Tag Archives: dating

Meet Your Lover at Their Passion

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Today I rode 15 miles with my fiancé. A year ago I could not have ridden half that distance. But she loves cycling. And I learned if I take up cycling it’s time spent doing something she loves, and we’re together. While I would not put cycling in my initial passions, I joined her at the point of her passion.

So she never joined us in our biking adventures, or our tennis “games,” or rough-housing in the pool. She chose to separate from us.

How many times in our lives do we have the opportunity to join another person in doing something they love? Dancing? Biking? Playing tennis? As you long to expand your time and join with this other person you begin to look for ways you can be together. And if that togetherness is bound up in physical fitness activities so much the better.

I remember in the early months of my relationship with the mother of my children, she began taking tennis lessons with one of her best friends. They loved to joke about how they were doing it for the sexy skirts they got to buy and wear. And though I give her an “A” for effort, there at the beginning of our relationship, she didn’t continue beyond the first 6 weeks. I would often ask her to go “hit” with me and the kids, but often she took the time as an opportunity to have some alone time instead.

It seemed that there was always some reason that she wouldn’t join in. Board games. “No thanks.” Swimming. “Not this time.” And tennis. “I’ll just say here.” She often took the opportunity to join as an opportunity to not-join. Odd.

When the kids were riding bikes, I suggested we get her a mountain bike for her birthday one year, so she could join us. “That’s not a great birthday present,” she said. I never quite understood that response. “Um, what is…?” So she never joined us in our biking adventures, or our tennis “games,” or rough-housing in the pool. She chose to separate from us.

In relationships, marriage or dating, we choose what activities we want to join in. And we can either look for ways to connect or we can look for ways to be separate.

As our marriage was winding down, she did try to enter the tennis court again. This time it was just the two of us. And I recall the feeling of sadness as we were entering the court for the first time in 10 years. I thought she looked great in her tennis outfit. And I was encouraged by her openness to “trying tennis again.” But her heart was not in it. She was doing it as a potential bridge between us, one that she chose to shut down years earlier. And the roadblock between us had become too high to pass.

We only played tennis together that one time. It left me feeling empty, as I knew she did not enjoy herself, and would not be suggesting tennis again.

In relationships, marriage or dating, we choose what activities we want to join in. And we can either look for ways to connect or we can look for ways to be separate. I believe my then-wife was aware that she had isolated too much in our marriage and that she was making an effort to come out of her shell and join with me. The effort was appreciated, but the overall effect was lost in the sea of dissatisfaction that was obvious on the tennis court that day. She had never continued her lessons, had never joined the kids and me on the court, and was not very happy being a complete beginner. It was easier not to play tennis.

It’d be easier not to get into bike riding with my fiance. I’ve fallen several times and have the scars to prove it. But we keep getting back on the bike and we keep making dates to ride. Today we’ve got an ongoing Sunday morning ride that we can both look forward to.

Join with your partner in all the ways you can. Time together doing things you both love is time together IN LOVE. That’s how it works. And that’s what you want from here on out, a way to join in more and more of your life.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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8 Lessons from My First 2 Divorces

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Divorce is a hard learning curve. What you don’t know going into marriage (first, second, other) is what variables will change and how those changes will affect your life. But as you go through the entire process, marriage-to-trouble-to-divorce you learn some things. I’m going to try to highlight the big ah-ha moments I had in both my marriages.

Marriage #1

But if one of you is having major emotional issues, no amount of goodwill, good behavior, or good intentions will fix things. If you are waiting for the other person to change, you are in trouble.

We were young. I allowed her beauty and my passion to blind me to some of the issues we had early on. We had both just graduated from college and it felt like the thing to do. I was madly in love with her, but I didn’t know enough about her. I jumped into my first marriage on sexual chemistry and gut instinct. I thought if we were this happy then we’d be just as happy after getting married.

Lesson 1: Weather some storms before you tie the knot.

