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Showing posts with label cultural. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cultural. Show all posts

Religion, Love and Mental-Health

“Religion has done me a lot more harm than good,” Molly angrily proclaimed.

Preston, her lover of 6 months, replied with a serious, worried look, “In my way of looking at it religion has been a lifesaver, and it’s what gets me through the bad times”.  Molly folded her arms across her chest and firmly announced, “It took me a lot of work to get over what religion did to me and if we go further in this relationship I don’t want us, or our kids if we decide to have any, to have anything to do with it.”

Preston turned to me with a sad look saying, “Dr. Cookerly, which is it?  Will religion do us more harm or good?  Is our religious difference going to sink us?”  Molly added, “Is religion, if we get into it, going to be a constructive or a destructive thing like it was for me?  You can see this is huge for us and it’s the only big thing keeping Preston and me from going deeper in our relationship.  Can you help us with this?”

Having worked for years with many ‘buckle of the Bible belt’ individuals, couples and families, and later working with a large number of multi-cultural and bi-religion couples and families, I am well acquainted with religion issue questions.  I usually explain that I approach my client’s religion and spiritual issues in counseling as a mental-health professional and not as a theologian or religionist.  As both a psychotherapist and a relational therapist I can agree with Molly that I have seen many people more harmed by some religious involvements than benefited.  I also can agree with Preston having seen religion be a lifesaver, a great helper in the worst of times, and the most constructive influence in many people’s lives.

Sometimes individuals, couples, families and even whole communities are ruined by clashing and destructive religious-based actions, beliefs, judgmentalism, guilt training, and downright sick ways of going about things.  Likewise, by way of religion individuals, couples, families and communities often are healed, reconciled, inspired and re-directed toward healthier, richer, fuller lives through religion.  So the counseling focus for Molly and Preston, and for so many like them, is a three-part question.  Will their religious involvement be more healthful, or more destructive, or will it be the seeming safety of non-involvement?

To help the people I work with discover what their healthiest approach will be concerning religion I start by asking about love.  That’s because how much healthy, real love is, or is not mixed with religion has a lot to do with the mental-health effect the religion has in its participants’ lives.   Starting with simple questions often leads to deep thinking and discussions.  “How’s the love?”  “Where’s the love?”  “Are the people there mostly about love or mostly about something else?”  “How much of what they teach is about love?”  “Is love evident in the practice and actions of the people who practice that religion?”  “Is love central to what’s going on with that religion?”

These and other such questions are typical and important explorations.  Soon we’re talking about how much healthy, real love (see the entries Love’s Definition series) is in evidence at the church, mosque, synagogue, temple, sacred studies class, prayer group, etc. they are contemplating being a part of?

From this mental-health professional’s perspective when considering a religious issue the prime focus is helping clients examine the mental and relational health influence of their religious involvement.  The quickest and best way to start on that is to explore the love issue.  How much is healthy, real love actively being taught and demonstrated by the practitioners of the religion, or religions, being considered?  Likewise, how much anti-healthy, real love teachings and actions are evident in the religious involvement being considered?

Next, it is usually important to look at the following question: In the teachings of the religion being considered is there a high priority placed on compassionate, caring, empathetic, healthy, real love?  Sometimes there is only ‘lip service’ given to compassion and caring love but little or no action.  Here’s another important question.  Where is the love manifest – toward all people or only a select few?  To the clients I’m talking to I also may ask, “How much love do you personally experience coming from the people and the leadership of the religion you’re exploring or getting involved in?”  “Are you dealing with truly love-centered people, or are they practicing more of a ‘fire insurance’ religion where the main interest is just keeping their members out of Hell?”

Also we look into, “Are you getting involved in a religious group where the main thrust is doing healthful love, or is their main dynamic sort of like a game of ‘we are OK, and everyone else is not OK’?”  Could you be in a religion, or subgroup of a religion, which is just a mutual support group for arrogance and safe, social conformity?  Often essential is an answer to this question: As you understand it and discover it, do the religious teachings, scriptures, educational efforts and practices of the religion’s leaders truly exemplify healthy, real love?

Some religious leaders are good at ‘fake love’ so this is sometimes hard to discern.  Is the religion and are the people of the religion love-centered or more centered in status, money, fear, guilt, control or what?  Yes, the first issue to look at, as I see it, has to do with ‘how goes the love’ in the religion and its practitioners.  If the people practicing a religion are not sufficiently about love I have grave doubts about how mentally healthy your experience with them and their ways might be.

It is unfortunate that, as practiced, some religionists are centered on doing non-love and anti-love things.  There are those in religion who just are going through the motions and they are pretty much indifferent, lifeless and loveless.  Others are ‘exclusivity groups’ primarily protecting each other from the new and the different.  A surprising number are primarily about money, and others are about status.  Then there are the groups that are principally about hate.  From a mental-health point of view they are the worst.  Too many others are more about dictatorially telling people what not to do, rather than lovingly suggesting what to do.

Those that are truly love-centered and love-active usually can be found doing great love-centered and love-infused good works helping others.  Their teachings more often tend to coincide with good mental-health concepts and they are actively assisting people toward compassionate, caring, constructive, loving ways of living.  Find and become involved with those groups and you are likely to be much more benefited than harmed.

Now, with those thoughts in mind there is a tricky thing to watch out for.  Some religious groups do ‘fake love’.  This especially is a problem with cults and cult-like groups who practice ‘love bombing’ their candidates for conversion.  This means a person new to the religious cult will be hugged, praised, complimented and well treated so as to get that person addicted to the cult.  Once they are a convert they will be asked for lots of their time, money, effort, etc. and to make sacrifices for the good of the cult.

They also will be pushed toward isolation from ‘unbelievers’ including friends and family, and encouraged to suspend their self-determination and self-directed living.  The convert is, in essence, programmed to not function as a mentally healthy adult but rather as an obedient, unquestioning child.  Reason, skepticism and what we usually think of mature, adult thinking have to be surrendered to the dogmatic tenants and interpretations of the leadership.  Acceptance of the dogma and the leader’s mandates will become primary and real love tertiary at best.

