Category Archives: love

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

I am alone.

I don’t like being alone. I like sleeping next to someone, loving someone each morning, finding new things to love each day. I crave this connection a little too much and I know that’s a bad thing. I think I’m too susceptible right now to my own addiction. I think I might be addicted to women. In a slightly unhealthy way, that has led me to trouble in the past. So let’s slow things down a bit and look at how “the waiting” can be the best part.

At the moment I am in a perfect relationship. I wake up , go to sleep, nap, walk, play tennis, write… all that, I do all those things without considering another soul. I am in love with myself. Okay, that’s a bit extreme, but I’m learning to like my own company again. For awhile there, after my last breakup I was not sure I would survive to see another relationship. Today, I know I will, I’m just not sure how or when. It’s that unknowing that I’m also beginning to understand. I can’t say I enjoy it yet, but I get it. I’m not ready.

While there are not a whole lot of things going tremendously right in my life right now, I am comfortable in my rebuilding. As I went on a “hello date” yesterday I was happy with the me I presented. While there was zero chemistry and thus zero follow-up, it was an opportunity to tell my story again. To hear how it sounds to talk about my divorce and my kids, and what I’m doing with my life. Of course, I leave out some of that life stuff, but I was honest in all that I chose to share.

What I learned yesterday, at some point during our 45 minute conversation, is I am confident and comfortable with who and where I am. I talked about the i-ching for a minute in reference to both of our current situations. (See, when you’re going on a first date it’s likely the other person is alone and waiting for what’s next as well.) That she had never heard of the i-ching was surprising, but hey… Here’s a paraphrase of what I said.

Back when I was into the tao and zen, I used to throw the i-ching for guidance. It’s really just a reflecting pool that you can bounce your current situation off of, a philosophy. What was interesting was out of the 64 hexagrams of the i-ching, three times I threw the exact same one.

5. WAITING

Actively Waiting.

And what I learned was the great general does not rest during the down times of war. He is actively rebuilding, strategizing, readying his plans. In our case, we are in a down time, but rather than be lazy or discouraged, we must take advantage of this time and explore, learn, study, plan, everything we can think of, so that when the waiting is over we are well-prepared for the journey ahead.

Am I ready for a new relationship right now? Nope. How do I know? I’m too into it. I’m too ambitious. I’m too eager. There is very little peace in my approach right now. I’m learning and slowing that down over the past few weeks, but I still feel the lingering energy that would swoop in at the first opportunity for a relationship and create an unrealistic fantasy about the woman just so I could have a relationship.

In the waiting I’m working on a few things.

  • Continuing my exercise and good eating habits. (Helps me stay fit.)
  • Reading and writing. (Helps me plan and imagine the future.)
  • Exploring online dating. (Gives me glimpses of possibility. None that I have connected with, but it’s sort of like training school.)
  • Working a shift-job while I continue to seek my next big job. (Keeps me engaged. Gives my kids some child support.)
  • Honoring and visiting with my mom. (She’s 85 and has plenty of worldly-wise and unwise experience to share with me.)
  • Requesting opportunities to be with my kids and build our relationship. (Teenagers are usually too busy for mom or dad, I get it.)
  • Listening and respecting the pace of life. (Mindfulness is an ongoing practice.)

I am confident that each of the activities gives me more strength and passion for what’s next. That could be a new job. A new relationship. Or it could be more of the actively waiting. As long as I am not wasting this time, I am building a better me. I believe that.

When I think about myself at this moment I would say, I’m as happy as I’ve ever been.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: meditation, creative commons usage

(Singing) Find Me Somebody to Love

Did you hear the Queen song in your mind? Here, let me help.

There. That sets the tone of my teenage mindset, from when this song came out in the early 70’s. Today, in my mid-50’s I’m still a bit like that young boy, wide-eyed, eager, and most of all lonely. It’s not that I’m not enjoying my time alone, I am. But… As an empath I really feel the aloneness in a deep way. And I know this ache still needs some time to heal before I’m really ready to quest on towards a new relationship.

I’m a bit like a hungry ghost at the moment, and that’s not where I want to start from. I can feel it, however, in my approach to daily life. I’m looking a bit too longingly into other women’s eyes. I have a bit too much “hi, how are you” swagger at work. And I am imagining lustful scenes rather than holistic, real, achievable moments. It’s like my mind wanting to recreate a porn scene while my heart is looking for a real relationship. The two lines are blurred in my mind for now, and that’s confusing.

