Category Archives: dating

Do You Know What You Want? Dating Strategies After Divorce

WHOLE-2016-tangoFiguring out what went wrong in your marriage is a big puzzle. I hope you’ve done some work on your issues before you start looking for your next relationship. We’re going to start with the premise that you’ve solved some of  your own issues and identified some of the things that split you apart.

Online Dating

While I do think there is value in online dating, I also believe there are problems inherent in the social click-me culture. But let’s look at what’s great about online dating.

  1. Browse the available field from the comfort of your home.
  2. Put your personal value proposition together. (What you have to offer.)
  3. Put your wants, desires, and dreams out there. (What you are looking for.)
  4. Put what you like to do out there. (On Friday nights I’d like to be on the couch, or in a night club are two very different trajectories.)
  5. It helps you get your image together. (You didn’t post that one you took in the bathroom, right?)
  6. You can learn what parts of your profile people are picking up on. Because you’ll ask them on the date.
  7. Try some dates. Learn what you like and don’t like about “dating.”
  8. Low commitment of time to get a date lined up.
  9. Flirting online is fun.
  10. Seeing all the potentials is inspiring.

Offline Dating

The goal of online dating is to get to an offline date. Meeting is person is the only way to really see if there is chemistry going both ways. Photos are interesting, but they lie. Profiles are interesting, but they are about 50% made up. You’ve got to go toe-to-toe, face-to-face, to understand if you want to date this person.

Being with someone should be an energetic experience. Both of you should feel energized after being together. And you can’t find that through text messages or emails.

I found that my efforts online were fun and semi-fruitful (my first relationship after divorce was from Match.com) but they were lacking in the more fundamental aspects of relationships. 1. Do they like to do the things you like to do? (Not just say they do.) 2. Does your heart race when you are near them? 3. Can you pick up the returning vibe when you are with them?

Being with someone should be an energetic experience. Both of you should feel energized after being together. And you can’t find that through text messages or emails. And you can’t really see what a person looks like from photos. You get their BEST SIDE, but you want ALL SIDES.

Priorities

This is the biggest decision for you to make. What are your must-haves and what are your deal-breakers. And know this, these things will change. Things you thought were must-haves might fall off the list when you meet the right person.

A few of my priorities looked like this.

  • Must love being active.
  • Has a positive personality.
  • Whip-smart.
  • Athletic body shape.
  • Funny.
  • A single mom.

Then know that your priority list is changeable and resort-able. And you may change it frequently.

A Road Map

All of your ideas for who you are looking for are more like ancient treasure maps than today’s GPS-accurate maps. You do need a map, however. Here’s MINE. (The 6-Step Relationship Strategy)

Get your plan. Try online if you want. Get to offline. And then see what fits and what doesn’t.

And then you have to know this. Your map will be burned and charred from adventures. This is not a bad thing, it’s part of the process. You’re map is an idea of where you want to go.

When the right person shows up all of your priorities and maps will be blown away. At least that’s what you hope for. You need the maps and plans and strategies. But when the right person shows up, you will be amazed how little those things mean.

Get your plan. Try online if you want. Get to offline. And then see what fits and what doesn’t. It took me three relationships to find the ONE. And this ONE I hope to be the last relationship I’ll ever have. And we are both committed to that idea more than ever before. You need someone who’s willing to fight for their relationship. When you both played that role in your last relationship, you might have found a like-spirited person who will fight for your love, just like you will fight for theirs.

That’s my dream, and I’m sticking to it.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

back to Dating After Divorce

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image: tango and curves, creative commons usage

Celebrating 2 Years of Being The Positive Divorce Dad

WHOLE-songwriter

You never leave the family, you just leave the house.

Two years ago I started this journey, finding the Positive in my divorce. My life was changed by the act of trying to reframe everything in a non-adversarial mode. Even when she would be mean, I would never respond in-kind. Ever. Having this blog, this Positive folder to put stories into made me more aware and more conscious of creating love and connection between myself and my kids. And in not riling up their mom, giving all of us an easier life, post-divorce.

As I have continued to weave my Positive Divorce story in the public eye, I have learned many things.

The angst of divorce is our own. The trauma of divorce is held within all of us. If I can behave in ways that support my kids in every interaction, I can remember to be kind, be slow to react, and be thoughtful of our continuous future as a family unit.

Things started two years ago with this post.

dad's gang

A Return to Wholeness After Divorce

There’s no way sugar coat it. Divorce is the single biggest event that has happened in the lives of my family, ever. As amicable as you want to make it (and we tried) things get rough, sad, hurtful, complicated, and confusing. And while we as adults can only fathom that chaos from our own perspectives, the churn in our kid’s lives will shape them forever. I know my parents divorce, and the subsequent loss of my father’s love and influence, had devastating effects on my life. I’m a survivor. I’m here to talk, write, and grow even more from the experience. But it sucked.

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And along the journey to now, I have discovered many things about myself, about my kids, and about this process of divorce and recovery from divorce. The goal, when you separate is to maintain a civil relationship and do what’s best for the kids. It’s a lot easier to say that than it is to actually do it. Your ex will do stuff that baffles your mind. You will want different things. You will do the best you can. And it will be a challenge sometimes, but I learned that when I was able to hold up the positive white flag of surrender, I was able to set the tone for my experience of the divorce.

I also wrote the manifesto for what I was doing. It has been updated several times, but the core mission remains the same.

Becoming The Whole Parent, author, John McElhenney

About Becoming a Whole Parent Again, After Divorce

My unwavering and immutable mission:

1. 100% positive
2. Kids first
3. Honest feelings

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In the second month I met Arianna Huffington at a tech conference. When she gave out her email and asked for ideas I was typing the message and including my post from earlier that morning.  All Available Light: Positive Parenting Energy Is Never Lost. I think that post really turned a corner for me. I was hitting stride and developing a different voice that would grow stronger the more I wrote. Arianna emailed me back within hours and I became a HuffPo blogger. See my archive: John McElhenney on the Huffington Post.

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It was at this point, a good three years into my divorce journey that I hit on my home run post. (Still getting the most reads of any page on my blog.)

What A Single Dad Wants In the *Next* Relationship

Rules for dating a single dad. (I’ve got two kids and a full-time job, but I’d still like to find time to be with someone.)

  1. Let’s not rush into things.
  2. I’m Looking for 100% Pure Connection
  3. I’m Into Moms

There’s more, but you can read it in the post.

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And next was the 2nd post divorce relationship and first experience with navigating another person’s resistance and dysfunction. All the while, learning to let it go, take it easy, and keep my focus on the present moment and not wondering and worrying about where we were going.

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 7.55.42 AMLearning About Sex and Dating As We Go Along

Dating is not marriage. In fact, dating (which I admittedly don’t know much about) can be shut down by getting too serious or too future-plans oriented. As my schedule and future is quite flexible, I was surprised how quickly my “relationship” concepts changed yesterday when confronted with a challenging dilemma. On one hand I had met and “dated” an amazing woman. One the other she was telling me how our closeness and chemistry was freaking her out.

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And then I was able to open up a bit about post-divorce depression, which is common for us empaths.

WHOLE-thekissHow Long Will it Hurt? Divorce Recovery, the Road Back to Happiness

Today, over four years after my divorce was finalized, I was still struck by a pang of sadness as I was dropping my kids bags off at my ex-wife’s house, the old house, our old house. I wondered, “How long will it take before I feel nothing?” But I immediately knew the answer. I will always feel a loss when dropping my kids bags off at my old house. The rest, what I do with those feelings, is up to me.

