Over 300 FREE mini-love-lessons touching the lives of thousands in over 190 countries worldwide!

Showing posts with label communication. Show all posts
Showing posts with label communication. Show all posts

Asking For What You Want-- with Love!

Synopsis: Why asking is crucially important; Three basic things to understand; Three blocks to get past; 10 essential questions to ask yourself first; The seven major elements of a really good love request to learn and practice.

The research is conclusive.  Asking for what you want is crucial to the success of ongoing love relationships.  Not asking for what you want honestly, accurately, sufficiently and frequently is likely to have a detrimental, even destructive effect on every adult love relationship you have.

The research also is clear that people in a great many couple, family, friendship and other love relationships don’t do a good job of effectively asking for what they want and, therefore, they frequently don’t get what they want.  This leads to disappointment, misunderstandings, frustration, anger, fights, loneliness, breakups and many other forms of agony and dysfunction.  From ineffective, and sometimes even nonexistent requests flow many of the worst relational problems which, with the making of good requests, might mostly be avoided.

It’s important to understand three ‘basic, background concepts regarding ‘asking for what you want’:

Concept 1.  Asking shares yourself Whenever you ask for something you want you have shared an important part of yourself.  To not ask is to not share an important truth about you.  Remember, one of the eight major ways to directly love someone is termed Self Disclosure Love.  The truth seems to be we always are going after what we want subconsciously, semi-consciously or consciously.  Everything that lives survives by going after what it wants.  Going after it consciously and clearly by verbally asking for what we want makes the teamwork of relationship much more clear and much more likely to work.  Clearly sharing your desires helps those you love to not have to guess, to not miss important aspects of you, to not make mistakes and it can help them feel not only personally shared with but personally important and valued.

Concept 2.  Asking is responsible love behavior If I ‘own’ a desire or want, as an adult I ‘own’ the responsibility to do something about my desire or want.  You can help but it’s my job to do something about it.  I can use my response-ability of verbalizing clearly what I want with my love response-ability by making my requests known as lovingly as possible.  By using terms of endearment, soft tones of voice, loving facial expressions, and perhaps loving touch mixed with honest, behaviorally clear requests, two or more people can responsibly create the teamwork of good love relating.

Concept 3.  Asking fulfills love needs best In your wants are hidden your needs.  You may want the pleasure of a caress and biologically need the neurochemical endorphin release the caress activates.  To function well we need the nourishment of healthy, real love.  The quickest and most efficient way to get that needed nourishment is to ask for it.  As you perhaps have noticed, I am fond of saying love is an essential psychological food that nourishes us pretty much like healthy, physical food does.  Love energizes us and without it we begin to malfunction in numerous psycho-biological and relational ways.  Love relationships work just like restaurants.  They can provide you very enjoyable nourishment and may even come with a very pleasant milieu but they both depend on just one thing – asking for what you want.

Imagine going to a restaurant and not asking for what you want, and imagine what you would get.  It might be similar to what you get in a love relationship when you don’t do a good job of asking for what you want.  I suggest that the better you ask the better your chances are of actually getting what you want (no guarantee).  Equally important is hearing and understanding rather exactly what your beloved wants.  Much of giving healthy, real love is about helping your loved ones get what they want and perhaps to get what they need.

You may be blocked from asking for what you want by three dangerous and often destructive myths.  One myth is ‘If you really love me you know what I want, and you will give it to me’.  (See “Anti-Love Myth #1: True Love Means You Will Know What to Do”).  Let me suggest the truth is that love does not come with a crystal ball or automatic mind-reading ability, therefore, communication, including asking for what you want, is necessary.  The next myth is ‘If I have to ask you for what I want it spoils getting it’.  That is only true if you make it so.  Let me suggest that asking for what you want is a gift of self loving, self disclosure and letting yourself be vulnerable with a loved one.

Withholding what you want often can help your loved ones fail at loving you and,  therefore, actually is an anti-love act.  A third myth is ‘Asking for what I want is selfish and unloving’.  The 3000-year-old admonition to ‘love others AS you love yourself’ is wonderfully just right.  It provides for the possibility of ‘I win , you win and there need be no loser’ outcomes.  (See “Loving Others AS You Love Yourself???”)  I suggest asking for what you want is an act of healthy self-love that’s necessary for the workings of healthy love relationships.

Asking Yourself Ten Essential Questions first Here are 10 very important questions to ask yourself before you start learning how to do a better job of asking for what you want with love:
1. Do I wait so long to say something about what I want that I come across unhappy, mad or otherwise negative when I finally do bring it up?

2. Do I gripe and complain about not getting what I want as a way to ask for it and, thus, sabotage the whole process?

3. Do I pick poor and bad times to bring up what I want, like when we are tired, in a rush, at work, stressed, needing to focus on other things, etc.?

4. Do I complain more about what I don’t get than give thanks and praise for what I do get?

5. Do I make my requests too vague, abstract, general and nonspecific, thus, sabotaging my chances for getting what I really want?

6. Do I hint, give clues, and generally ask indirectly, instead of directly and clearly asking for what I want?

7. Do I let fears, apprehension, and doubts slow or stop me from asking for what I want, especially about the love and its expressions I want and probably need?

8. Do I ask for what I want in a loving tone of voice and with a loving look on my face?

9. Do I discuss my wants with manipulative terms like “I need …”, “You never give me…”, “I never have enough…”, “It’s not fair that…”, “Why don’t you ever…”, and so forth?

10. Do I ask for what I want like a demanding parent, a begging child, or an OK, equal adult?

The 7 Major Elements of Asking for What You Want with Love Here are the major elements of making a healthy, loving request.  I suggest you study them closely and practice them a lot.  I also suggest you help your loved ones learn them and practice them on you.

1. Ask for what you want behaviorally like “I want a hug” which is a clear, behavioral request as opposed to “I could use some affection” which is not nearly specific enough.  “I want us to go dancing” is behaviorally good while “It would be nice if we did something fun” is okay for a start but inadequate without specific behaviors added because it is open to too many different interpretations and misinterpretations.

2. Ask for what you want with loving tones of voice, loving facial expressions and loving touches if possible.  Sounding or looking angry, sad, fearful, weak, domineering, blasé, bored, arrogant, dictatorial, superficial, uncaring, etc. tends to sabotage the request and the love relationship.

3. Ask with a time range included.  Here’s an example, “I’d like us to go to the movies Friday at about 7 P.M. and plan to get home by 11 P.M., if that works for you”.  Statements like, “How about we go someplace, or do something, sometime, OK?” can only be good if they lead into specific requested behaviors that cover what exactly, where exactly and when exactly might the desired behavior occur.

