover and marriage type, relationship problems, get couples through the worst of relationship effecting difficulties and inspire the most positive and wonderful of love mate interactions.  Something of the same can be said to be true for families, parents and offspring and friendship networks.

Fourth, for individuals and groups, spiritual, metaphysical, cosmic connection, universality, beatific and deity focused Serene Love experiences have been reported by many from all around the globe as perhaps the most inspiring, meaningful, beautiful, healing and life transforming of all love experiences.

In short, Serene Love provides all the healthful benefits of experiencing real love coupled with and intertwined with experiencing serenity.


Cultivating Serene Love

For a lot of people, having a Serene Love experience seems to come as something of a surprise.  It also seems true that having Serene Love experiences are much sought after and hoped for but still rather unexpected when they happen.  That may be because Serene Love is not broadly, well identified and, therefore, not given much conscious thought, learned about, or understood as something which may be cultivated.

To purposefully cultivate the possibility of having a Serene Love experience, it helps to first be able to consciously identify Serene Love and then know something about how it might come to be experienced.  Then it helps to put yourself into the situations or create the conditions in which Serene Love is thought likely to occur and merge into your conscious awareness.

Here are just a few potential Serene Love possibilities.  You and a loved one comfortably cuddling together in beautiful surroundings, looking out at gorgeous scenery, being and not doing anything else or needing to.  Quietly lingering while looking in on your safe and secure, sleeping child and gratefully marveling at the miraculous wonderfulness of the love you have with that child.  Coming back to a very welcoming love-filled home after a long and arduous time away.  Lying together with your very special love mate in a sense of complete awesome connection after superbly intimate tender lovemaking.  Gratefully, appreciatively and prayerfully meditating on the beautiful, the incredible, the great, the grand and the never completely knowable marvels of existence.

Absorbing the awesome beauty of a symphonic piece or an exquisite painting and feeling deeply moved and thankful for the opportunity.  Savoring awareness and intense appreciation of the precious, the intimate and the intangibly special wonders which help Serene Love sweep over and through you.  Being un-busy in thought, feelings and/or actions also can set the stage for experiencing Serene Love.  Staying appreciatively focused and concentrating on the positive and the meaningful while not attending to distractions or the should’s and ought to’s of life can be quite assistive.  Seeking to empathetically and intrinsically know and be known by someone you intimately core connect with in love.

Critical to Serene Love are protective love actions.  These are essential elements so that the safety factor of Serene Love can be established and maintained.  Without a sense of safety and security, the dynamic flow of serenity is hard to establish and not likely to be sufficiently sustainable.

Hopefully these thoughts will at least get you started toward your own river of love flowing more often in its highly beneficial, serene dynamic.  Perhaps also, it will help you help those you love and care about to be more often tranquilly immersed in the river of Serene Love.


One More Thing

Might you find it an enrichment to talk these ideas over with another, and while you are at it, let them know about this site’s mini-love-lessons for better love relating and spreading needed love knowledge?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question:  If you are going to do something about Serene Love today, or no later than tomorrow, what might it be?


No BUTs - A Big Important Little Love Skill !

Mini-Love-Lesson #209


Synopsis: The subtle and both conscious and subconscious, negative effect of the word BUT on love relationships is examined and a simple, effective cure is described and heartily recommended.


Does the word BUT have an anti-love effect?

Suppose, in nice tones of voice, you hear the words “I love you so much – BUT…”.  Would you feel loved?  Would you start to feel loved but loose that feeling as soon as you heard the word BUT.  Would your feeling change to a bit of disappointment, apprehension, rejection, let down, on guard, defensiveness, anger or what?  Would you end up with any good feeling?  If there was a good feeling, would it be lessened because of the word BUT.

Your feelings might be affected by whatever came after the word BUT and also how you feel about the person saying it – their voice tones, facial expressions, etc. when they said it.  Are you and those you love among the many people who just upon hearing the word BUT experience a small, quick, negative reaction?

Now think about these comments.  You are wonderful BUT…  You did a good job on that BUT…  I’m really sorry I hurt your feelings BUT…  I could be wrong BUT…  I possibly can use that advise BUT…  Of course you’re really important to me BUT…   What happens inside you with each of those sentence beginnings?  What do you suppose happens inside the people you love if they hear those words or anything like them coming from you?