All this and much more were part of Molly and Preston’s discussions concerning religion.  Then Preston asked Molly if she would do him a big love-favor by going to some different religious services, reading different religious material, experimentally engage in some different religious rituals, and be around some different religious groups.  He explained he would like these things to be done so as to jointly get some real experience with religion beyond discussion.  Molly gave this a fair amount of thought and then said she would, if he would endure (out of love for her), any and all doubt, criticism, skepticism and irreverence she might manifest.  She did, however, promise to be publicly polite and respectful.

Preston agreed.  Before they went exploring, however, they made a list of what they thought would be the criteria of a mentally healthy religion which is centered in healthy, real love.  They drew up a list of their own questions and actually were having fun doing this together.  Previously they had been very stuck and only able to destructively argue with one another concerning religion.  Molly said she was going about this exploration like a scientist and pronounced her hypothesis which was that they would never find a religion that would be sufficiently mentally healthy and sufficiently love-centered.  However, she promised to be open minded and to really look at the evidence.

Preston then made his hypothesis which was that they would find at least one, and probably several, religious groups that were mentally healthy and love-centered, and that their involvement in one or more of them would do them a world of good.  Then as a fully loving, good-natured couple they went out to explore and see what they could jointly discover.
Hopefully you and your loved ones can do as well if needed.

Grow and Go with Love, as always!

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question Might it be healthful for you to analyze what role religion has played in your own mental health and in your ability to love and be loved?



Previous Comments:
  1. Charles Palmer-Allen
    May 4th, 2015 at 00:04 |

    The greatest problem today is, that more and more people are falling into the religious or polititical imitative production line of mind control, instead of believing that you are unique and that you are the only one that can contol your heart and mind, by believing in yourself. Your conquering power lies within you to be whatever you want to be, and NOT what others want you to be. Your positive force must be a lot stronger than your negagative force, and the first step to achieve this, is to get rid of all fear that dominates your life. Love yourelf for who and what you are and not on what others think who and what you are. Believe in yourself and believe in the power you have within yourself to make the world a better place. Religion or politics cannot do this for you, it must come from that built in power of love within you. Never allow yourself to become an imitative religious or political robot, stay unique and original. Live your dreams and not your fears, that is what you were born for. Religion and politics have always got it right to play mind games with people and it can never be disputed they have messed up this world big time. There are 7 true steps to love and happiness, which fits the uniqueness of each individual, and by following these steps, the flame of love, health and happiness will never be quenched. It is like a marriage, which is not a two way street as so many today believe, but it is a one direction, one way street of 100% commitment, dedication, trust, honesty, cooperation, happiness, enjoyment, freedom, love, care and compassion from both husband and wife. The 7 steps to light the flame of perfect love is the sure thing with great results. Imitation and robot free, with great victory.

Poly Love

Synopsis: Uncle Charlie’s introduction to a love weirdness; The Poly Advantage; Questions and Quandaries; Personal Questions; and the Worldwide Scene.


Uncle Charlie’s Introduction to a Love ‘Weirdness’

Jackie opened the door and said, “Hi Mom, Dad, Uncle Charlie.  Come on in and meet two of the guys I’m considering marrying or at least someday living with”.

Dad and Mom looked at her a bit sheepishly and Uncle Charlie looked happily confused but interested. Uncle Charlie said, “So what are you going to do with the husband you already have”?  “I’ll keep him too of course,” Jackie replied.  “All three at the same time?”, Charlie asked, acting like he was sort of going along with a joke.  “Yes, all three, at least some of them at the same time,” Jackie replied in a serious, contemplative tone of voice.

Uncle Charlie looked more puzzled.  “Ah hah,” said Jackie turning to her mother and father.  “You haven’t told him I’m a Poly, have you?”  Jackie’s father spoke up saying, “ I would just get him confused trying to explain it, because I haven’t quite figured it out yet myself”.  Jackie then replied, “Come on in to dinner and I’ll see if I can explain it to you without too much confusion and maybe even without too much embarrassment.”  More people arrived and were introduced as friends and part of Jackie’s “poly” network.  At dinner Jackie explained. “Poly love, or more officially Polyamory, is about two or more people openly loving each other, usually in an ongoing relationship, while acting supportive of their lover’s other love relationships.

“Here’s a basic concept.  If you love somebody you want the one you love to have what they want and need.  Many of us want and need more than one romantic or mate-like relationship.  Therefore, if someone we love intimately wants or needs others we want them to have those relationships.  Since you can love two or more parents, two or more siblings, two or more children,  two or more friends at the same time why not two or more lovers or love mates?

“There are different societies around the world who have lived this love style for hundreds even thousands of years.  More accurately poly love styles, in a variety of different ways, but none of them make for exclusive one-on-one living or for being dishonest about it.  Polys tend to argue that our culture’s way is ‘phony monogamy’ but actually it’s serial polygamy or polyandry with lots of dishonesty.  Affairs, adultery, unfaithfulness, cheating and the like, occur in over half the marriages pretending to be monogamous.  So much doesn’t get shared that deep sharing realness and real intimacy of the heart hardly have a chance.”

Uncle Charlie, an open-minded and bold sort of fella said, “So, let me ask the big question in my mind. What about sex ?  I can’t help but suspect all this Polyamory stuff is all just a mask for a form of ‘swinging’?”  Jackie laughed openly and everyone else giggled or blushed a bit.  “Sex is usually included but not always.  With some, Poly love is done more like long-lasting, deep friendship while relationships in the swinging world tend to be more shallow and brief, though that’s not always true.  But with us Polys it’s really not primarily about sex.  That’s more for ordinary singles, swingers and of course cheaters.  We Poly people are about the people we love having what they need and want, and that can include lots of sex with lots of people, though it usually is confined to a much smaller number of very special people”.

Uncle Charlie looking a bit devilish said, “Again let me ask, altogether at once?”  Jackie responded, “That can happen and does with some Polys.  For other Polys sex is a more private, one-on-one sort of thing.  Again it’s much more about healthy, real love that’s open and honest”.

The Poly Advantage

One of the other dinner guests then spoke up, “The Poly way has a great big advantage.  It is non-deceitful, non-possessive, non-controlling, non-restrictive and non-exclusive.  When you lust or feel love for another, which I think every spirited, really alive person does, you don’t have to hide it from those closest and dearest to you.”

