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Showing posts with label problems. Show all posts
Showing posts with label problems. Show all posts

Can Love Overcome Incompatibility?

Synopsis: We start with worst-case incompatibility getting unstuck; then go on to compatibility choices; the better other choice; some how-to’s; deal breakers; and the great importance of experimenting.


A ‘Worst-case’

Tabitha, with tears running down her cheeks, wailed to her lover, Jamail, “We’ve got to face it!  We love each other but we are just two different.  We can never make it as a couple”.  Jamail looking very distressed pleaded, “We should try anyway.  Are we not taught that love conquers all”?

Tabitha responded, “You’re deep into your religion and I am an agnostic.  You are a capitalist and I am a socialist.  You want sweet and tender lovemaking and I want rough and tough passion.  You want to live in different countries and move around a lot and I want to put down roots and stay in one place.  You want to make a lot of money and retire early and just play.  I want a lifetime of doing good to others and giving back to my community.  You want rice with everything and I am allergic to it.  You want a passel of children and I’m not sure I even want one.  How in the world can you think we could ever be compatible enough to succeed?”

Jamail, with a strong, serious look replied  “I think we could each give up some things for each other, compromise on other things and just try hard not to fight about the rest.  I’m ready to sacrifice because I love you so much, and I know it’ll be hard but I bet we can do it if we try hard enough.  Do you love me enough to do that?”  Tabitha with a sad, soft demeanor replied, “I do love you more than enough to try and I think we could make it work for a while, but if we sacrifice, later we will grow resentful and depressed because we would be denying our true selves and I don’t think that can ever work”.

Jamail retorted, “Even if that’s true, we still try and if it doesn’t work we would know that we had done what we could.  Unless we try will never know for sure. I would hate to think that if we had only tried we might’ve made it”  Tabitha said, “I guess you’re right but I don’t want to spend my life trying what you suggest.  I have seen to many others do that and they were too incompatible to make it work.  I refuse to live like them.”  Jamail then beseeched, “Give it a year, six months, even three?  Tabitha with a hint of a smile responded, “Six months with the option to renew for six more – okay?”
Jamail quickly answered, “OK, and look at what we’ve just done.

With love and talk we have arrived at a compatible, next step from our mutual incompatible positions.  Maybe that’s a good omen.”  Tabitha laughed and said, “I don’t believe in omens but you’re right, and okay we can give it a try so long as we keep showing each other love during the hard times we are going to have.  I know if we don’t mix love into the times we get upset with each other, we will never make it.”  Jamail then said, “I know I have to do a lot of work to do in that area, and that is the first place we have to grow more compatibility in to make the rest of it work.  So, when I don’t come across loving enough, just remind me, and if it’s okay with you, I’ll do the same with you.”  Tabitha added, “Sometimes we both will need timeouts, so we have to not pester each other or get more upset with each other’s timeouts like we have before.”  “Yes, and see we’re doing it again; we’re working it out, replied Jamail.  Hugs and kisses followed.

Compatibility’s Choices

Most people seem to think that compatibility is something a couple just has or they just don’t have.  One finds it or can’t find it, or just hopes it will magically show up one day because they are so in love.  Our love mythology leads so many people to think couple compatibility is all a matter of luck or fate.  So, when they don’t find it they just break up or resign themselves to their miserable incompatibility destiny.

One problem with that view is that it takes a fair amount of time to figure out whether or not you are sufficiently compatible or not.  Lots of couples caught in a False Love Syndrome, slowly or after a few years of trying, sometimes suddenly raise into their awareness how incompatible they really are.  Several False Love Syndromes seem to be particularly good at blinding people from seeing their incompatibility.  Many such couples go into denial and repeatedly struggle on, until they finally do give up.  Some of those who give up, stay in the relationship trying to just live with and tolerate the incompatibility.  Several forms of False Love Syndrome lend themselves to overtly tolerating the incompatible difference while secretly or subconsciously looking for a new love that is real, and hoping to switch to a new, more compatible, better person.  That leads to affairs, divorce, and breakups.  It sometimes does lead to a much more compatible, real, love relationship that is far better, and other times not.

A lot of people do just find someone who is sufficiently compatible and that helps tremendously.  Nevertheless, such couples later do discover difficult differences and have to work at growing their compatibility.  Lots of couples, after the so-called honeymoon period, start discovering hidden differences and incompatibilities, some of which can severely sabotage or totally torpedo a couple’s relationship unless they start doing the work of growing their compatibility.  The research shows that no matter how compatible a couple starts out, they will experience compatibility struggles.

The Better Other Choice

Here is that really good news. More and more evidence points to what ‘successful couples actually do’ is not ‘find’ but instead ‘grow’ their compatibility.  Sure it helps to start out with at least a little compatibility, but even without much there is a way.  With enough healthy, real love, the right knowledge, plus dedicated and democratic, earnest teamwork, many, even severe incompatibility problems often are able to be overcome.  You see, Tabitha and Jamail are now 10 years together and most of those very happily together years.

See if you can wrap your head around the concept of lovingly and democratically growing compatible.  This actually is what most highly compatible couples have done.  Some of them started out with extreme incompatibility.  Of course, the more incompatible a couple is the more work it probably is going to take.  It is not magic, luck or fate.  It is work, or more exactly ‘teamwork’ that makes couples grow increasingly compatible.

Some How-To’s for Growing Compatibility

To start growing compatibility, you first might want to work on your ‘Toleration Love’. Tolerational love is one of the eight major groups of behavior by which social psychologists have shown that love gets given or delivered to another.  (You can read what you likely need to know about ‘Tolerational Love’ in Recovering Love.  There are several mini-love-lessons at this site which also will help.)  While you are growing compatibility, toleration love can get you through the disappointments, aggravations, irritations and frustrations of your incompatibilities.  One exception has to do with seriously unhealthy, destructive behavior.  There, it is important that your toleration not be enabling whatever is destructive.

