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Loving Others "As" You Love Yourself ???

Love others as you love yourself is considered by many to be one of the world’s greatest teachings.  There are several good reasons for this.

One reason has been hidden from common awareness and understanding.  In fact, in some places and times this reason even has been banned from being taught or even discussed.
This reason is that the teaching, love others as you love yourself, can be seen as speaking of a democratic (anti-authoritarian) system where everybody gets to be a winner and no one need be a loser.  It works this way.  If I love others and not myself I am the loser.  If I love myself and not others, others go unloved and are the likely losers.  If I love neither myself nor others we are all the less for that.  Only if I love you and also myself do we have an ‘I win, you win, nobody loses’ outcome.

Let’s look at the word ‘AS’.  In English it is a very small, short word.  In many languages ‘AS’ is a larger word and commands more attention.  Here the word ‘AS’ can be seen relating to several things.  ‘I love you as I love me’ can mean I love you at the same time I love me.  It also can mean I love you and me to the same degree.  It may mean I love you in the same manner or ways I love myself; in this understanding of the great teaching we both get to do healthfully well.  This understanding also suggests a system by which we both can grow stronger and become better for the world we live in.  The word ‘AS’, therefore, points to a lot of important meaning in the teaching to loving others as you love yourself.

What about sacrificial love you may ask?  Let me suggest sacrifice is good in emergencies but not so much otherwise.  If we have enough time it’s best to figure out how to love self as we love another so no one need be the loser.  Think of it this way.  If I cut off my right arm for you it makes our next hug poor.  Better that I keep both of my arms, exercise them and then for both you and me hugs, and a lot more, will be far better.  Unfortunately there is a fair amount of needless self-sacrifice in the world.  This is partly because self-sacrifice has been taught as a ‘high holy virtue’.

It’s true that sometimes it is, and that kind of sacrifice sometimes represents great loving and important, helpful action but not always.  Some people tend to be self-sacrificing about almost everything and much of that is just not healthy nor is it needed.  Then there are those who pretend to be self-sacrificing martyrs so as to obtain ‘higher holiness kudos’ and/or guilt leverage for manipulating others.

It is a bit complicated to love others while at the same time loving yourself. Consider these ramifications.  If you are loving others approximately to the same degree you are loving yourself, and in more or less the same manner, you are keeping things balanced and probably indicating to others you are deserving of good treatment.   Know that if you treat yourself sacrificially or in other ways treat yourself poorly you may be teaching others that it’s OK to sacrifice you and treat you poorly.  Not only that, you may be unknowingly influencing them to treat nearly everybody that way.  You also could be an influence for others learning to needlessly and harmfully sacrifice themselves. 

When we love others as we love ourselves we model for others an ‘I win, you win’, approach to human interaction and love relationships.  Acting to love others while modeling healthy self-love can help others, especially children, learn self-care, self-esteem and self-confidence while influencing them to act in ways that are good for others.  It also helps children learn to respect their parents because the parents are modeling self-respect which is a part of healthy self-love.  Thus, it is that this seemingly simple teaching has a great many components to contemplate.

It may help to know a little history of this teaching or concept.  Around 3000 years ago, or so, a Hebrew wisdom-master taught the revolutionary idea “love your neighbor as you love yourself”.  The question was asked who is my neighbor?  The answer evolved to be –  Everyone!  It is now understood that anyone you have anything to do with and anyone you may have some effect upon, no matter how remote or small, is your neighbor.  This understanding leads to the concept ‘our village is our planet, and our neighbors are the life forms that live with us on it’.  In the future, who knows, it may even reach out to include our solar system and far beyond.

About 2000 years ago the man called Jesus (in English) took this teaching and made it one of only two Commandments he ever pronounced.  These two commandments, according to many theologians, are what Christianity is founded upon.  In effect ‘love others as you love yourself’ is one half of the constitutional law of Christianity.

Sadly the ‘as you love yourself’ part mostly either has been ignored, purposefully avoided, downplayed, or given a de-powering interpretation.  It often also has been replaced by teachings like ‘put yourself last’ and ‘all self-love is selfish and evil’.  From a psychotherapist’s point of view these anti-self-love teachings have been disastrous for the mental health of many.  Put yourself last and see self-love as evil promotes the development of low self esteem, low self-confidence, taking poor or bad care of yourself and becoming in character weak, subservient, submissive, and vulnerable to users and abusers.  Furthermore, these anti-self-love teachings influence us toward feeling guilty for honest and accurate pride in doing things well and in our own intrinsic worth; they actually are counter teachings to “as you love yourself”.