I don’t see myself as a horndog, but I think at the moment I’ve got all the characteristics of one. I’m not acting out, of course, but I’m actively conjuring up the energy and images in my mind. I see it as revving the motor. Harmless. And yet, the phrase, hungry ghost didn’t come out of thin air. I am a bit too obsessive. I have a drive that I’m not all that proud of at the moment, that demands a partner, a companion, a place to call home with someone else to come home to. It’s fine to want all that, when the time is right. The time is not right for me, at the moment and I know it. And yet the fire burns on.

I am walking around life at the moment with a hyper sense of awareness. I’m trying to identity what features I really “fall in love” with in a woman. And I’m not really getting the formula. I fall for 5 – 6 women a day. Of course this is in a harmless and self-aware way. I see my longing, I acknowledge the beauty of the woman I’m seeing, and I move along. I am not in pursuit.

And at the same time, I can feel the lack of that connection in everything I do. I don’t want to sleep alone tonight. I don’t want to plan all my own meals, and shop alone, and entertain myself. I crave the opportunity to do all those mundane things with someone. Of course, that’s where relationships can get off course, in the mundane. So, this time, I’m thinking I will make things different.

In fact, mundane is a fundamental process in any relationship. And getting to love the simple daily tasks with your mate is part of the journey. We get all jazzed and heated up about sex and sexual chemistry, which are very important, but sex probably makes up about 1% of our lives together. It is the rest of the time you have to figure out if you can enjoy together. I’m eager to try again, but with some new realizations.

  • Partners must have equal power and voice in the decisions of the relationship.
  • Both partners must continue their creative journeys alone.
  • Keeping an outside life enriches the relationship.
  • Adaptability is critical, but some things about your partner will never change.
  • The relationship is always considered first when making outside plans, always. A simple, “Hi honey, I’m thinking about going out with friends on Friday, is that okay with you?”
  • Disconnections must be expressed, even in the face of fear.

And there, I didn’t mention sex at all. Oh, but sex should be connective and pleasurable for both partners. If your attraction and relationship is founded on sex there is going to be a lot more of living that you need to figure out together.

Summing up, what I know about myself is I’m still a bit ghostly inside with too much sexual energy wrapped up in my daily walkabout. I am actively slowing my roll and not looking for a relationship. I can still have those lusty feelings, recognize them for what they are, appreciate the woman who triggered them, and the move on with my life as I am rebuilding it. It’s a perfect time. All the relationships I have are in my head and they are amazing.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: lover’s kiss, creative commons usage

The Head and the Heart: Getting In-Sync In Love

Is the heart the center of our love force? I think it might be a combo between the head and the heart. The heart (soul) desires and drives towards fulfillment while the head analyses and aims the actions of the person. If either one of them are out of sync, the relationship doesn’t work. The love doesn’t happen. The connection is missed.

The Heart and Desire

I desire to be in love with every fiber of my being. My heart longs for the feeling of security that comes from being in a solid and loving relationship. And my heart is actively looking to replace that in my life right now. When love is missing the heart is in pain. Our souls ache to be connected with another person. We crave that bond, at least I do, that comes from extended periods of touch and loving communication. We want the person in our lives who can take us in their arms and say, “It’s going to be okay,” and we really feel and believe it. That’s the love I crave.

The Heart and Fulfillment

Something about my life felt incomplete before I had kids. I was too self-centered, I was too driven by my own agenda. And that the first thing that happens when you have kids, your agenda is forever subservient to the active loving required by being a parent. Nothing you strived for before having kids has the same importance in your life. If I wanted to be a famous writer at some point, by having kids I learned that a job, a house, and insurance were more critically important in my life than finishing my first novel. Sure, I still strive to be a famous writer, but I’m more focused on the realities of providing a living. The writing will continue. The fame is less important to me now.

What we learn when we have kids is what unconditional love looks and feels like. We grow as lovers and as human beings. Our kids teach us what selfless love looks like. Beyond the relationship with our other parent, our kids teach us about devotion, and unreserved, fearless love.

My heart is now longing for that love to be created with another person. I have my kids. I have my goals and aims set in the right place, and now I want someone to share it with again. And I have a little bit better idea of what unconditional love looks like, from having kids, and this is what I’m hoping to recreate, re-find, in my next relationship. There is a fulfillment of my heart’s desire that is wrapped up in being “in relationship” with someone. I’m good at relationship. I thrive on it. I crave it when it is lacking. And I am currently back in the hunt for a reignited relationship. I’m back to looking for THE ONE.