The first unhappy moments arrived my marriage on our honeymoon. I was suddenly seeing a very unhappy and angry person. Something, even in those early days of bliss, registered a big red flag. My thoughts as my new wife raged at me was, “Uh oh. I think I made a mistake.”

Lesson 2: As time goes on things that are not working are liable to get worse not better.

You cannot count on the other person changing to please you or make things easier. If you both agree to therapy, you can move the needle a bit. But if one of you is having major emotional issues, no amount of goodwill, good behavior, or good intentions will fix things. If you are waiting for the other person to change, you are in trouble.

Lesson 3: Rage and abusive behavior is never okay.

Aside from forging a new level of commitment, kids change the chemistry of the relationship as well. Overnight there are 200% more things to do. Chores become an issue.

It took me three tries to end my first marriage, mostly because I didn’t want to be the person who gave up. But when anger becomes abusive, there is very little left to work on. Therapy was helpful, but you can’t go to therapy for the rest of your life. When the therapy ended so did the positive behavior modifications. Ouch.

Marriage #2

I recoiled from my divorce for a while. I stayed out of the dating game for a year or so while I tried to recollect my own center and sanity. But I wouldn’t say I was healed when I ran into my second wife at a local coffee shop. We had gone to high school together, so we had an immediate connection, and from the initial reaction to seeing me, we both had some interest in exploring the possibilities.

Lesson 4: Pay attention to early things that don’t feel right.

There some initial miscommunication that later turned into huge problems. But during the early days of my courtship, I was unaware that she not only had a boyfriend, but that she was living with him. I think this secrecy on her part hurt us later on when other issues began to arise. Again, I fell passionately in love with her before any “issues” came to light. And when they did, when she told me about the other guy, we broke off the lunches. But I should’ve run for the hills. After a month or so she called me up and said she was done. I think my loneliness and the magnetism caused me to jump right back in.

Lesson 5: Kids change everything.

Aside from forging a new level of commitment, kids change the chemistry of the relationship as well. Overnight there are 200% more things to do. Chores become an issue. Exhaustion becomes an issue. And as you both slip into the overwhelm of raising kids some deeper level of personality comes out. In an overwhelming situation you’re either a happy camper making due or an unhappy camper complaining the whole way. I was generally happy.

Lesson 6: Trust is the foundation of a relationship.

There seemed to be a lot of trust issues in the last half of our marriage. It seemed that I was always in the process of doing something wrong, or covering up something else I had done wrong. In fact, I’m not sure I was doing things wrong, but the unhappy camper was certain that their unhappiness was due to me. I don’t think another person is responsible anyone’s happiness. And even therapy didn’t sort this one out. When the trust was broken the repair was difficult and ultimately failed.

Lesson 7: Intimacy does reflect a lot about a relationship.

It seems the biggest marker for success is the general outlook of the other person: Happy camper vs. unhappy camper.

Love Languages does a great job of marking out different ways people have of feeling love. And for sure, my 2nd wife and I had very different languages. But there’s a balance, even if you’re languages are completely different. And when touch is taken out of the equation for any length of time the entire relationship can begin to change. We are animals. And sex is a base-level need. When sex goes, the relationship is soon to follow. It reveals some deeper dysfunction.

Lesson 8: Even in cooperative divorce you need to get a lawyer.

As we parented 50/50 I was certain in our early divorce negotiations that we would end up in some 50/50 parenting in our divorce. So when the therapist we’d hired to guide us suggested starting at something much different I was upset but I did not stop and fight. I know today that I was whitewashed into accepting the Standard Possession Order and the non-custodial parent because it was what my then-wife wanted all along. We agreed to cooperate but right off the bat I was handed a non-cooperative ruling. In hindsight I should’ve stopped the process and lawyer-ed up and fought. But I’m conflict adverse and I listened to the reasonable therapist and my in-the-best-interest-of-the-kids wife. I was railroaded.