You may ask how did this come to be?  Some think that authoritarian religionists under the influence of monarchists and royalists promoted the de-emphasizing of the ‘as you love yourself’ part of this second great Commandment.  Probably because it was seen that the ‘love yourself’ concept points to self strengthening and, thus, to dangerous, independent, self-directed living which, when carried far enough, can result in anti-monarchy democracy.  That could threatened the social advantages and control of both the religious and royal masters of pre-democratic times.

With these corruptions the teaching became something like ‘be good to others but not to yourself’ because that is the devil’s way which is sinful, selfish, uppity and against God’ unless, of course, you are high born or called to high religious orders.  Still today among some who have and want authoritarian power the ‘as you love yourself’ idea is seen as a threat to be de-emphasized or ignored.  On a personal level today many still suffer from the concept that their okayness is granted by others (parents, a man, a woman, what others think of them, etc.) instead of by their own evaluation of their intrinsic value, accomplishments, character, etc.

With that background in mind some questions are in order.  How will you deal with the idea of loving others while at the same time, and to the same degree, and in the same manner you work to love yourself ?  Are you willing to do some work to healthfully love yourself so that you can healthfully love others better?  If you have strong anti love of yourself programs in your head what will you do about those?  If when acting to healthfully love yourself and be good to yourself you feel conflict, guilt, shame or any other bad feeling who might you go to for help?  What can you actually do to balance loving others better and more as you also healthfully love yourself better and more?  How might you go about studying new, different and better ways to love others and new, different and better ways to love yourself?

As always – grow and go with love
Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question If soon you were going to do an act of healthy self-love and a very similar act to show love to a chosen, special ‘other’ what exactly would you do, and when would you do it?

Image credits: “Group Hug” image by Flickr user ms.Tea (Tracy Ducasse).

Does "Cougar" Love Work?

Synopsis: The widespread criticism of Sonia and Christopher; defiant love; ‘cougar’ defined; research surprises; what most couples can do; ageism; Jan’s wisdom.

Sonya flew into my consulting office quite upset and perplexed.  She blurted out, “Christopher and I are a perfect match and he’s my totally perfect, I mean really perfect love mate except for one big thing.  I am 12 years older than he is!  Everyone is telling me this can’t work, it’s wrong, it will never last, he will break my heart, he will cheat on me with a younger woman and a lot worse.  I bet you’re going to tell me the same sort of things aren’t you?”

Then she collapsed into a chair with a very ‘downer’ look on her face.  I softly replied, “What do you suppose you really want the truth about this to be?”  Sonya became contemplative and after a short bit said, “I want two things.  First is to know, even though I’ve been living what everyone disapprovingly calls a ‘cougar’s lifestyle’, can I have a lasting love with Christopher?  Second what can he and I do to make this a lasting love and avoid all the doomsday predictions I’m getting about this relationship?”  She then went on to tell me about him and related that he was the seventh younger man she had seduced and enjoyed but she found Christopher to be, as she called it, ‘a keeper’ if ever there was one”.

I remarked, “So you have decided to keep Christopher in your life and try really hard to make this relationship work.  Now you’re just needing to know how to best go about that, in spite of what you’re friends and family are saying.”  Sonya with a defiant look on her face replied, “You know, you’re right.  No matter what you or anybody says that’s what I’m going to do.  It’s worth it no matter what happens.  So that means I want another thing.  How do I handle my friends and family?”

That interchange was a few years back and with the help of individual, couples and some family counseling Sonya and Christopher seem to have created a really successful, love-filled, healthy, happy lifestyle together.  Their friends and family were quite difficult for awhile but now that part of their life is functioning in at least an acceptable fashion.  Interestingly both Sonya’s and Christopher’s grandparents turned out to be the most welcoming and inclusive while some of the younger family members were the most excluding and condemning.

Originally the term ‘cougar’ meant an older woman who was assertively going after having ‘flings’ with younger men or sometimes younger women.  Commonly the female was 10 or more years older than the person she was involved with.  Sometimes the term was used, and still is used in a very derogatory way.  More recently the term has come to be applied to older women who have long-term relationships, sometimes including marriage, with a person ten or more years younger than they are.

