Tag Archives: dating and sex

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

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Dating a Single Dad – Version 2.0 Updated

Let’s reexamine my requests for what I wanted in my *next* relationship and see if anything has changed.

My Initial rules for dating a single dad.

  1. Let’s not rush into things.
  2. I’m Looking for 100% Pure Connection
  3. I’m Into Moms
  4. Brutally Honest
  5. The Spark Is Only a Start
  6. Fearless Commitment To Monogamy
  7. Feeling the Feelings
  8. Dating younger women.
  9. Straight to sex.
  10. Who pays, who is the predator, and who’s demanding sex?

Rushing, Connection, and Honest

When my real lover, and now fiancé showed up there was very little I could do to slow things down. The honest connection was so pure, so revolutionary, that my “slow” rule was tossed after the first kiss. I did wait a few dates to go in for the kiss, and then even after she suggested wanting to kiss me. Why rush the moment? You’re only going to be in the first moments of your relationship once. Chill. Enjoy the thrill, the chase, the capture. For me, kissing is a big deal. I don’t kiss on the first date unless there’s something remarkable happening. And even then, it might be more of a hug and a peck and not a full-blown French kiss. When the honesty and openness of the connection appeared in my sweetie’s eyes I had no hesitation at all. The release into the LOVE was immediate. It was as if every circuit in my body had suddenly gone from resistance to acceleration.

Go slow initially. Make sure your emotional and mental state is solid. Then, when the right partner arrives, be prepared to have all your rules, lists, and ideas torn to shreds with the passion of your connection. If it’s not a map burning connection, you should even give that time, as connections do grow hotter over time.

Moms and Younger Women

Initially I figured only another single parent would understand the occasional “dad’s checked out, attending to his kids” moment. But that’s not how it happened. My lover has never had kids. And while I don’t think she will ever love my kids the same way she loves me, she is 100% supportive of my relationships with them. Their mom, not so much, but that’s water under the bridge.  So scratch that requirement off my list. And the “younger” was more in response to a comment, but I’m not all that concerned with age. And yes, my fiancé is a year older, so nix that idea.

The Spark and Monogamy

You gotta have the spark. That’s the key ingredient for pulling my heart-strings. Yes, I’m sure chemistry of some sort develops over time, but I’m pretty convinced that the YES-VIBE is what kept me connected to my previous wife even when things were going South. I was so “into” her, that she could do a lot of crappy stuff before I got mad. If the spark is not there, I think monogamy might be a bit more of a challenge. I’ve never cheated, but I have only committed to relationships that had the spark first.

Feelings

You’ve got to be able to express them to each other. She’s GOT to be able to get mad at me. So that we can work through what’s upsetting her. I’ve got to be able to show her my vulnerability so that she can respond and reply in ways that support me. In my current relationship, we were lucky to have so many YES connections right off the bat. THEN when my depression kicked in, full-bore, as bad as anything I experienced while married to the mother of my kids, even then, she was prepared to stick it out with me. And she did. And now the connection runs even deeper.

Sex and Dating

Sex is amazing. Sex is meant to be amazing. Don’t give your amazing to too many people, it can result in a lot of confusion for both you and your partners. I tried casual sex once. It was fun for two times, and then it sucked. When I commit to having sex with someone, I’m opening myself up to a relationship with that person. Sex without that connection is more like masturbation. It’s fine, and yes, it’s better with someone else, but not all that much better.

When I have sex with a woman I am saying, “You’re the one. I don’t want to, and won’t, have sex with anyone else.” It’s that commitment on my part that keeps it real and that keeps me from getting into uncomfortable situations when the dating shows up some real issues. Keep it in your pants until you KNOW this is a long-term thing. Short-term sex is unappealing to me. That’s what porn is for. With a real, live, human being I want to be 100% present and honest and I can’t do that if I’m only thinking about sex.

Dating and Money

I once dated a woman who made 3X the money I made. We still split the checks. Here are my simple ideas about “who pays.”

  • Both people should offer to pay. (“We can split this.)
  • It’s okay for the man to pay as part of the dating plan as long as that’s okay with the woman. If the woman wants to pay, to make it equal, then that’s what you should do.
  • If money is an issue and your date wants to go to a really expensive place or drink expensive wines (as in the case of 3X woman) then you have to say something. Getting overdrawn on your debt card is not pretty and not fun. Most of all it’s not honest or necessary. If she’s got a lot more money, let her know she’s going to have to float some of her expenses.

Summary

Go for 100%. Don’t settle for an almost relationship because you are lonely. That’s the time you need to take more interest in yourself and what you are doing to become a more attractive and delicious partner. If it’s not working out, don’t go further, or go on more dates to “make sure.” If you’re not feeling the spark, it’s probably not going to arrive on date #2 or #3.