4. Be lovingly willing to trade, negotiate, synthesize, compromise, etc..  She happily said, “I will go see that adventure movie you want to see Saturday night, if you go with me to see my ‘chick flick’ Sunday after lunch.”  He said, “You want the sea shore and I want the mountains.  Let’s start looking for vacation places that have both close to each other.”

5. Ask the difficult to ask questions.  She said, “I’m a little embarrassed to say this out loud but the truth is I want us to make tender, sweet, sexy love this Sunday afternoon, and then wild, naughty, dirty sex Wednesday night after the kids are gone.  What do you think and feel about what I’m asking and the way I’m asking it?”  He bravely said, “I’m ashamed to admit it but I’m feeling really insecure and I’m asking you to reassure me that you love me and that I’m your number one love and there is no number two – if that’s true?”

6. Be lovingly willing to hear “no”, “not yet”, “I’m not ready”, etc. and to negotiate lovingly from there.  Unless you are lovingly willing to accept those kind of answers you’re not requesting – you are demanding.  There are no punishments or retaliations for loving requests which are denied or postponed in a healthy, loving relationship.  There, however, can be a little show of disappointment and that might receive a little sympathy.

7. Lovingly ask often and much.  The more you don’t ask for what you want the more you are keeping a loved one in the dark, the more you are setting yourself up for disappointment and setting your relationship up for dysfunction.

Healthy love-based requests, of course, tend to be loving but also, well-timed, accurate, assertive, sufficient, behaviorally clear and democratic in nature.  Much research shows that the happiest and most successful love relationships contain people doing a good job of asking for what they want along with really hearing what their loved ones want.

As always Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question Did you grow up in a situation that perhaps subconsciously programmed you to be more comfortable, or more uncomfortable with people lovingly asking for what they wanted and hearing what others wanted?

Getting Yourself Heard: A Big Important Self-Love Skill!

Mini-Love-Lesson #222

Synopsis: What being well heard consists of; its many faceted importance to your life and loves; and the basic how-to's of getting started on making it happen are presented here.

To be heard well is to be loved well

What does it mean to be heard well?  To get yourself heard well you had best first understand an answer to this question.  I suggest it means that someone cares enough, and knows how to listen to far more than just words and what they mean in the dictionary sense.  It means to pay attention to the feelings being expressed in tones of voice, facial expressions, gestures, and posture changes (see “How to Talk Love Without Words”).  Sometimes it means listening to what is not being said with words but maybe implied, hinted at or satirically (or euphemistically) verbalized.  Mostly it is hearing the emotions along with the meaning of the words.

To be well heard, also usually means that the hearer is what is termed an active listener.  Active listening involves good eye contact, occasionally making small empathetic sounds as the talker talks, having a great many different facial expressions appropriate and corresponding to each thing the talker communicates, shifting body postures indicating attentiveness and care, and doing gestures that represent being with and for the person being listened to but not necessarily in agreement with whatever is getting said.  This especially is important if you are listening to people in disagreement with each other.

To hear well with love, means to have and convey loving care as you listen.  Those who lovingly hear well, do well to ask themselves over and over, "am I really showing I care about this person I'm listening to".

I have had a part in training a wide variety of counselors, nurses therapists, psychologists, caseworkers and psychiatrists.  Some knew how to listen accurately but not lovingly.  Some knew how to listen actively, and that helped, but when loving care was absent, clients/patients knew it.  Genuineness in loving care is very important as one attempts to listening well with love.  The same is true for spouses, parents, dear friends, lovers and even in the way you listen to yourself.

What About the Words?

I get asked "Are not the words said important?"  Yes, they are very important but more with some people and situations than others.  For a great many to whom words and their meanings have high importance, focusing on and having memory for the words they say is imperative.  For a great many others, words are clumsily inaccurate stabs in the dark for what they are trying to get across.
Those who listen well can reflect back what you just said and also label an emotion they think you were feeling as you said it.  Silently they are repeating what you just said to themselves so that they can remember it and simultaneously registering an interpretation of your emotions.  Those who listen well are well practiced at doing this so it comes kind of automatically for many good listeners.
Vocabularies vary greatly.  So do styles of speech, use of colloquialisms, slang, jargon, code use, fad terms and even cadence and rhythm.  There are a great many parts to listening well.

One of the signs of those who listen well is that they can identify what they are not sure about and easily ask questions about it.   For instance, a person who listens well might occasionally say something like, "I know I'm interrupting a bit but I want to ask about something.  I noticed you really sped up when you started talking about person X.  Do you have a feelings or thoughts about that?".

Does Your Silence Get Listened to?

There is a saying "silence screams the loudest".  Those who listen well also listen well to your silence and often hear a lot in that silence.  They do what is called hearing with their eyes.  If it seems you are stuck, they might softly say something like, "Think out loud, maybe?"

What Those Who Listen Well Don't Do

Listening well means NOT just pause listening (only listening for pauses so the listener can start saying their stuff).  They also do not over talk other’s speech and, thus, demonstrate they are not listening at all.  Nor do they give not-asked-for advice, or try to answer questions that are not real questions but only statements in question form.  Also they do not attempt to tone-down harm-free, cathartic expression.  Nor do they attempt to block, suppress or limit obnoxious, profane, bizarre, irrational, degrading, sexual, anti-decorous and antisocial verbal expression before their cumulative meaning has been heard and well listened to.  Yes, there is quite a lot to this thing we call good listening and getting yourself heard well.

Why Do We Need to Get Ourselves Well Listened Too?

The simple answer is because it does us a tremendous amount of good.  For one thing, well listened to people get to feel well loved.  Well loved people are healthier, function more happily and are more productive than not well loved people.  Another reason has to do with the way our brains work.  It turns out we listen to ourselves better when we say things out loud.  It is even better when we talk to others who listen well.  Silent thinking can be quite good but if emotions are involved, even happy ones, it is better to have a loving listener or at least a good listener participating.

The process of being lovingly listened to quite well is a process which seems to trigger all sorts of healthy neurochemical and neuro-electrical functioning in our brains.  This, in turn, reduces loneliness, provides motivational energy, decreases depression and anxiety, erases a sense of isolation and greatly assists several biological, health processes.  Usually that makes getting yourself well heard quite uplifting.  It also tends to produce a greater clarity of thinking and an increase in person’s sense of self-worth and general significance.