Research on ‘cougar’ relationships is a bit sparse but so far the findings indicate ‘cougar’ relationships surprisingly are a growing phenomenon.  Likewise, it seems a portion of those ‘flings’ turn into lasting, successful ‘cougar love’ relationships.  Most ‘cougars’ seem to be rather assertive, successful in their careers, often financially independent women comfortable with sexuality and fairly adept at being loving and lovable individuals.  Their lovers are thought to have less than average emotional baggage, hang-ups and difficulties and are seen to usually try harder at romance, along with being refreshingly democratic and egalitarian about gender roles.  These lovers are seen to focus on doing psychological love well and being very sexually adaptive.

From my point of view the truth is this.  Most couples who grow enough love and do the work of learning how to do their love well can succeed no matter what their differences.  ‘Cougars’ and their lovers are no exception, although there are some special difficulties to handle.  The common, big problem for ‘cougars’ and their lovers seems to be handling society’s negative, prejudicial opinions about ‘cougars’ and their younger lovers.

Some social scientists are predicting resistance to the ‘cougar’ type of relationship will fade as more and more couples engage in this type of relationship and, therefore, more and more succeed.  In the social sciences anti-cougar pressures are considered to be an outgrowth of ageism (for an in-depth review see the entry “Should Age Make a Difference – in Love?”).  Ageism which includes age segregation, age differentiation and age prejudice is thought to be a needless and even destructive social dynamic among a number of cultural critics, and that thinking seems to be spreading.

To overcome society’s, and perhaps family and friend’s resistance, it’s extremely important for a ‘cougar couple’ to learn not to be governed by ‘what others think or say’.  To respond with love to the anti-love messages some will experience is a valuable, helpful skill set.  Listen to the wisdom of Jan who said, “I learned my friend’s and family’s criticism just told me what the ‘criticizers’ were threatened by.  Their disapproval told me more about them than about me or my lover.  Once I realized that, I was able to respond with tolerance and kindness, which did more to wear down their resistance far better than any reason or argument I could have given.”

From what I’ve seen in my practice ‘cougars’ and their lovers are like all people in couples relationships.  If they work at it they can learn the major ways of showing love, receiving love, cycling love and growing love.  When they do that their chances of creating a healthful, lasting love grow dramatically, no matter what their differences.

As always Go and Grow in Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
What happens inside you when you hear or read the words ‘cougar’, ‘cougar lover’, ‘cougar lust’, ‘cougar’ approaching, ‘cougar fling’ and ‘cougar love’?

How Smart Is Your Love? - A Test

Synopsis: Here you will find: why your love needs to be done smart; important background for taking the test; test instructions; the test; scoring instructions; interpretations; love smart homework using the test; and some concluding concepts.

Why Your Love Needs to Be Done ‘Smart’

Arguably love relationships are the most important thing you do in your life.  Your love relationship with your mate, family, children, friends, self, your deity, your purpose in life and life itself, all are very important and, therefore, best done ‘smart’ as opposed to dumb, ignorant, uninformed, without knowledge or stupid.

Think about doing your love relationships with the teamwork of your head and your heart working together in harmony.  We have some pretty good evidence that suggests people who do love this way have greater love success than those who don’t.  We also have evidence that suggests a great many people do not go about love smartly.  As one of my clients once said, “Putting the word smart and the word love together in the same sentence just does not happen in my head”.

Maybe you’ve been programmed dysfunctionally that way also.  Well, if that’s so and you really want good results in your love relationships I suggest you explore putting love and smart together in the way you do love.  Taking the following little exam will likely help you do just that.

Important Background for Taking the Test

You will be presented with a dozen questions designed to help you assess your ‘smart love’ functioning in order to do more ‘smart love’ and get more love successful.  There is research showing that ‘the love successful’ act differently than those who are less love successful. There are clinical findings showing that you can learn the actions of the more love successful and in the process become much more healthfully loving and loved.

There also is data  showing lots of people think love is a matter of luck and, consequently, they don’t work at learning what works and what doesn’t work in love relationships, until maybe it’s too late for a current love relationship to survive.