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Everything seemed to fall into place after I wrote this important post.

WHOLE-prayerPrayer for Single Parents, and My Ex

“I wish you happiness in your new life, I always want to see you shine, you are the other half, the partner in this parenting journey we accepted together. Your joy is joy for our kids. Your peace is their peace, and mine. As we walk separate paths we are blameless and grateful for the gifts we’ve been given. And to you, my dear ex, I give the deepest respect and love. Thank you for where we’ve been, where we are, and where we are going, still a family, still parents, still blessed.”

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And from that point on, this blog became as much about relationship building and dating as it was about divorce and difficulties. Rounding the 5th year after divorce, things began to change for me.

I was invited to do a few interviews:

I began to identify my core relationship needs and decided drop online dating as distraction. I put the intention out there for what I wanted, and started working on myself and my joy rather than pursuing a relationship.

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I wrote The Deep Space Divorce Saga which began with

My Little Rocket Ship of Hope and Love WHOLE-rocketship

I am hilariously ashamed, and… Laughing at my situation, because if I didn’t laugh at it, I’m sure I’d be freaking out, depressed, or drinking. Something to escape my current grounded state. Ready to laugh? Me too.

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And it was right at this time, January of 2015, that an amazing woman showed up in my life and changed everything.

May I Fall In Love With You?

Do you long for the intoxication of love again, like me? I can feel it in my bones, growing stronger daily, as I grow stronger and more confident. And the more clear I get about 100% or nothing, the easier it is to make decisions about my time and efforts. Dating and a relationship will be a core part of my life again. Today, not so much.

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The new non-dating attitude and honest reinvention of myself had called in the perfect woman. I could not have known it at the outset, in January, when I wrote the post above, but within several months there was an entirely different thread being woven on this blog.

whole-bw-coupleAn Amazing Thing Has Happened

She arrived in my life in January of this year.

In February of this year my life fell apart, due to my own emotional tides and I slipped into a depression. I did not see it coming. I was on top of the world, and boom, I was freaking the hell out. And then the most amazing thing happened. She stayed close and connected.

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And the rest, as they say…

Thank you for staying on this journey with me. The outpouring of love and support has been vital at times. My positive attitude continues to get stronger and project itself into other’s lives, through this writing. I am learning. I am growing. And I hope, I am becoming a better father, ex-husband, and lover. Let’s see where we go from here.

I think my latest post shows a continuing search for meaning in all of this love stuff. And I’m very excited to be back on that path again. This time for good.

WHOLE-runner

The Care and Feeding of Your Lover

Pray for your lover’s health and happiness, then let go and let them pursue it however it best suits them in the moment.

 

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Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

Note on the intention behind this post and this blog: Yes, divorce is hard. Trying to whitewash every single detail of a co-parenting relationship in some fantasy land haze would be of benefit to none of us. I am committed to owning my part in the divorce, always. And I am hopefully clear on my self-awareness when it comes to my own struggles with money, depression, communication breakdowns, and disagreements with my ex-wife. What I hope, is that this post doesn’t come across as a humblebrag, but as a celebration of the progress I’ve made in navigating the last two years of being a single parent and co-parent. I always appreciate comments and feedback.

Back to Positive Divorce & Co-Parenting

A Single Dad In Love, Again

WHOLE-no-goal

Neither of us are broken, neither of us need fixing.

Yes, it’s happened. I think I’m changing my status from single dad to something else. (Stops for a minute and checks Facebook.) Yep, it’s official, I’m engaged to be married. Married I say. Yes, I’m a dreamer and a believer and an optimist and am no longer a single dad. I’m just a dad. I like it.

Even with all fantasies of that poem, things imagined and dreamed, she, this REAL SHE, has blown away all of my expectations.

I’ve written so many roadmaps and rules, tips and hints for what I was looking for, how to know what I needed in a relationship, how to get my Love Languages stroked in the proper direction, that I’m pretty tired of my own lists. So I need to make a new one.

Here is my outline for how a Single Dad fell in love again, in spite of all the warnings and previous failures.

  1. She is fascinating.
  2. She is driven.
  3. She is self-contained and rational.
  4. She has a crazy, flirty, quirky streak, just like me.
  5. She’s bonkers about me.
  6. She sees the best in me and pushes me to be even better.
  7. She’s got the sense of humor and enthusiasms of a child.
  8. She’s never had kids.
  9. She’s fit.
  10. She’s unafraid to tell me when it sucks.
  11. She makes easy repairs.
  12. She’s got her own agenda, her own projects, and some of them don’t include me.
  13. She is grateful.
  14. She is spiritual.
  15. She wears practical shoes, but she also has flirty and bad girl shoes.
  16. She is ever rub-able. Always game. And rarin to go.
  17. She’s taking on tennis to be with me, doing what I love.
  18. She sets plans and sticks to them.
  19. She’s the most loyal person I’ve met.
  20. My friends love her.

It wasn’t that long ago, I was writing an aspirational love poem to the “SHE” who I was anticipating. And even with all fantasies of that poem, things imagined and dreamed, she, this REAL SHE, has blown away all of my expectations. I know that’s hard to imagine. But she, this woman, my woman, has let me know that I am her man. That she wants to spend the rest of her life with me. And that she thinks I too am the cutest, sexiest, funniest, and smartest person she’s ever met.

If we can keep our business focused on ourselves and our passions focused on each other, we’re on our way to a life-long relationship. How do I know?

Easy. We are both the fighters. We fought for our marriages even when they were failing. We were the one’s who asked for a re-commitment even after the deal had been broken. And if you put two fighters for love in a relationship together… Well, I think, we think, the writing is on the wall.

Today, we have all we need. And what we don’t have or don’t like, we’ve learned to ignore and tend to our own issues.

Sure there are things she does that drive me crazy. Probably they always will. I am anti-OCD, anti-schedule, and freeform. She likes her lists. She likes to ask what I’d like for dinner, days in advance. I still look at her sometimes and say, “What do you mean? Like a menu for next Wednesday? I don’t even know what I want tonight.” The real magic is to laugh at and love the differences. We both appreciate what’s odd about each other.

Quirks are the things you’ve got to learn to love as well. I love that she’s different from me. That her ways are logical and strategic and often seem diametrically opposed to my natural instincts. And then I’ve learned to let those ideas go as well. In my best flexible thinking, I’m learning to love all aspects of this amazing woman. Why? Because I believe in her. I believe that what she says is true, and that when she invites me on a trip to NYC, that it will (and did) happen.

I don’t work the same way at all. And I’m pretty sure that’s some of what she likes about me. I lead with my heart often before I know the direction we are going. I misstep out of passion and vision, when a more measured approach might have worked. But I always do it out of love. I always do it from a place of caring about her more than I care about myself.

My lists were all blown away when the right woman showed up. I like to think that my prep work, the writing and sorting of all of this “relationship” data, is what made our connection so clear to me. We have jumped fearlessly into this love thing. We’re going to get married. We’ve already started wearing our wedding bands. In the eyes of the state we are indeed already married.

But I like the anticipation of the marriage too much just to skip or belittle it. We are going to get married. And our friends want to know the plans, the schedule. And I’m sure she and I are working at odds in our natural patterns as I flippantly say things like, “When it happens.” She on the other hand, in my mind, is ready to make a plan.

