Tag Archives: after divorce

I Sing the Body Connected: Cultivating Sexual Energy

WHOLE-electric

Within there runs blood,
The same old blood! the same red-running blood!
There swells and jets a heart, there all passions, desires, reachings, aspirations…
I Sing the Body Electric, Walt Whitman

I was walking around the lake with a male friend and we were comparing notes on sex and the energy it produces. Just the idea of sex, the opportunity of sex, is enough to quicken the heartbeat, inspire the discipline of exercise and eating right. And once the connection has been established, even with a woman who may not be a perfect match, there is an energy, a confidence, a glow that transforms every cell of our bodies.

Are women like this? I don’t know. But I can tell you, when I have been having regular sex I am a different person. I walk in the world with a different confidence, and a different smile. I have a joy that radiates from within and is infinitely more attractive, as the sexually active and attractive male, to the women around me. So sex begets more sex. Or so the idea goes.

I recall the wonderful warmth I would get in my marriage, when we made arrangements to have sex. It could be as simple as asking for a time after I delivered the kids to school, for us to “be together.” It was a magical agreement. And once in place I would energetically pack the kids, make breakfast, and get them off to school. My then-wife could lounge around in bed or take a bath, if that’s what she wanted to do… I was IN and on my way to “having sex.” Woohoo.

That thrill never ceased in my marriage. And even as my offers were turned down at an alarming rate I was still “into her.” I was still propositioning her and waiting for the moment, the chemistry, the chores and bills to be paid, whatever… I was still desirous of my wife. She, however, was heading in some other direction. I can’t illuminate the cause of the her ever-lowering libido, but I’m sure the stresses of life, mid-life, and figuring out what to do with her career were all weighing on her heavily.

So we moved on and after some varying efforts, divorced. And the world of sex opened up again like some fantasy. Unfortunately, the reality of dating after divorce was more fantasy than reality, but the prospects of new sex, new women, new opportunities was enough to keep my optimism high even while my success rate was low. And I was really the main problem. I wasn’t really ready for a relationship or sex. I had no idea of what casual set meant, and I was wounded deeply by the crash landing of the divorce.

It took a long time and a lot of effort to get myself back into fighting shape, or courting shape, as it might be. And only recently have I unlocked any of the previous rules that might inhibit me from going for a tryst with a woman who I didn’t find 100% alluring. I am still most interested in a primary relationship that becomes exclusive the minute the bedroom is brought into the equation. But I am also interested in understanding what my drive towards permanent relationships is, when both of mine have ended in failure. Am I willing to suspend monogamy for something else?

There is something about the sex, and the sex between two consenting adults that has a powerful effect on me.

Clearly I am still figuring it out. Life and dating post-divorce is an amazing process. And in several of the features of this life progression I am less than 100% successful at. But, my hopefulness keeps popping me back up to the surface, even after disasters and divorce terrors have pulled me or my financial life underwater. I keep surfacing. I keep heading back to shore and getting prepared to start again.

At what?

That’s the real question. I know the power of sex and relationships on me and my self-esteem. And I know that the collapse of this marriage was one of the most trying moments of my life. And those trying moments keep rearring their heads over and over at the most inopportune time. It’s hard.

But what is my hurry? Am I really looking for Ms. Lovejoy? Am I more interested in playing the field than I might have been in my 20’s or 30’s?

I am certainly more interested in understanding the attraction I have to women of all shapes and forms. It’s more the joy I’m after, when trying to find a fit with a woman. I have found several near misses, but the fit was off. It’s the happiness that comes from them that attracts me back towards them.

In my life I have learned to deal with significant disappointments and still open up the next day with a “let’s go” attitude. My joy is not connected directly to the everyday ups and downs of life, work, love, divorce, parenting, health, and … relationships. I’d rather be alone than in a relationship with a destructive woman. I’d rather masturbate than wind up with someone who throws passive aggressive barbs with every other text. And of course, it’s not just about the sex.

So I’m looking for joy. I’m asking for a happy response from the women I see. I’m listening when they talk about their lives and their ex’s and their kids, chores, work, love, and ambitions.

