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The Joy of Divorce and the 3 Gifts of Breaking Up

WHOLE-2016-erock

While we held it all together for our family, it was not all that ideal. But I was convinced that life was not ideal, and that for the comfort and future joy of my kids I would stick it out, no matter what.

As it was happening the divorce was the worst experience of my life. I was the one who wanted to work on things, but was told, “It is over.” I struggled with my own sadness and the imagined sadness that I knew my kids would experience. I tried to entice my still-wife back into the idea of staying together. I tried to bully her into realizing how bad things were going to be without me. I tried to convince her that she was wrong. I did everything I could think of to save the marriage.

Here’s the rub. The marriage was hard. Outside of the first few years of parenting (including the global crisis of 9-11) things in the relationship were not ever easy. We had very different styles of housekeeping, very different ideas about what made up a perfect weekend. And while we held it all together for our family, it was not all that ideal. But I was convinced that life was not ideal, and that for the comfort and future joy of my kids I would stick it out, no matter what.

My then-wife, on the other hand, decided for us both that “no matter what” was over. And though we said, “’til death do us part” we really didn’t mean it. She decided for us that it was over. And all the second person can do at that point is go through some of the Kubler-Ross grief stages.

But the gift of the divorce was bigger than I could imagine. Looking back, now seven years, I can say it was the most transformative event in my life. What cracked with the fracturing of my marriage was my own protective shell. The heart that was suddenly in so much pain burst forth from my chest and I started writing about it. Writing like I’d never written before. Writing, in some ways, to survive the crisis I was in. And I’m still writing.

Even alone, I was happier than I had been for the last few years of my marriage. As I began to discover the activities that gave me joy, I was able to include my kids more regularly in those activities.

The first gift divorce gives you is time and solitude. It’s painful. It was lonely. But in the hours and days of my loneliness I had to search again for the things that gave me joy. I no longer had the family group to mingle and play with, I had to find my own happiness. My alone happiness.

I wrote. I started playing my guitar more regularly. I walked the neighborhood endlessly to get into shape. I rejoined a tennis team. And I allowed the sadness and aloneness to transform me. I began to find happiness outside of being a parent. I got to discover my life’s joy in the times when I could not be with my kids. It was a moment of crisis that turned into a moment of self-discovery.

The second gift divorce gives you is the perspective on love and life. During the throes of divorce I was not able to see how this was ultimately going to be a good transformation. But as time wound on, I was able to reflect, first to myself and then to my kids, about how things were actually better now. I had a conversation with my daughter one morning before school that went like this.

“I know this divorce thing has been hard on all of us, but you do see how somethings have gotten better, right?”

She did not look convinced. “Like what?”

“Like how you and I are playing tennis together now. When I was married to your mom it was harder to find time to do stuff like that.”

“Okay…”

“And you can see how happy I am, right?”

“Yes.”

“Well, maybe it wasn’t going to get any happier with your mom. Maybe she was looking for something different. And even if I didn’t know it, maybe I was too. But now, as we’ve all gotten a little time away, can’t you see that we’re all a bit happier?”

“I guess so.”

The biggest gift of my divorce was the release to become a happier, healthier, and more loving partner to a new woman. I bring my joy and my affection, and this time, the rules of engagement are very different.

Granted, she was eight years old then, and not really processing all that I was saying. But the message was this. Even alone, I was happier than I had been for the last few years of my marriage. As I began to discover the activities that gave me joy, I was able to include my kids more regularly in those activities. About six months after that conversation I had standing tennis games with my daughter on the weekends they were with me. It was a peak moment to be on the tennis court hitting balls with someone I loved so much. I had tried to get her mom interested in tennis, but it wasn’t meant to be.

The third gift divorce gives you is the freedom to go forward in your life and find someone to love again. And, if we’re lucky, and if we’ve done our homework on what broke down in the marriage, maybe we will find someone who we can truly love and who can love us back.

The biggest gift of my divorce was the release to become a happier, healthier, and more loving partner to a new woman. I bring my joy and my affection, and this time, the rules of engagement are very different. There’s something about a post-divorce-with-kids relationship that sort of puts things in perspective. The divorce taught me how to be alone and happy. The divorce gave me two great kids that are dependent on me for love, support, and encouragement.

And then the divorce gave me the time back. The time to be myself and discover my core talents again. And this is the me that my new fiancé fell in love with. Independent. Joyous. A dedicated father. And a creative madman. And this creative whirlwind came from the trauma and transformation of my divorce. As I was losing everything I discovered a larger me, a meta man who could rise above the distortion and anger and love in spite of everything else.

What I do best in life is love. And that I have been given a gift for sharing that experience via writing and music, is one of the major wins in my life. This new lease on love is another. May you find what you were looking for. May you find the happiness that comes from within so you can share it with others. The divorce gave me back my joy and freedom and allowed me a second chance to find life-long love.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

Back to Positive Divorce & Co-Parenting

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Transformational Divorce

WHOLE-2016-tangohands

Everything that happened from the moment my then-wife said she’d been to see a lawyer, has delivered me up to be healed in a way that would not have been possible had we stayed together.

I wouldn’t have wished for it, but I now see, looking back, that my divorce was the best thing that ever happened to me.