But that’s the beauty in the end, of our courtship and partnership. She doesn’t need to force me into a plan. And I don’t need to buck against her plan or freak out when it hasn’t been put forth. We are indeed already married in every way but two.

  1. We need the legal papers to do things like combine health insurance or car insurance.
  2. We need the spiritual ceremony shared with other to celebrate and hold our tribe together now and in the future.

Today, we have all we need. And what we don’t have or don’t like, we’ve learned to ignore and tend to our own issues. Neither of us are broken, neither of us need fixing. In fact, as equals, neither of us has a need to be married. But I think we’re looking forward to it.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

back to Dating After Divorce

The Dating a Divorced Dad series continues:

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Missing the Love Right In Front of Us

WHOLE-zentennis

Occasionally we miss the forest for the trees. We let the details and challenges of our busy lives overrun the joy. We see our own distress and desires as the most important part of our universe. This is where the prayerful pause comes in.

Stop. Breathe. Let go of all your distractions. Breathe. Be at peace for 1 minute. Smile. Enjoy.

Here’s an example of how my hyper-type-a focus can keep me lasered in on my goals while overlooking the love of my life.

Tennis has been a life-long passion of mine. Since I was a kid I’ve hustled on the tennis court not because I had to, but because I wanted to. I’ve wanted to compete at the highest levels. And more recently I’ve learned to simply enjoy the game. In fact, the height of my joy in the last ten years has been playing casually with my kids, on the court to “just hit balls.” The time on court with my daughter has been filled with what I call peak moments. Moments in life where you stop and breathe it all in.

“This is a perfect moment.”

I say it as a sort of mantra, affirming my life, my joy, and my gratefulness at being alive. It’s a prayer of thanksgiving.

In my marriage I couldn’t quite get my then-wife to join me on the courts. She tried in the early months of our courtship, before we were married. Taking a few lessons with her girlfriend, they joked about how they were really in it for the skirts. And yes, I suppose, the image of a woman in a tennis skirt causes my inner-enthusiast to jump up and down. But the skirt was to become more of a symbol of what we missed, rather than what we enjoyed and developed together as a couple.

But I never forgot about the skirt. And in my rebuilding process over the last five years I have rediscovered how important tennis, and joyful exercise, is to my health and recovery. One of my happy places is being on the court. Even alone, hitting against a backboard, I can find an inner smile. And it’s not all that goal-driven, these days. Mostly, I really enjoy the feel of the ball “pinging” off my strings and the zip of the well-stroked topspin forehand. I have been focused in the last 18 months on using tennis as a way to improve my fitness and remain social even in times when I would rather stay at home and sulk.

Enter my new relationship. She was reading my posts about tennis and joy and relationships. And when she began chatting with me on Facebook about 8 months ago, one of the first keywords she dropped was “tennis.” We’ve had several discussions about her intention and her prior research into my blogs, but the main thing is… She laid down the offer to play tennis as a first volley in our relationship.

And it wasn’t long before we were actually hitting tennis balls together. And she WAS wearing a pristine white tennis skirt. (As our relationship developed over the next months, this same skirt became a talisman for me when she was traveling.) We made tennis part of our thing. It was an easy request for either of us, “Wanna go hit some tennis balls?” The answer was usually, “Let’s go.”

As my energy and enthusiasm for life continued to build in the presence of such an energetic and positive person, I also began ramping up my tennis game. A month ago I entered a tennis ladder to play competitive singles again. And while my tennis was ON my fitness was not up for the 1 – 2 hours in the Texas Summer heat. I played well, but I was beaten in my first two matches, more because my body could not keep up with the extended match play.

After one of these matches, she said, “We can go hit more balls.”

And here’s where my intention and passion missed the bigger picture.

I responded in a different way. “That’s not really what I need.”

I could see her expression change.

“I mean, I love hitting with you and everything, but it’s not really going to improve my competitive fitness.”

In the moment, I was confused about what to say next. I had caused a fracture between us, but I didn’t yet know how to repair the damage.

Stop. Breathe. Let go of all your distractions. Breathe. Be at peace for 1 minute. Smile. Enjoy.

I did my best over the course of the next few weeks, as I was beaten two more times on the court, to chat about how playing with her was not “competitive” but “fun” and that was always good. But I wasn’t showing her. I was not asking her to play tennis. I was thinking about how to WIN at my singles matches. Oops. I really needed to stop, breathe, and join with her. But I stayed in my pseudo-buddhist revery knowing something was amiss, but unable to see through my own fog to identify it clearly. And if you don’t know what’s wrong, it is very hard join together again with a repair.

Yesterday, I said, “Let’s go hit some balls.” We’ve just moved into a new house with a court down the street.

“When?” she asked.

“Right now.”

“I could go running first,” she replied. “If you have other things to want to do.”

“No. I want to do this now.”

“Awesome. Let’s go.”

And walking over to the court I was struck by a simple fact. THIS WAS MY HEAVEN. My dream in all those years of aloneness, in all the workout-cardio tennis classes, was to get myself in good enough shape to attract a woman and get her on the tennis court. BOOM. In that moment, even before we’d struck a single ball, I GOT IT. This is what I was missing. This act, this moment, just being in connection with this woman, AND getting to hit tennis balls! Wow. I’m pretty sure that’s what nirvana is: becoming aware that this very moment is heaven.

Within 5 minutes of starting two guys came up to the court. Being new to the area, I didn’t know if there was some system for using the court. “No, it’s just first come first serve,” the guy said, envying not only our possession of the court but my sharp fiancé in her white skirt.

Had we waited even five more minutes, the court would’ve been taken.

Breathe and say yes, right now. Do it.

And then it was time for my awareness to be made mutual. I was ready for the repair.

“Honey, I want to tell you something.” She stopped and we sat down. I’m known for these kind of hold-on-a-minute moments.

“I want you to know that playing tennis with you was a 100% high. That is my definition of heaven. And it’s about you and tennis and nothing more.”

“Okay.” She smiled, but she was aware that something else was coming.

“I wanted to let you know that I missed your offers a few weeks ago. I know you were asking to go hit tennis balls as a way of supporting my fitness and my competitive nature.”

She nodded.

“But I was missing the point. I got all wrapped up in getting fit and ready for the competition that I lost sight of the real goal… Fun with you. Tennis with you. Anything with you, but really, tennis with you. That’s my dream come true. And here you are, saying ‘Let’s go.’ and I’m forgetting to ask. I’m focused on some other goal, winning, maybe. But that’s not my goal.

“My goal is to be right here with you. To experience life and love with you in as many moments as I have left on the Earth.”

The smile broke across her face. This was a lovey dovey talk.

“And tennis with you IS THE MOMENT I have been praying for and working for all my life.”

I know that sounds corny or woowoo, but it’s essential for me to explain this. I play tennis. It is my passion. Given options, there are few things I would choose over tennis. Getting to play tennis with my partner, that was a dream I was beginning to give up on. Fighting to remember and get myself back into shape so it *could* happen, but at our age… Now, I see, tennis is the dream. Playing tennis is living the dream. Playing tennis with my sweetheart is heaven on Earth. Nirvana is now.

Never give up on the dream. I dreamed of white skirts and a smiling woman on the opposite site of a tennis net.

I have arrived.

Breathe. Let it all go.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

see the Positive Divorce & Coparenting section

more posts of interest:

Oh, and we have a pool in our neighborhood.

off-swimmingfeet

Can You Love Yourself As Much As You Desire Someone Else?