Another guest at the table who had been quietly listening said, “The Poly way saves us from cheating and all the lies that go with it.  If you have a forbidden desire you get to talk about it instead of hiding and feeling bad about yourself about having the desire.  It also means having a whole lot more love in your life, and with it a whole lot more joy –  at least that’s the way I experience it”.

Then Sandra shyly spoke up saying, “Let me tell you my experience.  Before I became a Poly I was always afraid of losing whatever love I had, so I always had to secretly have a second lover on the side.  Time and again that meant someone found out what I was secretly doing on the side and there were horrible fights and a horrible breakup and a whole lot of time spent suffering and also in recovery.  Then the whole thing would start again. That nearly killed me.  I mean literally.  I nearly suicided twice.

“Then I got introduced to the Poly thing.  I learned I really have what it takes to love and be loved a lot.  It just seems natural to me.  What was messing it up was dishonesty and a value system which made sexual fidelity and monogamy more important than what I think of as natural, real love or truth.  When monogamy or sexual singularity are more important than love it can destroy love.  I’ve heard it said that whatever we make more important than love ruins love, and I think that’s true for me at least.  Now I see that anyone dumb or insecure enough to want to abandon me over who else I love probably isn’t right for me anyway.  Breaking up would hurt some but see I have deep and abiding love with the most wonderful set of other people, so I know I’m not going to be unloved. It’s more like the family you can count on, and I wouldn’t trade anything for it.  I know it’s not for everyone but it works way better for me than what I was doing before”.

Questions and Quandaries

Well, the evening went on with lots of humor, occasional tender, caring feelings and a surprising amount of frank, open honesty.  Some talked of their failures at being Poly and the failures of others they had known who tried it and found it wanting.  There was quite a lot of talk going on about children with some parents strongly testifying how much seeing their parents go Poly had done for them.  Others, of course, were very dubious about that part.

A lot of the other ways that a Poly lifestyle can be lived also got mentioned.  Handling jealousy and insecurity, plus the role of healthy self-love in doing so was focused on for a time.  How a Poly love lifestyle was being a great benefit to bisexuals in the Poly community was generally agreed on.  The question of “is Poly love real love?” resulted in people saying “sometimes yes and sometimes no”.  All acknowledged that false forms of love could happen in Poly relationships just like in monogamous relationships.  Also everybody agreed Poly love took just as much or more work as any other kind of relationship.  While it seemed like a sort of salvation for some, it was seldom easy, especially at first.

Some put forth the idea that it’s the English-speaking peoples that have the most trouble with Poly lifestyles, while maybe northern Europeans, the French, Polynesians and certain special indigenous people in China were more likely to do well with it.  Jackie’s parents testified to the fact that their daughter was happier this way than she ever had been before and that was what mattered to them.  Uncle Charlie said this dinner party had been the best conversational circus he had ever gone to, and he had never experienced so many surprising thoughts that he would have to think about a lot more and he was going to do just that.

Personal Questions And the Worldwide Scene

So, dear reader, how do you think you would go home from a dinner party like that one? What might your personal questions be?  If some of your close friends or family were to be revealed living a Poly lifestyle what would that mean to you?  Since all polls and other indicators show the Poly lifestyle to be growing with Poly clubs in every major city and many minor ones, Poly national and international conventions popping up all over the Western world, parts of the Far East , South America and especially North America, seminars talks, group discussions, Internet sites, online magazines and lots more, it seems likely you are going to run into it sooner or later personally.

Perhaps you already have.  It seems like a lot of people keep their Poly involvement kind of quiet because, after all, it is a rather personal thing.  As to love and lifestyles, the world seems to be changing one relationship at a time.  Concerning yourself, those closest to you, family, children, neighbors, etc. if any of them want you to come with them to the gathering of the Polys what you think you are likely to do if you haven’t already?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question
Are you more puzzled, threatened, dismissive, angered, worried, curious, amused, conflicted, inspired, excited, encouraged or just don’t know what to think by the Poly lifestyle?

Special note: Thanks to the several people who have requested this topic be addressed.  Sorry we didn’t get to it sooner.  For those new to the topic you might want to Google “Polyamory”, there’s lots of information at lots of different sites. Yes, there is likely to be more on this topic from time to time, along with information about other “alternative” lifestyles and how love is being carried out in those lifestyles, along with the “traditional”.

Climate Change and More Love Problems for Everyone

Mini-Love-Lesson  #255


Synopsis: How worsening weather is and will likely seriously impact all love relationships, even good ones; getting ready for it and what we can do is a bit frighteningly but succinctly well covered here.


ALL Love Relationships To Be Impacted!

The harmful consequences of worsening weather on love relationships of all types have already begun and it is going to get worse.  The research is predicting couples, families (large and small, nuclear and extended), parents and offspring of all ages, siblings, friendships of all depths, comrades in service, even our love relationships with our pets and ourselves are headed toward the damaging stressors of extreme weather.

It is not just the monster floods, destructive hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards and firestorms but it also is the rising temperatures and humidity, shrinking water sources, droughts, bug infestations and spreading tropical diseases that will plague us.  It is the psychological effects of trying to cope with all the above.  Higher rates of depression and anxiety conditions are expected.  Furthermore, as temperatures get uncomfortably high many people become more irritable, aggravated and aggravating, fatigued, slow, dispirited, inefficient and uncooperative.  All that is expected to have a negative impact on love relationships around the world (see “Dealing With Love Hurts: First Aid Tips”).

Especially hard hit may be parent/child love relationships, adolescent/adult relationships and already stressed and troubled heart-mate relationships.  Care-givers for disabled, injured and aged loved ones are likely to become more stressed and less attentive.  Couple and family violence episodes are thought likely to increase.

It’s Started – It’s Now – It’s Spreading!

Recent studies published by the United States National Academy of Sciences (NAS) show rising temperatures and the increasing rate of threatening, catastrophic weather events are associated with rising stress and serious related mental, emotional and behavioral health problems.  Those, in turn, cause more stress reactions and stress illnesses like strokes and heart attacks to occur.  Evidence suggests that as stress increases, people in every type of love relationship act with love less often and with less well expressed love.