My entire world (kids, wife, house, work, neighborhood, sports, money, creative life, play) exploded into tiny pieces. When the business of divorce had been done I got what 90% of divorcing dads in America get: 35% of the time with their kids, the non-custodial parent role and a big child support obligation, and no house. It’s as if I went from Pleasantville to homeless in a matter of weeks. And the homelessness is no joke. The financial and psychological drains on a father in the midst of divorce are immense. I was barely able to stay afloat. And more than once I wondered if I was going to be able to stay alive. Perhaps my large life insurance policy would be better for my kids than me. WOW.

I’ve been working on selling my “Whole Parent” story as The Positive Divorce, but maybe that’s too tame. What happened after my divorce was life altering for me, my ex-wife, and my kids. And the Phoenix from the Flames has been my creative power caught fire, my writing found a deeper voice, and my audience, here and on several other blogs began to grow. I wouldn’t have wished for it, but I now see, looking back, that my divorce was the best thing that ever happened to me.

Sure we were making the best of it, but we weren’t happy. We had very different ideas about what the other person “should” be doing. Well, I’d say she liked to “should” on me all the time. I liked to “should” on myself, but was primarily a pretty happy-go-lucky man. I liked my kids, I liked my job (except when I hated it) and I did my best to support my loving and beautiful wife through every aspect of our relationship. But something was always wrong. Something never met her expectations. I couldn’t figure it out, but I learned that I couldn’t fix it either.

Lesson #1 before the transformation: I could not make her happy. I could not fix her. I could only keep myself focused on myself. (An old AA concept: never take another person’s inventory. You can only manage your own.)

Lesson #2 before the transformation: I am responsible for my happiness and the support and caring of those around me. But no one else can make me happy. If I struggled with depression, it was only me who was going to be able to bootstrap my way back to joy.

Lesson #3 before the transformation: Kids are the center of the universe, but kids will not save your marriage or make your life worth living. Kids are a lot of work. The most amazing and rewarding work of all, but still… The stress of having kids really toppled some balance my then-wife had kept together for our entire courtship. She went from happy and self-satisfied to exhausted and angry. That wasn’t really the kids, it was a tendency in her, that only she could deal with.

If you minimize the war with your ex-partner, you can give the kids a hopeful and optimistic outlook on life, even when things don’t work out as planned.

Lesson #4 before the transformation: therapists can be good or bad. A bad therapist can enable and encourage poor behavior. A bad therapist can coddle a depression. A bad therapist may do more damage to your relationship than no therapist. My then-wife has a personal therapist who allowed her to bury her feelings and not deal with issues until they became HUGE. My therapist allowed me to let her go even when I knew it was the hardest thing I would ever do.

Lesson #5 before the transformation: before the divorce you have no idea how you are going to survive. The time without your kids. The depression and loneliness. All the darkness of the divorce, brought me to my knees. And that’s when I learned to pick myself and my needs back up off the floor, dust them off by myself, and put a plan together to get what I wanted next.

Lesson #6 before the transformation: love seems like a long shot when you are losing the love of your life and your kids. But the transformation will burn away the sorrow at some point. The love you are letting go of will transform into power, direction, and clarity as you reach out for what you really want, now that you know.

Lesson #7 before the transformation: the kids seem to suffer, but they will be okay as well. My two children were 5 and 7 when the transformation happened. Today they are 13 and 15 and they are two of the happiest, most well-adjusted kids I know. While they know the price we all paid in away time, they seem happy and well-directed in their own lives. While I didn’t know if I could survive divorce, I was more worried about my kids.

If you minimize the war with your ex-partner, you can give the kids a hopeful and optimistic outlook on life, even when things don’t work out as planned. None of us would’ve wanted the divorce to happen. But as I talk with my kids today, we all agree that things are better now. I’m happier. I’m with a woman who makes me happier. Their mom seems to be happier. That’s the goal, happier and more centered in life, for all of us.

The transformation took about 4+ years for me. I have mapped it out.

transformational-recovery

YEAR ONE: It’s time to let your guard down and grieve. You’ve just gotten a divorce. Let that sink in. Miss your kids and allow that longing to penetrate your ego. Get angry. Find new things to do with your energy. Find new hobbies and activities.

YEAR TWO: As your life stabilizes a little you begin to refocus your priorities around the kids. Without the marriage as a focus you can pour your energy into your children. You will also need to begin your own healing process. Start a martial arts class, join a divorce recovery group, begin journaling. It’s time to work on YOUR recovery.

YEAR THREE: You begin grasping terms like co-parenting. You are now working more as a team. You may not agree with your former spouse, but you can agree on what’s best for the kids. As you begin feeling stronger and more yourself, you might begin to date again. Don’t start dating too soon, you’re liable to end up in another failed relationship.

YEAR FOUR: As your life begins coming together you can leave relationships that don’t serve your future goals. It’s easy to make your kids a priority, but you’d like to have a companion along for the journey too. You realize the job is a means to an end, not the meaning of your life. The “off parent” hours are spent doing things you love and perhaps finding another person to love.

In four short years my life went from shambles to aspirational. I learned that I was not going to settle for half-ass again. I had overlooked some early warning signs at the beginning of our relationship and marriage. I won’t make those same mistakes again. After the transformation you can reset your priorities.  You are being giving another chance to do it better, to get it right.