WHOLE-buddhahead

I want my kids, but mainly myself, to be proud of me.

You cannot love someone else unless you fully love yourself. If you are thinking things like “if I lose 15 lbs,” or “if I could get better clothes or a nice haircut,” it’s okay, but it shows a bit of self-acceptance that still needs some attention.

While I was making progress in my fitness, as tracked on my blog, the ultimate transformation took place when I found a partner who was healthy and lived a lean and active lifestyle.

I remember talking to a good friend a few years ago about my weight. I was lamenting how hard it was to get motivated when I was feeling depressed and fat. How could I ever find a woman to love me. His response was swift and direct, “If she doesn’t love you just the way you are, she’s not worthy of you.” I still think about that moment. I heard the words, and though I didn’t believe them at that time, I came to understand the fundamental value in his wisdom.

I wanted to lose 15 pounds. I wanted to play more tennis so that I would be more active and attractive to a woman. I wanted to be with an active and athletic woman, so I’d better not turn into a couch slouch. I wasn’t that at all, but I was overweight due to the depression of the divorce, and my poor food choices. I really didn’t consider myself fat, until I saw photos or videos of myself from birthday parties or something. I didn’t like how I looked. I didn’t see how I could love me as I was. I needed a change.

The change that had to happen was actually in my mind. I decided to begin a fitness and health routine, program, process to discover more about me and my relationship to food and fitness. I started another blog (http://fitbytech.com) to complete the motivation and exploration. As I wrote about myself, I began to discover issues I had yet to resolve.

  1. Fitness has a lot to do with what you eat, not just how much you exercise.
  2. Quantity of calories is very important, but it’s not everything.
  3. Quantity and quality of exercise are important. I could never commit to going to a gym because I hated being in the gym. I could always commit to play tennis, but that required another person, or some group I could join.
  4. My negative self-talk was toxic. As I turned my inner-voice into a Bill-Murray-in-Stripes character, I began to lighten up about failures and resets.
  5. Fitness and health is all about failures, forgiveness and resetting. If you eat ice cream one night, you wake up the next day and say, “Whew, I’m glad that’s over.” And you jump back into the plan. Always back to the plan. Never a failure, but just a temporary setback.
  6. Friend and family seem happy to see you changing, but they’re not always as supportive as you’d like them to be. “Wow, you look great. Here have this piece of cake.”
  7. It was MY IMAGE of MYSELF that was the real issue. By “feeling fat” I didn’t feel attractive. I didn’t project confidence in my physical appearance. I had personality and humor in spades, but I was not happy with the way my pants fit.

My Breakthrough

That’s the key to my fitness and healthy eating. I want to be proud of me. I want to look at myself with a shirt off and get a smile. From me.

While I was making progress in my fitness, as tracked on my blog, the ultimate transformation took place when I found a partner who was healthy and lived a lean and active lifestyle. Sure, I can’t keep up with her, but I can draft behind her in the kitchen and on the running trail. And by being with someone who loved me as I was, I began to love me more, just as I was. Sure she’d like me to be fitter, so would I. But her love for me, like my friend said, was not based on my weight or my fitness level.

I still want to get in better shape. I want my health to be an advantage in my older days. I want my kids to look up to me, and know that they are still several years from being able to beat me on the tennis court, or sprinting across any random field we come upon. I want my kids, but mainly myself, to be proud of me.

Yep, that’s the key to my fitness and healthy eating. I want to be proud of me. I want to look at myself with a shirt off and get a smile. From me. My sweetheart has been singing my praises since the day we met. She’s an amazing cheerleader. And her “Are we going to run today,” texts always produce a “meh” inside, but a “Hell, yes!” on the outside.

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

visit: fitybytech – my health and wellbeing blog

more posts of interest:

image: The Last Desire – Tamarama, Ian Burt, creative commons usage

How Faith and Courage Work Together in Love

WHOLE-girlfriend-daughter
Love deeply, before you catch yourself doing it.

If you knew that your next venture, what ever you attempted, would be a success what would you do? What would your first 100% winning project be? Love life? Career? Creative fame?

Part of falling in love is giving up your control of the situation enough to allow the chaos of love to transform your life. If you hold up, clam up, reserve a protective walled-up space deep inside you, the magic might not happen at all. Faith is not the blind commitment to something, faith is expecting you will be successful and then giving everything you have to make your next adventure, next project, next relationship, next everything, a WIN. We’re all looking for the WIN.

As I was entering this relationship with my beloved, I was occasionally fearful. “We’re going too fast,” I would think sometimes. I even said it out loud a few times to her. But as we listened with our hearts instead of our minds, the answer was always, “You are okay. You are falling in love. Allow it to happen. Have faith.”

I trusted, each time, as I was saying goodbye, that something better was still in development.

It’s important that you not take this advice as some form of blind faith, or the idea that by praying about it, the perfect woman was going to show up magically in my life. Nope. I have been working, rebuilding, crafting, and singing my way back to my “most lovable self.” It took awhile. I had some stops and starts. I had a lot of times that I didn’t believe in myself, didn’t love myself, didn’t feel loveable. Divorce will do this to you. So will depression. But I kept the faith to keep on moving forward.

Sometimes I was moving forward without knowing my goal. Sometimes I was trying to force a relationship to be awesome, when it was not awesome. I wanted the relationship in my life, so bad, I was willing to suspend my disbelief and imagine that I could change the other person into being in love with me. I wanted her to want me just as much as I wanted her. I wanted someone to really be able to express love: verbally, physically, and spiritually. It’s a tall order. My first two relationships, post divorce, each had some missing ingredient.

But I learned from each of them. I learned what it felt like to be cared for by someone who spoke the same Love Language. I learned what it was like to pour creativity and joy in to a relationship that was no prepared to open up fully. I learned to move on and let go. I trusted, each time, as I was saying goodbye, that something better was still in development.

When the next woman showed up, she arrived with bells on, a tennis racket in her hand, and an attitude and faith that matched my own. I had met my match. I was no longer trying to push the river, make a relationship out of something that wasn’t working. I was met, stroke for stroke, both on the tennis court and off. And we smiled at each other and asked, “Are we going too fast?” We BOTH asked that question. We still do.

We already knew the answer. We knew it rather early in our dating.

  • This was something different.
  • This person was READY and WILLING TO WORK for a relationship.
  • Their faith was different from mine but equally passionate.
  • Their love language was undeveloped and not yet discovered, but it appeared to be “touch” like mine.
  • This person made an effort to meet me halfway on everything. She was scheduling dates. She was suggesting ideas. She was the first who suggested we might kiss.
In all my poetic longing, I had not even come close to the radiance I was about to experience.

When my beloved showed up, my game could relax. I was no longer seeking, no longer seeking to impress, no longer in pursuit. I was in mutual pursuit. The pursuit of a 100% connection. Keeping it 100% was my overarching goal. Without full disclosure and resonance, I knew I would be wasting my time. This woman showed up with her own glow, and beside mine, we caught fire. (Sounds woo woo, I know, but hear me out.)

There was nothing that prepared me for how she cracked open my heart. All the ideas, roadmaps, plans, I had been writing about, were meaningless. In all my poetic longing, I had not even come close to the radiance I was about to experience. Someone whose energy not only matched mine, but often out paced mine. Up earlier, running faster, eating leaner, laughing and praying more. I was amazed at this vision who showed up. I was not quite sure she was “for real” some of the time, but I stayed close and observed what I could about her and my reaction to her.