Also there are lots of people who repeat their failures time and time again, and also those who give up trying because it’s all just too painful.  If you experience a love failure the choices seem to be either to conclude you just are not lucky in love, or it’s always the other person’s fault, or you might conclude you are doing something wrong and you can learn how to do something much more likely to work.  That last conclusion is ‘a smart love choice’.

If you depend on learning instead of luck you’re much more likely to have greater love success in all types of love relationships – romantic, parent/child, family, friendship, spiritual, sexual, humanitarian and self-love.  The subject matter in each of the following test questions can help you start thinking more ‘love smart’.

Instructions For Taking the Test

Read each of the following questions carefully and read the four possible answers numbered one through four for each question.  Decide which answer comes closest to your best estimate of the correct answer for you.  Record the number of the question and then record next to it the number of the answer you have chosen.  Example: If on question three you choose answer number two you would record 3 – 2., for that question.  Try not to leave any questions unanswered.  After you have finished the test we will tell you what to do next for scoring and interpretation. Here are the questions:

1.    When a loved one is talking can you repeat back to them what they just said fairly exactly, showing you’re really good at loving listening?
1 rarely    2 occasionally    3 often    4 usually

2.    When a loved one is within arms reach do you reach out and give them a love touch?
1 rarely    2 occasionally    3 often    4 usually

3.    When you see a written article, TV show, news item, etc. that purports to have something to tell you about love (not sex) do you dive into it, study it, etc.?
1 rarely    2 occasionally    3 often    4 usually

4.    If you had a chance to go to a fairly inexpensive, three hour seminar or workshop on the psychology of healthy, real love would you go?
1  no        2 probably not    3 probably yes    4 definitely

5.    If a friend or relative you respect recommended a book about how to do love well would you read it?
1  no        2 probably not    3 probably yes    4 definitely

6.    If you heard that some people were studying their love history, including past love successes and love failures, and were learning a lot from doing that, would you want to do the same thing?
1  no        2 probably not    3 probably yes    4 definitely

7.    Do you ask your loved ones how they want you to show them your love?
1 never    2 hardly ever        3 occasionally    4 frequently

8.    Do you work at clearly understanding how you want love to be shown to you?
1 almost never    2 seldom    3 occasionally    4 frequently

9.    If you have a desire concerning how a loved one treats you, do you work at discovering how to clearly and lovingly to communicate and request your desire?
1 almost never    2 seldom    3 occasionally    4 frequently

10.    Do you study your loved ones working to know what pleases, assess and benefits them?
1 rarely    2 occasionally    3 fairly often        4 frequently

11.    When there’s a problem in a love relationship do you work at lovingly talking it over with whoever is involved, striving to find new and better ways to love your way through the problem?
1 rarely    2 occasionally    3 fairly often        4 frequently

12.    When a loved one is upset do you work to learn and find ways of showing emotional support, care and concern for the loved one’s upset feelings?
1 usually not    2 once in a while    3 most of the time    4 almost always

Score 1 point for every time you recorded a number one answer, score 2 points for every time you recorded a number two answer, and 3 points for every number three answer, and 4 points for every number four answer.  Then add up those points.  That is your score on this test.

    Scores 0 – 11 suggest you have too many “don’t know”, “not sure”, etc. answers and, therefore, you probably need to intensely study how to do successful love relationships.

Scores 12 – 24 suggest you probably are not going about love in a very smart way, and therefore, you are likely not to learn how to improve your love successes until you study a lot more how to succeed at love.

Scores 25 – 36 suggest you probably are learning a little about being love smart and love successful, but probably not nearly enough if you really want to improve your love relationships.

Scores 37 – 45 suggest you’re going about love in a fairly smart and fairly likely to succeed way, and if you keep this up and study more about love success you will succeed even more.

Scores 46 – 48 suggest you possibly are overconfident, or perhaps insufficiently insightful as to what you’re really doing, or maybe you are not giving close enough attention to your answers, and then again you could be cheating.  The other possibility is you actually are quite excellent at love.

Love Smart Homework, Using the Test

Go over your lowest scores and think about what you would have to do to improve them.  Each question’s content can be used as a suggestion for improvement, so contemplate the questions that way.  You might want to ‘journal’ what you think.  Now, go over your highest scores thinking about the content of those questions.  Use them to suggest to yourself ways to go further in learning how to do smart love.  Following that, look over your midrange scores and consider what it would take to improve those scores if you were to take the test again next year.