The Head Analyses

I think, and over think, about love all the time. In my day job, when I’m watching the stream of people passing by, I notice my micro-love impulses towards certain women. The part of my heart that says, “Hey, who’s this,” and then my head that asks, “What is it about this person, what qualities am I being excited by?” This analysis, I think, will give me a better understanding of my own wants and desires.

And actually, this meta-examination I’m having with myself, about who, what, why I’m attracted to a woman passing by, might be my own form of over thinking. Or, as I hope, it might be my conscious mind trying to unravel the unconscious desire that has driven me so far. As far as my “type” of woman, the question always asked is, “How has that worked out for you so far?”

What I have been learning from this examination of my desire and reflection on my “type” or “types” of women is that it’s not one thing. I’m not a breast man, for example, I like all types and sizes. And I’m not a blonde vs brown person, although I would say my “type” has been dark-haired in the past. And so I’m learning that it’s not anything obvious or specific that I’m attracted to. But it IS something. Out of the 100+ women that I meet on a daily basis, there are 5 that get a rise out of my antennae. What about them does it for me? I’m trying to pin that down and explore the whimsical nature of my own desire. There is no one thing, no one type, no one characteristic of a woman who is my trigger, or my thing.

The Head Aims

But there IS something. There are the smaller subset of “attractive to me” women and then the majority of others. And what I think I am doing by analysing this information is bettering my aim. Without a goal in mind, I am certain I will never reach what I’m looking for. I need to create a target woman, an ideal, that I can aim my mind towards. Today, that is more of an archetype, rather than a set of WANTS and MUST HAVES. But, I think it is that fundamental. I do need to create the ideal map for finding my next relationship. And today those things would have much more to do with their intellect and personality than their waist size. Today, I think my “list” would be (note to self: write your list) more holistic in scope. I know I’m looking for someone who can meet me at my level of energy, creativity, and commitment. But beyond that, I’m still exploring the variables.

When It Is a Match

It’s rare when we get the head and the heart to come into sync about another person. Sometimes it’s one thing, a serious physical attraction for example, that sets us off, but the other person fails in one of our additional criteria. One thing I’m certain of, I cannot distinguish attraction from an online dating profile. A photo rarely gives a glimpse into the other person’s energy or intention. But I think in-person, you can feel it. You can sense when someone is happy with themselves by the way they carry themselves and the way they say hello to a stranger, like me, who is about to help them. So, online dating may be a dead-end for me. Or maybe when I get my aim figured out more clearly I will be able to assess the dating profiles more clearly and pick out one or two that I really make an effort to attract. Again, online dating is weird. It’s unnatural. But if it’s a numbers game, the web might be the only way to up the odds.

What’s your experience with being IN or OUT of sync with your head and your heart? What was it like when BOTH happened at the same time. Love, is the idea that comes to my mind. Without both mind and body being into the relationship there’s little point in continuing, and how can you possibly determine that from an online dating profile? So that means you have to go on dates, you have to meet. How tedious and time-consuming. And when it’s OFF how boring. It feels like a waste of time. Maybe it’s important to make it more of a game, to take it less seriously. And for me, perhaps it’s important to take it more casually, to not get in any hurry (though less frustrated) trying to “close” the deal.

I desire to be in love with every fiber of my being. I’m in no hurry to make another bad relationship decision.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: hand and heart, creative commons usage

Fearless Love: A Holistic Theory of Active Love

Love is an action. Yes, it might also be a feeling, but ultimately your “love” is determined by your actions. Either you are continuously moving towards that special someone, or you are not. And as relationships go, it’s the action of love that will sustain relationships. The glow, the chemistry, the sexual connectivity all fade in comparison to simple everyday actions.

I’ve been wondering a lot about why I want to be in love so much. And what is it about a woman that makes me fall in love with her. What I’m beginning to believe is that the “falling in love part” is 100% up to me. Completely created by my imagination of where I think we might go together, what little things about her that fascinate me, and how I might go on trying to discover more about her over our lifetimes together. That’s what love means to me, the kind of love I’m talking about and seeking. The love that says I will be with you always.