As we began to spend time together we both noted how much laughing we did. After a weekend together, we both giggled at the soreness in our ribs. FROM LAUGHING! That is a great sign. We were sore in other places from other things, but it really was the joy and sound of the other person’s laughter that I think unlocked our security systems. It was in the joy of our experience together, doing anything with laughter and connectedness, that we began to flag off the “too fast” warning signs, or questions from our friends.

She would come back from a night out with friends and say, “They just wanted to make sure I wasn’t being taken advantage of.” We both laughed at this one. We know how it looks from the outside. We know our friends (perhaps not the mutual ones, who know us both) are astounded and semi-supportive until they get to meet us together.

Then they spend a little time with us together and even strangers say, “You two guys are like a comedy act. In sync. Hilarious.”

We’re on a roll. Is it a honeymoon phase? We don’t think so. And I have to give this intelligent woman the ability to make up her own mind about this. We’re madly, passionately, in love. We’re a bit hard to take, because we finish each other’s sentences, we jump off into inside jokes like they were stand-up routines. (Like our own little Portlandia, Fred and Carrie can do anything and be funny about it. We feel the same way.)

Your expectations and dreams are actually holding you back. Your faith and love will transcend everything you imagined, when you click with the right person.

What we both appreciate in each other has been our ability to let go of the fear and allow ourselves to FALL IN LOVE. We consciously entered into this relationship. We consciously slowed down at the beginning and then accelerated with each week, as the connection deepened.

Once we were IN we were 100% in.

I have faith in two things:

  • My ability to be honest and express my truth.
  • Her ability to be honest and express her truth.

 

The rest is negotiation, navigation, and nurture. We’ve both got work ahead of us. We are always in a state of becoming. But today, I have my lifetime cheerleader beside me. And I’m always ready joyfully embrace her in all of her flaws and misdirections. We’ve all got them. I’m misdirected as hell sometimes. But together we agreed, early on, that we would embrace even the flaws in the other person, and that was the real key to letting go and falling in love.

Your expectations and dreams are actually holding you back. Allow yourself to see the person in front of you. Your faith and love will transcend everything you imagined, when you click with the right person. It’s a spiritual quest you are on, to find a lasting relationship. Keep spiritual in your focus. And as you love your own flaws you can love the flaws in another.

As she cheers on my creative endeavors, I feel the support that I lacked in all of my previous relationships. So she’s not a writer. And she’s not threatened by my writing. In fact, she wants to read it, wants to push me into being more daring. She even allows me to write about us. That too is a form of faith.

When I finish a particularly hard or lovely post I will read them aloud to her. I would never want to put in something that would hurt her. Ever. And so far, there have been a few copy edits. Together we’ve sailed through the challenges and questions I’ve been asking myself, and us, as we move forward.

Stay tuned. Stay lovely. And love deeply, before you catch yourself doing it.

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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How Love Transforms Us Completely When We Feel the YES

WHOLE-summerbeaches

It has been a long road back to love.

It was a long struggle a. to get free of my own despair and depression; b. to find a balance in my life when 65% of it no longer included my kids or my ex; c. to begin liking myself again and growing into the happy person I had been before the marriage went south; d. actually putting myself out there as available in a real way (beyond online dating). And that’s when she showed up.

My Maps and Hopes

I had been writing a lot of ideas about relationship theory, how to date better, how to relate better, how to let my own inner joy shine so that I might attract another like-minded and happy person. I came up with an idea called a JOY TRIBE. You know joyful people when you see them. And I wanted not only to be a part of a JOY TRIBE, I wanted to create my own.

“I really wanted to kiss you last night, but I didn’t want to distract you on your first day at the new job.”

I even wrote about how my “maps” and “strategies” were only projections. I knew that when the WOMAN showed up, joy and all, that my planning and ideas would be valuable, but that the maps would be burned up in a fire of passion that was this new adventure, this new adventurous woman. And I believe when you call on all your resources, put your attention where it needs to be, the universe will respond to serve you up in unexpected ways.

What Language Do You Speak?

Part of my re-education has been discovering The 5 Love Languages. Once I read that book, even when my marriage was collapsing, I knew I had stumbled on to a key to happiness. It was clear that my then-wife and I valued very different forms of love and attention. Neither of them are wrong, just different. And while couples can try to accommodate differing love languages, it’s an AMAZING connection when your partner speaks the same language as you do. Absolutely amazing.

I had not experienced a relationship with another person who was TOUCH centered. My first relationship after divorce was with a stellar woman who remains a friend and confidant, and who was 100% touchy-feely, like me. The first weeks with her, two years ago, were transformative for me. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make me feel loved and adored and supported. A simple hug, a single word of encouragement and a smile, and more hugs…

While GF1 and I did not end up being perfectly matched, she had shown me a LOVE-STYLE, the Love Language of Touch, that I knew would be fundamental to my health and happiness. She set the bar pretty high and I used to joke that she ruined any ideas of casual sex or friends with benefits for me. For the first time in my life, when my core love language was being reflected back to me, I was happier and more balanced than I’d ever felt in my life. Even as things didn’t progress with us, we remained cheerleaders and champions for the other’s good fortunes. And we constantly reminded each other how wonderful we both were, and say “You can’t settle for almost. It’s 100% or nothing.”  She got there first, but my new relationship blasted in and transformed my life in even more unexpected ways.

I Fall Down, But I Get Up Again

Freeing myself, even temporarily, from the heat of the hunt, I was able to see myself a bit clearer, as well as the women around me.

When my new woman arrived on the scene, my scene, we’d actually known each other for five years. Our Facebook connection was always warm and casual, as Facebook usually is. And because we worked at the same agency for a period of time, though not together, we had about 20 or so, mutual friends commenting and resurfacing each others posts on our news feeds. I certainly knew who she was. I admired her travel pictures and her marathon training and the physical form that entailed. And she had a wicked sense of humor that you could almost feel in her occasional photographs. Her mischievous smile and laughing eyes seemed to be coming from most of her photos. Even when they were with other men. (frown)

So, last Winter, I was determined to take my dating offline, and even take a break from dating all together. I noticed an immediate shift. I was no long a man in pursuit. I was just a man. The women around me, young and old, were just women, not targets or objectives or honey traps. Freeing myself, even temporarily, from the heat of the hunt, I was able to see myself a bit clearer, as well as the women around me.

And it was in this exact period that a photo on her Facebook wall caught my attention. It was a picture of Laphroaig Scotch, which initially would not have been interesting to me at all, but the caption told a story.

“Silly Ex Boyfriend. Always give a gift you are happy to get back.”

I liked her post (odd move, right, liking some adverse event in someone’s life) and wrote her a Private Message about my sympathies. We had been Facebooking a little bit in December before my band played a gig. She intended to come but fell asleep and missed it. We’d been bantering back and forth in Private Message about that, so a little message to her, saying, “Sorry about your breakup. They suck.”

And The Rest is History

In her immediate response she mentioned Tennis. (A key word for me.) She later admitted to knowing a lot more about me than I knew about her. She had been reading this blog and knew that I was back into tennis in a big way. She laid the bait out and I took it for a full run and we made plans to hit some tennis balls the following weekend. Except the rains came and when she noticed the forecast she suggested a movie instead.

DATING RULE: Both partners have to put in equal amounts of time and energy finding ways to be together.