My divorce was the transformation I needed in my life to get back on track. I learned what made me happy. I learned I really needed to be with someone who shared the same sense of joy and wonder at the world, that I could wake up with every morning and say thanks to the universe for. I was looking for a WE that made my life bigger and better. My marriage provided a lot of growth, two wonderful kids, and the transformational experience that reoriented my life completely.

I give thanks to my ex-wife for releasing me back into the universe. I needed to grow and re-find myself and what made me happy. Then I was able to seek out a more like-minded partner and setup our long-term relationship on mutual goals and mutual adoration.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

Back to Positive Divorce & Co-Parenting

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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

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Missing the Love Right In Front of Us

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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

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Oh, and we have a pool in our neighborhood.

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Offline Dating: Setting Intentions and Actions in Real Life

WHOLE-yogagirl

Let’s start with an assumption: you are looking for the next real relationship of your life.

Now let’s look at what’s wrong with online dating.

  • Primarily based on photos.
  • Photos can be retouched, enhanced, and from much earlier times.
  • Most profiles begin to sound the same (long walks on foreign beaches, red wine, and having fun).
  • Most of what you see in someone’s profile is what you want to see.
  • Many people are just playing on dating sites, just like Facebook, they’re killing time.
  • The “matches” are usually so far off, sites like eHarmony are actually depressing.
  • Age is just a number.
  • A lot of men and women lie about their age.
  • There’s no way to sense chemistry via an online profile, email, phone call or text. (Phone calls do get close, but it’s 2-dimensional rather than 3-dimensional.)

And there are some myths about online dating that might be more marketing than reality.

  • It ups your odds of finding the right person by making a lot more people available for dating.
  • Many people have found the love of their lives using online dating sites.
  • It’s better than the bar scene.
  • There are 1,202 women who match your search criteria.

Um, yeah, if there were that many women, that were attractive, charming, smart, and had a creative passion in their lives, I’d already be married again. As it is, I’m not even dating. And the one person I dated from an online dating site, WAS super, but she’s one out of at least 45 dates and perhaps 1,000+ out reach requests I’ve put into the system.

So what are the alternatives to online dating? If I’m not going to browse and click my way into a new relationship, what’s it going to take?

Here’s what I think.

For me, chemistry is part sexual attraction and part magic. There is no way to get a hit of either of these things online. But when you experience them in real-time you know it immediately. With that understanding, I think there are a several real world criteria that might help me find a relationship in 2015.

Spiritual But Not Religious. What this means to me is the person may or may not go to church, but their spiritual belief system is strong and vibrant in their lives. With that essential element to my perfect mate, I can assume that she probably attends some of the following places. Alternative churches in my city. Yoga studios all over town.

Health Conscious. I’m more likely to meet my next mate in a Whole Foods than in a McDonald’s. I’m not sure how you go about meeting someone while shopping, but I guess if people are putting out the “hello” vibe you can sense it. I need to be more observant, more conversational, more open to nuance and fresh produce.

Active Lifestyle. (Tennis and trail walking are my two favorite pass times.) She’s got a fitness program of her own, for sure, but wouldn’t it be amazing if she also played tennis? What if I started there? What if I actually worked at networking through some of my tennis friends to find a mixed doubles partner? The one woman who I dated since divorce, who played tennis, was a total turn-on when she smacked a top-spin forehand. Why wouldn’t I want to do my favorite sport *with* someone? Okay, note to self: tennis networking – priority number 1.

Creative Living. I went out on a couple dates with a woman who kept repeating, “You’re so creative.” At first I thought it was a complement, and I’m sure she meant it as a complement. But what I started realizing, is she was saying, “Wow, you are *so* creative. I am not very creative. I’m amazed by creative people.” Oh. So, I think I need to be with another creative person. Because this writing and songwriting isn’t going to happen unless I preserve some alone time. My perfect mate has to desire alone time as well, and when we come back together, has to be able to bring some of her creative energy.

Mind Over Body. I’m probably not going to get my six-pack abs back. I’m probably always going to have love handles. So I’m not looking for a body-builder girlfriend to admire and worship. What I know is my mate has to be happy in her own skin. If everything is about fitness and diet and beauty, then I’m going to be left behind. And probably a bit bored. We all need to work on our health and fitness, for life. We all need to live with as much vitality as possible. If fitness and working out gives you that jolt, go for it. (I know tennis does it for me.) But let’s hook up in our mental space as well. We’ve got to spend a lot more time talking than lovemaking.

In Joy. Happiness is not something you can buy or learn. (Though you can work on it.) Happiness is the feeling you get when you are around someone positive and hopeful. If I learned anything from my last marriage, it’s that I am very hopeful and very positive, sometimes to a fault. But that’s also who I’m looking for. Someone who smiles more than frowns. Someone who wakes up each morning with wonderment and a stretch towards what’s possible.

Intense and Low-Key As Needed. I am most jazzed when I’m performing. I do have type-a driven characteristics and when I’m ON I push hard for what I want. But I also have a quiet repose, where I recharge and relax. I do want someone who can jolt up with me and climb the mountain. And then the next day uncoil on a beach for a day without any objectives or requirements. In contrast comes my power and pleasure. Let’s spark one another and massage one another as needed, in the moment.