Upward and Onward

That’s a lot of water to pass under the bridge and still want to get married again. So I’ve got to take the time to learn from these experiences and check-in on all the points before getting married again.

It seems the biggest marker for success is the general outlook of the other person: Happy camper vs. unhappy camper. In my second marriage I thought we had a match, but the stress and change brought on by having kids sort of flipped her mode. In my current engaged status I have the opportunity to see and understand my partner in new ways. There’s no hurry between us, and even that’s something we agree on.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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reference: The 5 Love Languages  by Gary Chapman

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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:

New Dating Strategies:

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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Offline Dating: Setting Intentions and Actions in Real Life

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

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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

Ready or Not-Ready for a Relationship: The Dating Game

WHOLE-thedance

It’s a game. People’s profile pictures are 10-years old. Their profiles forget to mention they’re not divorced yet. Or, the most, insidious, they’re simply not ready for a relationship. They are testing the waters, checking it out, seeing what’s out there. Blah!

So what does ready for a relationship mean?

  1. Not currently in a relationship
  2. Sufficiently through with their emotional issues
  3. Interested in spending time with someone besides their kids
  4. Emotionally intelligent (expresses feelings, can listen without offering advice)
  5. On the positive side of life (not looking to be rescued, or to be a caretaker)

Dating is simple. Relationships are hard work. Well, they can be hard work, or they can be temporarily effortless. I think that’s what we’re imagining when we jump back into the dating pool again. We remember the highs of love crushes, the sex, the joy, the “hi, I am soooo glad to see you” feelings that are bantered back and forth when you are establishing a new love relationship.

But the R-word has some issues for many people. And I’ve run across my share of women running from any kind of commitment. Sure, that’s one way to be. And perhaps, in the early stages of divorce, a light approach is better, you really don’t need a relationship, you need a healing.

There are a few simple signs that a person is NOT ready for a relationship.

  1. They are still bitter or angry about the divorce, or their ex (until someone has moved on it is very hard to be in a relationship)
  2. Their profile just talk about “having fun” and all their pictures involve a glass of wine
  3. They can’t stop talking
  4. They talk about their multiple lovers
  5. They’ve got no banter (they can talk about work, working out, and partying)
  6. You get the feeling you are with someone who’s still in college (fun is fine, but fun isn’t everything)
  7. Everything is superficial (if it’s hard for them to tell their breakup story, perhaps they’re not ready)

Here’s what you want.

  1. A person who you find non-threateningly attractive
  2. They are optimistic and positive (I’m beginning to think optimism is the trump card)
  3. They can jump easily from divorce and dating conversations, to music, to whatever
  4. You get a happy feeling when you see them (this could be the definition of chemistry)
  5. At the end of the first date you are both signaling, “What’s next?”

It’s really that easy. A first date is a sniff test. Do I find the person attractive in real life? Are they open and interested in me too? Are they intelligent and optimistic? Do they have the time and energy to begin exploring a relationship.

Walking around the lake today, with a friend, he mentioned, “I’m meeting a lot of women who are not at all interested in a relationship. They seem to just be playing around. Or they are aloof and distant.”

What is it about our later stages that would keep us in a casual or uncommitted mode? Perhaps we’re not done processing the past relationship. Or maybe our kids are the priority, but it a way that precludes any time for a relationship to be built.

There is no mystery about the time and effort it takes to build a relationship. If it’s casual sex you’re looking for, perhaps you can find it without much concern for the other person’s immediate mental state, but that’s a zero sum game, if you are hoping to find and nurture a new relationship.

I’ve often said, “I’m not into dating a woman, unless there is long-term potential.” And I think what I am saying, is that without the features and opportunities for a lasting relationship, I’d rather not spend the time and effort to gain a new “friend.” It’s fine. It’s a bit type-a. I get that. I could have a lot more friends at the moment, if I’d be willing to share my time with non-romanticly inclined women. But I’m not.