A democratic approach and mindset is pretty much required.  If you have a “my way or the highway”, autocratic approach or mindset, growing compatibility does not stand much of a chance.  Two people in a relationship have to be willing to try each other’s ways, hear and consider each other’s thoughts no matter what they are, and have good emotional intercourse about everything felt (See the mini-love-lesson on Emotional Intercourse).

Constantly mixing in expressions of love in words and acts as you deal with whatever seems incompatible, and doing a good job of ‘Receptional Love’ at the same time makes the work of growing compatibility easier and more likely to succeed.  Be sure you do that in the way the one you love likes to be love (You might want to consult “The Five Love Languages by Gary D. Chapman for that).

Work to avoid ‘love destroyers’ and sabotage systems.  Especially important to avoid is diminishing your demonstrations of love in frequency or strength when dealing with incompatibility issues.  Also super important is to avoid demeaning your loved one because of their differences from you.  Guilt trips, putdowns, blame, indignation, making fun of, making derogatory comments, moralizing at your beloved, etc. are in no way helpful for growing compatibility.  Sometimes ‘making light of’ and having some fun with issues can be helpful if sufficiently, mutually enjoyed.  Slowing or stopping the demonstration of love is likely to be very detrimental.

Deal Breakers

Zea broke it off with Max a few days after their fifth get-together when he lit up a cigarette and explained he really liked smoking and had for years.  She knew she could not live with a smoker, having gone through the excruciating smoking-related cancer deaths of both her parents.  Her healthy, self-love would not permit it or risk it.  It had been far too painful.  Understand that, Zea was not being judgmental or condemning Max for smoking.  Zea was just realizing and ‘owning’ what was true about herself and acting on that knowledge.  She did explain it to Max and he tried to quit smoking, but gave up the effort after a little while, so Max and Zea were no longer ‘an item’.
This is pretty much the best way ‘deal breakers’ work.

No one needs to be unloving about it.  The truth is, some incompatibilities for some people are too big or too strong.  I like to suggest that couples who think this may be true for them in some area or another, first experiment with seeing if they can find a compromise, or a synthesis, or any other way to deal with whatever the incompatibility is all about.  Couples’ counseling can be a big help here.

The Importance of Experimenting

To earnestly ‘try on for size’ what your beloved wants you to do, to truly see if you can learn to enjoy what your beloved enjoys, to work to find ways to appreciate or at least tolerate the people your beloved values, to learn to look through your beloved’s eyes even though your beloved’s understandings are so opposite and different than your own, to clearly and frequently ask for what you want and to genuinely try to weave it together with what your beloved wants; all that and much more is involved in experimenting toward growing compatibility.  Of course, it must all be done with lots of well expressed love.

It is amazing how often experimenting leads people to genuinely like and be enriched by that which they did not like or want as it first was presented by their beloved.  It’s also amazing how often a synthesis with a beloved’s ways develops a new and third better way for both.  Experimenting and working to find the value in the differences a couple brings to each other is a grand way of growing compatibility.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question
What do you think of this statement, “You get to have it all your way, or you get to have love”?


Love Affairs: Bad?, Good? and Otherwise

Will a Love Affair be Good or Bad for You?  The answer may depend on whether you usually make most things go well for you and those you love, or not.

It also may depend on your subconscious ‘self-defeating’ or ‘self winning’ ways of going about life.  Another thing it definitely could depend on concerns what and how you think about love affairs.

Some people’s thinking about love affairs is well informed, intelligent, rational and balanced.  Is yours?  There also are those whose thinking is na├»ve, gullible, poorly informed and vulnerable.  Is that you?  A good many tend to think romantically and sexually about love affairs, but not much past that.  Could that be you?  A large number think judgmentally and with considerable negativity, while others are caught between thinking hopefully and fearfully.  Does any of that apply to you?  There, of course, are those in both committed and uncommitted relationships who secretly think about love affairs with joyful anticipation, delicious desire, clever premeditation and scheming intrigue.  Describing you perhaps? 

Then we have those who just get a big, happy kick out of thinking, talking and maybe even doing love affairs.  And there are those who think about love affairs with sad regret and those who think about them with happy reminiscence.  So, how do you think when you think of love affairs?  If you’re going to participate in a love affair it’s probably going to make you think a whole lot about it and to consider what your love affair is all about.  To think healthfully and successfully about love affairs let’s look at things that you might need to be aware of and consider carefully.

Singles with high love desires, and singles with breaking hearts, couples who can’t stop cheating on each other, and couples joyously reunited and working at co-recovery, the wear and tear on some relationships from multiple affairs, affairs that bring both agony and ecstasy, secret pride and public shame, terrifying dilemma and soaring freedom, crushing defeat and exhilarating victory, all these and far more are encompassed in the simple term ‘love affair’.

Love affair issues are agonized over and struggled with in my counseling practice almost every week.  That consistently has been true for years and years.  This means I have worked with thousands of people in all sorts of different love, sex and other types of affairs.  As a health professional my primary goal is always to get to a healthful resolution for all concerned.  I take the side of health against pathology, dysfunction and destructiveness.  It’s sometimes pretty tricky but I don’t take the side of ‘him’ or ‘her’, of someone else, or of saving the relationship or ending it.

I am neither for or against any of those positions unless it coincides with what is healthful for all concerned.  Since illicit or secret affairs are the ones usually presenting the most difficulty we will deal mostly here with those.  Later we will deal with the ‘yeas’ and ‘nays’ involved in open affairs, uncommitted single’s affairs and other kinds of affairs.  Those too can involve great dangers and difficulties along with marvelously strengthening joys, and enriching experiences and can have extraordinarily happy outcomes.