Does BUT Have Different Psychological and Dictionary Meanings?

All words can have different psychological and dictionary-type meanings.  Sometimes in fact those two can be exactly the opposite of each other.  Remember when the fad was to say “you’re so bad” and it meant exactly the opposite.  In many situations the psychological or connotative meaning is much more important than the dictionary meaning.  This seems to be the case with the word BUT.  Especially may this true in personal relationships and even more so in various kinds of love relationships.

What Does Neurolinguistic Psychology Have To Do with It?

Guess what happens when most people hear the word BUT.

We can hook up people to various types of brain reaction measuring devices.  These devices can tell us whether you are having a little bit of a positive or a little bit of a negative brain (emotional) reaction, consciously and/or subconsciously, when you hear a word.  When many people hear the word BUT, their reaction is predominantly negative.  It is sort of neutral for some others.  It hardly ever is a positive or good feeling for anyone.  Sometimes there only is curiosity but that is about as good as it gets.

Worse Than Neutral !

The word BUT gets a lot of different interpretations.  Hardly any of them could be called good.  For some people, hearing the word BUT means they are about to hear something they don’t want to hear so they emotionally withdraw a bit and get defensive.  Others interpret that they are not really being heard or understood.  If a positive statement was followed with the word BUT plus something less positive, they interpret the positive part as a lie, or deception or an effort at manipulation.  None of that is likely to be helpful in a love relationship.

Are You Canceling the Positive?

Imagine you say something positive to a loved one like maybe a statement that praises or compliments them, and then you add the word BUT followed by something not so positive.  It is likely you just canceled whatever good your positive praise or compliment might have done.  Even if your loved one does not consciously see it that way, they may subconsciously.  The evidence seems to point to the idea that the word BUT has been coupled with unpleasant experiences so often in the lives of so many that just all by itself it provides a negative experience. There are okay uses of the word but.  Mostly that seems to occur in very impersonal interactions.  As soon as there is a personal relationship component, using the word BUT probably is working against you and is self sabotaging.

What’s the Cure?

The cure is quite simple to understand and a little harder to implement.  To understand the cure, first read these two statements. (1) “Yes, I love you BUT can we talk about that right now?  “Yes, I love you AND can we talk about that right now?  For most people, the first sentence means something like “I don’t want to talk about it right now”.  Also the words “I love you” seem to be somewhat insincere or of uncertain importance.  The second sentence usually is interpreted more like “I do want to talk about our love and now is a desirable time”.  The words “I love you” are seen as more sincere and the emotional tone is generally positive.

The word AND is psychosocially additive in its usual effect while the word BUT is psychosocially subtractive even though it’s dictionary meaning is not.  Therefore, the cure is accomplished by just replacing your use of BUT with the word AND every chance you get .  Then see what happens.  Talking additively as opposed to subtractively, or even neutrally, usually helps people feel more positive toward you.  And that is especially thought to be constructive in all kinds of love relationships.  In addition, you yourself may feel an internal, positive shift by substituting AND for BUT.

Replacing BUT with AND

The hard part is making it a new habit replacing an old habit.  That may take some work and it will be worth it.  With this word replacement, you will not be canceling, or sabotaging, or in effect torpedoing your main love messages.  That is because there is some evidence that shows people who talk with AND instead of BUT get heard quite a bit better, cooperated with more, and also probably are liked more and loved better.

Also AND’s and BUT’s seem to have cumulative effects.  In relationships, although subtle, there are constructive and destructive impacts.  Apparently they can add up over time (both with positives for AND or negatives with BUT).  Therefore, we suggest this little love-skill may be a lot more important to the success of a love relationship than might at first be recognized.

Little Love Skills Add Up

Using AND instead of the word BUT may seem like a too small of a thing to pay attention to.  Let me suggest it is best to come from the position that all love skills are worth learning and practicing.  Ovid was right, for love to be lasting it takes skills.  Also remember that while love-feeling is automatically natural, love-relating takes a learned set of skills.

One More Thing

Talking over this mini-love-lesson and its main message with others is likely to implant it in your own head better.  So, who might you do that with rather soon?
As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question: Do you agree or disagree with the idea that when you are talking with someone you love, each and every one of your words has a love positive or love negative effect?