It seems that as people have to cope with more and more stressors and heightened stress feelings they tend to show love less frequently and less ably.  As the behaviors which show and deliver love occur less, love relationship problems become much more likely to occur.  Fights, violence, break-ups, relapses, co-parenting conflicts, spouse abuse and even spousal murder and suicide are all expected to rise as love relationship functioning sinks with worsening weather stressors (see “Anger and Love”). Wherever weather is at its worst, these trends are already beginning to be documented by the UN, WHO, NAS, US-CDC and various university research projects.  The existence and spreading of worsening weather is being documented by every major, national weather bureau around the world.

Still Very Good but Less Good

Lots of love relationships that are very good will stay good but not as good.  The time and energy that would have been spent on loving interactions, restorative serenity, playfulness, sex, sharing fun projects, little intimacies, etc. may be spent on getting over heat exhaustion, hydration needs, fatigue recovery and preparing or coping with weather related stressors.  Love works both like a food and a medicine.  With worsening weather, everybody may get less of the medicine and the nourishment love provides.

Are You Ready for Greater Love Needs?

As the weather related stress on love relationships grows, the need for actions that skillfully show and give love also will need to grow.  Love that delivers aid, support, tolerance, acceptance, rescue, and forgiveness challenges us to both rebound and re-bond and will be crucial to relational survival.

Ovid, in the year one, told us that skill is required for love to be lasting.  This is especially true when the pressure, tension and stress are mounting and spirits are drained.  Will your love getting and giving skills be able to meet the challenge?  Ovid might ask “are you practicing and honing your love skills” for they will be needed?

What We Can Do!

I suggest consider working with the following five, simple, action ideas.

1. Love feelings come naturally.  Love relating is learned and must be practiced, honed and skillfully developed.  The more you learn and practice the how-to’s of giving and getting healthy, real love the more you will be prepared to weather the storm of extreme weather and it’s impact on your love relationships (see “Behaviors That Give Love: The Basic Core Four”).

2. See if you can get others in your love network of friends and family to do the same learning and practicing of giving the behaviors that can skillfully send love when others may need it.

3. Love your planet by lobbying your politicians and community leaders to work for weather improving practices to become standard and/or mandatory. Support, campaign and vote for those who help and not those who hinder and harm nature.

4. Perhaps join or form support and activist groups who work for cooperative, love-based solutions to both relationship and ecological challenges.

5. Don’t waste time and energy fighting directly with head-in-the-sand eco-ostriches.  Worsening weather eventually will convert them, or worse.  Instead, work for the changes that can make things better and with those who are doing the same.

One More Thing

You might enjoy talking over what you have just read with one or more others.  If you do that, we very much would like it if you mentioned this site and its many mini-love-lessons.  Thank you.


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


Quotable Question: Which is the safer gamble, to go with the scientists and doing all we can to ameliorate climate change or to go with the deniers and not do anything at all?

Thinking About Love, How Good Can Yours Get?

Mini-Love-Lesson #214

Synopsis: Here you get introduced to the need for and the benefits of good love thinking; ideas for bringing together your head and your heart ways of thinking about love and getting free of blocks to good love thinking are also included; more.


Do You Know How to Do Good Thinking about Love?

If you give it a little thought, your thinking about love likely can get really good. That, in turn, could produce joyously superb results for your life. The trouble is, except for a few, most people are not very good at thinking about love usefully, productively or even close to successfully when there is a love problem.  How about you?  Can you think about love in ways that are beneficial, constructive, fruitful and if there are love problems, adeptly find love-based solutions?  By the way, did you know that if there is a love relationship problem, it is thinking about the love part rather than the problem part that more likely can lead to improvements?  At least that is what some suggest.

Let’s suppose you want to fix a broken heart, get over a lost love, recover from a wounded heart or cure a sick love relationship.  Or let’s suppose you want to find real love, grow a stronger love, deepen your love or generally just enrich your life with more and better love.  Do you think you have the knowledge about love and what you can do with it to go after and accomplish what you want?  Sadly, not too many people can reply to any of these questions with a strong affirmative.  However, with a little study and practice you can, if you don’t already.  So, let’s think about thinking about love.

Start with a Simple Premise!

If you do good thinking about love, your actions about love can get better and better which likely will result in more and more love success, and better and better love feelings more frequently experienced throughout your life.

Conversely, if your love thinking is poor, inadequate, misinformed, etc. your actions concerning love are more likely to be wasted, counterproductive, inadequate, unhealthy, etc., resulting in, at best, love relational mediocrity or, at worst, considerable disappointment, failure and unhappiness in love.

Unblocking and Freeing Your Thought Process First?

Think!  Ponder!  Puzzle?  Question.  Explore.  Examine!  Speculate?  Reflect!  Contemplate.  Inquire.  Suspect?  Envision!  Hypothesize.  Learn!  And do all of them concerning love!  But wait.  Is your mind really free and unblocked for doing these things when it comes to love?  Many minds are not.

Cultural conditioning has made a great many people in quite a number of societies around the world think that thinking about love is a no-no.  Especially in romantic love you are supposed to rely on luck, magic, fate, the stars, myths, legends, folklore and heaven but, heaven forbid, not on your own thinking mind.

It seems that only in Russia, where loveology (see “Is There Really a New Field Called Loveology”) has been made an official field of study, is it okay to really think and learn about love like you would think and learn about every other subject.  That is until your lack of thinking and learning helps you get into a love relationship that sinks or crashes and gets you badly hurt.  When that happens at least some people start to really think and learn about love and its actual workings.
Luckily in recent years, scientists have begun to go against the social prohibition of researching love and are finding out marvelous, incredible, useful and practical love knowledge.  With it, you really can do good thinking about love.

Of course, family influences growing up, certain societal and religious training, love experience trauma and other intervening variables also can cause blockage and otherwise mess up your ability to think successfully concerning love in love relationships.  All of those influences might require the help of a good, love-oriented counselor or therapist before really good thinking about love could be accomplished.

Good Love Thinking, What Is It?

I suggest good thinking about love is cognition about love accomplished via a wide variety of potentially good, love-oriented, thinking qualities.

Below you will find a list of 40 such qualities.  Later you can use the list to analyze, rate and improve your own thinking about love.  However, first let’s just do some thinking about the qualities on the list.  Each of these qualities has been used to describe, in a positive way, the nature and fashion some others tend to think in when they think about love.  Would some of these words describe your thinking about love?