I cannot catch a glimpse of the above characteristics from an online dating profile. And sure, over time, over the course of a few dates, I could get there, but what if we just started in reality? What if we knew what we wanted and showed up at those places in those ways to be seen and to seek? That’s the real world method of communicating and that’s what I’m planning for 2015. This year, every time I get the inclination to open Match.com I’m going to make a concrete plan to do something in the real world that will put me in contact with real women.

I’ll let you know how it goes. (grin)

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

This post really began here:  Why Online Dating is a Distraction and Not a Solution and continues here: Action Not Intention Will Determine How Long I’m Single

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image: yoga girl and boy, cc 2014 john mcelhenney, creative commons usage

The 5 Stages of Dating Again After Divorce: Letting Go of Expectations

WHOLE-couple

I’m not all that good at dating yet. I mean, I don’t really know how to BE. I try to be “myself” of course, but I’m too involved, to hyper, to talkative. I don’t listen as well as I should. But the part of the problem, that I’m just beginning to understand, is my habit of projecting any “potential” relationship off into some imaginary future. What I mean is, I sometimes have a problem staying present.

If we both felt a “yes” we should both want to feel it again, soon.

The fact that most of my adult life, post college, was spent married is a good place to start. I’m new at this “dating” concept. When I was last on the dating scene things were a lot different. I was more interested in sex than in “relationship compatibility.” I need to reframe my expectations and assumptions about dating vs. relationships. I’m going to attempt an exploration of what is going on in my head, to help illuminate (mostly for me) my issues and see if I can get some traction underneath the “issues” to them to let them go.

1. Before We Ever Meet

The process of meeting potential dates these days is “easier” but also more distracting. We’ve gotten online dating down to a “hot or not” process. And I’ve met plenty of “hots” that were not. And more women who were quite attractive who had nothing in common with me. The question, “Why am I here,” was a constant refrain in my early dating experiences, as I jumped at the opportunity with anyone who looked interesting. Notice the emphasis on look.

Looks are deceiving. Of course they are, because the outward appearance has very little to do with what is going on inside the person’s head. And with most of these “pretty dates” I never got to any expectations or projections because I was disinterested within the first 5 minutes. Sad when the extent of a person’s conversation is work, working out, and television. “But their profile seemed so lively,” I thought. Upon returning home I’d go into forensic mode and scour their online profile to see what I missed.

What I’ve decided about online dating recently is that it’s a distraction. Profiles are full of great things just like your fortune cookie after a nice Chinese dinner. You can see things in the words and pictures that can fire up your imagination, but it’s 100% made up. Until you meet there is no such thing as chemistry, or connection. All the texting and flirting via email and even phone calls are moot the second you meet in person. If I’m going to schedule a date these days the woman has to absolutely amaze me before we meet. THEN we might have some touch points in the real world. “Meh” dating is done. (See: Why Online Dating is a Distraction and Not a Solution)

2. On the First Date

I believe the chemistry is either a “yes” or a “no” with little room for middle ground, or “maybe.” In the first minute, perhaps much quicker, I think two people sum each other up in their animal brains and either get a tail wag or no tail wag. It’s a lot less about what type of person we think we’re attracted to and a more about instinct and dog-like reactions. If both people start out with a tail wag, then you have the potential to begin exploring what’s next. When the hit is strong neither of you will ever have to ask, “What’s next?”

We need to see each other under the duress of regular life to understand how we deal with things.

For me, it’s what happens after the tail wag that is illuminating. Even in those first minutes together my mind is jumping all over the map of the future. I don’t think we can help it, actually. I’ve begun watching my brain on “yes.” My fantasy maps all kinds of odd things from “do they play tennis” and how would they look in a tennis skirt, to are they creative, do they have other passions that can balance our time together? I am fascinated by the things my animal brain locks on to, again in almost dog-like fashion: a dark glint in their eyes, a soft vulnerable spot on the side of their neck, a whiff of their perfume and the intimacy it unlocks.

And I continuously try to pull my attention back to the conversation even as my blood is rushing into dusty areas of my body. And I use little tricks to bring my focus back to the present and what she is saying. I will try to repeat a tiny portion of what she just said as a connector. “Yes, I love the Spanish poets too.” The real trick is stopping the projections into the future. I have an internal mantra going, STOP, LOOK, LISTEN, REPEAT. It’s not that mechanical, but I’m aware of how whacked out a YES date can get me. I do my best, but if my animal brain is turned on, I’m not as clear as I’d like to be. If we’re both in a semi-intoxicated space, we’ve really got to move carefully and slowly.

3. Following Up

As we are wrapping up our date I start to notice how she is responding. Is there a smile on her face or are the closing moments tinged with anxiety? I’d like to know immediately if there’s a mutual tail-wag, but it’s not necessary to ask. The signal is in the “what’s next” question. It’s best if you don’t have to ask it. When there is a pull to connect both people will be making space for the next date to happen. In that last goodbye do you feel a warm fuzzies or is there a lack of resonance? That’s probably your best indication of where things are, unspoken feelings. The words often mislead. Too often you say, “Okay, so see ya later.” And what that means is, “Probably not.”