Dog Love Is Real Love !

Mini-Love-Lesson #206


Synopsis: The exciting, new, and not so new, scientific evidence offering proof that dog’s love is real love put simply, some of the many and often surprising benefits of a love relationship with a dog, and what you can learn about real love from a dog and a dog’s love is summarily presented.


Canine Love and People

Time again in my psychotherapy practice, I saw love of and from a pet, mainly dogs, make a huge, sometimes life-saving difference.  Sometimes a depressed and lonely person getting a dog turned the tide of a deteriorating life into one moving up and forward.  Frequently in treating hurt and troubled children, a pet dog and its love proved to be amazingly therapeutic.  Many times getting a canine pet, especially a puppy, greatly aided parents and whole families become more love-oriented.

Pet dogs in the lives of the postwar trauma and disabled veterans, who I and my colleagues treated, was often crucial.  Some couples I worked with first learned some of the most important how-to’s of love from their pet dogs.  In divorce and love-loss recovery, dog love has been vital in preventing breakdowns, suicides, addiction relapses and countless hours lost to depressive malfunctioning.

But of course there are the disbelievers who say dogs really can’t love only humans can do that, and there are those who are quite sure that for dogs it’s just all about food.  There are the skeptics who ask, “How can you can really prove dogs can really love” and they say to dog lovers “Aren’t you just anthropomorphizing and seeing what you want to see?”  Plus, they ask, “Where’s the definitive evidence?”

Also from health insurance companies has come similar ideas justifying denials of services for canine assisted psychotherapy.  And that is even though increasing numbers of research studies have appeared which show how much it helps.  In fact, a whole movement for canine assisted counseling and psychotherapy has blossomed into existence.  I’m familiar with a number of therapists involved in pet assisted therapy.  They tend to claim, sometimes only secretly, that it is the love relationship between the patient and the dog that makes the therapeutic difference.  However, they have avoided reporting so officially because that isn’t thought to be acceptable in certain circles of professional influence.

Of course, for ages dog owners have proclaimed they absolutely know their pets truly loved them and they truly love their pets.  Countless true stories exist about dogs heroically saving their masters and even members of their master’s family’s lives.  Sometimes even after experiencing great pain and injury themselves.  But was it really because of love?  Well now, thanks to the brain sciences, we are beginning to have solid, science-based proof that dogs give and get real love.

The Brain Sciences and Dogs Who Love

It took a while to teach the 90 subject dogs to be still in MRI machines to get their brains scanned, while half received food in one experimental trial condition and half received verbal love messages in another.  One hypothesis was the data from the dog’s brains would show high activity indicating they valued the food in the reward centers of their brains far more than the verbal love sounds coming to their ears.  It was surprising to learn that for many dogs the two proved equal; the food did not elicit a greater response and wasn’t superior.  But in a significant number of others dogs, the neurological brain activity measurements proved the verbal love messages and sounds to be much more rewarding and more important than the food.  So, for dogs, receiving a verbal, behavioral love input was shown to be equal to, or superior to receiving food.  More brain science research on dog love is continuing at Emory University under the direction of neuroscientist Dr. Gregory Burns.

Other findings have showed that dogs can recognize and differentiate their master’s face from other human faces.  When they make this recognition their brains light up much like humans do, from infancy on, when seeing someone who they share a love relationship with.  It has long been observed that dogs go more quickly to their masters who exhibit loving behaviors including just loving facial looks.  These dogs also then begin to give actions of affection to their loving masters.  This strongly suggests that the limbic system brain centers that process love and the neurochemical reactions of processing love are likely to be much the same in humans and dogs.  That is exactly what the research evidence is increasingly pointing to.

Now, as we begin to scan inside the dog brains, we are beginning to see amazing similarities in how dogs and humans psychoneurologically process love.  The brain activity evidence shows that the neuro-electrical and neuro-chemical events in the limbic system of dog brains react much like a humans does when getting and when giving behaviors commonly associated with love.