GOOD THINKING ABOUT LOVE QUALITIES
1. Helpful  2. Positive  3. Constructive  4. Kind  5. Knowledgeable
6. Appreciative  7. Innovative  8. Empathetic  9. Discerning
10. Artistic  11. Fruitful  12. Accepting  13. Progressive
14. Affirmative  15. Productive  16. Beneficent  17. Wise
18. Considerate  19. Inspired  20. Forgiving  21. Inquisitive
22. Seductive  23. Resourceful  24. Balanced  25. Non-judgmental
26. Sexual 27. Reasoned 28. Generous 29. Democratic
30. Romantic  31. Evidence-based  32. Reverent  33. Creative
34. Erotic  35. I win,, you win oriented  36. Awe filled
37. Informed  38. Loving  39. Insightful  40. Compersive* (opposite of jealous).
If you wish feel free to add words or terms of your own.

Now for An Intriguing Little Survey

First, think of someone you love and consistently want ongoing love from.  It could be a lover, a spouse, a child, a parent, a friend or anyone else you choose.  With that person clearly in mind, pick out two to five qualities from the above list which you suspect that person wants to be descriptive of your way of thinking about love.  You may want to write those qualities down.  Next, ask yourself what two to five qualities you hope that loved person’s thinking about love contains.  Now, ponder how this informs you about your love with that person.  You could go check that out with them and do some joint thinking about your love together.

Next, using the above list, let me suggest you pick out what may be two to five qualities concerning your thinking about love which you suspect may be your strongest and best qualities involved in thinking about love.  Ask yourself if you really are strongly or only moderately empowered in those qualities.  In either case, are there things you want to do to increase your better qualities even more?
Now, search through the list to see which two to five other qualities of your thinking about love would best be improved?  Then think and perhaps write down what you could do to make those improvements.

Last, review the list for the two to five qualities on the list which most puzzle you or just grab your attention.  Those may be the most important ones for you to attend to.
All this can be used to talk over with others, especially those you are in a love relationship with.

Using Your Cognitive and Emotional Intelligence to Think Good

The odd-numbered items on the above list are understood to have more of a connection to cognitive mental (cortex) processing.  The even-numbered items have more to do with thinking that is emotionally motivated, connected and processed (limbic).

It is important that your thinking not only be cognitively good but also be in harmony with your emotions related thinking about love.  Otherwise you may be, like the proverbial “house divided against itself” and become rather conflicted and self-defeating.  That, by the way, is another place that much cultural conditioning about love tends to lead with its heart versus head dichotomies.  Head with heart in synthesis works much better.

With that in mind, you might want to count and analyze whether the even numbered qualities or the odd numbered qualities concern you the most.  Are you better at the even or the odd numbered items and what do you think that might say about you?

Your Inner Sense of Love Needs Your Help

You may just know you love your children, parents, other family, pets, dear friend, and perhaps your deity, your country and even yourself.  You probably are quite right about all that.  However, when it comes to romantic love you can be very wrong – very seriously, dangerously and tragically wrong!  Why is that?

One science-based answer to that question goes like this.  Mother Nature, in order to assist our species survival, evolved in us lust and various forms of false love so that we more quickly would mate and have offspring while waiting for lifelong commitment love which might never happen or take too long.  Remember, that a long long time ago there were not many humans on earth and they did not live very long so, having kids before something killed us off was vital to our species survival and expansion.  Note, that several forms of false love last for about two years and then turn off.  That is just about enough time for two parents to get a child started and then go mix the gene pool with new others (see our Real Love False Love book).

For all forms of love, it is best if your head and heart work together but especially is that important in romantic love.  You may sense you have a strong romantic love for someone, a love that wants to be sexual with that person and even to have a child with that person.  These feelings can be quite real but the interpretation and conclusion you draw quite mistaken.  That is when your heart really needs the help of your head.  To help your heart, your head needs to be love-knowledgeable, and be able to do good love-focused thinking.

Good thinking about how to love a child, a parent, a friend, yourself or anyone or anything else tends to result in good, healthy, powerful loving.  Spiritual love, altruistic love, humanitarian love and every other form of love all can use the help of your good thinking mind.  So, learn to do good thinking about love and maybe put a little more successful love into our world.

Congratulations!  You already are working at good love thinking by reading this mini-love-lesson.  Keep working at it and you will get better because you can and it is important!  To help you with that, you might want to give thought to the mini-love-lessons titled “Thinking Love to Improve Love”, “What Your Brain Does with Love – Put Simply” and also review “The Definition of Love Series” at this site.

One More Little Thing

How about introducing this site and this mini-love-lesson’s ideas to someone you love and then to somebody new?

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question: Would it be a good idea for you to make your own journal, recording your own personal “Thinking about Love”?

* See the love lesson “Compersion: A Newly Identified Emotion of Love”.


Does Sexual Preference Influence Love?

To understand some of what’s involved here let’s first take a look at a few important questions and some possible, or probable, answers that have to do with sexual preference.  Then we will apply that knowledge to love.

Question 1. What causes people to have different sexual preferences?

Answer: The preponderance of scientific evidence points to all sexual preferences – homosexuality, bisexuality, heterosexuality, transsexuality, etc. as primarily being biologically predisposed, probably before birth.  There is considerable scientific evidence which shows that atypical gender identity development is influenced by variations in prenatal hormonal and neurochemical factors, which also influence the incidence of left-handedness and finger ratio measurements concordant with sexual preference development.

Furthermore, there are anatomical brain differences, especially in the central subdivision of the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, a brain area vital to varying sexual behavior tendencies.  Then there are the genetic influences illustrated by sexual preference inheritability being high among monozygotic twins, and less strong but also high among fraternal twins.  Whatever your sexual inclination you were probably predisposed toward that inclination biologically, probably before birth according to the preponderance of the most recent scientific research.

Question 2. What is some of the other evidence that tells us biological predisposition is causal?

Answer: First, brain studies show a number of different parts of the brain of homosexuals, bisexuals, heterosexuals and transsexuals tend to be different from each another.  Especially different are the parts of the brain known as the corpus callosum, medial pre-optic nucleus and the hypothalamus.  Brain chemistry also is somewhat different.

Second, over many decades hundreds of well conducted, psychological studies have been done trying to discover the psychological cause of homosexuality, and no psychological cause has ever been discovered and substantiated by replicated research.  A number of newer theories still are under investigation but so far nothing definitive can be said to have been discovered.