I will brag:  In my work with affairs we usually get to the ultimate goal of a healthy resolution for all concerned.  However, getting there is, almost always, quite arduous and quite complicated.  Commonly in an illicit or secret affair there are two people in a couple relationship, one or more lovers, plus sometimes children and family, some close friends and maybe others that may be strongly affected by what happens in the love affair.  Without help seriously un-healthful outcomes unfortunately are quite common in the complicated tangle of illicit affair situations.

In the worst-case scenarios suicide, murder, substance addictions, child, spouse and lover neglect and abuse, severe physical and mental harm, career ruination, economic destitution, family dissolution and a host of other truly traumatic consequences can, and do occur in many affair situations.  More commonly, repeated experiences of severe emotional hurt, serious family, social and occupational dysfunction, along with high stress and relational chaos regularly occur.  Yes, elicit love affairs sometimes can be frighteningly destructive!  If you are contemplating an illicit affair, or already are in one, don’t undervalue or be in denial about how badly it could go for you or for others who are important to you.

Then there’s the other side which doesn’t get talked about as much.  There can be, and sometimes are, very positive experiences and outcomes involved in a large number of love affairs.  Even very problem-filled affairs sometimes produce good results.  There is an extraordinary strengthening that develops and emerges in some affair protagonists.  It is not unusual that coming out of a ‘bad’ affair people take new, and much better life directions (which is a good result).  That’s especially true when they experience the help of a good counselor or therapist.

Destructive affairs sometimes result in people beneficially overhauling their life approach and their life situation which they would not have done otherwise.  Losing a spouse or love mate to an outside lover has been known to help a neglectful mate grow a much greater understanding of how to love and treat their next major love choice.  No small number of couples report that without the affair they coped with they would never have grown as good a love relationship as they have now.  Therefore, even bad affairs can have good results although usually the process, for a time, is quite awful.

Also not talked about much are the people who have excellent, positive affair results, sometimes right from the start.  Some testimonials I have heard: “My affair made me know I was worth something”.  “If it wasn’t for my affair I never would have learned what love is and how to do it well”.  “My super secret affairs led me into all sorts of exciting adventures and the best times I have ever had, so I would not trade for them for anything”. “I had a series of affairs which finally got me to my new and far better marriage and the love I always wanted”.  “Without cheating my life just would have been too damned dull.”  “It was having an affair that saved my life because before that I was on the way to putting a bullet in my head or drinking myself to death”.  “I have to be really thankful for my affair.  I think it was God sent because, crazy as it sounds, it’s what helped my marriage and made it work.  It wasn’t until my husband caught me with my lover that we started to get real with each other, and that has made all the difference in the world.  We were okay before but we’re really good together now”. 

These real-life words give evidence that sometimes having an illicit affair turns out to be positive for some people.

Here are some types of love affair results that many people don’t know what to think of:  Marcia related she was very happy about the results of her affair.  “It was my goal to have a child by a very intelligent, highly talented man and my affair got me exactly what I wanted, plus years of ongoing contact with a remarkably interesting man.  Besides that, his wife also has been involved and quite preciously captivating”.  Dennis stated, “It was my affair with an exceptionally wise, older, married woman that gave me the courage to go after the kind of woman I really wanted but was afraid I could never be enough for.  I am profoundly indebted to her”.

Serena remarked, “My several affairs are what sustained me through the long illness of my slowly dying husband.  Those wonderful men enabled me to lovingly care for him and make his life as good as possible right through to the end”.  Here too then is evidence that affairs, commonly disapproved of, can do good in certain circumstances, although there are many who would want to deny and refute that truth.

The group you perhaps hear the least about are the ones who say things like this: “I tried having an affair and it was so so”.  “My affairs were never really very bad or good, they just were.”  “Having an affair was just something to try on for size, which I did, and that’s about all I can say about it”.  “For me affairs and illicit sex were just a hobby.  After I tried that for a while I got a boat”.  It would seem that the truth of affairs is that quite a few people have disastrous results, others have really fine results and still others have mediocre results – much like most everything else in life.

If you are contemplating or feel prone to having a ‘cheating’ type illicit affair contemplate this important truth: To accomplish an illicit love affair you likely will engage in deceit, deception and perhaps a life saturated with falsehood.  All that along with the overt and covert lying that you probably will have to do is likely to be destructive to you no matter what else happens.  If it’s a true love affair perhaps the love you give and receive in the affair will be worth the price you have to pay.  Perhaps there also will be other benefits that at least help to counterbalance the difficulties of an illicit love affair.  Then again, perhaps not.

As you review the possible occurrences and outcomes of an illicit love affair let me suggest you ask yourself a few questions.  First, are you strong enough to survive the possible and probable destructive effects involved in an illicit love affair?  You see, illicit love affairs frequently turn out to be very draining.  Second, do the likely benefits outweigh the likely deficits, difficulties and potential disasters involved?  Third, who may be harmed, and how much might they be harmed?  Fourth, what exactly are the good things you are looking for in an affair and are they really good enough to go after by way of a secretive love affair?  Fifth, is there a way you could go after these things more openly and honestly?  Last, are you willing to seek the help of a nonjudgmental counselor or therapist so that your actions have a better chance of going in a healthful direction?

If you are already engaged in an illicit, secret affair is it one where real love is being given and received?  If you’re not sure about this study the “Definition of Love series” found on this site.  Do you need help in figuring out what to do with this affair?  If so, who will you go to for help?  Be careful here because some possible helpers may have a vested interest in one outcome or another, rather than helping you get to a healthful way of going about things.

If you go about the affair carefully and with healthy, real love for yourself and others things may go well for all concerned.  This is especially true if you and perhaps the others involved get some good coaching/counseling to help you through the hard spots.  Keep watching this site for more information about love, sex and other affair issues soon to appear.

As always, Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love success question
Toward yourself and the others involved how compassionate, understanding and resilient can you be concerning a love affair situation that might come your way?