Do understand that this little test is just a way to help you more closely consider how to use your brain with your heart and arrive at greater love success for you and your loved ones.

Concluding Concepts

Smart love is knowledgeable love!  Smart love is done with learning and knowledge acquirement which is put into practice and continuously improved upon.  Socrates and Plato worked to acquire love knowledge and gave us the famous “Symposium on Love”.  Paul knew that love could be done with knowledge and gave us his wonderful description of love in the New Testaments, First Corinthians, 13.  Rumi knew love knowledge must be discovered and learned and put his teachings into his grand, wisdom-filled, love poetry.  Buddha gave us The Song of Compassionate Love, and Jesus gave us his teaching parables on love.

Many other ‘wisdom masters’ of old implored all of us to become love knowledgeable and, therefore, bring about greater love success in our lives, in the lives of others and throughout the world.  Modern science increasingly is backing up what the wisdom masters of old were teaching.  Hopefully, this will boost your own ability to become more love smart and, thereupon, more love successful.

As always – Go and Grow in Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
So far in life have you depended more on being lucky at love or on learning about love?

Firm Love and Your Child's Well-being

Synopsis: Parent’s laments about out of control child behavior, Then statements of surprise and relief after employing Firm Love techniques; The mix of love and firmness; What does firm love look like; and A few hints for carrying out firm love parenting; and more.

“My children are out of control.”  “My kids are turning into monsters.”  “All I get is angry back-talk.”  “What am I doing wrong?”  “Why do I have to ask them a million times to do what they’re supposed to do?” “I get so mad when they won’t do what I expect them to do – I’m the one out-of-control.”  “No matter how much I yell at them they still won’t do what I say.”  Time and time again in parent guidance counseling I hear laments like these.  In most cases the problem is the same at the core and so is the solution.

To understand what the problem is and what the cure is, compare the above statements to the following one. “I’m so amazed.  I finally started doing what you suggested I experiment with and I’m actually getting both my boys to do what I want them to do.  They’re even politely saying Yes ma’am and No ma’am when I tell them what to do. And it took only three, truly terrible days before the new system started working.  I thought it would take a lot longer.”

“The other amazing thing is we also are much happier and getting along much better.  Like you said they did escalated all their bad behaviors at first, and it was tough but I stuck with it, and I can’t believe how well all that firm love stuff worked.  I sure wish I’d started doing these things years ago when the trouble started.  Another thing is one of my boy’s teachers came to me and volunteered that they were acting better in school too, and we haven’t even focused on that yet; I guess we won’t have to now.”

Love-Hunger and Insecurity

We have a ton of research that shows children and also adolescents do best with a combination of parent actions that helped them feel two main things – feeling loved and feeling safe.  When deep in their subconscious children go love-hungry, and when children begin to develop vague senses of insecurity they frequently begin to act in ways that parents find difficult to handle.

Becoming oppositional, disobedient, defiant, passive aggressive, angry, deceitful, unmindful of rules, argumentative and even unmotivated and forgetful, along with just general displays of unhappiness frequently means a child doesn’t feel sufficiently secure, or loved, or both.  Parent actions which show a combination of consistent love and firmness, well mixed together, often are required to produce happy, cooperative children and a harmonious home life.

What is so baffling to many parents is the acting out behavior looks like the child just wants to be left alone to do what they want to do.  Then mistakenly those parents might not carry through with the behavior they want from the child, thinking this will pacify the child, however, the opposite (escalating bad behavior) most often occurs because the child subconsciously wants loving parental control which they are unable to give themselves.  Escalating bad behavior usually means the underlying need is not being met; that explains how loving firmness leads to a child’s sense of security.

Insecurity and Firmness

If a child’s subconscious could talk with adult words it might say something like this. “Parent, I know I can not handle the big, scary world by myself, so I need to see you as consistently strong and standing protectively between me and the big, scary world.  I also know I need your help to handle the natural impulses, drives, and urges that sometimes cause me to act up and act out these feelings.
“If I act up and I see you can’t handle little, weak, vulnerable me and the small amount of power I have, I will see you as weak just like me.  That will agitate, irritate, annoy and then frighten me, which in turn will cause me to feel increasingly and fundamentally insecure.