Third, about 10% of most mammals exhibit homosexual preference and another 15 to 20% exhibit bisexual behavior.  Many bird species show similar results.  Bisexual behavior is extremely common among some mammal species like the bonobo apes.  There also are brain differences in various homosexual, bisexual and heterosexual animals.  By the way, some researchers think there is evidence to support the contention that bisexuality is on the rise, especially among human females.  Furthermore, there is some evidence to suggest that all people are at least a little bit bisexual.

Question 3. Why do different sexual preferences exist in nature?

Answer: Nature is all about variety and keeping its options open.  We never know when a variation will turn out to help a species survive or advance in its development; for instance the bisexuality of bonobo apes seems to have contributed greatly to solving the problem of violence within that species.  Bonobos when faced with conflict literally ‘make love not war’.  Inter-species aggression so common among baboons, chimpanzees and humans is virtually nonexistent among bonobos, who are the most sexual and the most bisexual of us, who are classed as primates.

It also is to be noted that there are species that change gender, being female for a while, then male for a while, and being heterosexual part of their life, and homosexual another part of their life.  Likewise, there are species that are both genders simultaneously.  Furthermore, there is some evidence among humans that in times of war and other great stressors women give birth to more ‘bisexual and homosexual to be’ children who are then thought to become more tolerant, flexible, harmonious and generally peaceful in their adulthood than is average among heterosexuals.

Homosexuals and bisexuals also are thought to give higher than average child raising supportive and protective care to their heterosexual brother’s and sister’s children, thus, increasing the survivability of a family’s genetic line.  Consequently homosexuality and bisexuality give certain of our species a noteworthy evolutionary advantage.

Question 4. Are there other things that influence the emergence or development of different sexual preferences?

Answer: There is some evidence which would suggest that some young children may go through a critical period in which exposure to more or less equally interesting, pleasuring and loving males and females may influence the early emergence of bisexuality.  Certainly the social acceptability of various sexual preferences causes especially homosexuals not to try to suppress their emerging sexual tendencies.  In those societies which are strongly anti-homosexual much greater inner conflict and stress results, which may cause some people to be able to inactivate their natural predispositions, especially if their sex drive is not very strong.

Question 5. Are people of one sexual preference or another more likely to be mentally ill, prone to criminality or addictions, or in other ways destructive to themselves and society?

Answer: Yes is the arguable answer; and the most destructive people according to gender preference are – heterosexual.  Actually the differences are fairly negligible according to most reputable studies.  In many cultures men and women who are homosexual have had far more societal stressors than heterosexuals or bisexuals, and those stressors are causal in mental and emotional illness and other dysfunctions for many.  In societies much more accepting of people of different gender preference these problems turn out to be the same or slightly better than heterosexuals according to several authorities.

Those people who are one gender externally but another gender internally, like many transsexuals, are likely to experience even more stressors.  Unless their stress coping mechanisms are good they are more likely to experience one type of dysfunction or another.  Interestingly, highly androgynous people seem to do rather well in life in most cultures.  Hermaphroditic people who have the physiology of both genders rather equally are too rare to have had significant data gathered.

Probably not enough good, quality research has been done in this area and we have more to learn. Your sexual preference makes a difference in who you are attracted to, who you come to love and make a primary life partnership with, if you do that.  Other than that most studies seem to point to the idea that being homosexual, or bisexual or heterosexual doesn’t make much of a difference when it comes to the vast majority of other varying aspects of life.

Now let’s look at the love factor.
Question 6. Does your sexual preference make a difference in how you do love?

Answer: There is some evidence suggesting that homosexual men and women give more thought to how to do love than the average heterosexual.  Furthermore, those who have sufficient emotional maturity may do love relating rather better than many heterosexuals. Both bisexual males and bisexual females actually even may be better at love.  Contrarily, there is some evidence to suggest that homosexuals who are immature may have a harder time getting beyond romantic idealization and the many problems that accompany it.

Strongly bisexual males and females seem to have a somewhat harder time than homosexuals or heterosexuals when, and if, they attempt to be monogamous.  However, if their primary mate relationship compatibly allows for some multi-person involvement they are thought to do better than average according to several researchers who study this sort of thing.  For the most part, homosexuals, bisexuals and heterosexuals demonstrate the same range of behaviors when attempting to do a love relationship.  All do better to about the same degree when they learn more about how love is healthfully given and received.

Question 7. How do people of different sexual preferences do at family and child love?

Answer: The evidence points to homosexual couples working harder than heterosexual couples at doing family love and child love well.  Consequently they get better results in most areas measured.  Other forms of sexual preference have not been studied sufficiently but there is some evidence which suggests bisexual people do no worse and possibly a little better than the average heterosexual.

Question 8. How do people of different sexual preferences do at healthy self-love?

Answer: Because of societal condemnation, and especially judgmentalism and condemnation in religious communities homosexuals have had a terrible time developing sufficient healthy self-love.  Self-hate, self rejection, low self esteem, escapist addictions and suicide have been measured as quite high, although now with more social acceptance and more available support networks these problems are reducing.  In those cultures where different sexuality is common and accepted these problems for the most part don’t exist in larger percentages than is true of heterosexuals.  Even though bisexuals have been able to ‘hide out’ in heterosexual communities they have exhibited some of these self love problems also.

Question 9. Is there any reason to believe that people of one sexual preference or another will naturally or automatically do healthy, real love relating better or worse than people of other sexual preferences.

Answer: No!

Question 10. Do people of one sexual preference or another do spiritual love better or worse than people of other sexual preferences?

Answer: People who have more stressors, and difficulties and differences than average go looking for help and answers more than is typical.  That often includes searching into religion and spiritual matters.  Homosexuals, and bisexuals and other people with sexual differences have to cope with more stressors when they live in sexually, anti-democratic, social environments.  Therefore, it is thought a fair number of these people search for spiritual solutions and spiritual development more than the average person does.

Those who search tend to find and, therefore, grow their abilities in spirituality.  Homosexuals living in sexually anti-democratic societies especially run into lots of social and sometimes religious prejudice, rejection, hate, pseudo-love and related difficulties.  Consequently they often turn away from organized religion and toward independent spirituality.  Other than that there does not seem to be much of a spirituality difference between heterosexuals, homosexuals, bisexuals, and other sexualities.