Previous Comments:
  1. January 4th, 2018 at 23:26 |

    Men are just not so straight species. They think they are having some fun time.and it will be for some time but they forget they are involving themselves with another woman who is not going to let go of that good time very easy….. Although men have a lot of maturity interms of business, money making, policies what not. They lack the discipline to manage their emotions. All I can say is they just start but finishing is not in their control.

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,

Anti-Love Myth # 1: True Love Means You'll Know What to Do

Synopsis: Our sweet, pretty, horribly destructive, super common, love-ruining myth in example; A group’s help; Care and cure effort; Two answers for why we keep perpetuating the myth; The triggering of useless self attack; Ruining your children’s romantic future; The two brains improvement you can make; and Restaurant behavior & love relating.


With an anguished look Francine moaned, “If I have to tell him what I want that spoils it.  If he truly loves me, he just will know what to do and he’ll do it.  Won’t he?  That’s the way real love works, doesn’t it?”

Upon hearing this the other seven members of Francine’s counseling group all groaned in unison.  My trainee assistant therapist then said, “How has thinking that way been working for you so far, Francine?”  Quizzically she replied, “Maybe not so well, but perhaps I just haven’t found the right guy who really loves me yet.”  Again members of the group groaned.  Cheri, said, “I have an ex who relied on that myth and all it ever did was cause a lot of trouble and fights.  I always was having to guess and usually I guessed wrong.”  Jake spoke up and added, “Yeh, I get so frustrated with my wife never telling me what she really wants.  I really love her but she doesn’t give me a clear message that I can work with.  She expects me to ‘read her mind’ and I never can.  This could lead us to the breaking point if we don’t do something about it.”

I then asked, “Francine, what do you think the word communication means when we say we all have to learn how to really communicate with the ones we love?”  Francine replied, “I don’t know, I never really thought about it.”  I replied, “Could it mean you and your lover have to take a lot of the guesswork out of your relationship?  Maybe it means we all have to tell each other what we secretly hope for, dream about, and directly ask for what we need and want.”  With some energy Francine strongly said, “I think I get it and I’m going to work on that.”  So she did and with good results over time.

Loretta who just had been listening then made this comment, “Without asking for what I wanted, when my husband didn’t say or do just the right, loving thing I thought it meant I had done something wrong, or he was mad at me, or maybe he didn’t care or he was just being cruel.  When what I wanted didn’t come my way I’d feel guilty and try to figure out what I had done wrong and why he was punishing me.  I’m sure I seemed pathetic and whiny.  I see now I was not sending any clear message at all, just hoping he’d magically know or guess how to be nice to me.  When he ‘failed’ to come through for me I would get pouty.  When I acted like that he would get mad at me and I would feel too afraid to even talk to him, let alone tell him what I needed or wanted, so I guess he never really knew.  It never crossed my mind that he had no idea what I wanted — that he actually couldn’t know.  What a mess not asking for what I really wanted made.  It would have been so simple and I think we’d still be together today if I’d known that.”

Brandon then brought up the question “Why do so many people believe that awful myth which says ‘If you love someone you’ll know what to do, and you’ll do it, and it will turn out to be the right thing?  Why do we rely on a false myth that love makes us ‘mind readers’ when it causes a lot of pain and misery, and no doubt a lot of breakups?”

Understanding how many people come to believe this ‘love myth’ which turns out to have such an anti-love effect can help us guard against it.  There are two parts to the thinking about that.  The first part applies to when you are a baby your parents are repeatedly figuring out what you need and want, and give it to you without you asking for it because, as an infant, you can’t.  You may look distressed, or cry or look unhappy, then someone feeds you or changes your diaper or because they love you they make you feel better one way or another.  Therefore, you grow up being conditioned to think that those who love you automatically will know or figure out what you need and give it to you without you having to learn how to identify it, ask for it, or accurately inform anyone about how you feel.

All you have to do is look or sound a little unhappy and those loving people will sweep in and take care of you in a way that satisfies.  When you are a child that works because your wants and needs are mostly simple.  Adulthood is much more complicated and individualistic, so we have to learn to communicate our wants very clearly or we don’t have much of a chance of getting what we need or desire.  The dependence on loved ones being mind readers, therefore, basically is a childish way of operating and it often does enormous damage to adult love relationships.

The second part is that we in the Western world have been conditioned, at least somewhat, by childhood fairy tales.  In the fairy tales Prince and/or Princess Charming always automatically does the right thing which always leads to "happily ever after" without anyone having to really communicate.  Think of Snow White.  She is laying there in her coffin and the prince comes along and automatically does the one correct thing that brings her back to life.  He kisses her and she pops up full of hugs and kisses for him.  How did he know to do that?

It’s inferred that love gave him the immediate, perfect knowledge of what to do.  He didn’t have to research it, consult wise men or white witches, study old scrolls, remember what some wizard once said, or form a committee to study the matter.  He just immediately, automatically knew what to do and did it because that is ‘the magic of love’ according to the story.  To a large extent our romance mythology is built on this kind of understanding of how love is supposed to work.  We keep teaching this destructive myth to the detriment and destruction of many love relationships that otherwise might work out fine.

Think about it.  Notice that this way of operating can work in fairy tales and romance stories because only one brain is involved in scripting all the roles.  In real life you have at least two individual brains thinking individualistically.  For there to be joint, cooperative, successful action those two brains have to communicate with one another.  Only occasionally will both brains think enough in similar fashion for people to have pretty much the same thought simultaneously.  That phenomenon can be enjoyed but not relied upon.  Therefore, mutually communicating your feelings and especially your desires, then jointly working out what to do next is the way to go – if you want frequent cooperative success.

By the way, you might want to give some thought about whether or not you are perpetuating the "love gives magical, automatic knowledge" myth to your children and, thus, perhaps assisting them toward future romantic agonies and maybe failure.