If you want to have a sense of belonging and being part of a community, first do a good job of being a good listener and then occasionally do a good job of getting yourself heard.  That will help with your connectedness as you hone your interpersonal interaction and communication skills with that community.

Becoming Better Heard and Better Understood

As you may have guessed by now, there are not a lot of people who truly are good at hearing others well.  If you think just because someone loves you they are able to hear you well, you are likely to be wrong.  Listening well and especially listening with love is not a skill commonly learned.  A few learn it growing up in a loving, listening well home.  Some others learn it in schools that teach counseling skills.  Some stumble across it accidentally but may do it clumsily.  Everybody else has to apply themselves and learn to listen well with love – purposely.  This is where you and healthy self-love can come in.  By getting yourself well heard, you help yourself and those you love do your love relationship better.  Of course, you must do your share of hearing well those you love to make it really work.

Now that I have explained what I think is hearing well is, let's start with the basic how to's.

How To's & How Not To's

With healthy self-love, take responsibility for getting yourself heard well.  How do you do that?  By asking for what you want directly, clearly and lovingly (see “Requesting Not Expecting – A Love Skill”).  By reading this mini-love-lesson, you may know more about loving listening than anyone you know.  That means you are on the way to being able to ask for it, and describe what it is you want more exactly.  I suggest you take the position that, as an adult, it is your job to go after what you need, what you can use, and what you want, including being well listened to.  The simplest way to do that is to straightforwardly ask for it, describe it and then interactively cooperate in making it happen.  You also can do this a bit more diplomatically.

1. You might say, "I've been thinking that I don't do a very good job of getting myself really listened to, and I want to feel very listened to, so I'd like your help in getting there.  Would you be willing to help me with that?"

Probably, do not say something like, "You have never really listened to me and I hate you for that!"

2. You might say, "I've been reading about how many couples don't listen to each other very well because they don't know how.  Did you know couples and families even get physically healthier and feel much more loved (even those that already are pretty okay) as they work on their listening skills together?  How about we work together on that?"

Probably, do not say anything like, "You probably wouldn't ever be interested in learning how to talk about your feelings and my feelings in our relationship, right?"

3. You might say, "I hear lots of couples are getting into this thing called loving listening and it's making their relationships even better.  Let's read up on that and see if we want to do the same, okay?"

Probably, do not say anything like, "You are never going to learn how to communicate with me, are you!  You don't really love me enough to do anything like that, do you?"

link “Listening with Love”, link “Listening with Love and IN and OUT Brain Functions”, link “Listening with Love, Are You Good at It?”

The best way to make your request, is with love.  If you use loving tones of voice, loving facial expressions and the best words you can figure out to say, if you talk about wanting to feel truly heard, really deeply well heard and lovingly heard, you might just have started on a good trail with anyone who loves you.

What can go wrong?  Lots.  What if the loved one you are talking to feels accused and says things like "don't you think I hear you well enough” or “you don't listen to me either" or something else negative?  Well, that brings us to the next point of getting yourself well heard.

Before you ask to get really heard, and with love, it helps a lot to start working on and really striving to better hear those you love.  The adult principle is if you want it, become willing and able to give it.  To do that, you must study and practice -- part of which you are doing by reading this mini-love-lesson.  Keep it up.  Learn more.

The next good thing to do is to ask to be heard really well as you also offer to do the same with the person you are asking.  Then suggest that you work on it as a team studying, coaching and helping each other learn better to lovingly listen better to each other.   You can practice on each other and on others like your children, family, friends, etc.

Maybe Another Way to Start Getting Yourself Better Heard?

How about starting on this by going to one or more friends, family, special other, etc. and say you read this thing about getting well heard and would like to hear their ideas about it?  In the process you might introduce them to our mini-love-lessons designed to help people go about love in ways that work better and better – okay?

There is so much more but hopefully that is enough to begin with.

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

Quotable Love Question
If we listen with our hearts, and not just our heads, do we hear a fuller and finer truth?

How To Say "No" with Love!

Pamela had a terrible time saying “no” to the people that she cared about.  Her heart would pound, palms sweat and stomach churn every time she wanted to say “no” to a loved one’s request.She would think up endless explanations as to why she had to tell them “no” but the excuses never sounded good enough to her, plus they often were phony and that didn’t feel good either.

As she internally struggled to find a way to say “no” and make it OK she would start to resent the person who was asking her to do something she really didn’t want to do.  She also started to resent herself more and more for being so weak.

Sometimes she would try to say “no” but then she would be afraid she was going to hurt somebody’s feelings and they wouldn’t like her anymore and she would worry that this meant she wasn’t a good person.  In the end she almost always would give in and say “yes” to whatever was being requested of her. That often repeated internal struggle, made her dodge those who might ask for favors and it robbed her of any pleasure she might have derived from doing what was requested.

John was quite different than Pamela.  He could say “no” to anyone but it always came across as cold, distant and uncaring, or angry and defensive.  Both John and Pamela mistakenly thought that being loving meant one always had to give in and say “yes” to friend’s and loved one’s requests.  It would be selfish and unloving to do otherwise.  Pamela tried to be nice and ended up being sacrificial while John chose being tough as he tried not to care that people might see him as mean spirited.  Both John and Pamela did not know that one can say “no” with love and get good results for all concerned.

To be able to say “no” with love and do it well here are some things that usually help get the job done.  First, let’s look at how you might think with love when facing the dilemma of whether or not to say “no” to someone you care about.

1.  Focus on the concept that in the long run mixing your truth with your love is likely to be a better gift of love.  Reluctant acquiescence can lead to a halfhearted effort poisoned with resentment.  Furthermore, giving someone you care about a phony “yes” when your true self wants to say “no” may help sabotage your relationship with that person and it may help you feel badly toward yourself.  Giving them phony, good sounding excuses just helps you develop a habit for deceit while giving an unloving “no” tends to be abrasive and may be relationally destructive.

2.  Focus on the great wisdom of the ancients who taught “Love others AS you love yourself” (see Entry “Loving Others AS You Love Yourself???”).  The idea is to find ways to give love to another when you have to tell them “no” in order to take care of yourself.  Saying “no” is often an act of healthy self-love.  The trick is to simultaneously mix it with various ways of being loving toward the person asking something of you.  Therefore, seek to find the most loving way you can be while you give them a “no” answer to their request.