In the initial stages of courtship the things that matter most to us are attractiveness and what we refer to as chemistry. I think it’s the little extra thing we see in someone that sets our relationship antenae buzzing with the word, “YES.” This could be the one. I could fall in love with this person. I can see the potential here. When the chemistry is not there, it’s an easy “no” that comes to my mind. It’s quick, it’s painless, and in many ways it is not personal. It’s just a preference. Or some intangible connection with our historical memory of relationships and love. We see something in that someone who lights us up. Chemistry. It’s either there or it’s not. It cannot be manufactured or developed over time. Love, on the other hand, takes a long time to develop.

As we begin getting to know someone we move beyond the their attractiveness and chemistry to something more akin to compatibility. Do they like to do some of the things we like to do? Do they snore? Are they friendly to everyone we come in contact with? Do they show compassion to the less fortunate? And of course there are the more relationship-related things like, do they kiss well? Do they brush their teeth enough? Can I sleep beside them and actually sleep or do they make me restless? Any misses in these areas can spell a quick end to a relationship. But as these things come into sync, as people make active adjustments to join with each other, the move towards a deeper trust, a bond that moves closer to love, becomes apparent as a goal.

If you want to be with someone and they feel the same way, then you can begin to actively seek time and activities to do together. This is the active part of early courtship. In long-term relationships some of this desire gets forgotten or left out. But this is precisely when love becomes an action. You have to work at wanting to be with your partner. You have to continually strive to understand ever more about them and their dreams. And from these images and ideas you can begin to piece together a map for how your two lives could come together for the long haul.

Trust is the deepest level of the relationship circle and it cannot be underestimated. As you build your relationship everything goes towards gaining trust. Even the small misses can begin to build distrust or resentment. This is bad news for the relationship and these kind of issues need to be actively addressed as a form of loving the other person. It is in the active participation of the relationship that you show your commitment. And it is in the depth and quality of the trust that you being to see this other person as THE ONE.

Trust is also a fragile thing. Once broken it may be hard to rebuild or reestablish trust in a relationship.

Moving towards the center of trust we come towards the ultimate goal. Fearless love. A relationship that continues to cherish the process and build rapport is a relationship that can stand the test of time.

Of course, things change. The trust can be fractured. One partner can fall into a deep depression, or be jobless for a long period of time, challenging all that the love relationship holds sacred. And these are the times of challenge. These are the times when the actions of the other person are either perceived as being towards or away from the love relationship. A committed partner can find their way through most challenges. But when one partner opts out, there is no future action that can save a dying relationship. When one partner says, “I’m out,” what prevents them from reaching that breaking point again? Once the cat’s out of the bag, how can you stop thinking about the cat?

Love is a tricky business. And love is built upon actions more than feelings or words.

Take care. If you want to talk to someone about love and single parenting, let me know.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

Constant Craving

I understand the feeling of longing. That ache at having something or someone in your life that is missing. A gap in the joy of your life that is just out of reach or lifetimes away, depending on the strength of your longing. I think I’ve lived a good portion of my life in longing. It is a familiar state.

Today, single again, I really have access to my craving for physical affection. I notice it in how appreciative I am of the women passing through my field of vision. It’s not that I’m lusting after them, I am simply noticing their beauty, and the lack of similar comfort in my current situation. I can feel in my bones what it’s like to be alone and wanting. It’s almost an energetic feeling, like I am motivated to be a better, more attractive, me. But there is sadness in the craving as well.

What I wonder is how to keep that craving alive when I do have what I want in terms of a relationship with a woman. How can this sharpness and presence be with me even in a long-term relationship? Do I need the longing to be motivated to pursue? Does my romantic side appreciate the ache and longing more than the contentment of having a loving relationship?

In the several times in my relationships that I’ve been truly happy and fulfilled, the expansive joy is there, but the moment seems to pass. The mundane creeps back in and chores become resentments and love taps become responsibilities rather than joys. What is it about the craving, the hunger, that makes me a better lover, a better man?

I want a fulfilling love relationship. And I want that healthy craving, ambition, to continue in my life as well. It’s a fine balance. One you get what you think you want does your heart and mind start searching for what you want next? For me, I don’t think that was the case. I was never looking for another relationship, but I certainly turned my focus away from attracting my mate towards more personal, self-focused pursuits. How do we stay romantically engaged for the long haul? What about the craving is necessary to keep the love line warm and active?

If I can see that the craving is a longing for something inside of me, rather than an external goal or relationship that I want, perhaps I will begin to unlock the answer. There are always projects left unfinished, and dreams still gathering dust inside me. When I’m not in a relationship I can devote whatever time I want to these projects. I don’t have to consider anyone else’s timeframes, needs, or schedules.