If you are feeling the lack of any chemistry, it’s okay to bail on the date. Don’t extend the conversation to a second cup of coffee or glass of wine if these are merely pleasant. The other person might be picking your vibe, but if you are NOT, then don’t prolong the miss. At the end of a “meh” date don’t pretend you’re going to call each other. Just say, “Thanks, I enjoyed it.”

You deserve a kick ass relationship. You deserve honesty, monogamy, and awesome sex. Make sure you’re not settling for Mr./Mrs. Meh. In the long run, only the magic will preserve your relationship, so you’d better get on with the task of finding THE ONE.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

The Dating a Divorced Dad series continues:

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image: kiss, creative commons usage

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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What I Learned About Sex: It’s Almost All In Your Mind

WHOLE-sex

The mind is the most powerful  sex organ of all.

I’m a very sensual and sexual person. In the Love Languages book, my picture represents the Touch-centered person. So when my sexual interest and prowess began to wane, in my early 50’s I got a little concerned. I mean, I had never needed any help catching an erection, and as if all at once I was having a problem even with an eager and willing partner. So I started doing some reading.

 

As it began to happen, my erectile non-cooperation, I started looking for answers. I wasn’t sure if it was my age, my mental state (I was a bit depressed), or the woman I was with. I was flat-out confused. Several factors that I was clearly aware of were at play.

  1. I was recently divorced
  2. I was depressed
  3. I had started some SSRI medication to help with the depression
  4. I was in the first relationship since my divorce, and my partner was enthusiastic and joyful

ANNNND, I couldn’t get a hard on on demand. WTF? Or should I say, WT(no)F?

The first few things I learned.

  1. A good portion of sex is in my own mind.
  2. SSRIs have a huge incidence of sexual side effects. (More on the second level of this issue, in a bit.)
  3. A sexually aware partner is equally into getting themselves off as getting you off. When you can’t perform they might begin to doubt their attractiveness to you, or even question the relationship over all.
  4. My issue was not ED and I was not in need of the little blue dick helpers.

But a longer period of exploration and education was needed in order to get me in the position I am today. (Happy, well fkd, and joyfully engaged with or without erection and orgasm)

As I moved through this first sexual-and-engaged relationship I passed through several phases.

Relationship Phase One:  I’m depressed. I have no idea what I like. I don’t even crave ice cream. So, I don’t desire her, it’s probably just the blues talking. (This was the first month.)

Relationship Phase Two: Okay, it’s not all me. I can learn to love her, to be into her, and my mind is the key. (This was the second month.) I started reading Sexual Intelligence and really giving some thought to my situation: both to myself and to this lovely woman, who really liked me.

Relationship Phase Three: Well, perhaps I’m just not that into her. Sometimes that happens. There was a chemistry mismatch. Nobody’s fault. I developed my Dog Rule of Dating from at this point. But I began to explore the idea of not being in this relationship. (The third month.)

And it was an amazing discussion we had the morning after I broke it off. We had breakfast at a Denny’s. Sitting across from her I realized how much I loved her. I loved her, but I wasn’t sexually aroused by her. It wasn’t porn, or unreal youthful ambitions, or some other disconnect. I was simply a mediocre response sexually to my reptilian brain. I wanted a greyhound and she was a fancy poodle. (My apologies to her for the analogy.)

MOVING ON

The next relationship I had was highly sexual. In fact, the sex was about all we had. She would have knee-jerk reactions every few weeks, just as we were getting close, and break up with me. All my doubts of sexual dysfunction on my part evaporated with this lovely and intelligent woman, who was not ready for a relationship, much less a relationship with me. We didn’t last very long, but long enough to show me that SEX is not everything. In fact, our sexual chemistry got in the way of me seeing early on that she was not right for me. So we screwed our way into the Summer before the 5th breakup finally broke through my sexual-fueled denial.

AND ONWARD THROUGH THE FOG OF SINGLE DADHOOD

So in the first relationship I learned about TOUCH (I had never experienced someone so touch-centric) and I knew I would never put up with anything less. In the second relationship I learned that SEX could be awesome but the relationship could be super bad. And that set up my quest for the next love of my life.

GOAL: TOUCH + GOOD SEX + EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE.

When this woman showed up I was overwhelmed with the passion and connection we experienced from the first kiss. We both stripped away our inhibitions and hesitation in the heat of our connection: intellectual, sexual, spiritual. Sure, there were/are things we need to work through, but this woman was on a different level all together. So many things were ON that I was really dismayed when my mental state collapsed under the stress of a new job, new house, ANNNND new girlfriend.