3.  Ask yourself, is your habit of saying “yes” when you want to say “no” fear-based.  When you contemplate saying “no” do you fear you will be disliked, rejected, get into a long, drawn out hassle, feel guilty, have to come up with excuses, reasons and explanations as to why you’re saying “no”, face retaliation, or what?  Remember, fear-based responses are very seldom truly love-based responses.  Perhaps you would do well to choose a braver way to respond.

4.  Are you one of those who have been trained to only say “no” if you can come up with an outstanding, guilt free, permission giving excuse for saying “no”?  Excuses are, of course, based in deception and they often try to hide the real reasons.  Consider that deceit, even when successful, usually doesn’t help us grow stronger.  Therefore, consider the concept that as a free, equal adult you may not have to give either false or very detailed answers, explanations, defenses or any additional statements past your simple “no” answer.  It also might be that no one really may be listening to your justifications anyway.  Or if they are listening they just might use your excuses, defenses, etc. to try to talk you out of your decision.

5.  Remember, healthy self-love involves self-care and saying “no” with love is an okay answer even if others don’t react all that well to it.  A truth is that those who say “no” well are often respected, liked and sometimes even loved more than those who reluctantly get talked into saying “yes” too much.  Often saying “yes” may represent frequent, needless sacrifice where no one will suffer harm because you said “no”.  However, you might suffer for saying “yes” and sacrificing your self-care.

Now that we’ve covered how your internal cognitive process might work let’s look at how to actually behave with love when facing the dilemma of whether or not to say “no” to a request from someone you care about.

1.  Take a few seconds to ‘center yourself in love’ internally.  You might do that by taking a deep breath, touching both hands to the center of your chest and silently thinking something like “I center myself in love, strong healthy self-love and love of another.  I reject being fear-based, anger-based, defensive, etc.  I reject giving false excuses, acting insensitively, or acting needlessly sacrificially.  I center myself in love and I will act from and with love”.

2.  Internally choose to care about the person you are going to say “no” to.  Perhaps they will be disappointed, frustrated, perplexed, hurt or even angry.  You can show them some care for their bad feelings right after you have said “no” to their request.  You don’t have to change your answer to do that.

3.  Purposefully chooses to have a loving look on your face as you say “no”.  Perhaps a look of concern, possibly a smile, perhaps a soft and compassionate expression but certainly not one that shows weakness, indifference or negativity.

4.  If you’re saying “no” face-to-face or on the phone choose to speak in loving tones of voice, perhaps cheerful and friendly, or soft and caring and definitely not wimpy, fearful, angry or in any way negative.

5.  In face-to-face situations an additional way to show love is to add loving touch possibly in the form of a pat, or a squeeze, or a gentle stroking and maybe a hug.

6.  In face-to-face situations show love by choosing to send a positive postural message, perhaps by slowly leaning forward, opening your arms, moving a bit closer, etc.

7.  To show love when giving a “no” answer to a request include loving words possibly like terms of endearment, or saying “friend”, or “dear”, or saying “I care”, “I understand”, “For you I wish I were saying yes”, etc.

If you are a person who has trouble saying “no” with sufficient, loving firmness I suggest you rehearse in front of a mirror and do that rehearsal in both standing and sitting postures several times.  Frequently it is only by rehearsal that we form new, better habits to replace old, lesser effective habits.  While rehearsing be sure to listen to your voice because voice tones are often the most important part.  Many people are not practiced at sounding both loving and firm at the same time, so that in particular is a thing to practice.

Perhaps you have accidentally taught others that you are a self-sacrificing “yes” sayer by saying “yes” too often to too many things.  Therefore, it may take some time to teach others you are getting better at self-care.  Keep at it and you will get there.  Also know that just because you could do something doesn’t mean you should do it.  Wearing yourself out and down with too many “yes” answers is not good for anyone in the long run.

Here’s a special word of caution.  If saying “no” in a love relationship situation gets you markedly punished psychologically, behaviorally or especially physically something may be seriously wrong in your relationship.  Perhaps your love relationship needs more democracy, equality, fairness, tolerational love or better adult-to-adult dynamics.  Therefore, consider individual, couple’s and/or family counseling.  Remember that in healthy, real love “no” has to be an okay answer, i.e. unpunished.  Especially is that true when it is delivered with sufficient love.  There’s a lot more that can be said about effectively and lovingly saying “no” but hopefully this will help you get started.  One other thing.  If you know someone who seems to have trouble saying “no” you might suggest they read this blog.

As always,  Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
Does the way you were told “no” by your parents (or significant others) in childhood now have an influence on how easy it is for you to say “no” lovingly?

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?

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?

Hunting for Love

Mini-Love-Lesson # 198
FREE: one of over 200 mini-love-lessons touching the lives of thousands in over 190 countries – worldwide!

Synopsis: To hunt or not hunt for love; conscious and subconscious hunting; the hunting controversy; hunting while married; those who give up hunting; science versus tradition; those who can not be bothered; five big helpers for good hunting and more are looked at in this mini-love-lesson.

Who’s Not Hunting?

Everyone’s hunting for love who has a paucity of love in their lives according to certain behavioral scientists.  They are hunting either consciously and knowingly or subconsciously and do not consciously know it but they are, nevertheless, hunting for love.  That is thought to be true even for those who do not believe in hunting for love as well as those who think purposefully hunting for love works against finding it.  With rare exception, those hungry for love and especially those love-malnourished or love-starved one way or another are looking for the love they naturally need.  Or at least so goes that thinking.

Have you ever heard someone say something like, “I’m waiting for love to find me, and I went to the single’s club just to make friends and have something to do, but I wasn’t really trying to find love.  I wouldn’t feel right doing that”?  There is evidence that suggests our natural need to be loved and give love pushes our hunting behavior whether we are aware of it consciously or not.  If that is so, it seems our inborn drive for love will not let our conscious mind be fully in control of this vital need.  It will make compartmentalized thinking and denial mechanisms block our awareness, if that is what it takes.  At least that is what some researchers and love theories postulate.

So, do you judge this thinking may be generally true?   Is it true of you right now?  Are you hunting for love and know it, or maybe do not know it.  Could this explain some of your behavior?  Does this  explain some of the behavior of people in your life?  What about important people in your past?

The Married and Still Hunting

It would appear many love-hungry, married people also subconsciously and sometimes consciously hunt for the love they feel they need even though they are consciously, vehemently against doing so.  Time and again during marriage and affair counseling I heard things like, “I don’t know why I sat next to the single guy at the meeting, I just did.  Do you suppose that’s where my affair really started?  I certainly didn’t know that was what was happening at the time”.