If you get a “see ya later” rather than a “What about Wednesday?” you’re probably not a match. I think the YES happens fairly soon, and if you are interested in a relationship and motivated by the chemistry, you’re really not going to just let the person scoot away without securing a “next” time. And if it’s you, don’t wait, ask. (I do understand that I am extraverted, so I’m always the one seeking the answer, and a more subtle and introverted date might need some time to sort through all that’s happened, so I don’t push.) If we both felt a “yes” we should both want to feel it again, soon.

4. Getting Into the Groove

Beyond the “dates” comes the relating. Relationships are what happen between the dates. Dating is like a performance, a show, a wooing process. But once you’re wooed and have seen enough of the other person that you’d like to give it a go, you now have an opportunity to just be together. The mundane life tasks are what can illuminate a person’s approach to relationship and the bonds and boundaries you can expect as things move forward. For example, if you have to eat dinner every night, and you’d like to also find time to be with this new relationship, you might start deciding how to share meals that aren’t dates. In my first relationship we got this part of the togetherness down. “I’m heading home in about 10 minutes, would you like to come over, I can grab some salad stuff at the store.” What a warm feeling that gives. Just being considered as part of the plan.

As you move into relationship you have to find ways to include the other person in your normal activities. Sure you want to spend weekends (as available) together, but what about all those other evenings and nights? (Single parents have another priority that can be seen as a gift or a complication.) It is in this ongoing negotiation and resetting of expectations that we start to uncover some of the fundamentals of our relationship compatibility. Does the other person freak out when something comes up and you can’t get together? Can you have a low-key evening together? What if the other person is just too tired to get together? Is that acceptable? Disappointments are part of life, how does this new partner deal with disappointments? Do they roll out of bed on the positive side of life or is there a sigh and struggle in the morning to get on with it?

We need to be co-captains in the navigation of dark and stormy waters as well as the high-noon-high-wind happy times.

Here’s where my expectations must be tossed out and I try to be with the other person as I would like to live. We need to see each other under the duress of regular life to understand how we deal with things. If little things throw the other person’s world into a tailspin that might be a good sign that you’re either going to be a caretaker or you need to move on.

In my experience, so far, I had a HIT on the relationship front and a miss on the sexual chemistry. And in my second relationship I had a HIT in desire and sexual enthusiasm but a miss in navigating life without drama and crisis. I don’t need any more crisis and drama in my life. That’s the antithesis of what I’m looking for.

In going slow, you can get s sense of how the other person navigates their life. And if we want to jump onboard with them, we need to see how things go when storms and seasons change plans and break expectations. A healthy relationship finds easy repair. The bond between you begins to build strength and not liability. What you’re looking for is a co-pilot, not a domineering captain. We need to be co-captains in the navigation of dark and stormy waters as well as the high-noon-high-wind happy times.

5. Back to the Drawing Board

I’m just learning these things about myself. I’ve learned there were a lot of things I overlooked in my two previous marriages. Now, as a single dad, I’ve got a pretty full schedule, and a built-in priority around my two kids, but I also have a space for nights and weekends with someone special. The latest re-discovery is that time alone, even when lonely, is better than time with someone who causes us to feel alone.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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image: random date at maudie’s, john mcelhenney, cc 2014

Hungry Tigers and High Heels on the Running Trail

WHOLE-darktrail

The storms came on queue, Wednesday morning, as my plans for the new job unraveled. And tonight the running trail was covered in puddles and dark shadows of mud and steam. I would’ve rather stayed in bed and watched a movie it was the hungry tiger that compelled me out and into the falling dark.

I was not expecting to the see the tall thin woman in high heels navigating the trail on the arm of her date. How he convinced her it was a good idea to walk down here in those shiny flower print shoes, I’ll never know. But the fragility of it all, cut a bit close to how I was feeling. Things had not worked out. As they had a tendency to do, these things, they sent a cascade of sorry feelings my way. The cascade would not be complete until both potential dates had flamed out and my kids left for the weekend away.

Nothing.

Darkness. Rainy day. And wait… still… hope.

It’s the hope that pulls us upright again after a sickness or minor depression. It’s the imagining… The hope of a kiss, an eventual kiss, again.

So the trail forks in the dark, once again. And as a hungry tiger I find my way back onto the path of self-discovery. Alone as the weather begins heading towards a rainy Fall. Wishing for one or another of the women who come into view to make up their minds. Or perhaps, the lesson is in the loneliness again. I am pushing to hard, again. The striving again, without the easy job, the easy money.

Perfecting my roll again. Slowing it down to keep from frightening the tentative yeses. Getting an “Easy Tiger,” again. And heading back onto the trail alone. In the dark.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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image: the evening trail, john mcelhenney, cc 2014

Is It Love We’re After?

WHOLE-coupling There are three types of love.