When I’m in relationship, even as good as it gets, parts of my creative self get compromised. And perhaps this is the craving I experience when I’m in relationship. It’s more about total freedom. However, I know that total freedom is also a trap that stalls me out in my creative pursuits as well. If I have too much time, a whole afternoon for example, I might not get started until after a walk, a nap, lunch, and by the time I get going it’s 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon and I’ve got to start thinking about getting ready for the week ahead.

Certainly this craving is something in me that drives me forward. If I am craving a women, for a relationship, for example, I am more likely to eat well, to keep my exercise routine constant. I am more likely to be working to make myself the best mate I could be. When I’m in relationship, sometimes, those things get put on the back burner. See, I’ve GOT the relationship, so why do I need to constantly work on myself or my physical health? I’ve won the prize of this beautiful woman and companion, now I can really settle down and get my creative dreams in gear.

It doesn’t work that way. Even in relationship I have a craving. Sure, it’s for something different. I no longer observe and appreciate all the women passing me on the street, no I’m more reflective on the time and energy I need to move my creative dreams forward. And, I guess, it seems like the thing that I most want, a relationship, is in some ways a challenge to that “time at craft” I crave. So when I have what I want I crave something different. When I don’t have a relationship, I put a lot of time into craving and pursuing women. I think the catch-22 is for me to work out with myself.

Take care. If you want to talk to someone about love and single parenting, let me know.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image:  kiss, creative commons usage

Breaking Up: Loss as a Journey

I thought I was going to die. This last breakup was more expected and yet more devastating than any I’d gone through before. I think it was because I had such a strong relationship that had come to pieces. I think it was also because my entire identity was wrapped up in being a couple with this person, being codependent. It’s easy to do for those of us prone to over commitment. So, even though the actions toward suicide were never put in place, my mind often yielded to the fantasy of dropping myself off a high bridge, except I was afraid of heights. Suffice it to say, it was bad. I was in bad shape as I moved back into my mom’s house to recover.

Grief

Feeling the hurt after a breakup is one of the keys to healing and recovery. You have to go through the pain of loss, you cannot shortcut your recovery. As a typical male this process was hard for me to get started. I knew I needed to cry. I felt the sadness deep in my bones, but I couldn’t access the tears. I wrote letters to my ex. I took inventories of what was good in the relationship. I accepted my faults and wrote about where I had failed to live up to my end of the deal, where I had gotten scared and recoiled from my partner rather than turn towards them.

One of the things I did immediately was start going to Al Anon meetings. 1. I needed to be with people and not isolated in my single bedroom at my mom’s. 2. I needed to hear from others who had been through hard times and used the program and their “higher power” to gain strength to recover. 3. I needed a network of friends I could call when things got tough. And the local Al Anon meetings provided all this support immediately. I was not alone. I was not the only one hurting. I was encouraged to call others and talk about what was going on.

So, I accessed some of the pain through journaling. And I watched some sad romantic movies that got a few tears going. But mainly, I just sat with my sadness. I wasn’t inspired to read, though I did buy most of the Al Anon literature as a starting point. I couldn’t just make myself cry, though that’s what I felt I needed. So I sat. And as I ruminated about the past and was bombarded with images and feelings of my ex I tried to say a prayer of appreciation, “Thank you, Samantha, for these wonderful times. I bless you and give you up to God.” And I said it over and over.

I learned to pray again in the simplest terms. “Help me to hope again, God.” “Help me to heal.” “Help me to see a future.”

And I continued my exercise program by walking or playing tennis every single day, without fail. No excuses. This was one thing I could easily control, and if I put my mind to it, I could succeed. And some success was important to me at that time.

Alone time. Prayer. Journaling. Meetings. Phone calls.

That was my strategy. And in a matter of weeks I was having momentary flashes of hope. I would notice walking around the lake that I was actually having positive thoughts about the future. It was subtle. And the ups came with reciprocal downs, but the roller coaster started leveling out and I was having days with little or no obsession about my ex. I was grateful. I built on that momentum and went to more meetings and called more friends. And as the grief began to lift I felt myself imagining and hoping for a new relationship, again.

Turning Point

As things were starting to get better for me, I remember a distinct moment when I decided to get back on the online dating sites again. There was something hopeful about imagining hundreds of women who were looking for a relationship. I wanted to dip my toe in the water and see what they looked like.