Arguably, many of the under-loved and married are on the hunt most of the time.  Those who are doing it entirely consciously may be also readying themselves for divorce.  That seems especially true for those who tried and tried to get more and better love-relating to happen in their marriages but to no avail.

Another thing I heard a lot in marital therapy goes like this: “She tried to get me to go to marriage counseling many times and I just wouldn’t go.  Now she’s divorcing me and has a lover.  What am I to do?  Is too late?”  That is the kind of statement many therapist who deal with couple’s, love-relating issues hear time and time again.  The relational therapist’s reply usually contains something like, “Possibly it’s not too late.  Let’s see what we can do about it”.  Oftentimes, with a good relational therapist, that leads to reconciliation but many times not.

What about Those Who Give up Trying?

It is true some people have been so hurt, so broken hearted and have become so afraid of trying again that they really do not consciously or subconsciously search for love.  That does not mean they do not still long for the love that would do them great good to have.  Some of these people can do okay and even do well by living on a healthy diet of love with good friends, family, children, pets, their religion or deity and sometimes with a cause usually involving helping or enriching others.

Giving up on hunting for love is not always about romantic love.  Sometimes it is because of family love-relating gone drastically wrong.  Heavy-duty friendship betrayal also can play a role here.  Sometimes what is involved is severe physical and/or emotional abuse, rape, incest or some other serious maltreatment.  It also simply can be about loss of a deep, strong, usually long-lasting love.
Sadly, there are a lot of people who feel they dare not risk any love relationship, at least not with human beings because it may lead to too much heartache like they have felt before.

Another thing some therapists frequently hear goes something like this, “Getting the dog saved me from suicide” or “I stay alive because the animals at the sanctuary (farm, ranch, refuge, etc.) need and love me and I love them”.  Secretly, these people usually admit that one day they might start to seek romantic love again but not yet.

There also are those who previously had a great and fulfilling, couple love but their love mate now is gone and they are carrying on tolerably well.  They seem to do okay enough living off their inner reservoir of love, built up over years with a really good love partner.  Then there are those that have been severely hurt by a love relationship gone wrong and they essentially turn into hermits.  I have never seen that work in the long run, though in the short run it can allow some time for healing.

The Controversy over Deliberately Hunting Love

In some circles, there is a fair amount of controversy concerning purposefully or deliberately hunting for love.  One school of thought says deliberately hunting does not work because romantic love only happens when you are not looking for it.  Remember, love is supposed to be blind.  It sort of is like romantic love has to ambush you, sweep you off your feet or trip you up so you can fall into it and it can totally possess you.  That is supposed to be the way to happily ever after.

Some reply to that scenario like this.  Remember that although falling in love feels like flying, similarly like other forms of falling, it so often ends in a crash in which you can get really seriously hurt and harmed.

An opposing school of thought goes like this.  Generally, people do best at most forms of achievement by deliberate and deliberated upon action.  That way both their conscious and subconscious minds do not have to fight each other and can work together toward the same goal at the same time.  For most people, conscious attention given toward learning and improvement-making practice works best.  There is a lot of evidence to say that hunting for love and love relating are no exception.  While love is a natural phenomenon that may just spring up in your life, or slowly grow in your heart, successful love hunting and love relating takes learning.  A good hunter is one who continuously learns more and more about hunting well.

Assertive Hunting

Assertiveness means actively being willing to make the first move to connect, increasingly probing into and revealing more personal knowledge, sharing feelings and often simply asking for what is wanted.  Walking up to someone and saying, “You look interesting, I want to meet you” is truthful and both brave and efficient hunting behavior.  Can you do something like that?

How to Hunt for Love – Five Basics

1.    Start with Self  To hunt and find love, start by becoming more loving and lovable.  So, are you improving your loveableness and your love-abilities?  Are your skills at giving genuine, heartfelt love increasing?  How about your skills at receiving love well?  Finding what could become Great love may take you becoming great at love.

Were you hoping to be loved in spite of your anti-love flaws and your non-loving ways.  We all have those.  Well, that does happen but those who do their part at love-behavior-improvement have a lot better chance.

2.    Go Forth Boldly, Carefully, Truthfully and Often  Enjoy, but be wary of attraction, both coming and going.  Don’t confuse attraction with love.  They are different!  Be friendly assertive!  Remember, active choosers tend to be safer and do better than those waiting to be chosen, and certainly do better than beggars, buyers and manipulators.  As you go, be increasingly real with some finesse.  Playing games, faking, over or under presenting yourself, forever hiding your less-than-perfect parts, your history, etc. may help catch but not keep someone.  The quicker you assert your truths, the quicker you test for tolerance and acceptance ability in the person you are love-relating with, both necessities for healthy love.

To questions you don’t want to answer, reply with some charm and something like “you don’t get to know that about me, at least not yet” and don’t volunteer explaining that response.  Remember, it’s a bit of a numbers game.  Those who go (out and about and go different) more often get more, often.  For carefulness, don’t play “strike one you’re out, or anybody’s out, and the game is over”; but maybe after three or so strikes, it is time to at least think about hunting elsewhere.

3.    Defend with Self-Love  When something goes relationally awry, use your healthy self-love with self-affirmation to defend against putdowns, rejection, disregard, disapproval, anger, indifference, neglect and everything negative coming your way.  Listen and seek to understand but don’t quickly take-to-heart negatives.  They likely say more about the sayer than about you.  Remember, that without self-love, other love suffers – sometimes greatly.

4.    Risk Asking for What You Want – Behaviorally  Happily saying “I want some affection” is good but is not as good as following those words with something like “so I’d like you to kiss me right now”.  This is because until you describe the behavior that gives you what you want, another person likely is not going to clearly understand exactly what behavior you are hoping will happen.  Remember, no two people really think anything exactly alike.  Hinting and thinking, if they truly love you they will know what to do and will do it, might work after you know each other for 10 years or more, at least some of the time.  However, asking for what you want behaviorally more efficiently explorers for a couple’s potential communication competence.

Especially kindly but assertively, ask for and give self-disclosure concerning what is important to you, and him or her, and what you are passionate about.     Increasingly ask personal but not too early sexual questions, and remember to practice good listening skills all along the way.

5.     Discuss Love Early   If you are going to hunt for love, you might as well get right to it, gently and with finesse, but clearly.  Probably talking about love in general at the very first, looking to see things like if the topic scares who you are talking to, if love is confused with sex, if they are hunting for it, if they are working at trying hard to dodge it, etc.. might reveal important things to know.  Then get around to what happened about love to them before you met them; are they willing to work at and with love to improve love-relating skills, etc..  For discussing love, you might want to use the mini-love-lesson “20 Smart Making Love Questions” plus any other mini-love-lesson from the Subject Index that grabs your attention.