Among people who give arduous study to these sort of things there is this conclusion – the love of life, the love of nature, the love of a deity, the love of fellow humans and all other forms of love can be just as strong and done just as well by people of one sexual preference as it is of another.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question
Can you give and receive family love and friendship love equally to people of all different sexual persuasions?


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’?


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,

Elder Love

Synopsis: This love success lesson focuses on – plan ahead questions; love for health and spirited living; mindset issues; elder self-love; don’t retire instead encore; age segregation; with love older better sex.


Plan Ahead Questions

As you grow older what are you going to do about love?  As you grow older what are you going to do about getting loved and giving love?  All kinds of love are to be considered here.  So, as you grow older, and then even more old what do you know about elder romantic love, sexual love, family love, friendship love, spiritual love, love of life, healthy self-love and all the other possible ‘loves’?

Whatever your age, what are you doing about loving those around you who are or may soon be classified as ‘seniors’?  What do you want others to do about you and love?  The sooner you have well-informed answers for these types of questions the better you can build toward a love rich, elder years life.

Here is another important question.  Is there something inside you that has sort of been telling you that as you become ‘elder’ you have to give up on love?  That is a sort of subtle, societal, subconscious programming that gets into the heads of a lot of people as they grow older.  A variation of that programming tells us we have to give up on certain kinds of love.  Many have been taught that it is not socially proper for elders to be interested or active in certain kinds of love or love with certain people.  Especially is that true if anything sexual might be involved.  Gerontology research mostly says – WRONG!  It is not healthy to think this way or abide by this type of thinking.

Love For Health and Spirited Living

The more healthy, real love older people get and give the longer they live and the healthier they stay; also the more spirited is their life.  One recent study showed that lonely, less loved, older adults were 45% more likely to die in any given year than were seniors who felt meaningfully connected in love relationships with others.

Being older with one or more meaningful love relationships and having an active social involvement is related to biological processes that increase health, improve and keep our physiological systems functioning, decrease inflammatory difficulties and help people avoid stress-related, unhealthy hormone development with its resulting physiological damage.  That summarizes the findings to date of an extensive, on-going, major English research project being conducted in epidemiology.

In the US it has been found that well loved, meaningful relationships significantly assist elders to normalize blood pressure and avoid all the difficulties that go with it.  Furthermore, meaningful, positive love relationships reduce the development of destructive chemical compounds in the human body that seem to occur more commonly in the lonely and less loved.  Other findings show that more spirited, zestful, energetic living occurs with more loving.  The ‘loveless’ live much more dispirited and the well loved and loving live much more ‘inspirited’ and ‘inspired’.

So, the message is clear.  If – or – when you’re an elder and you want to live healthy and lively keep putting lots of loving into your life.  To do that you will probably have to examine closely what your mindset is about age and aging.

Mindset Issues

You may have grown up in a family, or a neighborhood or a town in which it was common to think certain ways about older people.  In some parts of the world this is very positive and older people are honored for their wisdom, maturity and the good things they have offer those younger than themselves.  In other areas the general attitude is disdainful, disparaging, demeaning or even denigrating toward elders.  Possibly you grew up around people who were just neutral, vague, unconcerned, disinterested and dispassionate about older folks.  Whatever the case, what you grew up around may have given you a mindset toward your own aging that is not of your own choosing.

Especially important is examining to see if you were programmed to have negative images and stereotypes about being older because that can have a ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ effect on your own life as an elder.  It also can greatly affect how you treat older people and how you may block yourself from receiving their enrichments.  Your mindset can have powerful negative or positive effects on your health and lifestyle.  If your mindset is positive it can assist you to an old-age that is lively, strong, agile, spirited, healthy and well loved.  Especially important are the following mindset areas.

Elder Self-Love

Coming out of his United Presbyterian Church Etheridge greeted and in a quite chipper mood conversed with a surprisingly large number of people.  He bragged unabashedly about a painting he had completed and he unashamedly flirted with females.  To the close friend who had driven him to church that day he said he was going to walk home because it was such a beautiful day.  He declined a dinner invitation because he had a speech to prepare and because he had a ‘hot date’ to get ready for that night.  Then he zestfully set off walking home which was about half a mile away.  Etheridge was 101 years old.

There is an almost endemic problem with elders living in overly youth-oriented cultures.  It is that in such cultures elderly people begin to lose healthy, self-love and with it self esteem, self-confidence, self-respect and a sense of self-worth.  In societies that revere and do well at loving, the older one gets the prouder and more healthfully self loving one may become.  When self-love diminishes there often is a diminishment of self-care, acceptance of assistance, increased social isolation, increased sense of inadequacy and increasing feelings of not being lovable or worthy of love.  As noted, when this happens biological health is negatively affected and illness and accident proneness also tend to increase.

Those elderly people who ‘own’ a healthy self-love tend not to experience negative biological effects nearly as strongly as do others.  Their psychological state tends to continue growing, remain strong, and be what some call healthfully ‘youthful’.  So, if you grow older rejecting any and all societal negative interpretations of your aging self you probably are doing yourself a big, biological and psychological flavor.

Don’t Retire – Encore

Another big mindset issue has to do with work and more exactly retirement.  It’s a sad fact that many people after retirement rapidly deteriorate and die much earlier than they might have.  Retirement seems to trigger a subconscious process in which people’s thinking about who they are triggers their biological functioning into dysfunction.  Retirement for all too many means starting to think things like “I’m no longer productive, contributing, proficient, influential, helpful, important or significant”.  Many try a lot of recreational activities and superficial socializing, and that helps for a while, but because it’s not seen as of substantial worth its helpful effect often diminishes after a while.

What to do about this?  Start an encore career or involvement.  Those who move on to encore actions tend not to deteriorate, tend to live longer, and tend to feel really good about their lives, perhaps even better than ever.  Those who have a purpose, donate themselves to a worthy endeavor, get intrigued with new learning or working on a challenge, a major pet project, or a cause do far better than the rest.  Many do this as volunteers giving time and energy to worthy endeavors.  Some do it to bring to life and nurture their long, dormant talents in the arts.  Some join writer’s workshops and begin writing ‘their book’, articles or blogs.