Then I will agitate, irritate, annoy and test you all the more, hoping you will show me you are strong enough to handle mostly powerless, little me.  I also will want to see you strongly stand between me and the big, scary world.  I guess if I don’t see those things happen often enough, I will grow up a very insecure and dysfunctional adult.  So, please dear parent, show me you are strong enough to protect me from the big, scary world, as well as powerful enough to guide me into controlling the urges which sometimes flood me.”

It mostly is a parent’s calmly exhibited firmness, mixed with love expressions that best reassures a child and helps them to feel secure.  Doing something like gently putting your arm around a disobedient child and firmly saying, “I love you, kid, and now go stand in the corner for 18 minutes, and get your penalty finished so we can do something more pleasant later” is an example of firm love.  Other forms of firmness, of being tough and strong can help a child feel secure in the family, but without the expression of love mixed with a show of strength the results tend to be much less desirable.

Insecurity and Love

As a child feels sufficiently secure and when they are not having to cope with the threat of living without sufficient safety, they open to the benefits of being loved.  When a sufficiently secure child receives parenting acts which convey love, they tend to physically and psychologically grow and mature better and faster.

Most of the children who receive both sufficient security and demonstrations of love do remarkably well in the world as adults.  This often is true even if they have some other difficulty.  To show how important this security and love is, in extreme cases an infant who is markedly unloved is susceptible to dying of Marasmus or some other failure-to-thrive illness, or else it’s because their immune system became extra susceptible to disease.

The extremely, erratically loved child is prone to becoming a Psychosocial Dwarf or to developing some other physical growth and developmental dysfunction.  The insufficiently loved child is much more likely to develop one or another form of mental or emotional illness, as well as being more susceptible to various physical illnesses.

To have a solid sense that one consistently is loved, provides a certain sense of security in itself.  To consistently receive the eight major groups of behavior which convey love helps a child’s psycho-physical self be healthfully nourished.  That love nourishment is necessary for a child’s growth and the development of healthy brain functioning and neurochemical balancing.

Without good brain functioning and neurochemical balancing mental, emotional and behavioral problems become much more likely.  Insecurity-based anxiety and proneness to depression, along with the inability to form healthy relationships, all are thought frequently to be related to inadequate love or malformed love having occurred in a child’s life.

The Mix of Love and Firmness

Just being loved without firm guidance doesn’t seem to produce happy, healthy kids because love alone doesn’t produce a sufficient sense of security.  Just being firm without love may produce tough but unloving offspring.  When love and security both are present in a child’s life, developmental maximum well-being is much more likely.  When a sense of security is incorporated it tends to result in a more self-confident, self-secure child. When there is sufficient love expressed with firmness it tends to produce a sufficiently, healthfully, self loving child who has a sense of confidence and self-security.

This in turn tends to produce assertiveness and higher achievement, and societal contribution in adulthood.  Love and firmness mixed well together also tend to produce compassionate, caring offspring who are good at cooperation and interrelating.  Of course, there can be all sorts of intervening, negative factors and events in a child’s life which can derail the best parenting efforts.  However, all else being equal the parent who masters being both loving and firm is likely to get happy, healthy children that they enjoy being around, along with a more consistently harmonious home life.

What Does Firm Love Look Like?

Here is an example: The parent smiled and touched the child’s hands in a loving way saying, “You broke the rule and you know what the penalty is, so start and continue your penalty for 23 minutes.  The child screamed, “It’s not fair, my brother made me do it, it’s his fault, I hate you.”
The parent still rather quietly, but with a lowered firmness in the parent’s voice said, “ I know you are unhappy and after you’ve finished your penalty I’ll listen to you, but now your penalty time is 33 minutes.  The child cried, hollered, thrashed about and moaned loudly.  The parent said, “Now it’s 43 minutes, and I love you, and you can cry but you have to do it quietly.  I really hope you don’t get to 53 minutes.  I really will listen to your complaints after you’ve finished with the penalty, and after that we might be able to do something nicer later”.

The child said a little resentfully, “Okay” and with a sadly lowered head dutifully commenced with the penalty action.  After the specified time the parent said, “I’ll listen to you now if you want tell me different things and you can say anything you want.  The child calmly said, “I did break the rule and I apologize.  I blamed my brother but it’s me who let him talk me into it, so I did deserve the penalty.  I’ll do better next time”.