Good hunting!

How about helping spread the new love knowledge a bit by telling someone about our mini-love-lessons???

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question: How do you feel about someone else who is hunting for love targeting you as the goal of their hunt – do you feel turned on, happy, flattered, curious, angry, worried, scared or what?

Conclusions, Confounding and Corrupting Your Love?

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson explores the questions – Are your conclusions your secret enemy, can two people see reality the same way, do you know if you are ‘conclusion-sabotaged’, and what to do instead of conclude and thereby avoid your love being conclusion-sabotaged.

Are Your Conclusions Your Secret Enemy?

Andrew concluded Barbara was cheating on him so he broke the relationship off.  Caroline concluded Doug was trying to suppress and control her so she began to lie and deceive him.  Edward concluded her family hated him and, therefore, she probably did too, so he gave up having anything to do with them and started having fights with her.  Fiona concluded she would never be good at sex, then she gave up on it.  George concluded Helen kept thinking about men with bigger penises than his and, therefore, she was dissatisfied with him, so he got depressed and felt hopelessly inadequate.

Inna concluded she did not have what it took to have and hold a man’s love, so she retreated into living alone and lonely.  Jeff concluded Kaylee reading romance novels meant she wanted somebody else, so he started spying on her.  Lorraine concluded Mike did not love her because he could never figure out what she wanted without her asking for it, so she started looking for love elsewhere.  Donald stopped talking to her when he concluded she never would listen to him because she always interrupted him.

It turned out all these different people’s conclusions were wrong.  And these conclusions helped destroy, or nearly destroy, relationships that might otherwise have worked better if the people making the conclusions were not so very certain they were so very right, so very often.  Even when some of their conclusions were partially right, holding so firmly to those conclusions blocked them from being able to really hear any alternate or differing perceptions or opinions from their loved ones.  This resulted in them being strongly sabotaged and destructive to having love-filled interactions.  More than one disheartened person, breaking up with another, has said something like, “You think you’re always so right; You are wrong, and that’s why I’m done with you.”

Can Two People See Reality the Same Way?

Phenomenologists,, including those psychologists and brain scientists who study how we perceive and understand what we perceive, have concluded that the answer is emphatically NO!  No two people understand anything exactly the same way.  Every perception of reality in one mind/brain is at least in some small and perhaps important way, different from every other mind/brain.  When you get deeply into it, you find out every person thinks and feels at least a little bit differently than every other person about everything.  Here are some common examples of how we do not experience reality the same as others.  Food that is good on one person’s tongue is not on another’s.

In the same room, one person feels cold, and another hot and a third just right.  The colors you see are not exactly the colors anyone else sees according to vision research.  If your perceptions and understandings of how simple things like these are different, think how different you are from others concerning complicated things.  This means your truth is not other people’s, and their truth is not yours, at least not exactly.  Just like our fingerprints are not exactly the same as anyone else’s, so too are our thoughts and feelings.  At least that is what the preponderance of scientific evidence indicates.

You may be rather right about something, but someone else may be more right, or essentially also right but from a very different perspective.  That means what you have concluded is obviously true and perhaps, to you, simple to see and understand but it can and will likely be seen differently by someone else.  Also many things may be legitimately perceived by others as contradictory to what you perceive and understand.  Looking from different perspectives, you both may be right, but without each other’s perspective you may come into conflict with each other.  Remember, the blind man who holds the trunk of the elephant, and the blind man who holds the tusk, hold very different realities about what an elephant is.  Both still have a lot to learn about what they are so certain is ‘the truth’ about what an elephant is.  Sometimes you and I, and everyone are a blind man.

Consider these often passionately held conclusions: “all men cheat”, “ a good man will never cheat”, “ all women will cheat if they can cheat upwardly”, really good women don’t cheat because they don’t like sex anyway”, “cheating only matters in societies where the people are sexually insecure”, “cheating can make some marriages better”, “cheating is always destructive to every relationship”, “only those weak in character cheat”, “cheating requires bravery and boldness and is most frequently done by the strong and successful”, “cheating is trashy and low class”, “cheating is a privilege commonly afforded to the upper classes and the wealthy”, “open marriage means never having to cheat”, “open marriage means your cheating all the time”, “cheating is always an extremely important issue”, “cheating for lots of people in many parts of the world is just not a very important issue”.

There are people who hold each of these conclusions to be true, and they can present evidence to support their position.  Some would say there is some truth in each of those statements.  Others would say each of those conclusions is true for some people and not for others.  Still others might say what is cheating to one person is not to another.  Interestingly, even when two or more people hold any one of these conclusions they may choose to act very differently from one another because of that conclusion.  But, of course, whatever you think about cheating is absolutely right, and without question, and should be considered obviously and completely true by everyone else.

Do You Know If You Are ‘Conclusion Sabotaged’?

“I know you’re upset with me.”  “You did that just to get back at me.”  “I know exactly how you feel.”  “I know what you’re thinking.”  “You never change.”  “I know perfectly well why you did that.”  “I know it didn’t happen that way, so you must be lying.”   All these kind of statements indicate the likelihood that collusion-sabotage is occurring.  It is sabotage to a relationship if you think or talk this way, because these types of declarations all represent the likelihood of being blind to alternate possibilities.

Thinking that way makes you vulnerable to negative surprises.  If you are communicating with these types of conclusionary statements, you are likely to be coming across as close minded, dogmatic and dictatorial.  That usually is very sabotaging because it frequently helps people want to either prove you wrong, or hide their truths from you, and eventually distance themselves from you.

Listen to how different these ways of saying the same ideas might be said.  “I’m guessing you’re upset with me, and I’d like to check that out.  What are you feeling?”  “Could it be that you did that because you want to get back at me for something you think I did?”  “I think I have felt things sort of like what you’re feeling, so I kind of understand what you’re going through, and I care.”  “Let me guess what maybe you’re thinking.

Then tell me if I’m close, or if there is an alteration needed so I can really understand you.”  “I have ideas about why you may have done that, but suppose you tell me what you think.”  Both thinking and talking in this more open and exploratory way, more frequently, leads to better communication and improving relationships.  So the good news is, if you or a loved one are conclusion-sabotaging, you can change to a way that  usually is more harmonious, connecting, complete, accurate and successful.  It also is a more loving way of going about things with a loved one.