That’s when things got really interesting. Given every opportunity to run away, declare me a perfect mess, she didn’t run away at all. She stepped in, stepped up, and engaged with me on all levels. I don’t know how she did it. I don’t know if it was the chemistry and amazing connection we had in the first 45 days, or if she had already fallen in love with me, but I can tell you that I was feeling totally unworthy and unlovable. And yet SHE LOVED ME ANYWAY.

Then the issues with my sexuality returned in spades. Yes, a new round of SSRIs was inserted to cut off my looming fall into depression. And YES, the Lexapro-generic created a new set of problems, that I had not experienced before. And the depression was also interfering with my ability to focus or stay focused on sex. Even while an amazingly sexual woman was dancing naked in-front of me, I was unable to work up the erection to get into it. At this point I was really concerned, that even beyond the SSRI side-effects I was dealing with something deeper.

Turns out it was deep. This is where the Sexual Intelligence book came into play.

What started happening in this case was first, absolutely the best sex of my life, and second my inability to orgasm over the course of 5 – 10 “sessions.” WHAT? This had never happened. Talking to my psychiatrist I was happy to observe, “Well, I’ve never had such a sexualized girlfriend at the same time that ramped up the SSRIs. It makes a huge difference.”

And I began to learn more about sex than I thought possible. I was pretty sure I was the most sexual/sensual person on the planet. But I had to learn that MY ORGASM was unimportant in the larger scheme of things. What I learned in this few months of confusion was this: SEX is everything that happens before, during, and after orgasm, and orgasm is not the goal, nor required for an amazing sex life. I mean, I love orgasms, but I had to either get over that expectation or get into some funk about sex. And I’ll tell you again, I was having the best sex of my life. What? I was confused and a bit frustrated.

A few new tools I learned at this time, besides the deferred focus on my own orgasm, was that men are quite adept at masturbation.

First New Learning: Our hand is the most familiar sexual partner we will ever have. Sometimes the friction, speed, and unpredictability of sex with a partner makes it more hard to orgasm. Sounds like heresy. Jacking off might be better than making love. But the function of orgasm as a release and the hand as the vehicle is pretty mechanical.

Second New Learning: By showing my partner what it looks like when I do masturbate gives her clues about how I like to be touched. I had a bit of resistance to showing her. But as we experimented and talked about all that was going on, I read the “Men Fake It” book and learned about our practice with our hands is sort of like our sexual training. So showing her what it looked like when I was doing myself, was very good information for her. Good information indeed.

Third New Learning: Anorgasmia is a thing. And for a while it was amazing how often I was ready to go again. Without the release of orgasm I had no refractory period. She loved that. But eventually she also grew concerned with our sex, if I wasn’t coming.

Fourth New Learning: As far as sexual experience and my own sexual training is concerned, I was hyper-tuned to her pleasure. Most of my sex life was about extending my time doing her so she could have orgasms. AFTER she was DONE I’d go for my own. Her-centric sex is fine, but it’s a bit shallow. By focusing on her body, her orgasm, and her experience, I was kind of leaving my own enjoyment out for a good portion of our sex. I learned to let myself feel my own body, at this point. Just feel, don’t do.

Fifth New Learning: The connection is everything. As I had to learn to focus on my pleasure I also learned that really tuning into the WE of sex, rather than the SHE and ME, was a way of really enjoying things at a deeper level. And we both have some learning to do around pleasing the other person simply for enjoyment rather than our own release.

SUMMING UP GOOD SEX

The connection between the two of you during sex (foreplay, function, and afterplay) is more important that any goal of orgasm.

When orgasm is an issue, sex can still have all the fantastic qualities. In fact, I have been able to have more sex, and have sex longer, which was something I was missing in my normally functioning sex life. (BTW I’m off the SSRI and the effortless orgasm has returned for me.)

Know what does it for you and being able to show or tell your partner is a key ingredient for evolved sex. As we can let go of traditional SEX as the goal and open up to the full range of erotic experiences, we can expand our pleasure and our sexual vocabularies.

The mind is the most powerful  sex organ of all.

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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Happiness Dating and Joyful Coupling Post-Split

WHOLE-joy-2

It’s not all about sex. But a lot of it is about sex.

I was chatting with a new date on the tennis court the other morning. We were hitting and catching up on our own ideas about life, dating, and sex. She was telling me about a girl’s weekend she’d just been on. “All the married women were complaining. And all my divorced friends who were with someone were talking about the great sex. And the married women wanted to hear about that.”