Here’s the dilemma. You either can hold on to the sweet, pretty but false romantic myth that love magically can guide those who love you to take care of you ‘just right’, or you can go to the trouble to learn to clearly communicate your thoughts, feelings and especially your desires.  If you accurately communicate what you want you at least have a chance of getting what you want, of course, there is no guarantee.  Furthermore, if you are a decent listener you actually may come to understand what your beloved really wants or at least realize what questions to ask to find out.  If you hold on to and depend upon the myth – well, you can guess what you’re odds are of getting what you need and want.

Many of my patients have heard my analogy of restaurant behavior and love relating.  If you go to a restaurant and don’t ask for what you want, you are highly unlikely to get it.  The wait-person can’t read your mind.  If instead you say, “I’d like a steak, medium rare, with mushrooms on the side and a baked potato with sour cream and chives, and broccoli also” you have a far better chance of getting more exactly what you want.  Likewise, in a love relationship if you come home tired and worried, and just plop down and hang your head, you might not get the hug and attentive listening that you really want.  All your mate can do is guess what to do and they may guess you want to be left alone.  But if you say, “I’ve really had a rough day and I’m worried about tomorrow.  Will you give me a big hug and listen to me with love for about 5 minutes?  I think that will help us have a much nicer evening together” the chances are much better that your mate will understand what you want and hopefully help you with that.

As always – Grow and Go with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question Are you in any way afraid to ask someone you love for what you want, and if so how are you going to get past that?

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?

Love Is Not Provoked to Wrathful Anger

Mini-Love-Lesson  #245


Note: This is the 8th in our What Is Love?: A New Testament reply series based in Paul’s description of love and relational science. 


Synopsis:   The great importance of this teaching for love relationships; powerful and weak interpretations; a fuller understanding of wrathful anger; the high and often overlooked significance of “not provoked”; the power of emotional equanimity for achieving this way of love; some help from a bit of Hindu/Buddhist/Christian integrated teaching – all potently come together in this discussion informed by relational science.


Most Important?

Speaking from a relational specialist and therapist’s point of view, this might be one of the very most and important things on Paul’s list of what is and is not love!  To me, therefore, it deserves your considerable attention.  But then again I’m biased about this.

Please first note that this proclamation of Paul’s has two foci.  One is what we might call provokability and the other is, in this translation, wrathful anger.

Why Is This So Important?

No one knows how much human misery and destruction wrathful anger has caused.  Some think that more than one half of the harm humans do each other would not happen if we did not allow ourselves to be provoked into intense anger, rage, hate and other forms of wrathful anger.  How many love relationships are harmed or destroyed by episodes of anger acted out?

We know from research that most spousal murders, cases of battered children, incidents of familial physical abuse, elder abuse, acrimonious divorces and friend related physical fights resulting in hospitalization involve fits of unrestrained anger.  The vast majority of all this harm involves people who said they loved one another.  Additionally, there are all the couples and families who, via frequent angry fights, limit and block the amount of happy, healthy love they could otherwise have.  On top of that, are all the seriously stressed and often traumatized, bystander children who witness those angry parent and family member fights (see “Anger and Love”).

Paul’s assertion proffers that with real love all of that agony and destructiveness can be made preventable.  As a therapist, I have had a lot of first hand experience seeing couples, families, parents and others with severe anger problems prove Paul to be right.  In my work with the families of murdered children, hardest was where the victim and an almost murderer were within the same family.  But even there, the ways of anger could, with family therapy, be replaced with far better behavior.

I came to this work because I grew up in an alcohol influenced, fighting, Irish family destroyed by endless rage attacks and counter attacks. As could be expected, after that I had my own anger issues to overcome.  The good news is, with a lot of hard work, I and countless others like me worked and grew out of a life of angry self-sabotage and relationship sabotage.  Now, it has been a long time since I have allowed myself to be provoked to wrathful anger.

To get to the how-to’s, we first have to cover a few basics.

What Did Paul Really Mean?

Paul wrote his teachings and inspirations in ancient Greek and for this one he used “ou paroxunetai” which has been translated into English a diverse number of ways.  From a psychological point of view, some of these translations seem a bit questionable.  They include “love does not become angry”, “does not easily become angry”, “is not touchy and vindictive”, “does not blaze out in passionate fury”, “does not fly off the handle”, “does not get upset with others” and “is very slow to take offense”.

Another group of interpretations renders this, in what seems to be a softening and somewhat understating way, making Paul’s pronouncement seem milder than was perhaps meant.  They include versions like “love isn’t irritable”, “isn’t easily irritated”, “doesn’t aggravate easily”, and “is not prone to being quickly upset”.

Lastly, another group of scholars translates telling us “love is not provoked to anger”, “is not easily provoked”, “is not quickly provoked”, “is not provoked to wrath”, “is not stirred to wrath”, and “is not easily or quickly provoked to wrathful anger”.  These scholars include a focus on the provoked concept while others seem to avoid or miss that point.  This, in a psychological sense, appears to be crucial to having an in depth understanding of and the dynamics of anger, along with the workings of anger therapy and ways of conquering wrathful anger.

I have been told the Greek, root form Paul relies on is “paroxuno” to which our word “provoke” is thought to be historically connected.  Couple that with the Greek “ou” which is considered to imply something like “take what follows in the strongest way” and, consequently, we see no reason to make this teaching seem mild or less than powerful.  Thus, we discern “love is not provoked to wrathful anger” and/or “love is not easily provoked to wrathful anger” to be the most powerful and useful of all the English translations we are aware of.

What Is Wrathful Anger?

To get an understanding and sense of “wrathful anger”, look at these somewhat synonymous words and terms: fury, rage, malice, vengeance, ferocity, savagery, vehemence, furor, outrage, hate, spite, unforgiving bitterness, acerbic criticism, intense and pervasive ill will, asperity and violent anger.  Basically, this is the kind of anger that does not just cathartically release frustration or empower the expression of an opinion but rather it is the kind of anger that causes real harm and destruction.