What to Do Instead of Conclude?

The first thing to do is to ‘own up’ to the fact that you are human and humans frequently have blind spots, jump to false conclusions, become solidly sure of things that are not true, have problems with accuracy, and seldom are great at seeing the larger picture.  Humans also distort their perceptions of reality by way of their own past experiences, their own inner needs, what was modeled for them growing up and by conclusion-drawing-systems trained into them by family and culture.  Furthermore, humans usually don’t know that there memories tend to change over time.  Since your human, you are subject to all of that, so it will behoove you to stay aware that what you think and conclude may be improved on.

The second thing to do is to change your conclusions into ‘guesses’.  They may be excellent, well-informed guesses, frequently spot-on guesses, and guesses that may have worked very well for you in the past, but none of that means your next conclusion (‘guess’) is right.  Suspect the Bible is right when it says “we see through a glass darkly”.  You can hold strongly to your guesses so long as you are open to hearing alternate possibilities, and open to receiving new and different input.

If you think and talk with the idea that you are making estimations, possibly flawed judgments, and at best only tentative conclusions, your thinking and your communicating likely will work better.  If you turn all your conclusions into hypotheses, often best checked out with the input of others who think differently than you; then take the input you get into account, and see if you can improve or elaborate on what you think; my guess is that things may go smoother in you communications with loved ones if you so this – so try it, OK?

The third thing to do is gamble on ‘your best guess’ and do it with strong confidence but know it is a gamble.  You are human, therefore, you may be mistaken, wrong, insufficiently accurate, right in some part but not in another, in need of more data, ill-informed, or only partially knowledgeable.  You may wish to abide by the adage that says “only God knows, and the rest of us are guessing as best we can”. With this approach we often are able to become much more open, democratic, accepting, tolerant, searching, and likely to arrive at better conclusion-guesses.  We also are much less likely to be conclusion-sabotaging, or let other’s conclusion-sabotage occur.  Now know, you don’t have to conclude that any of this is true!

If you hit an impasse with a loved one and can not understand or accept a differing view, I suggest saying, without rancor, “We just see that (or remember that) differently”, and mean it, not concluding one of you is right and the other is wrong.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question
What do you think of the statement that says “You can be right, or in a relationship – but not both at the same time”?

Learning About Love - Together

Synopsis: Why learn together and a very positive life case starts this mini-love-lesson. What couples are doing around the world;  followed by five things you can actually do together to develop your love skills and learn more about healthy, real love; this mini-love-lesson then ends with a ‘make it happen’ challenge; more.

Why Learn Together?

Chad was excited!  He said, “the thing that helped Sarah and me the most was when we started to learn about love together.  Sort of reluctantly, I gave in and let Sarah talk me into reading some new stuff on the Internet about how love can be made to grow in a relationship.  Then we got to talking about it, and together we worked on how to apply it to the way we got along with each other.  I got a total, new ‘wow’ experience from that.  I am a factual kind of guy and what we were reading wasn’t the usual fuzzy, mishmash about love.

It was totally fascinating and fact-based, but also, to us at least, it was an inspirational way to see and deal with our relationship.  Best of all it worked, I think mostly because we were doing it together.  We both had read some and worked kind of independently trying to learn about how to do our relationship better, and that did help some but by doing it together, well, that made all the difference.”
When a couple learns together a team synergy can be created which is greater than either of them separately.

Experiencing or reading the same material, and talking about it, can create a cross-fertilization of ideas and understanding.  When both people are working from the same knowledge-base; acquired together it is much more likely that they will work better in coordination and sort of like ‘be on the same page’ together.  Separate learning is much less likely to achieve that easily, although that can be good too.  Even better is that learning together helps create better behaving together.

Every team sport or endeavor requires practicing together.  Doubles tennis, football, two or more people dancing together, etc. all take practicing together for it to work well.  Five good basketball players who never played together are much more likely to lose a game to average players who are really good at teamwork.  Individual learning and practicing can add greatly to the team, but adding the ‘as a team together’ component makes a world of difference and can greatly add to the bonding experience a couple is having with one another.

It is sort of like what was once discovered with couples doing joint counseling.  Counseling together, and learning about love together, seemed to make it much more likely that a couple would stay together than if they were doing the counseling, or the learning, separately.

As Sarah put it, “It’s been a really fine adventure for us; working on our love skills together has been a lot more fun and a lot more meaningful.”

Around the World

Around the world there are couples experiencing what Chad and Sarah discovered.  Working together to learn the new and better information about healthy, real love and developing their love skills together is making a great many love relationships much better relationships.  How do we know this?  Well, we know this because at this sites we get feedback from different people all over the globe. The mini-love-lessons are being viewed in over 150 countries.

While the feedback we get from individuals is great, we also get some wonderful feedback from couples.  Also, there is research going on about what couples are doing to help their relationships, conducted by various universities and sometimes governments.  We tap into that too.  By the way we would love to hear your input also.

It’s Not Only Couples

It is not only couples who are learning together about love and developing love skills.  Sometimes it is two or more friends who get together in a sort of informal study group. Sometimes it is families, or a parent and a child learning together.  Colleges, universities and a wide variety of religious institutions sometimes offer courses and classes, or personal development workgroups for couples focused on learning about love and love improvement.

A fair number of personal growth and retreat centers, as well as Counseling and Therapy clinics do the same thing.  In all these the cross communication, interaction and interchanges that occur add to the learning and improve the practicing.  Part of that is because love gets done to a large degree by interaction, interchange and cross-communicating.  Therefore, it makes sense for love to be learned and practiced in such a way as those actions actually are being done together with one or more others.

What To Do Together

First of all, think about love and share what you think with each other.  Puzzle over what you think and what the other one thinks; question, imagine, fantasize, reason, suspect, doubt, guess, hypothesize, posit, remember, dream and share it all with one another.

Second is what you are doing right now, but do it together.  Read about love and what can be done to grow and improve love in your life together.  Now you are reading one of more than 140 mini-love-lessons (with more on the way) which you can use to make love in your life more real, more complete, more healthy and more wonderful.  Read the same mini-love-lessons together, if possible at the same time, and then talk about them a lot.  You don’t have to agree with what you read, and you don’t have to stay on the topic.

Sometimes the offshoots and side trails are the most important pathways for your talk to go.  Remember to share and show your emotions as well as your thoughts.  That often is the most significant and meaningful part.  (See mini-love-lessons focused on feelings and emotions in the titles and subjects indexes).