The parent smiled warmly, said “I love you and I’m proud of you for saying that”. The child hugged the parent and then went to play.  This may sound like a rosy scenario but I’ve heard reports just like this from happy parents who employed firm love with a misbehaving child.  And the child’s resistance to this system usually lessens quickly if the system is used consistently.

A Few Hints for Carrying out Firm Love Parenting

Firmness is better conveyed by a lowered voice than a raised voice.  It is quite useful not to confuse a child by using the word ‘asked’ as in “Aren’t you going to do what I asked you to do?”.  It is useful for children to understand the difference between a request to which one can say no, and a command.  Frequently children truly are not being asked to do something but instead they are being ordered or commanded to do something.  If you ask someone to do something it’s a request not an order, and to a true request the answer “no” must be allowable.  Otherwise, it’s not a true request it’s an order disguised as a request.  For many children who take words quite literally this just helps them see parents as phony.

Words of love can be stated in the same, firm tone of voice which may help ‘love words’ be seen as strong and solid.  Indeed, these love words may not be immediately perceived well.  They, however, do tend to soak in later.

There is much more to be learned about firm love and how to accomplish it.  Hopefully this is enough to get you started thinking about your own mix of firmness with love in parenting.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question Is there someone in your past who did firm love well that you might model some of your firm love parenting actions on?

Gender Diversity & Romantic - Heart-mate Love

Mini-Love-Lesson  #195

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson is designed it to help people get clear on the confounding romantic and heart-mate love, lifestyles & sexual issues that stress and distress people who have gender diversity issues and those who seek to understand and assist them.

Love and Gender

We all are built to give and get love.  Also we all are built having gender and with that comes our sexuality.  Our gender factors influence our romantic and heart-mate love thinking, love feelings and love behavior.  Science increasingly shows much of our gender and love processes are natural phenomena largely occurring in our brains but also affecting our bodies in a great variety of ways.  Love, gender and sexuality all turn out to be a lot more diverse and varied than we used to think.  We should not be surprised about that because nature can be said to love variation and diversity.  That probably is because of its great survival value for our species.  By the way, science shows all this to be true not only for humans but for a lot of different kinds of higher order species.

In regard to gender, there is a lot more going on than being just strictly male or strictly female.  Some people are born physically both.  Some are understood to be born both genders in their brains but not in their bodies.  Others have the brain of one gender and the body of another.  There seem to be others who go back and forth, and still others who spend part of their life as one gender but then natural forces within them emerge bringing about a change to another gender.  After that, natures variations start to get complicated and hard to describe.

Now, let’s add in sexuality.  Did you know that some people are sexually attracted to both men and women but may only want to do heart type or spousal love with one of those.  Then there are those who romantically love and want to live married to both.  Are you aware that occasionally a head injury can result in a change of sexual preference.  On and on variety goes.

The truth is if you can think of a love, lifestyle or sexual relationship variation, it is a good bet that somewhere on our planet there are people doing it.  Not only that, but all that diversity may be backed by naturally occurring, normal, healthy variations in the brain motivating the variant sexual/love/lifestyle (different than usual) behavior.

Gender Is Not Binary but Your Society/Culture May Be

You do not really choose your gender.  Via nature, your gender chooses you.  For some people that can seem like a quite befuddling choice.  For others it is a very threatening and highly stressful, confused choice.  Usually that is because they live in a culture or society that pigeon holes all people into strictly either male or female.  For the bisexual, homosexual, transsexual, and anything-else-sexual, this can be a really big, life warping and even life-threatening problem.  In more loving societies and in those becoming so, diversity in love, lifestyle or gender variation, life can be easier, safer, healthier and more naturally actualized.

Becoming Aware of the Questions Gender Diversity Can Bring

Who or what are you attracted to and who is attracted to you?  Is it different from who you want to love and be loved by?  Is that different from, or in opposition to what you have been taught?  The questions can become ever more difficult.  For instance: If you are a boy who lusts for girls but wants to become a girl, does that make the inner you a lesbian?  If it does, is that a moral issue or a religious issue or maybe even a non-issue?  If your questions are confused how can you ever discover what is true or real for you and about you?  How can you become okay in a culture that says it is not okay to be you?  How can you give and get  love healthfully in society that will punish you for deviation from its norms of how people should and should not love?