What Does “Not Provoked” Really Mean?

To provoke means to stimulate, give rise to, evoke, arouse or trigger a strong, usually negative emotional reaction.  It also can mean to incite, goad, spur, prod, badger, urge, encourage or agitate anger, unhappiness, violence, hate or any other destructive, hurtful or harmful reactive behavior.

Provocation, connotes something a bit different than saying you, him, her, they or it made me feel bad.  That connotation implies a provoked person had something within them that could be provoked or triggered in the first place.  Therefore, it hints at the psychological truth that the provoked person owns at least part of the responsibility for their own reaction.  This is because the something that was provoked is inside the provoked person and in their personal domain.  That is wonderful because what is inside you, you can usually do something about.

If I think you have all the power to make me feel bad, then it follows I think I am powerless, weak and an emotionally vulnerable and helpless victim.  Thinking that way can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  At the same time, it is a way of escaping all responsibility for one’s own feelings.  I don’t make me feel bad, you do and, therefore, my bad feelings are all your fault and I am blameless.

We learn to think that way in infancy and childhood when we are indeed powerless, weak, emotionally vulnerable and helpless creatures made to do and feel a great many things not of our own choosing or desire.  We start life largely outer and other controlled.  Maturation, to a fair extent, is a matter of becoming increasingly inner and self controlled.  Emotionally, on the maturation road, many people never make it very far.  They remain highly provokable and, as a result, are prone to malfunction in love relationships (see “Changing Your Emotions Via Love and Love Smarts”).

Paul’s “not provoked” speaks to the often unrecognized truth that most people can become very largely unprovokable.  Therefore, you probably can learn to live not much affected by things like criticism, putdowns, angry blaming personal attacks, condemnations, etc..  By doing so, you can be and live unprovoked to wrathful anger and its extremely relationally destructive and health sabotage filled ways.

One step in accomplishing this is buying into and owning the fact that you can, with work and love, have a lot more good feelings and a lot fewer bad feelings.  In doing so, you also can have better and better love relationships with others as well as with yourself.

Lots of this is accomplished with new and better self talk.  Instead of thinking somebody made you feel bad, try the more accurate statement “you and I together made me feel bad and I can change my part in that and not let your part affect me.”  Then add “I absolutely will not give my power away to you to upset me, make me angry, etc. and I will believe and own that I am just fine enough for right now and I can stay that way no matter what words you throw at me.  After all they are only words with tones and facial expressions having only the power I give them.  Your actions tell me you are upset and about that I can care – and perhaps come to show you some of that care” (see “Healthy Self-Love and Not Giving Your Power Away”).

Paul’s “not provoked” has an additional inference.  That is with love’s help, Christians especially but really everybody would do well to learn and develop the love skill of being not provoked and then teach it broadly.

A Big How-To for Becoming Not Provoked

You and your loveD ones together, or all by yourself, can become more and more not provoked.  It might take a long time to accomplish this but as you do it slowly will make life easier and happier as you go.  You can let go of your habit of letting others upset you, make you angry, etc., etc. and learn to replace that with something far better.  This is the best of a number of ways that I know of for not letting wrathful anger, or any other destructive habit reaction, negatively affect your relational life.

The essence of it is this, you learn and work to replace your proneness to be provoked with emotional equanimity and the behaviors that display it.  Remember, it always works better to replace a habit or tendency with a better one rather than just trying to stop that habit or tendency.

What Is Emotional Equanimity?

Ordinary equanimity means when you can mentally, non-prejudicially and dispassionately be able to see both sides of an issue including yours and theirs.  It means being able to see through another’s eyes, take into account another’s differences, viewpoints, understanding, experiences and feelings and, thus, give due consideration to diverse and opposing concepts to your own.  Technically, it means seeing things equally.

Emotional equanimity means to do the above with empathy and love for both your adversaries and yourself.  Both mental and emotional equanimity usually include a mental and emotional calmness when facing provocative attempts to disrupt, derail or emotionally destroy you and what you are all about at the time.  Any person trying to get you angry, confused or feeling bad about yourself in any way or to feel like you are losing and they are winning is included here.

Like learning to easily catch a fast thrown hardball without hurting your hands, you coolly catch and handle whatever negative attributions or accusations are thrown at you without letting your emotions get hurt.  You do not ignore what is thrown but you more dispassionately evaluate it to see if anything is useful in it.  Mentally you also may remind yourself that whatever is coming at you probably tells you more about the sender than it tells anything accurate about you yourself.  Emotionally, you own your own okayness and do not give it away.  You do that by internal, self affirming self-talk if you need to.  At the same time, you emotionally care about the person or persons sending you the negatives while pondering what this tells you about them and what emotional state they might be in.  Then behaviorally you see if you can find a way to show them some of your care while continuing to be care-giving to yourself.  Hence, you love others as you love yourself.

Emotional equanimity is very similar to what the Hindu and Buddhist teachers call the fourth mind or primary way of love.  In Sanskrit, it is expressed as “Upeksha” which includes a loving heart while being nondiscriminatory, unbiased, open, egalitarian and impartial as you sincerely and lovingly consider viewpoints, positions, values, emotions and ways of behaving other than your own (see “Listening with Love”).

Upeksha has been said to offer the love-filled wisdom of seeing things equally.  One of its more recently acclaimed understandings includes it being self lovingly self protective.  Simply put, it does this by being a way of not letting things get to you.  This is not a way of being emotionally detached or indifferent because love is very much involved here along with kindness and compassion.  It is an excellent way of working toward “I win, you win to, no one loses” outcomes and a fine way of integrating and synthesizing the best of people’s differences.  For more on this, you might want to read two books. Teachings On Love and Living Buddha Living Christ both by the world renowned monk Thich Nhat Hanh.