Sparks, passion, joy, jokes, banter, more sparks, more time in touchy-feely land. We moved rapidly into something beyond dating that first night we kissed.

Even through the movie and a follow-on non-date to see some music, I was being very chill with my emotions and intentions. I was, in fact, playing it cool. I was also, trying to observe her from an objective point of view before I let my heart and libido engage. And at first I wasn’t sure is she was shy, or introverted, or if my touchy-feely thing was going to be overwhelming for her. I kept my closeness but I never went in for a kiss or much beyond a nice hug.

The next day, after our music night out, she sent me a text.

“I really wanted to kiss you last night, but I didn’t want to distract you on your first day at the new job.”

I replied, “Ah, then my plans are coming together nicely. See you on Friday.”

Sparks, passion, joy, jokes, banter, more sparks, more time in touchy-feely land. We moved rapidly into something beyond dating that first night we kissed. I suppose my trial period, my austerity, ended with a bang. I was revving up inside my heart even before the movie, but after the kiss… I was in FULL JOY MODE.

The beautiful thing is, so was she.

Honeymoon Period

We have pinched each other and ourselves over the last 6 months. Each time something happens and we take a leap of faith into the relationship, we’ve both been surprised by the ease at which we’ve grown to love each other. Today we frequently tell each other, we’ve never been in love like this. Ever. Two marriages for me, and this is simply the best relationship (again, only six months old) I’ve ever been in. There are a lot of factors that might have given us the lightning quick connection.

  1. We have both been married and divorced.
  2. In our failed marriages we had both been the partner fighting FOR the marriage.
  3. We have a very similar sense of humor. (After watching a bit of Portlandia together, we constantly break out in similar character sketches. We’re taking a break from the show so we don’t become Fred and Carry.)
  4. We love athletics. She’s been a tennis player, but she’s becoming a Tennis player. And she’s a runner, so I’m running about 40% of the time now, rather than walking.
  5. We talk.
  6. She’s touchy-feely.
  7. She is fearless about addressing issues and complications as they come up. (See previous posts on this blog. And she’s even suggested I write on certain topics.)
  8. We absolutely adore each other. (While this sounds like honeymoony stuff, we’re also fairly experienced adults, and puppy love can only account for part of the bliss we are feeling.)
  9. We love sex together.
  10. We pray and give thanks and appreciations all the time.

Are We Moving Too Fast

In my first touch-focused relationship I learned what it felt like to be adored by someone else. In this relationship I am feeling that again, but this time I absolutely adore her back. This two-way circuit completes a loop that seems to take us higher and closer than we could imagine. And sometimes, we ask ourselves, “Are we going too fast? Are we making a mistake and letting our joy and connection get ahead of the relationship?

I know that we are not.

With this woman, I have established my new JOY TRIBE. And my two kids are basking in the renewed joy as well. By showing them what a loving and happy relationship looks like, they can begin modeling their future relationships on healthy patterns. There are moments of doubt, silences that don’t get explained, and uncomfortable advice from friends and family, but we’re sailing onward.

And the smile on her face every morning…

Is enough to keep me smiling for the rest of my life. (Or that’s the plan.)

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

[Note: This is the post I’ve wanted to write since I began this blog over two years ago.]

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Drinking Fuzzy Navels and Spending Time Together Doing Nothing

WHOLE-glassandring

A drink together says, “I’m with you. I am here. We have time.”

As you eventually become an adult, there are opportunities for self-regulation that begin to define you. For example, if food is your thing, you might give in frequently to the call of a Big Mac and fries. And for some folks the casual drink is the indulgence that gives them a warm fuzzy feeling. But again, as we evolve as adults we begin to look beyond the buzz and towards other objectives.

I’ve been learning a lot about my relationship to alcohol in the last six months, as I’ve been dating, and now living with, a woman who likes to drink. And  am exploring and dissecting why *any drink* at a certain time of day feels to me like an escape, a withdrawal of some kind. Is it? Is it just me and my projections? Do I set myself above the drinkers because I abstain most of the time?

Today, I don’t plan out my day by deciding if and when I’m going to have ice cream. I don’t think that much about it.

The other day, I got a chance to understand a bit of my own motivation in not drinking. My sweetie was excited about a new bottle of perseco (Italian sparkling wine) and I have to admit it looked delicious. It was mid-afternoon on a Saturday. She casually poured two glasses and offered me one.

I didn’t mean to, but in some way I shamed her. I giggled and said, “No thank you honey. I don’t want that.” I was not trying to be mean, but the giggle was an indication that something else, my own issues, was in play. In some ways I thought she was adorable with her two flutes of champagne, and in some other region of my brain my reaction was, “What? I’ve still got things to do, and goals to accomplish.” And in fact, I was at that moment contemplating a late afternoon cup of coffee. I was on my way up and somehow the offer of a cocktail felt like an invitation towards distraction, disconnection, debauchery. WAIT! What?

It wasn’t that I imagined my sweetheart was a drunk or lazy or something distasteful. But it did rub me the wrong way. It made me feel superior in my denial of the diversion. Again, I was not consciously telling her she was bad, but my giggle said something else, and I wanted to look at what this was.

I was saying, “Awww, you’re cute. Look at you with your mid-afternoon cocktail. Not for MEEEEE. I’ve got dreams to accomplish, songs to write, posts to publish. I’ve got aspirations and I’m going to fuel them with caffeine not alcohol.” WOO HOO! But the message was clear, even if unspoken. “I’m better than you for not drinking. I’m stronger, more creative, and obviously more in control of my hedonistic impulses.”

But I was telling myself a lie with this line of reasoning. I was trying to set myself above the person I loved. I was trying to prove my sobriety was a badge of honor.

POINT OF ORDER: Not drinking is not heroic or valiant. Not drinking is a choice.

Okay, when I started trying to look beneath my bravado and self-congratulatory shaming, I wanted to understand what the disconnect was for me as this beautiful and caring woman offered me an invitation to enjoy a tasty beverage with her.

Sometimes that is exactly what is called for in life and in a close relationship. Let go. Let yourself be intoxicated and alone with the mere presence of another person.

A few weeks ago, we were vacationing in New York City and we were spending our afternoons exploring the city on foot. And as we traipsed around the city, I noticed how my attitude about drinking together was different. In New York, “on vacation,” I allowed my own self-judging, self-regulating attitude to relax a bit. A cocktail in the afternoon on vacation might lead to lovemaking and a nap. DELICIOUS.

One evening as we were chilling in the hotel restaurant/bar I suggested tequila shots. (Tequila tends to have some kind of inhibition release for both of us, and it was Saturday night, and we were in New York City, on a vacation we’d planned for months.)

The tequila shots were delicious. And as I went back to get my truffle oil fries, I swung by the bar and got us another round. Something in me was enthusiastic about the alcohol and the warm rush of tequila fairies around my chest and neck.

Two things seem to be illuminated by these different situations and approaches to drinking with my sweet woman.

  1. For me alcohol is an occasional release, a flight into fuzzy navels and potential escape. As a joining activity, the flood of joy and warmth is as intoxicating as the alcohol itself.
  2. A drink together is a way of slowing the world down, letting go of dreams and expectations of the evening, or afternoon, and allowing the infusion of alcohol and proximity to draw you closer.

When I am still mapping out options and ideas for the evening or late afternoon, a drink is almost comical to me. It laughs at the poems and songs I want to write and says, “Ah, come sail away with me.”