If there’s no kiss in the future, I’d rather move on to the next “potential.”

You see, even though we’ve been given back all this time, as divorced adults, we’ve also got a lot of work to do to recapture our essence. It is not enough to survive again, we long to thrive. And if LOVE is not the greatest opportunity to thrive, I don’t know what is.

I was lucky recently to get close. To find another person who said “yes.” And then the old witch “timing” kicked in and her life took off in a very unexpected and seemingly accidental direction. And that was that. All the earlier ingredients were present, the magic, the lust, the flirty anticipation… And then we were done.

I am happy for her, and we parted wishing each other the best of luck. But I was just about to feel what it was like when the other person, the other ATTRACTIVE person said “yes.”

I’m still ready.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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image: frozen dance, alice popkorn, creative commons usage

I Sing the Body Connected: Cultivating Sexual Energy

WHOLE-electric

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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

Nothing Is As Exciting As New Love, Right?

WHOLE-blueangel

The first step to recovery is admitting there’s a problem.

Preamble: When the animal intoxication of chemical romance hits, our brains go on stun. We are no longer thinking like a human, we’re more like a dog.

I’m not a greener pastures guy. I loved my wife. I loved my last girlfriend. Those relationships are over, in the romantic sense, so I prop my hopes backup and set off again on the epic quest. The chivalrous knight’s journey. ARGGGH. I’m a bit exhausted from all the questing and leaping off after any romantic potential. I’m most tired of my optimistic fool’s trait that keeps my heart engaged long after the true colors have been shown.

All we have is hope. When things go wrong, when disappointments happen, when “bad things happen to good people,” all we have is our ability to imagine a better place, a new hope, a delayed gratification dream. Thank goodness for that, but good grief for all the times we have to fail to find another human to grow and evolve with. We keep trying.

Today I will try again. I will hope that “love” with the little “l” is out there, and perhaps nearby. The last quest led to a brilliant woman, who dialed in my number physically and sexually, for some unknown reason. We don’t really understand chemistry. We try to rationalize the “opposites attract” theme, but it doesn’t make rational sense when we look at our preferences. I use a dog metaphor sometimes to illustrate, even to myself, the simple mystery of physical attraction.

Two dogs meet in a dog park. Either
1. One tail is wagging
2. Two tails are wagging
3. No tails are wagging

There is also potential for overlooking some egregious problems, some unfinished issues that are as plain as day to anyone standing nearby.

I think it has a lot less to do with our conscious brains and a lot more to do with something subconscious, sub-lingual, and more dog-like. I might think I have a thing for poodles and pitbulls. But when a fancy, just-my-type, boxer enters the park, all my previous ideas of who/why/what I wanted are thrown to the wind. A whimsy of hormones, eye signals, body language, and something else… Magic. That’s the only explanation for it. When magic happens we are up for the pursuit. Our animal instincts kick in, and even across a room, we can spot the “potential” and feel the tiniest rush. If we are open to the signals, we might close in on the deal, attempt a proud display, and engage in courtship.

When both tails are wagging, there is a potential for magic. There is also potential for overlooking some egregious problems, some unfinished issues that are as plain as day to anyone standing nearby, but we’ve fallen into some other state. An altered state, and not always for the better. When the hit of sexual chemistry arrives, we are also vulnerable to euphoria, rushing into things, and premature sexual engagement. Fine. If you feel it, go for it. If you have insatiable lust and passion, go, do the animal thing, rut, pounce, devour. It’s wonderful. But be aware, it’s like an intoxication. And while you’re intoxicated you should not operate heavy machinery nor get pregnant. (A joke and subtle safe-sex hint.)