In my opinion, developing your emotional equanimity, or your Upeksha mindset of love is not the easiest or quickest way to not be provoked to wrathful anger but it is, I think, the best way offering the most useful gains and positive advantages for love relating.  It is also is my suspicion that had the ancient Greek language had words for and concepts of emotional equanimity and/or upeksha, Paul might have used them along with “not provoked”.  In any case, arguably to me at least, those concepts seem implied in what he tried to teach us about not allowing ourselves to be provoked into wrathful anger.

One More Thing  You especially might want to talk all this over with a religionist, cleric, person of the cloth, etc. and see what they have to say.  If you do, please mention this site and say that we welcome their input also.  Thank you.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable Question:  Do you think there Is wisdom you can use in the Samurai teaching “first to anger, first to die”?

What Makes Love Last?

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson first discusses love maintenance and its importance; then touches on male and female false training; followed by a list of a dozen “Lasting Love Factors”; and ends with how those factors might be achieved in your love life.


Love Maintenance

Once you fall in love the rest is automatic, isn’t it?

You will magically live happily ever after once you have found your one true love, isn’t that right?  Once you both make a commitment, get married, etc. you’re in a state of relationship security and the rest is mostly easy -correct?  Of course, intellectually you know these statements may not be true and you might have to do some hard work to keep a love relationship going and not lose it.  Subconsciously, however, you may be programmed to believe in and depend on some very false myths about love and what it takes to succeed as a couple.  No one ever told you a story in which Prince and Princess Charming had to go to marriage counseling to keep their love alive and progressing.

The truth is love relationships take a lot of maintenance work, just like everything else of major and lasting importance.  About love and marriage, a super-rich real estate developer once said, “If you have to work at it (love) something is wrong.”   He went on to explain that if something was wrong with it you might as well get rid of it and start over, which is what he did – marriage after marriage after marriage after marriage.

Almost everybody wants their major love relationship to be lasting.  Unfortunately not much is done to teach people they must do the maintenance work and the improvement work that makes a love relationship last.  We certainly can’t rely on lasting love being magically automatic.

Male and Female False Training

Many a man has been trained to think ‘love work’ is ‘women’s work’.  That’s a prescription for a heartbreaking breakup.  Many a woman and also a lot of males have been subconsciously programmed to think “if he or she loves me they will know what to do, and do it”.  That too is a prescription for a lot of heart ache and an eventual, big, love failure.  Both people in a couples, healthy, real, love relationship will have to work at it, and they’ll have to do that labor in good team work to make it last.

A Dozen “Lasting Love” Factors

1.    There has to be healthy, real love and not sick, false forms of love.

2.    Love repeatedly has to be shown through behaviors to demonstrate, deliver and trigger feeling loved.

3.    Power is democratically shared.

4.    High appreciation and respect are mutual and commonly communicated.

5.    The relationship supports the growth of healthy self-love in both partners.

6.    Both partners repeatedly enjoy each other.

7.    Truth prevails and deception is absent.

8.    Emotions are shared and empathetically treated when shared.

9.    Problems are treated in an ‘I win, You win, Nobody loses and, therefore, We win together’ approach resulting in an ‘It’s us against the problems’ teamwork and not an ‘Us against each other’ style.

10.    The major kinds of behavior that tend to destroy love relationships are absent.

11.    There is high valuing of the love relationship and the love partner and both are frequently and sincerely expressed.

12.    There is a consistent working on the relationship for both growing, improvement and repair when needed, and never taking the relationship or the loved partner for granted or undervaluing either.

Achieving The Above

You can learn and do a lot about all of the above 12 factors.  Also you can do what it takes to make these 12 factors a description of your couple’s love relationship and make it deeply joyous, inspiring, energizing and a lot of simple fun.  Not to work in teamwork with one another to achieve the above 12 factors in your couple’s life could be destructive and dangerous to the health and well-being of your love.  At this website you can find mini-love-lessons to assist you in achieving each of the above 12 factors.  Books, other websites, workshops, seminars, retreats, relationship coaching and counseling, and couples therapy also exist to assist you.

As always – Go and Grow in Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly


Love Success Question
Which of the above 12 factors gives you the most trouble, grabs your attention or puzzles you the most, and why do you suppose that is?


Einstellung Effects, the Little-Known Cause of Repeated Love Failures

Mini-Love-Lesson #227


Synopsis: Why do some people repeatedly fail at love or at some aspect of love relating?  Here you find out about a rarely known psychological mechanism that accounts for some of those failures; you learn some clever things you can do to see if this applies to you; and then, if it does, what to do about it.


Oh No, Not Again!

First there was Jeffrey who had pretty much the same failed marriage three times with three different women.  All three seemed so different from each other at first.  Then there was Sonya who kept getting psychologically and physically abused by a succession of lovers, each worse than the last.  She was so sure each one would be different than the last but they never were.  After them came Jake and Emma who married and divorced each other three times.  This brings us to Stella and Marco who swore they kept having the same fight over and over but could not find a way to stop and it was getting worse each time.  Lastly there was Katerina who had so many repeated love relationship failures she just gave up on love entirely.  Now she lives depressed and lonely.

At first it might seem that the examples just given are quite dissimilar to each other.  A deeper look shows they are not.  In fact, underlying each of them is a very similar psychological mechanism.  But wait, first let’s look at Victoria and Eva, Martin and Fiona, along with Zandra and Burke who all used to suffer from the same kinds of situations.  However, they all learned something that empowered them to escape their cycles of repeated failures at love relating and go on to fine and thriving love.

With some well-informed counseling, they came to understand they were effected by a little-known, seldom recognized, mental malfunction which prevents some people from choosing new and better solutions.  With that understanding and some help, they were able to work out and try out new solutions and approaches to their love life situations quite successfully.