I wrote in my profile that I was first looking for friends. And that’s what my intention was. I wanted to meet some women to do things with, but not necessarily to date them. I was pretty certain that my relationship boundaries were not up to snuff, but I could certainly go for coffee or a walk with some women and see what happened. And I think it was this action, this hopeful seeking that really turned the corner for me emotionally. Even the tiniest glimpse of desire in me was a welcome indication that something had changed. That hope was still inside me. And while I was in no position to date right away, I was optimistic about the possibility of having another “date” at some point in the future.

Results

As of this writing, I’m about three weeks in on the dating thing. And I’ve had some interesting experiences. I have one woman who I play tennis with. That’s all we do. We haven’t talked about “dating” the entire time we’ve been playing. I’ve had a few promising first dates that went nowhere. And I’ve got a few first “hello” dates planned for the next few weeks. And while I’m not planning on making any of these women my girlfriend, the idea of having a few women friends that I can hang out with, is quite exciting. Where things go beyond friendship, well, there’s no telling. My heart thinks I’m ready, I know I’m not. So, we’ll see how things progress from here.

Take care. If you want to talk to someone about love and single parenting, let me know.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image:  elvis, creative commons usage

As Goes the Sex So Goes the Marriage

Sex isn’t everything. It’s not even the most important thing. But when sex goes off the rails, there is probably a lot more wrong in the relationship than right. Examining some of the myths of sexual ennui and suggesting paths to reconnect.

First off, I have to admit, these ideas didn’t work in my marriage. And there were plenty of other factors in why we split. But sex, and the lack thereof, was the first real indicator to me that something had gotten disconnected. Some aspect of our relationship outside the bedroom had gotten so painful that the activity in the bedroom had frozen over. Frost in the marital bed is a quick wakeup call or a slow death knell.

In my case, we did start going to therapy, but I didn’t make our intimacy an issue. I was letting her lead in therapy, because it seemed she was so unhappy. So in trying to be accommodating I was also sweeping my empty sex life under the bed. It didn’t seem to be an issue for her. Weeks could go by without more than a casual touch, and she was fine. I was reaching out for any touch and coming up rubbing myself most of the time.

How did it get so far out of balance? Had our level of desire always been so different and the early romance was enough to hide the mismatch? Let’s look at some of the reasons given for not being in the mood and see if we can come up with a strategy for rejoining in the bedroom and in our relationships.

Busy, Distracted, No Time

What makes a couple too busy to be intimate? What priorities get so far embedded in our minds that we forget our hearts? Work stress can be a libido killer. If I am threatened at my job, I’m not going to be ultraconfident in the bedroom. And if I don’t ask it won’t happen… So what can I do to reenergize myself in the evening, when I am about to arrive home and I’d like to feel some of our old chemistry again?

Remember what makes her happy. Does the kitchen need a quick once-over before dinner to get her feeling more comfortable with leaving the dishes in the sink to make room for some hanky panky? Maybe she just likes to know she’s joined and supported in taking care of some of the chores around the house. Make time to clear the distractions (housework, bills to pay, getting the kids to bed) and then make the time to be close and quiet. It doesn’t have to mean sex, but it does necessarily mean closeness and cuddling. Start there and see if anything develops.

Getting At The Heart of the Matter

Is there something else that’s out of whack in the relationship? If a woman feels the relationship is not a priority they are likely to put their energy and attention somewhere else as well. If it’s always your work, or your “projects” that are calling your heart, perhaps you need to look at what about your relationship lights up your passionate emotions as well. If you’re not sure what passion looks like, you might be in need of a refresher course in your love life.

Sometimes bigger issues can make their way into the bedroom, cutting off all hope of joy and passion. Make sure you get together with someone who can help you both work through the bigger issues. If sex is off, there might be something larger at play. Don’t let it go too long before addressing it, or you could lose the sexual passion from neglect. It’s not hard to see a young starlet and think, “Oh boy, I’d love to…” but it’s more challenging to keep seeing that arousal in your day-after-day mate. But the core of the passion will come from clearing the decks of unfinished business.

Back to Business

When things are flowing in the relationship both partners can instigate sex. Usually it is one partner more often than another, but there is little resistance. When the relationship is in balance, usually the sex is balanced as well.

Connected sex means seeing your partner as you are making love to them. It’s easy to disconnect and fantasize, but staying connected to your partner, seeking out her eyes, is the best way to remain close. And when the sex is close and connected the relationship is usually trending along similar lines. You can’t have connected sex when the relationship is in troubled water. And while make up sex is a thing, it’s not the best way to go about having a relationship, getting in fights because the sex afterwards is amazing.