Eros: is often thought of as the love of sex. But it’s much more than sexual. It’s the fire, the passion, the drive to create. And noticing that much of my eros, or erotic energy was focused on finding a partner, I could understand how that energy was being funneled away from the other creative passions. In my attempts to create the lover I wanted, to woo in a certain way that the other person becomes inflamed at the same level, was draining some of my resources and some of my beauty with all the effort. *

Filial Love: family, community, connectedness. This was the love I was being washed in, sitting alone with friends. Sometimes, in the darkness, even this filial love is not enough, and we’d rather stay in our quiet, dark, boxes and suffer alone. But just knowing that our family was out there, that our filial ties were strong even when we were all silent…  *

Agape Love: the flat-out powerful love of the creator, however you care to imagine her. God, Jesus, Mohammed… Native American gods. All part of the whole. The GOD of gods. However you chose to believe, however you chose to be amazed, that was the god of Agape. And while it could be sustaining, it was not nourishing in the same way as the first two. And certainly not as filling and energetic as the first one, Erotic. *

Today, walking around the lake with my “special friend” we were discussing our relationship. She was being funny for a bit teasing me about what our relationship was and was not. “Well, we’re not dating,” I said. “Because I don’t want to date.” “Okay, well what are we then?” “I don’t know. I don’t have any name for it,” I said, attempting to be honest and exploring the idea of what we had become. “So,” I said, “You don’t want a long-term relationship and I don’t want to date. We’re even. I don’t even care what you call it, whatever we’re in.” We agreed that we didn’t have the name or definition of what we were becoming, or even what we were at that moment, in a tender morning of “just being together” and grooving on that. And we walked on and talked about many things.

We are both working to keep our own trajectories intact while beginning to bend some of the time towards being with the other person.

And somewhere along the way, the word “love” was mentioned. And it’s become a more casual and easy word, not huge, or dramatic. Like LOVE. And I appreciated her sincerity. And I have been trying to understand just what she meant by it for a week or so, since the word came up. We’ve been talking about love in many ways. As in you love someone deeply and will always remain friends, no matter what. We have that. And then there’s all that other stuff…

So what love are we, as newly divorced adults, after? Are we wanting love, Love, or LOVE. I think there are escalating forms of this word love. Some of them have to do with desire and passion. Other parts, the bigger parts, have to do with “what’s next” or “what we will become.” Today I am sure we have “love” the first stage along the path. And that’s enough. And I would guess, right along schedule (though I have no real knowledge of what I’m talking about) for a well-matched relationship. Too soon and you risk mixing up lust and love. Too easily and you’re talking more about lust or capture. We don’t want capture at this point.

Love is a growing of intention between two people. As we walk, around the trail and on with our lives, we get a chance to be with the other person. And if we are comfortable about going slowly, we can see more and more sides of this other person, while we are still building our trust and caring for them. In my marriage, I was drawn in much too quickly to love and Love. We were dating and then living together in a matter of six months. We, of course, were on a mission to become parents, and in our late thirties, so we moved through our own internal objections and sped up the process. But we missed a few warning signs along the way, that might have prevented us from getting married had we been less enamoured.

So if love comes too quickly you might be tempted to overlook some of the issues in the early months of the relationship. By keeping things in the lower-case love, you can ferret things out better. Neither of us are interested in moving in together. Neither of us is interested in becoming step-parents. And we are both working to keep our own trajectories intact while beginning to bend some of the time towards being with the other person. I think it’s best to remain in this early-stage love until some true burning desire comes up between the two of you to move things to the next stage. Again, I am not there, at the moment. I am very comfortable with hearing “love” in my friend’s statements. And I am happy to reflect the sentiment. But I understand that we may not be on the same page about what love is or what we are talking about.

“It is more important for me to spend time building a real relationship than it is for me to date a lot of women.”

The two of us have been through a lot already. We’ve jumped through some burning hoops to see the next layer of protection being stripped away. We are pretty close to the pure joy of finding time together and knowing that we will enjoy the company of this other person until something else comes along.

And here’s where our current discussions tend to veer in slightly different directions. She has said, in the past, that she’s not into a long-term relationship. And I have accepted this frame in our courtship. Today, when I mentioned this to her, she winced. She wanted to explain, or to refer me back to her emails. But I was clear in my mind. I do want a long-term relationship. I am into this for the long haul. And if we continue to grow as partners, I am eventually going to want to grow into Love, the capital “L” version, that asks, what’s next. But that’s a ways down the path. And putting too much emphasis or worry about this eventual crossroads is premature.

Today we are together. I don’t have a name for what we are. I am not “dating” her, because I have decided with my heart, that I am in a relationship with her and we are not just casually getting together.

In practice, however, we are casually getting together. And we are getting together when our schedules allow. That she’s not into a long-term relationship, is also a frame that is being contested. What I think she means is she has no way to think about or imagine what the capital “L” love would look like. I don’t either, but I don’t need to go there to know that’s where I’m going. Eventually.

She once asked me, “Well, if you like relationships so much, why have you only had three in the four years since you’ve been divorced.” “Because,” I said, smiling inwardly, “It is more important for me to spend time building a real relationship than it is for me to date a lot of women.” So there (here) we are.

Always Love,

The Whole Parent
@wholeparent

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reference:The Three Types of Love – The Off Parent

image: indiscreet camera, prague, jan fidler, creative commons usage

Building the Perfect Lover: 13 Touch Points On the Path to Relationship

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If I had the lover I imagine, I’m sure my head would explode in a shower of sparks. I dream, I write, I pray, and I search for the right woman. But mostly I imagine her in crazy-amazing projections and poems and flights of fancy. I know that they are my fantasies, and somehow that keeps me safe. But in building the perfect lover for the next relationship, I do have touch points that are essential for me. I wanted to capture a few of them, for myself, and for gaining a deeper understanding of the core wants and desires of my heart. (Your needs and dreams may vary.)