Sometimes that is exactly what is called for in life and in a close relationship. Let go. Let yourself be intoxicated and alone with another person. And while a drink is not required for these feelings to be expressed, the liquid lubrication can often loosen expressions of both concern and adoration in a non-threatening way.

A drink together says, “I’m with you. I am here. We have time.”

For me, if that decision came on a daily basis… “Hm, is it beer-thirty yet?” I think I would constantly be trying to make a choice about “being creative” or “being buzzed.” I have taken a good portion of my life and growing up to get my impulsive nature under control. For example, ice cream might be my kryptonite, but I don’t have to eat it just because it’s in the fridge. Today, I don’t plan out my day by deciding if and when I’m going to have ice cream. I don’t think that much about it. (Disclosure: if there is some tasty ice cream in the fridge I may crave it at all times of the day, but I don’t act on those cravings.) If alcohol had the same craving for me, I’d have to work a lot harder not to have it around, and not to set my objectives and quitting time by when I could have my first cocktail.

[Something about this explanation still feels defensive and superior. I know there is work to be done for me.]

Step one is allowing my sweet woman to manage her own life, her own afternoons, and her own creative, loving, inspirational trajectory. And my goal is not to put expectations on her for what we are doing “later tonight” unless I explicitly make plans with her. Since we are together now, so often, it can be easy to just assume we will be connecting and snuggling every single evening, even when that isn’t feasible or desirable.

Still, there is something in me that feels a pinch of sadness when she waxes poetically about a new malbec in the middle of the afternoon. My options are to smile and say nothing. To offer up plans that might point us both in a different direction. Or, releasing my own self-judgement, and joining her in a celebration of a day well spent and “beer-thirty” and “let’s see where this night takes us, together, no matter what we do.”

It seems to me, some of my resistance (and even repulsion) to alcohol is it’s ability to blunt my senses, to make me a bit more relaxed than I am without it, and to signal an end to my productive, obsessive, always-on, creative narrator. When I was younger I never wanted to miss a detail. I’m still a bit obsessed by being clear-headed and creative at all times. I don’t want to miss an opportunity to illuminate some detail of my past or future live.

Currently my sweetheart and I sail along together. I am learning to say what I want, what my intention are for the afternoon (on a Saturday, for example) and thus set some expectations for her of how I would and would not like to interact. I can only assume that when I suggest drinks it lubricates a fond and familiar togetherness for both of us. I am learning to embrace this idea and indulgence of time and attention.

POINT OF ORDER: A cocktail together cordons off a bit of time where your focus can be exclusively on the other person and the joy at simply being together.

A drink together says, “I’m with you. I am here. We have time. Let’s set off into the sunset and see where this journey takes us.”

Setting aside time to be with another person is a special thing. Allowing that time to have no agenda and no expectations is yet another level of joy and togetherness. For me, a drink can enhance the joy or dull the prospects of the follow-on activity. The choice is more about perspective than what is right or wrong. Navigating a relationship is about expressing your desires and expectations and not letting unspoken agreements or disagreements cause resentment. Love is the number one thing. Time is the ingredient. Stirring in coffee or tequila can have a radically different effect on the course of the evening.

Do I always wish that she would go for a cup of coffee rather than a glass of wine? No. Do I always have some twinge of pain when she pours another glass of wine? No. Am I learning what my relationship to alcohol looks like? Yes. Do I have the answers? Hell no.

Onward and upward, together.

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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Planning For the Future In Your Relationship

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We’ve all got stress. We’ve all got moments, Friday afternoons are a great example, when the breaking point is reached, and if we’re lucky, the weekend is ready to open up before us. Ah, the WEEKEND. A time to cut loose, rest, rebuild ourselves and our love lives, and … And then we still find time and need to be distracted. Taken off point. Unplugged from our goals, plans, work, whatever.

I pull my headphones on, engage the noise-canceling function and boom, I’m in a moment of zen, right in my living room. Turns out, sometimes, I’m just looking to be distracted. Even the good things (okay, the great things) are often stressful.

She has a different type of creativity. Her’s is for dreaming up what’s next and then making the dream a reality.

And recently there have been too many good things to even list. But I can tell you the biggest impact has been the woman of my dreams showing up. And even in that blissful honeymoon-ish state, I still need time to disconnect. I guess we call it “alone time,” but sometimes it is just isolation time for me.

Isolation is a funny thing. I can be Facebooking like made, reading 5 articles on 5 tabs in my browser, and taking notes for new post, and I feel like I’m really connected, alive, multitasking. But, if I’m honest, I can see how my social media passion is also an escape from the present.

I was having a similar discussion with my new significant other about the concepts of backwards and forwards time, I first encountered in Time and the Art of Living. Here’s my basic paraphrase.

1. Present Moment. What we’re all striving to stay focused on. Meditation. Awareness. Conscious sex. Honest conversations. Listening. Hitting flow. Whatever you want to call it.

2. Thoughts about the future.

3. Memories of the past.

While I do think that keeping our attention on the present moment is a very powerful tool, there are times when these two other modes of time can be helpful and illuminating as well.

As I was chatting with my woman about the house we are buying next month, and she was working on a lot of details. She was measuring the rooms and comparing them with our current house. “Do you know we’ll have half a foot more width and length in our new house?” she asked, excitedly. At first I was thinking she was over thinking it, and then I remembered this concept of future time.

When we project ourselves into the future, it can be a wonderful exercise. We can begin to set goals and ideas for what we want, what we are looking forward to in the new experience. Setting up a framework for the future plans. And sometimes the projections in themselves can be lovely moments. As I leaned into the dream with my future wife, I enjoyed hearing about her fantasies regarding the new house.

“We can have romantic evenings in front of the fireplace.” And of course, we will. But in this very moment, projecting our ideas,  we could go there together. And everything, absolutely everything could be perfect in our minds. And this positive projecting can have bonding and energizing effects on us. We can find motivation and inspiration for what needs to be done to create the perfect moment we visualized.

And certainly we will live in this new house together. And certainly we will enjoy a glass of wine in front of the fire place. And it’s not as if the longing for that future moment causes us to miss out on some experience of the present moment. Actually, in projecting ourselves into this future-perfect moment we are creating an image of reality that we can actively create. (Did I get too woowoo on you there?) Let me give you a quote from the book.

Fast drivers can see no further than slow drivers, but they must look further down the road to time their reactions safely. Similarly, people with great projects afoot habitually look further and more clearly into the future than people who are mired in day-to-day concerns. These former control the future because by necessity they must project themselves into it; and the upshot is, that like ambitions settlers, they stake out larger plots and homesteads of time than the rest of us. The do not easily grow sad or old; they are seldom intimidated by the alarms and confusions of the present because they have something greater of their own, some sense of their large and coherent motion in time, to compare the present with. – Robert Grudin.

So it is this projection of a great project (in this case the house – and perhaps the house of our relationship) that I am willing to indulge in with my sweet woman. And together we can map out some ideas about what we want to create, not just physically, but emotionally as well.

A relationship is a lot like this. You state ideas and dreams to see if the other person resonates and lights up. Like a trial balloon.

“Wow, this cold night feels like New York City,” I said, some months ago.

“Do you want to go to New York City together?” she asked, clutching my arm against the wind and splinters of mist.

“Yes, that would be awesome. To walk the streets together. Like this.”

We’ve been taking wild flights of fancy into our imaginary future relationship as we give voice to various whimsical and fantastical ideas.