Third, together do the same thing with books and other writings about love.  Be sure to include books that are of more than one type.  Be careful not to just read books about love problems and what goes wrong in love relationships, or ones that offer no real solutions or ways to improve.  Unfortunately, there are quite a few of those.  Also be wary of books that have ‘love’ in the title but all they are really about is sex.  To me that is like false advertising.  Then there are those books that have ‘love’ in the title but there isn’t anything much actually in the book about love.  Maybe the publisher just thought it would sell better if love was added to the title.

Most romantic novels are not that much help either.  Most just seem to promulgate falsehoods and destructive myths.  What works for one does not work for another. Different books click for different people and for some people at certain times but not other times.  That makes it hard to recommend but here are four possibilities you might want to consider.  All About Love by Bell Hooks, The Anatomy of Love by Dr. Helen Fisher, The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman, and the e-book Kathleen McClaren and I wrote Real Love or False Love.

Fourth, together go to the movies whose reviews seem to indicate they may have something worthwhile and positive to say about how love is best done.  Schedule at least an hour after the movie to talk about it.  Look for the true and the false messages about love that may be embedded in the movie, and watch out for tear-jerkers that may move you, but not teach you.  For many people a really good movie offers a much more complete experience, well worth sharing together.

Fifth, together go to workshops, retreats, classes, courses and talks that have to do with improving love relationships.  Some colleges, some religious institutions,  a variety of personal growth centers, therapeutic agencies, etc. give worthwhile workshops, classes etc. that have to do with healthy, real love.  Especially the kind of workshop that offer an intensive experience over a weekend or even a week, often can provide you with one of life’s best together experiences.  There also are some great workshops that combine learning about healthy, real love interwoven with great, healthy sexuality.  (Look for workshops that have the word Tantric in the title).

When Not to Learn Together

It probably is not a good idea to learn about love together if one of you uses what you are learning to criticize, control, condemn or be condescending to the other.  It also probably is not a good idea to try learning together if one of you keeps trying to prove the other one is wrong, playing “I’m more okay than you are”, focusing on what’s wrong more than what can become right, or better, and focusing in the extreme on what has happened in the past more than what can be made to happen in the near future.  Remember, the historical, diagnostic analysis of a flat tire doesn’t tell you how to change it, even if the analysis is spot-on and brilliant.

Unless the focus mostly is on how to do, act, behave and put into practice what you are learning together more constructively, productively and healthfully concerning love skills, you may not be using this ‘together’ learning experience in the best way. It is important and okay to think and understand better, more accurately and more fully, anything and everything connected to love but thinking about love without the actions that grow, give and send love will seldom be enough.  It also is important that the actions and the thinking lead to improvements in the many wondrous feelings that come with love.  If that is not happening sufficiently, then learning together may not be working for you.

Make It Happen

Now here is a suggestion.  With a spouse, lover, friend or family member, ask them if they would experiment with you in doing some joint-learning about healthy, real love and developing your love skills together.  You can start by picking a mini-love-lesson for both of you to read, or reading one of the other actions listed above.  You might want to specify a short amount of time for this experiment, and if it is working well you can extend it.

If the person you ask is dubious and reluctant, tell them that is good, and this is only an experiment, so why not try it.  If they positively will not do this, well, that is not a very good indicator for developing love, is it?  Maybe try asking somebody else.  Of course, it’s fine to start on your own, and maybe inviting somebody into the process with you later.

As always – Going and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question

What do you suppose you might need to ‘unlearn’ about love, because it could be wrong or false?

Blocked Love Talk ?


Mini-Love-Lesson #293

Synopsis: Erasing embarrassment programs, anti-love talk habit replacement, tender and tough love talk and growing a bigger, better love talk custom are all briefly and helpfully touched on in this quick Mini-Love-Lesson.

Families that talk love together, do love better.  Couples do too.  On the other hand, some people grow up in families in which no one is talking about love, sex, emotions or any other intimate aspects of life.  For many, those and similar topics can trigger embarrassment and its awkward discomfort.

Erasing Embarrassment Programming

If we do something which embarrasses us often enough, the embarrassment lessens and may even disappear.  We all can break through our embarrassment barriers with “I can do it” self-talk, repetition and some work.  We can think about the words and subjects we have been programmed to be embarrassment about.  Emotional programming is governed by subconscious conditioning, whereas, reasoned choice can be ruled by the conscious mind.  Whatever was not talked about in the family we grew up in, programmed us to not talk about those things.  If the topic of love was one of those subjects, we would do well to overcome that conditioning and free ourselves to be at ease talking our love.  Not talking about love can diminish or even block love and the amount of love in our lives.

Anti-Love Talk Habits

We would do well to examine whether we might have any anti-love-talking habits.  A couple examples are seeing love-talk as too mushy or too intimate.  Another habit is feeling uncomfortable talking about love related emotions like affection, intimacy, vulnerability and so forth.  Once we realize habits like these interfere with growing and improving love in our lives, we can start to interrupt and replace them with new habits of speaking up about these uncomfortable topics.  Thereby, the uncomfortable becomes more comfortable.  Mindfulness is the way we can catch an old habit when it pops up and replace it with a new one.

Tender and Tough

Another block, particularly love-damaging in some men’s lives, is that power emotion talk is OK but tender emotion talk is taboo.  In many social spheres, this problem appears to be diminishing but in other spheres it still rears its ugly head.

To keep some gender equality here, let’s address a female issue.  In some circles some women seem comfortable only talking about the mild, tender or soft aspects of love and shy away from tough love issues and intense expressions of love.  It seems now more women are becoming more at ease with the stronger assertions of love.  

Love Talk as a New Custom     

In family therapy, one of the most common issues tackled is overcoming blocks to actually saying “I love you” to family members.  If that has been the unspoken custom and the topic silently avoided in a family, encouragement to directly bring it up and create a new custom of talking love frequently and meaningfully is the best practice.  Once in a while, when people make the commitment to go tell some family member that they are loved, they may say they did it and at first it was awful but usually they finish by saying it got good or even wonderful.  They often declare that it led to a breakthrough in communications, that they held hands for the first time since they were a child and that they finally felt accepted.  Statements like “We got close and it was so meaningful”, “I’m really glad I got that said before she died” and “It seems we now have started a real relationship” are among the things heard when people start talking their love.

One More Thing

How about telling someone about this mini-love-lesson and this website about love?  Spreading the positives about love really might make your world more love enriched. 

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

♥ Love Success Question: For you, who is it hardest and who is it easiest to talk love feelings to, and do you know why?