But there is something about the sex, and the sex between two consenting adults that has a powerful effect on me. And while I am not dependent on that energy, it does provide some amazing opportunities for creative expression and growth.

There’s a downside to the sexual playground as well. There are people who are not ready to have any kind of romantic relationship. A lot of people actually. You can hear it when they talk about their ex, or their struggles with parenting. You can tell it in the way they don’t touch back, or they don’t express spontaneous affection. Stress is an powerful turnoff.  Why would anyone willingly get into a relationship with a stressed out partner? No matter how amazing they are physically, if their mental state is depressed or fragile, it’s going to be a no-win relationship in my experience.

So I’m looking for joy. I’m asking for a happy response from the women I see. I’m listening when they talk about their lives and their ex’s and their kids, chores, work, love, and ambitions. And if they don’t have ambitions, if they can’t tell me what they are passionate about, well, that’s an issue for me.

I want you to be happy. I want to feel the electrical current connect between us when we are together. I’d love to feel the flush of desire when we make arrangements to take off our clothes together.

But as the current is interrupted, I can walk away from bad connections. A connection might be more like a hookup, but that’s not what I’m looking for. That’s why the new dating apps, Tinder and others, are not very interesting to me. They might offer a lot of potential electrical hookups, they are not sustainable. Someone looking for that kind of relationship is going to stay in that kind of relationship in the long run.

In the long-run I hope to find another woman who turns me on the in same way my wife did, even after 11 years of marriage. I’m not asking for her again, but someone who I can pour my current into. And this time, someone who can continue to feed some of the energy, enthusiasm, and joy back to me for recycling.

I sing the body connected, with the same red blood that awakes in the morning with a start, with the same red blood that cuddles and curls at night and still longs for you…
— John McElhenney (read the full poem here: i sing the body connected)

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

back to Dating After Divorce

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image: i sing the body electric, martin pulaski, creative commons usage

Co-parenting Is Not Always Easy, But We Have a Choice

The Whole Parent - End SarcasmMoney issues might have had a great deal to do with the breakdown of trust and adoration in my marriage. And even though the marriage is over, the conflict and misunderstanding around money is a difficult topic. Even when you love one another, it’s difficult. When it comes up after divorce, it can easily escalate, like war.

But we can stop it. I can stop it. Even if I have no control over the discussion, I have my part and my participation in it. The pause and silence are my friend. If I always try and answer, even when I don’t have an answer, I find myself defending things I wasn’t trying to propose. If I respond with anger, I NEVER get what I need.

I learned something, only recently, that has worked with some effectiveness: I try and respond with an update. At least I’m not freezing my ex out of the discussion. I may not have the answer. (And at this moment, today, I certainly don’t have the answer.) But I am engaging in the conversation.

I don’t have to respond in-kind. I can take the higher road and do my best at giving an honest respond, and if possible a solution.

And sometimes, the response, “I’m thinking about this and will respond to you by Monday,” often has a soothing effect, for both of us. I’m not left with this need to respond, and while I haven’t given the answer, I have expressed my intention and timing for my response. This gives us both a little time to think/work on the answer.

In conflict, my ex-wife and I often do better if we write it down. We even used love letters in our courting period. We both enjoy putting our ideas in logical sequence and giving them some considered thought. This is a great way to diffuse the potential emotional escalation. And when I take a pause, I can often reframe my initial angry response in a more loving and considered manner.

So today, I can slow things down. I can let her know that I am thinking about her question/request. And then I can set an expectation for when I will be giving her my response.

I don’t benefit at all from firing off a knee-jerk reaction to an angry email from my ex-wife. I don’t have to respond in-kind. I can take the higher road and do my best at giving an honest respond, and if possible a solution.

So much of co-parenting is about negotiation and compromise. We no longer have the same loving emotional ties to our former partners. We no longer have to make their urgency and priorities our own. But we owe the considered response to the parenting relationship. By taking our anger elsewhere, we can keep the focus on the REQUEST from our ex and try and keep the response to an ANSWER.

Sometimes I have to parse out the request. And sometimes I don’t have the answer. But the tone and method of my response is up to me.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

related posts:

Note: The image is of me, and represents my intention to keep sarcasm out of all my responses to my ex-partner.

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