13 Touch Points On the Path to Relationship

1. The Spark of Desire

Something in the way she moves… The spark is an initial reaction to the other person’s entire presence. We call it chemistry, lust, passion, sexual desire. But I know what it is when I feel it, and I can tell very quickly when I don’t. For all the work ahead to actually build a friendship and relationship, the spark has got to be genuine. The chemistry does not grow over time, in my experience. Either you know it or you don’t. She will have that magical element for me, something I can’t name, something that’s not about hair, or clothes, or fitness. She will have moves that draw me in even as she’s merely crossing the coffee shop to say hello for the first time.

2. A Temple of Worship

Yes, the physical body is a temple. And for the long haul, I believe that my worship of the feminine body is part of my energy, gift, power, drive. I love women. I have loved very few women. I know that my next full-on love is out there. And I will be patient and honest in my quest to identify and seek her out. But there is not one perfect body. In fact, I’m learning more recently how younger and uber-fit women are no longer turn-ons for me. They remind me of my daughter more than a potential partner. I love watching them run by, all abs and legs and glowing skin. But that’s not what I’m looking for. And I think my architectural requirements for that woman are fairly flexible. I know that the combined ingredients outweigh any flash of beauty and brilliance of hip or smile. Still, there is something I want, and all the many ways that I can pay respects to their beauty, the more deeply I will bond. I do have to admit, I am somewhat selective in what I consider beautiful, but it’s not the typical hottie. And while this aspect is 100% critical, once I’ve imprinted on her, she will know I am done, settled, satisfied, as I will tell her all the time, and show her in my actions and support.

3. Hopes, Dreams, and Desires

What does she want? How is she expressing her vibrance in the world? Can she articulate her wants and desires? Does she know what she’s looking for in a relationship and can she express those ideas to me? Clarity of purpose is one of life’s true missions. If she is on her own mission I am much more likely to want to nuzzle up beside her and explore her wants and dreams and how they might or might not dovetail into mine.

4. Holistic Intelligence

There is no such thing as just-in-time intelligence. If she is smart it will show. If she is fascinated by learning and growing, it is easy to see. There are some key indicators that I listen for early in the first coffee date. Is TV a thing for her? If so, we’re probably not a match. Doe she have other things to talk about besides work and working out? Can she listen and engage in subjects as we jump quickly from topic to topic. You can even tell, when you begin the opening communications via texts or emails. Is there poetry in her words, in how she expresses herself?

5. Brilliant Wit

While I love to make a woman laugh, and it maybe one of my gifts, I am more interested in how she might make me laugh. Can she engage in rapid fire banter? If she jokes about something deep, does she get hurt when you joke back? What are the little things that tickle her? Does she laugh easily and often? Laughter might bring me closer to a woman faster than anything else.

6. Eyes That Shine Like Diamonds

Intensity and desire is radiated out of the eyes. You can see excitement, lust, sadness, joy. The women I meet who are alive and radiant are broadcasting on all channels with their eyes. And often makeup can be a distraction, camouflage. On dating profiles it’s the eyes and the smile that draw me in past the initial “curb appeal” profile photo. You can see it even in photos. She’s either on fire inside or she’s not.

7. Affection

How easily does she show affection? Can she tell you early on what she wants, what she likes, how she likes it? Can she tell you, “Wow, you’re cute.” Or “Man, you are sexy right now.” Not in the first few minutes. But if there is an arm brush, or a light pat on the shoulder during the first date, then we might have a match with our love language. This woman is going to be my next long-term cheerleader, she needs to be able to share her enthusiasms and ecstasies.

8. Joy that Radiates

You can see it, can’t you? When someone shines with joy, their beauty is amplified ten-fold. A joyous partner is critical if that’s your normal state as well. I’ve been in two marriages that had an imbalance in the joy d’ vivre, in the simple love of waking up in the morning to see what comes next. I am listening for her joy. I am tuning into the way she expresses herself in all types of situations. We can’t always be love and light, but it’s easy to notice when someone deals with adversity from a place of security and inner joy and when they are less centered.

9. High Intensity/Low Drama

I’m a type-a personality. And while I’m not only attracted to other “driven” people, that might be an unconscious requirement. Certainly drama is the biggest turn off there is. We had enough drama in our previous relationships. We might’ve stayed in that stressful situation for longer than we should’ve. But as newly released adults we should have very low tolerance for drama. It’s simply not a necessary tool to communicate wants and needs. In my experience, most drama comes from unmet expectations. And in our busy, two-family lives, expectations are going to be shifted and disappointments are going to happen. If there’s a fiery response to a missed date opportunity due to family obligations, well… perhaps our priorities aren’t in sync. Let’s put our kid’s priorities ahead of our “dating” priorities and our expectations can come back to reality. I expect an honest and intense woman who doesn’t need to freak out to get her way. I am most-likely doing my best to accommodate and appreciate all of the opportunities with her, but things come up. How she responds says a lot about how she will respond in the future.

10. Silent Affection

The in-between times. Silences together, and silences apart. Are you both okay with a bit of silence? The quiet moments are often the closest. Breathe together and quit trying so hard to figure it out. If she can do that, we’re a long way towards compatibility. And her silences just make her that much more mysterious and alluring to me.