Staying connected to your partner means being aware of their sexual desire and giving nudges and suggestions in that direction. Both your needs can be met if you’re both thinking of each other. Listen to what your sexual relationship is saying about the state of your relationship to your partner. If things are out of whack in the bedroom, chances are you need to look at what’s going on elsewhere.

Take care. If you want to talk to someone about love and single parenting, let me know.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: sex, creative commons usage

Your Sex Is On Fire: The Intoxicating Burn of Love

Everything in your body changes when you have sex with someone. For me, when dating, having sex becomes the moment that I go exclusive with that one person and say, “This is the relationship I’m going to give a try.” But these days, I am more clear than ever that sex is an intoxicant, and should be treated with respect. I’ve certainly gotten into a few relationships due to great sex, that I might have avoided had I taken a bit more time to get physical.

I believe sex is a spiritual event. A connection on a level that begins to transcend the normal walking and talking interactions of daily life. I’ve never been able to have casual sex. (Okay, maybe in college a couple of times.) To me sex is the beginning of a commitment. I know that my brain chemistry changes when I have sex. I get all electrified and positive. And this is just the sex part. If you multiply that effect with a touch of “love” man you are in for a serious impairment. You cannot think clearly when the sexual chemistry starts. If you go physical too early in a relationship it may cause you to overlook signs that this might not be the best relationship. You’re brain and body are so focused on the sex, and getting more sex, it will blow right past the red flags warning you to take a harder look at what’s going on.

There is no hard and fast rule in dating these days, about how long you “date” before you have sex. In fact, I’m sure that the swipe apps of Tender and Bumble are more setup for casual encounters, for the younger set, but I think they are heading for disaster. However, if you were to make a decision to indulge in casual safe sex for a while, I suppose you can try to keep your emotions out of the sex. I’ve never been able to do it. But perhaps I’m old-fashioned.

As sex leads the way to love, the pathways in your brain really begin to get hyperactive. You start thinking about long-range plans together. You start imagining yourself with this person, living together, getting married, having kids. Love is the drug that has launched a million relationships. It’s also the drug that has gotten a lot of people in serious relationships with people they otherwise might pass on. If you hit the love drug too early in a relationship you might not have the opportunity to see your new partner responding to enough of the varied life experiences that happen. What is this person like under pressure? How do they respond to daily frustrations with work, money, life? Love paints over your observational senses with a rose-colored watercolor.

I’m only just back in the dating pool, but I’m setting my sights on 3 – 6 months with no sex. I want to have time to meet and play with several new partners before settling in on the one I want to have sex with. The one I want to take to the next level. That’s the plan. We’ll see how my resolve sticks when I meet someone who really clicks with me.

That’s the thing, click, get excited, but slow down. Don’t blow past all the early experiences of getting to know this person. Don’t skip any steps. And don’t let yourself get intoxicated before you have a chance to evaluate the potential relationship in honest, sober, terms.

Take care. If you want to talk to someone about love and dating again, let me know.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: sex is on fire, creative commons usage

Sitting In Silence with the Grief

I didn’t think I was going to survive the last breakup. Sure I was experiencing a prolonged depression that was kinda scary, but this was darkness multiplied. I was certain I was going to collapse into a depression so deep that I would be unreachable.

I knew even before I moved out that I needed to beef up my support network. I started attending Alanon meetings almost daily. I got a sponsor and about 4 phone numbers of guys I could call just to check in. What a great resource. And what a great lesson the program teaches: you can’t focus on the alcoholic and their recovery, you can only focus on yourself. In fact, you are the only one you can worry about. You are the only one you can change.

Dear God grant me the serenity,
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference

The serenity prayer from AA and Alanon got me through this dark period. But prayer and community were not enough. I was still left with hours, days, nights, of aloneness. And the darkness came and tried to swallow me. The hardest part is the loneliness. Sure the heartbreak is a bitch unlike any other bitch, but the loneliness is the killer. Loneliness keeps you up at night when you’re tired and hopeless. loneliness is the killer. And loneliness is only in your mind. Loneliness is a feeling. An idea. Loneliness is changeable. But getting beyond the loneliness takes time and effort. And for me that meant a lot of praying. Getting spiritually connected again was the gift that keeps on giving.

