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The Most Important Lesson About Love I Learned From My Dog

I live in Yaletown in downtown Vancouver.

You know the standing joke about Yaletown right?

It consists of single girls with dogs pining for love, and single men looking to find them.

I don’t know if that’s really true, but there are a lot of girls walking dogs around this place.

I suspect a lot of them are single too.

My observation is that a dog is the companion of choice for the single girl.

One sweetheart I know calls her dog her shrink.

She tells her dog everything.

Her dog is the only one allowed in her private bubble besides God.

There’s a good reason girls like dogs. Dogs are very emotionally expressive. They love you unconditionally.

They need you to give them lots of love in return.

Kind of sounds like what a lot of girls wish their guys were like sometimes too!

Of course we all know if you guys actually took on the puppy dog roll?

Pretty soon you’d be in the friend zone, and would be emotional history with her.

I’ll be talking about the whole friend zone thing soon so stay tuned!

So I’m not recommending you become her puppy dog, nor am I suggesting this is the great lesson about love I learned from my dog.

In fact I have to confess I sort of misled you.


I’ve never actually owned a dog.

I’ve had cats most of my life.

And yes I’ve learned a few things about love from them too.

But I’ll have to save that tale for another day.

Right now I want to tell you about this dog.

The dog I’m referring to was actually my neighbor Pavlov’s dog.

Her name was Fibo.

Pavlov loved Fibo and always wanted to make sure she was well fed.

He didn’t want Fibo to miss her meals, so he got in the habit of ringing a little bell whenever he fed her.

Pavlov found it funny how Fibo would come running whenever he rang the bell.

So he even started also ringing it while Fobo was eating.

I know.

Kind of weird right?

Then one day Pavlov decided to play a little game with Fibo. He rang the bell even when it wasn’t meal time.

Guess what happened?

Fibo started salivating!

Somehow in Fibo’s little dog emotions?

Ringing bell had become associated with the good feelings she had eating.

Eventually just experiencing the bell itself?

It would produce the same emotional phenomena as eating did.

Fibo had associated the bell ringing with those feelings.

This is the lesson about love I learned from Fibo.

Whatever feelings your partner has while they are around you, they will eventually associate those feelings with you to such an extent, that just being around you will be enough to give them those feelings.

This is critically important to understand, if you want to fall in love and stay in love for the long run.

What kind of feelings do you want to be sure you’re giving your partner?

Usually the falling in love part happens pretty easily, without you realizing it’s happening.

Just like Fibo’s experience with the bell?

She didn’t really notice the bell.

She just noticed all the positive feelings she was getting from eating.

Unknown to her though, the bell was becoming associated with those feelings too.

At the beginning of your relationship the same thing happens to you. It’s called New Relationship Energy or NRE.

You spend time with your partner.

You experience a lot of great conversation and discovery.

You do lots of fun things together.

You make love.

All of this builds up positive emotions.

Because you are with your partner while you are experiencing all those emotions?

All these great feelings become associated with your partner.

You begin to fall in love.

The association becomes so great eventually that even at times when you’re not doing any of those activities, just being with your partner gives you those feelings anyway.

Just like Fibo’s bell.

In fact, you don’t even need to be with your partner to experience these feelings.

All you need to do is think about your partner.

Those feelings arise within you.

You’re in love.

As I said, the falling in love part is usually pretty automatic, and you don’t really need to think about it. It’s the staying in love part that gets a bit tricky though.

Because you feel such great feelings when you are with or even think about your partner?

Eventually you decide you’d like to bottle this feeling up, so you can keep the experience forever.

So you become “an item,” “a thing,” “a couple.”

You may even try to make it more permanent yet, by moving in together or getting married as well.

The idea is you’ve got these great feelings and clearly love each other.

So why wouldn’t you want to be together this way forever?

But that’s the problem.

You can’t bottle this up.

My friend Pavlov tried this too. He was so fascinated by the way Fibo would salivate when the bell rang, even when he didn’t feed Fibo, that he quit feeding her when he rang it.

At first Fibo would come running and salivate and all that.

But eventually?

As the reward of the actual food, and the feelings that gave her faded into the past?

Fibo didn’t salivate any more.

Instead she became aggitated, depressed and even downright irritable.

She began to associate the bell with disappointment and rejection.

Even cruelty.

What once meant to her happiness and pleasure, now meant nothing but pain.

Maybe you’ve experienced this in your relationships too. It starts out great, but eventually your partner just takes you for granted.

They’ve “got you” now.

So they quit doing all the things that made you fall in love with them.

They stop prioritizing time with you, and hang out with their friends instead.

They don’t talk to you anymore, or do fun things together.

You never make love.

And slowly you begin to associate your partner with the pain and dissappointment and regret you feel.

You cease to be in love with them.

This is the important lesson I learned from Pavlov’s dog.

A relationship is a living thing. You cannot bottle it up.

You cannot capture it with religious or legal institutions like marriage.

You cannot legislate it at all.

Either you are actively doing the things now that keep you in love with your partner, or your relationship is dead.

Whether or not you’ve made the divorce final.

It is already final emotionally.

I’m not saying it cannot be revived, but if it is alive, it is alive because you and your partner are actively keeping it alive today.

This moment.

If your relationship is not alive and you want to revive it, you must do what is necessary to bring it back to life again.

There is no other way.

The sooner you stop pretending you have a real relationship?

The sooner you can do something about it.

One time Jesus used romantic love as an illustration of the spiritual state of one of his churches.

They had “fallen out of love” with him.

He made an interesting recommendation.

It is very relevant to what we’ve been talking about here.

He said this:

I hold this against you. You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Turn around and do the things you did at first.

That’s some of the best relationship advice ever given.

“Do the things you did at first.”

That’s the key lesson I learned from Pavlov’s dog.

How is the feeling of romantic love is produced within you?

It is produced when you and your partner do the things you did at first.

When you fell in love, you made each other your priority.

You spent time together.

You talked about everything.

You did fun things together.

And you made love.

If you want to keep your love alive, or fall in love again, this is what you need to do.

What do you think? Can this old dog teach you a new trick?

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Marie

    Agreed! But I think you can’t just do what you did in the beginning. You’ve got to do that and more… because in the beginning, everything was new so it was easy. But it’s important to keep experiencing new things together. That can take a bit more work than it did in the beginning because you and your partner and all the stuff you did together is kind of old news now. Romantic love needs new news to stay passionate like it was in the beginning. but things like being in nature and being present in each other’s eyes… those things are always new and ever-changing.

  2. Kel Good

    @Marie – Yes I agree about the need for ongoing newness. When I say we need to do the same things we did at the beginning, I’m not talking about the content of what we do, but the kinds of things we did together. We spent time in each other’s presence, we conversed deeply, we did activities we both enjoyed, and we made love. Each of these things as you’ve said are endlessly new because their content is made up of all the new experiences we enjoy while doing them. The key point is focus on each other and the relationship ongoing, instead of everything else.

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