11. Love Language = Touch

I show my affection by touching you. A pat on the shoulder, a hand on your back, holding hands, are all high forms of affection for me. I have been married twice to women who had other requirements to feel loved. (See The 5 Love Languages  – a book on love styles by Gary Chapman) And while the relationship is possible with someone who requires a different language, there is sure to be a lot more negotiation and compromise. I have dated a woman once, who also spoke “touch.” Her open expression of affection for me brought me a new meaning for feeling loved. I could tell she was in love. She let me know, even early on, that she was crazy about me. It felt so different from my last 20 years in adult relationships that I was surprised by how good it made me feel. I have seen what that feels like. A woman with the same love language (touch) is essential for me. (Back when I got married, both times, this knowledge hadn’t been articulated. Today we have the book, the concept, and we’d better listen to the language of our hearts, because it’s going to drive a good portion of our relationship.

12. Spiritual Heights

Spiritual and religious are two different things in my mind. One revolves around church, dogma, and some concept of “their god” who is different from the other gods of the world. Christianity is a great example. I was raised Presbyterian. I am a member of a Methodist church. But I rarely go to church. And while I believe Christ was a man, and the Bible does it’s best to relate his mystical relationship to god and his followers, I don’t believe that Christ is the only path to my personal connection to god, or GOD.

I love the people in my church, some of them are my closest friends. And I am deeply moved by the minister nearly everytime I hear him speak. But somewhere deep inside of me, I don’t need church to feel right with god. My GOD, may be different from your GOD, but I believe we’re talking about the same deity. Spirituality to me, is a form of modern day mysticism. (See Original Blessing: A Primer in Creation Spirituality – by Matthew Fox) I believe, like many of the ancient mystics, that our relationship to god, or the beloved, or great spirit, is much more about my personal faith and my relationship to that idea of wholeness. I believe I am communing with my god when I am walking in nature. I believe that a poem is as good as any prayer. So I pray, I write poems, I worship directly through acts of service and appreciations and gratefulness. I often don’t go to church.

13. Flexible Body and Mind

Every item above are ideas of what I want in a relationship. And everyone of them are like maps that are ready to be set on fire. When SHE shows up, and we begin to explore our connections, the items on my list will magically fade away. While I believe the maps are important to help me identify my priorities, the fulfillment of those ideals will probably come in a form very different from what I imagine. Can this woman be flexible in her ideas and concepts of what she’s looking for as well? If she has a construct of: no kids, six-pack abs, and radiant smile, we’re a non-starter anyway. But in the more subtle ways can she bring up and let go of dreams, fantasies, hopes, plans? I can, to some degree, and it’s this flexibility that keeps me growing and learning even through setbacks, dashed dreams, and disappointments. Those things are going to happen. The potential for conflict is going to happen. But the flexible person can see both sides of an issue and let go of their argument when it no longer serves as a request for change.

Epilogue

I believe in order to find our lover we need a fairly clear picture of what they might be. Way beyond looks, the construction or destruction happens over the course of the initial weeks of “dating.” What forms beyond the initial chemistry is what will remain beyond the heat of the sexual newness. If you’re addicted to the “next lover” you may pass up the opportunity to explore and educate yourself on ways your maps and strategies are wrong.

In this end this is more of a prayer than a map. My desires are a bit more abstract, more driven by the heart, less like tactics or requirements. Every “map” I’ve created has been torn to shreds by the woman who shows up. That’s the idea. But the visualization and wish list are critical structures to understanding your own heart. If you have a map, at least you will know when you’ve gone off plan, or if you are forging new territories.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

related posts:

image: hands, korinne m jackman, creative commons usage

Wallflowers – How Good It Can Get

You won’t believe
Just how good it can get
We’ll make a lover
Out of you yet

That Holiday Feeling After Divorce

my free weekendsI could not have negotiated a free weekend while I was married. I mean, I could’ve, but it would’ve been a real stretch for both of us. Today… Well, divorced, that’s what you get, every other weekend, depending on your parenting plan.

Now, I have to tell you, the exhilaration wears off pretty quickly when you realise all the work that comes with this new freedom. And in my case, as I struggled with depression about the loss of my kids and the loss of my primary relationship, I did not look forward to the OFF weekends.

Even today, I really do celebrate the weekends that I have my kids. But I also, relax, nap, breathe a bit easier on the weekends, like this one, that I don’t have a single other person relying on me for anything. (Okay the dog and two cats are pretty attentive every time I get near the kitchen, but that’s a different thing.)

So things like chores and obligations evaporate for the most part, or at least I am in charge of the when and how of getting them done.

And once I got my sadness worked out… Let’s just say that today, when I woke up I was so happy, and alone. I had a small breakfast and went for a long walk, left the clothes on the floor while I took a shower… I’ve even had a bowl of popcorn and a nap. And it’s only mid-day.

There are wonderful things about being single again. And on good days you can and should celebrate every one of them. On bad days you can complain (to yourself) and do the chores you need to do, even if you don’t feel like it.

Getting over divorce and on with the next chapter of your life is mostly up to you. My mental attitude frames a lot of my days. And when I’m on top of my game, I’m motivated to workout, to go out and meet people, and be a bit more gregarious. When I’m not all that enthusiastic, or if I’m exhausted by the work of the week, I have these OFF weekends to just chill.

It would’ve been hard to negotiate that while I was still married.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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