So, let’s say for illustration, you’ve got the ‘chemistry’ with someone and the rushing blood in your head and heart is an indication that you are getting intoxicated. Notice. Appreciate. And take a long drink of it. BUT… PLEASE… PAUSE…

Sorry. The headlong rush into sex and animal passions is awesome and fun and … Dangerous. I know I sound dramatic. But I am being dramatic on purpose. Let’s see how I can make this more clear, less metaphorical.  I’ll get more personal and tell a little bit about my experience with the drug of love.

I have gone headlong into the night of intoxicated coupling. And with two exceptions (in college, sort of one-night-stand variations) all of these rushed relationships have ended in fiery disasters. Hear me. Nothing is as exciting as new love. YES. I agree. And nothing is as blinding as the animal chemistry that kicks in somewhere below our human intelligence, and that blindness lasts for weeks, months, years if we’re… that “lucky”? or “tragically deceived?”

Let me try again from the beginning. My first marriage was initiated by such flames and synchronicity that I spent the first 45 days of our “relationship” either in her bed or mine. Of course, we were just finishing college, we had time, we had the uncertainty of “what’s next” in our lives. We had time and chemistry to burn. I knew on my honeymoon, however, when the fieriness showed up aimed at me rather than with me, that I had made a huge mistake marrying this woman. STRIKE ONE for hot sex.

When the female of the animal species is showing unhealthy signs they are either ostracized and left behind, or driven from the herd.

My second marriage was a bit more stable, but the chemistry was no less mind-altering. I was still wounded from the flame-out of my first marriage and the wreckage that was left behind after she did her business of “divorcing me.” So I fell effortlessly into romantic reverie when I ran into an old high school friend. And she was/is still beautiful to me. And we attempted to be smart, we attempted to be honest and go slowly. The stars were already in place, and we were negotiating with seriously impaired intellect. Such is the role of the intoxication. We partner and mate for the good of the species.

So my second RUSH went that way. We spawned two beautiful children. Still, I should have never consummated this relationship. There were red flags and issues within the first weeks that should’ve could’ve would’ve made a more sober man say, “no thank you.” I was sober of any artificial intoxicants, but I was as addicted to her beauty and body like a garden variety addict.  I saw the danger. I responded to the warnings. I proceeded onward and inward. We married. Altered everything about our lives. Had kids. And things went off the rails, in part due to the disconnects I was getting warning signals about, in those first few love-addled weeks, even before we’d ever slept together. I was too far gone to pull up from the terminal velocity nose dive. I gave it all. I put it all in. We both did.

The third RUSH ended last night. It should’ve ended months ago, when she calmly and forcefully broke up with me. But I was on the trail of exciting love. I was in the quest mode. I had gotten a taste of hot sex and I was no more sober than a male tomcat around a female in heat. And I’m not making any judgements about her or the warning flares she was firing straight at me. I was well aware of the danger as I moved in for the conquest. I was as hungry as I’ve ever been, maybe still (of course still) wounded. But more lonely and ready and energetic.

If we’re addicted and activated we’re at risk of slipping back into our unhealthy patterns of addiction, intoxication, regret, withdrawal, and repeat.

When the female of the animal species is showing unhealthy signs they are either ostracized and left behind, or driven from the herd. I even had a friend telling me, “She’s in no shape for a relationship.” I had all the information I needed. Heck, when the woman is saying, “No, nope, nada, don’t do it,” while still welcoming you into her arms… well, that’s your problem right there.

New love is a drug, that might be more powerful than heroin. If we’re addicted and activated we’re at risk of slipping back into unhealthy patterns of addiction, intoxication, regret, withdrawal, and repeat. Not a fun or survivable path. Addiction eventually kills us, if we don’t get help.

I’m on my own for this one. I walked in “eyes wide shut” as they say. Knowing, seeing, being told, “This one is not for you,” and going for it anyway. And five or six breakups later, it’s hard to count them now, I’m finally sober enough to admit my problem.

The first step to recovery is admitting there’s a problem.

Yep. (hand raised) I have a problem with love.

Always Love (responsibly),

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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image: blue angel, tanna valentine, creative commons usage

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