Consider any two living beings having similarly structured brains.  When in the brains of any two such living beings, the same regions of their brains react the same way neuro-physically, neuro-electrically and neuro-chemically; and also when their accompanying, observable behavior is much the same, there is a most logical interpretation to be arrived at.  That interpretation is it is only reasonable to conclude that those two being are processing (i.e. mentally experiencing, thinking/feeling) much the same thing.  This exactly is what is proving to be true with dogs and humans interacting with each other while exhibiting the behaviors commonly associated with love.  Thus, the preponderance of this growing body of evidence points to dogs love being real love.  We are not likely to get much better evidence for this conclusion until someone invents a real way to actually do the Vulcan Mind Meld.

What Does Animal Comparative Psychology Have To Say?

The psychologists who compare the actions, reactions and interactions of animals with the same in humans are not at all surprised at the kind of results or conclusions just mentioned.  Not so long ago, the great comparative psychologist, Dr. Harry Harlow, proved that to baby monkeys receiving mother love was more important than receiving food.  Some infant monkeys even would starve themselves to death preferring to receive loving contact comfort from a mother surrogate rather than give that up for acquiring needed food.  No one expected that result and when it was discovered that part of the experiment was altered so infant monkeys did not have to suffer further starvation.

Harlow also discovered that baby monkeys who did not sufficiently receive the behaviors that give love in infancy and childhood were never able to successfully mate or healthfully interact with other monkeys.  This was true until they were given monkey therapy in the form of being lovingly treated probably by graduate student lab assistants.  Just like with human babies, non-loved and little-loved monkey infants were prone to early death involving failure to thrive deterioration syndromes.

It is to be noted that at the time of that research few researchers using animals thought that love, or for that matter most psychological factors, had much of anything to do with animals’ physical health and survival.  Consequently, it was Harlow’s discoveries which led to a revolution in the improved treatment of lab animals and after that zoo and circus animals; and the effects of those love findings are still spreading.  Human infants already were receiving much better love behavior treatment because pediatric research had discovered the same thing Harlow did with lab monkeys.  His famous research book is Learning to Love .

Now through comparative psychology’s efforts, along with neuropsychologists and other neuro-scientists, we have learned what looks like a very important general truth.  That truth seems to be that all higher order species, and especially mammals, have brains that make similar, healthful responses to the behaviors that are associated with giving and receiving love.  Therefore, the evidence more and more points to many animals, including dogs and humans, being able to give, get and do real love.
Hence, the preponderance of available evidence points to what dog owners have always known.  You really do love your dog and your dog really does love you.  It is a real love relationship and it can do you a world of good to have that love relationship.

The Many Benefits of Loving and Being Loved by a Dog

When you have a good love relationship with a dog, your stress hormones are likely to be lowered as is your bad cholesterol.  Your neurochemical reactions which allow and help you be happier will be much more active, and your immunity mechanisms will work better at keeping you from getting sick or infected.  The relating you do with others is likely to be more love-oriented and more effectively responsive.  If others see you with your dog, they are likely to be more positive toward you than they might have been.  Playing with and walking your dog will get you more exercise.

If danger is around, your dog is more likely to become alerted to it before you and then may alert and save you from some dire occurrence.  If you are ill or wounded in some way, having your pet dog around is likely to help you heal faster and maybe heal better.  If you are recovering from injury or engaged in any other kind of recovery and rehabilitation, it is much more likely to go better as you keep lovingly interacting with your pooch.  Psychologically, a love relationship with a good pet dog often acts like a good antidepressant and an anti-anxiety medication with no bad side effects.  On and on go the benefits; we don’t have space here for all of them so far discovered.

Learning Love from Dogs

Once long ago, as a scout with other scouts, I was in a large wigwam listening to an ancient Lakota Indian wise woman tell of how the great spirit put dogs into the life of humans to teach us how to love.  It seems, according to that wisdom filled legend, we were not all that good at love until the dogs taught us how.  They taught by example of love’s loyalty, caring concern, forgiving nature, playful affection, protection focus and a host of other ways love gets demonstrated.  So, I suggest you look to your pet dog to model for you some of the best ways love gets done.  Translate what you see into human behavior.  Then see if you can do as well at love as your pet dog does.

Now one more little thing.  You might want to share this mini-love-lesson with a dog lover you know or with someone you think might do well to have a pet dog.  Also you might want to check out this other mini-love-lesson, “Pet Love”.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question: Do you give much thought to how much more enriched your life is or may become because of “interspecies love”?