Why is it that sex is often what dies in a marriage and then becomes part of what justifies a separation and then divorce? What’s so mysterious about sex that we all crave it but we’re so inept at keeping it interesting? How does a man with an amazingly receptive and beautiful wife become more interested in porn, or sports, or drinking with the buddies?

What’s so mysterious about sex that we all crave it but we’re so inept at keeping it interesting?

In my marriage we went through significant ups and downs in our sex life. And that part’s normal. Extended and heightened sexual appetite year-after-year is a myth, or something that Sting might claim, but most of us mere mortals and non-rockstars have to work at. And sure, there are plenty of reasons that sex becomes harder and harder to be joyful about, as the “relationship” matures. But most of those disconnects have to do with expectations and unmet needs, needs, that most often, have nothing to do with sex.

We grow together as a couple. We either have kids or we don’t. And as things mature in our relationship there are certain non-sexual expectations that begin to factor into our desire and sexual lustiness. Here are a few that we all know about.

Tired – when you’re too tired for sex (TTFS) it’s not a sexual problem it’s an energetic problem. Solve for tired and you pick up a lot of potential sexual drive.

Angry – yes, sex is used by both sexes as reward and punishment. Either you are kicking ass as meeting both spoken and unspoken expectations or you are not. If you’re winning the sexual desire may remain high between you and your mate. But when things go off track a little, and stress of many colors enters into the equation, the sexual drive is often the first part of the relationship that begins to show the stress.

Busy – we’re all busy. Most of us are over-busy. And for most of us, busy is an excuse. Sure the clothes in the dryer need to be folded before they wrinkle. Yes, the dishes do need to be loaded into the dishwasher. BUT… that’s no excuse for not jumping at a kids-out-moment and taking a roll in the sack. It’s often the first thing a man thinks of and the last thing a woman thinks of. The woman wants the damn chores done first. The man wants his nookie. We’re at odds often about these “chores” but if you talk, and the desire is still there on both sides, then a compromise and solution is a mater of negotiating. If the desire is not there, the negotiation is often very short. The woman says, “Not now,” to the random wandering husband hand while standing in the kitchen appraising the post-dinner activities.

Okay, so those are the things that turned our marriages into sad, sexless shells of our former glowing and sexually fulfilled lives. Does it have to go that way? When dating you are probably not going to be attracted to a complainer. When the chores and “other responsibilities” come into play too often, and prevent you from even being able to arrange a next date, well, you get the picture of how future negotiations are going to go.

Look for happiness. Find the balance between beautiful and happy, because beautiful and mad is simply not a workable situation. Relationships with complaining or angry people are not fruitful, they are tedious and full of compromise and apologies. We learned how to do angry. We want to learn how to do happy again.

Joy has got to be the biggest turn on there is. You can feel it when someone enters a room and they are glowing with their own inner happiness.

Sex is the same way. If the act of love-making, even in the first few couplings, is strained and controlled, you might question what’s actually going on. If you can talk about it with one another great, but that’s rare. What you’re looking for, even in early sex, is playfulness and a somewhat whimsical approach. If orgasm is the focus, your’s or their’s, you might be entering into something that is more about fulfilling unmet needs, or old resentments, rather than healthy sex.

What is healthy sex? How would I know? But you can tell happy sex from strained sex right away. It’s not a stretch to expect playful and enjoyable sex. In fact, as a starting point for determining long-term compatibility I can’t think of a better indicator of inner confidence and happiness than someone’s approach and enjoyment of sex.

Right, it’s not all about sex. But sex has a lot to do with it. And those women in my friend’s group, longing to hear about the passionate sex of their friends, are a sad lot. They are compromising, or shutdown, in order to remain in their marriages, often for the benefit of their kids. And this is okay, and noble. But it’s not where we “divorced and single” folks are. We ARE looking for greener pastures. And the burden is on us to seek happiness with every fiber of our bodies.

Joy has got to be the biggest turn on there is. You can feel it when someone enters a room and they are glowing with their own inner happiness. If you’ve got the joy to reflect it back to them, then perhaps you are both on your way to joy in life and joy in the bedroom. Now, the keys to keeping this joy on into marriage again, or on beyond the first few years, is still a mystery I am trying to solve for. I got there on my side, but had a partner who exited the joyful bedroom and never returned.

Let’s not do that mistake again. Maybe it’s just a matter of time. Putting in the time with someone. Learning about their rhythms. Riding out the ups and downs and looking for the hopefulness that still radiates even in tough and stressful times. If you find the happy person. And they light up your happy person. Do that. And cultivate that. Then if sex is also a happy and playful act, you might be at the start of something durable and fun. Good luck. Let’s do happy first, relationship second.

Sincerely,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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