That psychological mechanism is named the Einstellung Effect after the scientist who discovered it.  Here we are dealing with a relational form of the Einstellung Effect which shows up in a great many areas of human and animal behavior and, therefore, in most branches of psychology and its related fields.

The Basic Way Einstellung Works

A person (or a lab animal) gets used to dealing with a task, situation or problem in a certain way.  We will call that WAY 1.  Then a better way becomes available and/or apparently evident.  We will call that WAY 2.  Occasionally, the person or animal sees and explores WAY 2, even tries out WAY 2 or, at least, gives it a good look over.  Then even if WAY 2 works better than WAY 1 they go back to WAY 1 and keep doing that.  Frequently, the person then rationalizes why they keep choosing WAY 1.  Many do not even perceive the existence of WAY 2. or believe it to be better even when its superior attributes have been clearly pointed out.  While we do not know exactly what the lab animal is thinking, he behaves exactly the same as the person.  It keeps choosing WAY 1. and ignoring WAY 2. even when Way 1. does not work anymore.

Interestingly, there are people and lab animals who do not follow this pattern.  They quickly and often eagerly adopt the new and better ways, and that’s that.  For some people but not others, this is true in their love relationships.  Some people keep rather automatically repeating their love relating failure patterns while ignoring other solutions, and some do not.

Why Do Some Repeat Love Failure and Others Not?

Different branches of psychology and their related fields can posit different answers to this question.  Each of those answers may have some validity and add useful insights.  Addictionologists may say this is a classic relapse pattern and it is just what addictions make happen.  Psychophysiologists suggests that a part of the brain is malfunctioning in some people but not others.  Phenomenologists and perceptual psychologists analyze the first, and/or the early, success a person has which can put that pattern of success to the forefront, and put later possibilities to the background in our perceptual system, thus, hiding new ways from us.

Just like with eyesight, other people can have broader, perceptual ability.  Behavioral psychologists can deduce that some people have been positively reinforced for sticking with early success and others for later success.  Counselors and clinicians may diagnose trauma caused fear and anxiety states to be greater in those reluctant to try the new and different, even to the extent of subconsciously being blinded to the possibilities of trying something different.  Developmentalists could propose that during a early critical period, a love relationship pattern imprinted in some people and not others.  Attachment theories suggest that as young children the WAY 1 people had insecure bonding and the WAY 2 people more secure bonding so, they are more confident and less fearful concerning trying new things.

Now, notice that all the above branches of psychology and their presented possible explanations might be examples of the Einstellung effect itself.  Each school of thought is seeing things in their habituated mindset of what they are used to seeing and are being rather oblivious to the others.  Yet, they all may have value and are worth considering.  So, if one of those concepts above seems to draw your attention more than the others, study it.  Your subconscious may be trying to pull your conscious toward the one to look into the most.  But then again, your subconscious may be blinding you to the others via the Einstellung Effect so study them too.

What to Do about It

With the above you have some background knowledge to work with, so now let’s add some honest, personal, diagnostic self-examination accomplished by answering the following questions and case samples to think with:

1. In love life situations do you keep attempting solutions that never work, or do you keep looking for and trying new and very different approaches that might work?
(Case sample: After years of arguing his very logical points but always losing, Joe learned to do empathetic listening instead of arguing and his love-relating situations finally got happy and successful.)

2. Do you tend to favor and feel safer with established proven solutions, viewpoints and standard ways, while being reluctant and suspicious of untried, experimental and new knowledge-based approaches?
(Case sample: Teresa married and divorced three quite successful, big-city businessmen.  She then met, went off to work for and happily co-habited with an adventuresome, wilderness tour guide who she is still with 10 years later.)

3. In lover’s quarrels or spousal arguments’ do you both find yourselves saying and hearing the same things over and over with the same outcomes and with an increasing sense of futility, and/or with rage and/or desire to escape?  Or do you both make some progress trying new approaches and, by steps, make small improvements, quarrel less and shorter, and see your relationship with a growing, shared joy and encouragement?
(Case sample: Jake and Myrna, on the verge of a breakup, with the help of a couple’s counselor discovered their fighting patterns were the same as a combination of their parent’s fighting patterns, even lasting almost the same amount of time and with the same outcomes their parents had.  At first, they denied all this, then they agreed to attempt some small, new, different behaviors when their fights began.  That helped a bit so they tried some more steps and slowly things kept getting better and new, more loving patterns replace the old.)

4. Do you rather automatically find it hard to consider, be open to and/or appreciate a loved one’s alternative ideas, solutions or approaches to your own?
(Case sample: It was not until Dietrich and Hannah learned and practiced the reflective listening skill of saying back to each other, rather exactly, what the other one had just said that they realized they had never really heard each other accurately.  After that and with some appreciation and affirmation training, things got much better.)

5. Would your loved ones agree with the answer you gave question number 4?

Diagnosis to Treatment

After mulling over the above, do you think you, or whoever you are thinking about, experience repeated love failures that might be influenced by the relational form of the Einstellung Effect?  If so, what are you going to do about it.  Will you let this information sink in, mulling it over some more?  Will you discuss this with trusted friends or family?  Will you talk it over with whoever is personally involved, perhaps using this mini-love-lesson’s information?  Will you individually or jointly make exact, behavioral plans to change?  Will you journal and keep tabs on your efforts to change?  Will you read more about all this? (See “For Failing Love: Avoid, or Convert, or Escape” and “Is Love Ignorance the Problem?”) If needed, will you seek out and rigorously engage in counseling or therapy to make deep, solid improvements?

One More Little Thing

To help your heart fill and fill the other “hearts” in your life, fill your head with love knowledge.  To do that, if you haven’t already, SUBSCRIBE FOR FREE to automatically get our regular mini-love-lessons and, while you’re at it, maybe recommend somebody else to doing the same.

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Quotable question:   If you want someone you love to quit repeatedly doing something, might you best be willing to trade or just quit repeatedly doing something they don’t like first?