AA and Alanon are spiritual programs. No matter what you believe in, you come to believe in a “higher power” as you begin to visit the meetings and listen to everyone else’s stories. That higher power can be God, Jesus, Buddha, Mohammed, nature, or even the collective love and power of the group. You’re relationship to your higher power is up to you. And here’s the real eye-opener, your significant other has a higher power too. And they must surrender and find that relationship for themselves. There is no fixing the other person. And there is no waiting for them to change. Their path is between them and their own spiritual program.

In the darkness, and the days and nights of silence I began to pray again. Simple prayers like, “Help me God.” Not really asking for anything specific but guidance for God’s will for me. Which is really my will and hope for myself powered by prayer and belief that there is some larger force in the universe that I can put my trust in. And there is a force in the universe that I can release the drinker to. Their path involves this transition too. It may take a year, it may take a lifetime, but I believe we call come back to a god of our choosing.

The silence and loneliness and grief brought me back to a deeper connection to my own soul. A deeper connection with myself. And that ever elusive self-love.

May you find your own path back to a higher power. And may you learn how much you are loved and valued in the world. Even if it’s only the love of the group. Attend meetings. Talk to people. Get phone numbers of people you can call when you’re down. And then sit quietly and listen. Your soul and inner voice will begin to tell you stories. Maybe some lies too, that you can examine over time and release.

You have to love yourself before you can love anyone else.

If there’s anything I can do to help you on your journey, let me know.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: sad child, creative commons usage

Know What Your Problem Is? Mom and Dad.

Family of origin events and habits form a good part of what makes us who we are as adults. For example my dad never expressed his anger until he literally exploded and scared the crap out of all of us. I have that same repressed anger, except I never get to the explosion part. Of course, for my dad it took a drink or two to loosen his vitriolic tongue. And my mom taught me how to suffer in silence and worry, worry, worry about everything. She also showed me my first example of depression, after her divorce when I was 7.

Those several facts have given me a blueprint of my emotional DNA.

  1. I have trouble expressing anger.
  2. I have trouble with people who drink too much.
  3. I’m scared to death of someone raging at me.
  4. I worry a lot about things that never happen, wrecking a good bit of my here-and-now present moment.
  5. I have a depression symptom that looks a lot like simply giving up.

And all of these factors weigh into my adulthood personality and personality disorders. I am conflict adverse. I’d rather lie to you than fight you, about anything. (Kinda wimpy, right?) Well, these parts of me also caused me to lose the three primary relationships in my life in some form or fashion.

In both my marriage and my recent relationship my depression was really the crushing factor that caused the other person to opt-out. And I get it. I don’t blame either of them for their instincts towards their own personal preservation. I was a wreck. And I had no idea when or how I was going to get out of it. I was hopeless and it made them hopeless too. And two hopeless people can only be together so long before something breaks. It’s terrifying and heartbreaking at the same time. And both times I was asked to leave. I get it. I honor both of them for taking care of themselves. That’s all we can do in life, take care of ourselves. Even if it means ending a loving relationship.

This same DNA will form the future of my relationships as well. And the clearer I get on the issues and the solutions, the easier it will be to keep a relationship. It’s not 100% up to me. But my actions will determine my own course of action, even if that means getting fired and losing my shit and falling into depression. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I know the depression will rear its ugly head again in the next 50 years. It’s not if, it’s when. And the rest is up to me and my care team. Gross. It’s a disability that is part of loving me. And it’s one I have a hard time loving about myself. But I get over it.

And the drugs, in my case, do work when they work. They also poop out and leaving me a shivering fearful wreck. And really, we know that pharmapsychiatry is a dark art. They have no idea what they’re doing. The simply rotate the same handful of drugs until they find one that seems to make things better. serotonin, Dopamine, norepinephrine, the chemicals in my head, are simply concepts about what’s really going on. But most of the time even my psychiatrist is scratching his head, discussing with me options when things aren’t working. He doesn’t know anything. And all we have is my 10 year history together, and a lot of trust.

Depression aside, the most powerful work we can do on ourselves is to get straight with our family of origin. It may take a lifetime, and you may not be able to fully rid yourself of the unhealthy influence, but you’ve got to keep trying. So ask yourself, “What did mom give me?” and “What did I learn from dad?” And listen to what comes back. You might need someone else to talk to in order to gain some objective feedback.

If there’s anything I can do to help you on your journey, let me know.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image:  unhappy family, creative commons usage allowed