And with that she took several steps over the next week to book a trip together. This was still pretty early on in our relationship. WOW. I remember thinking, “What the heck? New York, so soon?” And what I learned was, she likes to set plans in motion, she likes to have events or travels to look forward to. Almost like my big ideas that pull me along. She has a different type of creativity. Her’s is for dreaming up what’s next and then making the dream a reality.

And here we are. Leaning forward into the next chapter together.

We have both been floating ideas and catching them as the other person tries out a together-dream. The two of us have found very little resistance, and thus the connection and commitment, which might freak some people out, has seemed right and natural. We still ask each other, as we ask ourselves internally, “Are we moving too fast?” The resounding answer is always the same.

“No. And I love you.”

That’s been the path. Present moment work staying focused on our jobs, our projects, my kids (for me), and we’ve allowed the future to unfold before us. Yet, at the same time we’ve been taking wild flights of fancy into our imaginary future relationship as we give voice to various whimsical and fantastical ideas.

Stay focused in the present moment, but do allow yourself to dream and project into the future with your partner. Opening those doors of dreaming together has been a gateway of power for us. So far… We’re batting 100%! Let’s keep heading in that direction.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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The Third Glass is an Anti-Aphrodisiac for Me

WHOLE-winehanger

A wine rack does not an alcoholic make, a wine lover does not a problem reveal, drinking is not the devil’s work, prohibition has never solved anything.

I’ll admit, drinking from time to time is fun. Last night for example, we had a round of margaritas at a nice restaurant. And the happy hour appetizers made the accidental outing more like dinner than the spontaneous happy hour it actually was. And as I was the driver, I waved off the second round for me as I was nodding for my sweetheart to have another. It was a warm fuzzy of an evening at that point. All sparkle ponies and grinning selfies from the comfy couch.

We were both feeling fine when we left before the real dinner crowd arrived. We’d missed the major 5 o’clock traffic jam and arrived home in 20 minutes. In the kitchen we discussed what movie or show we were going to watch.

“Well, I think we’re going to need a short format show,” I said, as she poured a glass of wine. Sure there was a moment of disappointment as I acknowledged her eventual departure, but I was okay with the idea. I had things I could do after she fell asleep.

“I want to be able to remember these great moments too. I want to be present for the love we’re sharing at all times.”

And that’s really part of the deal. If the third glass becomes routine we will be spending a lot less quality time, lovey dovey time in bed, a lot less deep explorations of our thoughts, aspirations, and plans. When the third glass enters the equation I begin to clamp down on the inspired discussions about plans, hopes, and dreams. There’s some pause on my part, when the smooth and slippery tone enters her voice. It’s cute. I’m not angry about it. I just begin to plan what else I’m going to do after she falls asleep.

The night before, as she put her empty wine glass on the kitchen table, saying, “Might leave this out for a bit more.” We smiled at each other as we did the dishes and generally cleaned up the kitchen together.

As we were down to the finishing bits I picked up the empty wine glass and said, “Would you like me to wash this?” I smiled. I was not being passive aggressive, she knew exactly what I was asking. She picked up the glass, smiled at me and proceeded to fill it with ice chips. Both options were still available to her. She poured the glass full of bubbly water. A new smile crossed her face. The smile that acknowledged that she would rather stay close, connected, and beside me for the night.

“Because I’m fine either way,” I said, before she had decided. “It’s just that if your going to have another one you’ll probably be pretty sleepy. Maybe we’ll skip the show all together.”

Her decision was towards me. Later in bed we talked a bit more about it.

“I hope my hint wasn’t to over the top or irritating to you,” I said.

“No, it’s good. I want to stay close. You’re a good influence on me.”

“I just don’t want you to miss a minute of this live between us. I’m so enthralled and in love that any distraction takes me away from being 100% aware and present for you.”

“I don’t want to miss any of you either.”

“So I didn’t hurt your feelings?” I asked, reaching out to take her hand. I wanted to get this moment crystal clear between us.

“Nope,” she said. “I want to be able to remember these great moments too. I want to be present for the love we’re sharing at all times.”

“Well, not all times,” I said. “It’s okay to imbibe a bit. It’s even okay to go for glass four and five if that’s what you want to do.”

“I like that you don’t really drink that much. It makes me more conscious of my drinking. And I know less is better for me, and better for us to stay close.”

The relationship is not all about me. The balance is about how we dance through all of the issues we face.

I took her in my arms and kissed her deeply. “There isn’t enough time in the rest of our days together for me to tell you and show you how much I love you. I’m going to express it as often as I can, and the more you receive the more we both grow.”

It’s hard, sometimes, being the light drinker. I occasionally feel sorry for myself, wishing I had an easier way to eliminate the drinks for the evening. It has crossed my mind at various times to make some demands, to set a challenge in place, but that’s also my child of an alcoholic talking, rather than a compassionate and loving partner.

Let me get this straight. She’s not an alcoholic. She likes to drink. Occasionally she likes to drink more than she likes to be with me. Together, when we are drinking, there’s a warm fuzzy glow. Most of the time, I turn back to water and clarity of purpose so I can get on with some of my aspirations. I’m not against letting one rip, but I don’t ever aspire to have a hangover. And that’s enough for me. A buzz is fun. Intoxication is not. For me.

The navigation and negotiation around drinking or not drinking is an on-going discussion in many relationships. Often it’s a struggle within an individual to make the choice away from that third glass. But my dry-drunk mentality is no healthier than the alcoholic’s. I am in my own fantasy/nightmare that has very little to do with her and her third or fourth glass.

Had I allowed the knee-jerk asshole to pass judgement on her and *any* drinking, I could’ve easily passed on the love of my life. I believe we have a lasting partnership. I also know we’ll have plenty future conversations about drinking, not drinking, wine or beer, or in my case, more often than not, bubbly water.

Our worlds have collided and in some ways merged. For the better. I’m enjoying a bit more downtime. She’s enjoying a bit more ON time as we head into the evening’s entertainment with clarity of focus and intention. And then we can reverse the mode as well. Alcohol is certainly not the only inebriant. Stress, lack of sleep, lack of healthy food, all produce altered states of mental health. Even a sleeping pill I love has the potential to give me a buzz rather than kicking off a good night’s sleep when I’ve had a bit too much afternoon coffee.

We are on this journey together. She is open to my questions and suggestions  and desire for her to be more present when we make love, for example. She is okay with dancing her dance and meeting me halfway in the discussion about what WE want. The relationship is not all about me. The balance is about how we dance through all of the issues we face. She confronted and accepted my depressive episode. She laughed and applauded my recent job loss from the mean dysfunctional corporate gig.

Here we are.

I may cross over to the realm of the third glass and beyond from time to time, when we don’t have to drive anywhere. But the choice to be come less conscious is conscious. Decide consciously when are about to fill up your third glass. Talk about the evening with your significant other. If your plans have different trajectories, don’t judge or complain about. Take responsibility to say what you want and what makes you happy. Every night is a new conversation. Less and less about alcohol.

We’re just beginning our journey together. I cannot assume my ideas are correct and her’s are flawed. She is not flawed or damaged. She is strong and leaning in to all the aspects of me. I am learning to let go of my own baggage and lean into her, and all her facets as well.

The journey is marvelous and it continues.

This post is a continuation of the Third Glass idea:
The Trouble with Alcohol: She Likes To Drink, I Don’t

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

The “Third Glass” series:

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