These are but some of the stressor questions complicating the romantic, heart-mate and spousal love lives of those having a gender diversity.  We suggest this means the gender diverse really can use lots of good, healthy, friendship love, family love and help with their own healthful self-love development.

Gender Conflicted Romantic and Heart-mate Love

For those who are unresolved about their gender identity, there often is painful and confusing difficulty concerning what to do and what not to do romantically.  That blends into what to do and not do socially, sexually and maritally.  Romance and spouse type love for some seems like a lonely impossibility and hopeless or at best problem-filled future.  Some give up trying, others decide to settle for whatever and whoever comes along, while still others pretend or work desperately to become a normal heterosexual.  That can lead to becoming trapped by one version or another of a false love syndrome, a fake marriage or having a conflicted life of infidelity subject to it’s ruinous ravages stemming from deception and betrayal.

Daring to reveal one’s true, sexual proclivities to a romantic interest, can present an agonizing life labyrinth to attempt navigating through.  Just figuring out who you are attracted to and who can be attracted to you is hard enough for anyone having any gender confusion.  Nevertheless, when romantic or heart-mate love connections do occur and are sufficiently reciprocated, real and marvelous love can occur and grow.

Another problem is what to do with one’s sexuality.  Gender variant people often have gender variant sexual desires.  This clearly and easily is seen in the intensely bisexual person who naturally wants to have sex with both males and females and even perhaps with others who are less easily gender identified.  That, by the way, might qualify them for being a bit omni-sexual.

Sexual experimenting, toleration for variance, alternate lifestyles like group marriages, communal living & other unique relationship arrangements can come into play in these situations.  Running afoul of cultural norms based in heterosexuality is common in these situations and, of course, adds to the stressors involved.

Around the world and throughout history, one can find successful examples and models of how these gender variations have been successfully handled and where healthy, real love has prevailed.  Sadly, there also are lots of examples where it has not.  Openness to heart-mate love of many variations is growing, especially in urban centers around the world.  Push back regressive reactions against these relational variations also are growing fueled by prejudice, judgmentalism, condemnation and irrational fear.  The worldwide trend, however, seems to be a bit more pro-love than anti-love for those of varying gender orientations.

A Synthesized Solution

Who do you feel attracted to?  Notice that this question is not what gender do you feel attracted to.  That too is an okay question but I suggest not the primary question.  If sometimes you are attracted to a kind, generous, funny, sexy, particular person who happens to be a man, and other times you are attracted to the same traits in a female, it’s the traits that may count more than the gender.  In this kind of case, it may be your job to carefully explore both attractions.  But do not confuse attraction with love.  We get attracted for all sorts of different reasons that are not love.

Who do you get interested in?  What do they do that interests you?  How are they intriguing you?  There too, your job is to explore and experiment into that interest.  Something inside you has said, notice that person.  It probably has not said just, notice that gender.  Go explore and adventure carefully with that person no matter what their gender or gender variation is.  Let the relationship grow into whatever it grows into.  It may be a friendship love, a romantic love or even something without a name.

Who stirs you up and gets you puzzled as to what you are feeling?  Go explore and adventure around, with & toward them – carefully.  See who you become with them and what they have to offer.  That is your job assignment coming from deep, inner forces that point you toward particular people you might just end up loving and being loved by.

The love you grow with a person may turn out to be a whole lot more important than their gender or gender variation.  However, the gender factor is indeed an important one.  It may have a lot to do with how your life and future lifestyle goes.

Now, if it totally does not feel right for you to romantically get involved with someone of a particular gender or gender variation, then probably – do not do it.  Do, however, question whether those are really your own, deep, inner, real feelings or are they what you have been taught to think you should feel.

Whoever you love is whoever you love, irrespective of their psychobiological gender.  Whether or not you can do heart-mate or spousal love with them is a question to face later after your relationship has had time to grow and perhaps become one of healthy, real heart-mate love or something else.
One word of caution.  Usually it is wiser to be the chooser than the chosen.  Of course, when it gets to be truly mutual that is even better.

Help spread love knowledge – tell someone about this site and its many mini-love-lessons, okay?

As always Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: Can you have some kind of love for any and every kind of gendered person you really get to know,