Still others get into consulting, advising and teaching in an area they already know.  Another group keep their careers going and never retire because they really love what they’ve been doing for many years.  They may cut down on the amount of work time or specialize in the most fun part of whatever their career was and leave the rest alone.  All this can be seen as an aspect of healthy, self-love but it also can involve a person’s love of life.

So, what is your encore involvement going to be?  It’s never too late to start an encore involvement, and probably it’s never too early to start thinking and planning what it will be.

Age Segregation

When older people allow or cause themselves to be age segregated they may live too limited and not in ways that are good for them.  There is a teaching in the East that translates something like “to become mature and wise, associate with your elders.  To retain youthfulness, associate with youth.  But to live best, associate with people of all ages”.

Some social scientists and certain public health theoreticians suggest being segregated by age groups is anti-natural, quite artificial and probably a big societal mistake.  Learning to be comfortable around and be enriched by people of all ages is a problem for those who mostly have been age segregated most of their lives.  Those who went to the type of school that practiced having no age grouped classes, and move ahead at your own speed education are thought to do better with age integration.  Do you agree that love can flow to and from people of any age and to live that way is a highly desirable blessing?  Do you agree that to live too age segregated may seem comfortable but it actually may be too life limiting?  Are you going to be sure not to live too age segregated?

With Love – Older Sex, Better Sex

Lots of older men and women think they have to give up on sexuality, so they do.  Certainly changes often are in order as one gets older but giving up on sex is totally uncalled for and decidedly not the healthiest way to go.  You see, sex is really good for you and maybe even better for you as you get older if you go about it in an age workable way.  What do you consider to be sexually normal and desirable for people of an older age?  Are you using standards that are too much the norms of youth or even middle age?  If what you consider to be sexually normal or desirable actually is more appropriate only for youth, you’re likely not to do so well.

Men in particular who have been societally programmed to believe sex is all about ‘penis in vagina’ intercourse and about climaxing have a particularly hard time adjusting to the rather different, best sexuality possible for elders.  When males learn ‘whole body sex’ and ‘love centered sex’ they do far better. (See category: Sex and Love )  Both men and women who think their body has become too unattractive or too ‘ugly’ could best start doing their sexuality in darker places or with more sexy clothing.

Women who think they can not lubricate sufficiently don’t need to believe their sexuality or femininity is lost but rather is usually just in need of more and longer erotic actions, plus the use of lubricants.  Erotic fantasy sharing, movie watching, reading, learning to think and act in ‘no pressure to perform or succeed’ ways, and to have an ‘everything can be enjoyably and okay’ mindset, plus the mindset of ‘there’s lots to enjoy in addition to, along with, and besides intercourse and orgasm’ – all or some of these often help people learn new and better ways of how older people can go about sexuality.

There are cultures in which older people seem to have great sex lives and very few sex problems.  Both men and women who engage in the sacred sex practices of two of the Hindu religion’s major divisions, the Tantric and the Shakta, tend to keep their bodies mostly healthy and their sexually functioning quite well every year of life, no matter how long they live.  You might want to investigate those.

Here’s another aspect of elder love with sex which shocks some, angers quite a few and delights others.  I know a small group of mostly females mostly in their 20s, 30s and 40s who especially like and seek sexual experiences with considerably older men and women.  People in that group say things like “older sex partners are more total and complete, and know a lot more about being loving”, “the mature know what they’re doing and the rest are just kids – cute but awkward, clumsy, unsophisticated, ignorant, sometimes stupid and sometimes dismally arrogant.  Who needs that”!  A 23-year-old I know bragged about spending weekends with a couple in their 70s saying it was the best sexuality and the most loving experience of her life.  She also told that the next week she was traveling with a professor of philosophy in his 80s and she can’t wait to get him in bed and then to talk and talk and talk.

For older participants who are ‘mixing it up’ with younger adults, the evidence seems to show outstanding results can occur.  Older men and women having sex with people 20 or more years their junior seem to get younger physically as well as mentally. (See Does "Cougar" Love Work?)  The younger participants often get more maturity and wisdom, and often some finer life experiences, so everyone usually benefits.

Sex and love go together and sometimes bring about what is called a May/ December romance and even enduring, healthy marriages.  Historically for hundreds of years this used to be the norm.  He was anywhere from 30 to 85 and his bride was anywhere from 13 to 27.  Less of an age difference was seen as shockingly unseemly.

Nowadays, in certain circles, couples who have much of an age difference are disapproved of or even rejected.  However, the evidence shows in many relationships, of the romantic type, where healthy, real love is a major component, age similarity is not needed.  The more democratic approach of letting people choose their own love-mates, irrespective of prejudicial categories of all types, seems to be more in alignment with nature and what is healthful.

Still another elder love/sex practice not talked about in many circles is the ancient, even biblical custom of what is sometimes called partner sharing.  Martha makes love, not just has sex, with both her retired husband and his also retired widower brother.  Sometimes all three go on vacations together.  They’re thinking about sharing a house and expenses together too.  Sarah was so thankful to be taken in by her elder sister and sister’s husband after her own husband passed away from a long illness.  At first they all just cuddled into the night, but that lead to other things which have been working out quite well for all of them for quite a few years.

It is to be noted that ‘partner sharing’ among older people mostly is done very quietly and secretly.  It seems to be much more common among social liberals, often ex-hippies, than among conservatives and traditionalists.  As mentioned, partner sharing is an old custom with early biblical references.  It was for ages a primary way to take care of the problem of widows and widowers, those who had been abandoned, the disabled, the infirm and also destitute relatives.

In patriarchal cultures it was recommended as virtuous for keeping alive family bloodlines because every female taken in was expected to bear the prime males of the house at least one child if possible.  In today’s world the practice of partner sharing, especially including romantic love and sex, seems to benefit a certain number of energetic, lively elder people who have lost their spouses.  Some social scientists think this partner sharing among lively, older people is likely to slowly keep growing in popularity because with the help of the health sciences there are more and more lively elders.

To wrap up then, the importance of lots of love in your life, all types with lots of different people is vital, healthy and enriching – no matter how old you are!

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly



Love Success Question Is your picture of your own life as an elder full of ‘vim and vigor’, zest, joy, sexiness, productivity and delight – or more the opposite?