Tag Archives: dating

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

I am alone.

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

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

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

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

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

5. WAITING

Actively Waiting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: meditation, creative commons usage

Hello Women Readers (Feedback Request)

According to Facebook and Google Analytics my readership is somewhere between 91%  women (facebook)

and 75% women (GA)

And this data presents me with some interesting questions as I am moving forward with my plans to grow and continue writing about dating, single parenting, and divorce. What I’m hoping to discover is a bit more about you, women, who are reading. I have some ideas about why I think you’re following my journey. And I have some numbers that indicate what your favorite topics are, but I don’t have any primary research, or reader feedback to assist me with my strategy and writing plans moving forward.

Here are a few things I know. In the last year the top three trending posts are about single dads and dating preferences.

So from this information I completed my first book recently, please feel free to check it out on Amazon, or even buy it. (grin)

single dad seeks - john oakley mcelhenney

And I’ve tried to replicate the success of that first post, but it’s never worked out. I’m happy that my What a Single Dad Wants in His *Next* Relationship post has continue to be shared and read far and wide, even when I’m not actively promoting or writing on the blog. This is awesome and flattering. Thank you.

But this post, and this book, do not make up the whole of what I’ve been writing about or working on in my life here on The Whole Parent. And while I will continue to date and write about dating, it’s also important to me that I continue to evolve and grow as a writer, dad, single parent.

The first book I wrote, and have not yet found a publisher for is called The Positive Divorce. How do you take the worst situation and turn it around for good? The agents asked, “Why would we want advice from this guy? He’s just a blogger. He has no credentials.” Hmm. This concerned me, but I moved on and wrote the dating book as my first topic. Strike where the audience was hottest.

I’ve also been writing a lot about the depression that comes along with divorce and the loss of your kids. I imagine this is a hardship that visits both moms and dads equally. And while I’m not qualified in any way as a therapist, I do think there is value in sharing my story, my recovery, and recovery attempts, as hopeful mile markers for any other readers who suffer from depression. And this book is also in the works. So those seem to be the three main topics on this blog.

Dating
Single Parenting/Divorce Recovery
Depression

I’m wondering, if I asked my audience what they were most interested in learning or hearing about from me, would I get a response? Should I do a survey? Would my readers comment on the blog and let me know what they were thinking, liking, disliking about my writing?

That’s the point of this post. Dear readers, mostly women, what else can I tell you? What conversation should we have next? Would you be interested in joining a private community where we could all chat? Is there some topic I haven’t covered?

All I can do is ask and make it easy for you to answer if you’re so inclined. That’s the idea.

Please respond in the comments or take this 3 question survey to give me feedback on The Whole Parent and the future direction of my work. Thank you.

Survey Link: http://bit.ly/wholeparent

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

(Singing) Find Me Somebody to Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: lover’s kiss, creative commons usage

In Search of the Ideal Woman: to Rescue, Restore, and Ravish

I might accidentally be looking for the ideal woman. Putting my power into some image of beauty, fitness, and compassion that doesn’t exist except in my mind. That’s not a problem, the imagining, it’s the seeking of the actual idea that might be more problematic.

Is it any wonder that the 35 yo women on Match.com look better to me than the ones my age? Is a 45 yo beauty going to be interested in me? And why do the women my age, well, look older than my age? Do women age differently? Do we have different standards by which we rate men and women? Should I even be rating women, rather than trying to get to know them?

Attraction is the juice, though, that keeps me going. I’m actually kind of bored with online dating. I know the women I’m trying to reach out to have hundreds of emails just like mine every week. So I’m slowing my roll way down.

  1. I don’t really enjoy browsing women;
  2. There are not many new women, so it’s the same faces over and over;
  3. I’m enjoying my alone time immensely;
  4. My life situation is not really conducive to having a girlfriend.

Still, I’m drawn by the possibility of my ideal. I see her in fleeting glimpses on the dating sites. She’s young, fit, smiling, and doesn’t have time for me. We’re not a fit, even if I think I could do wonders for her.

So, is it healthy for me to keep looking? I think so. I think building and rebuilding my idea of my next mate is a good exercise, even if she’s months, years off. I know a lot more now than I did in entering into my last relationship, and those lessons are also keeping me a bit tentative about rushing into a new dating situation. I say I’m in no hurry. I say I’m keeping my sights realistic, but it’s SO BORING.

Focusing on an ideal woman is a bit of an issue, don’t you think? I messaged a woman the other day, 47, and even her online name was an issue: something about MissTexasEx, as if she were a former beauty star. I can see it. I can imagine her winning. And I can imagine her falling in love with me and all my hot mess creative maelstrom. (Um, yeah, right.) And actually, I can’t. I didn’t expect her to respond. She didn’t. I was playing around. She was/is out of my league, or really out of my range. I’m not that interested in a 47 yo fitness guru. I don’t think we’d have much to talk about. So why did I message her?

While it’s hard to let go of an ideal, it’s also fun to play around with “what ifs.” And given the preference, wouldn’t we all really rather be with someone super attractive? Now, the answer to that question is the most troubling for me. I’m not sure I want a beauty queen for a mate. I think uber-beauty comes with its own problems. I’ve met some beautiful women who were actually a bit neurotic about their looks. One women offered, “My looks are all I have,” when I met her for the first time. Sure, she’d been drinking, but you could tell this sentiment bothered her. I tried to reassure her. There was nothing to be done. And there was no connection, no matter how gorgeous she was.

Did the great beauties have too easy a ride in the early years? Did daddy spoil them to the point of dependence? Have their looks allows them to coast about in the being-nice-and-compassionate-to-others department? I remember a woman I was infatuated with in my 20’s who I invited to go waterskiing with me in the early mornings before work. She accepted and I was overjoyed just to have her around. But after a while, I was a little disillusioned. She never once offered to help pay for gas or clean up the boat after a run. She just waved and went on to work. “Hm,” I thought. “I guess that’s who she is.”

So, I have to admit I have a bit of a hangup about beautiful women. I think I would have to do my own soul searching to be with someone approaching the “model” look. Would they be tempted by the limitless offers they received from limitless other men with limitless resources? Would they deal with growing old in a confident and rational manner? Would their workout and beauty routines eventually drive me bonkers? Or am I reading too much into this?

Again, what is beauty? I know we are being fed “beautiful” images by the media. Often thin, tanned, with some radiant happiness that is captured through lighting, or the camera, or the clothes, or the makeup. But that beauty is magic. It’s not real. When you see the celebrities without their makeup, a bit of the illusion comes falling down. But still, I strive to catch a glimpse of these women. I imagine being given the opportunity to make love to one of them. And then I think how insecure I would probably feel around them. I’m not sure I’m up for it.

Yet, MissTexasEx still got a very nice romantic invitation to chat. And I’m sure that thread will never be picked up. I’m okay with that. For a moment, while I was writing her and admiring her yoga poses, I was in relationship with her. As close as I’m going to get, anyway. And I walked away feeling complete. I had woven my micro fantasy of us getting coffee, her finding me irresistible, and on we go. And sometime, today, I’ll probably open one of the two dating sites I’m still on, just to browse. And yes, it’s fun to look at the younger women. And yes, I realise I’m looking for a needle in a haystack: attractive to me, finds me attractive, available, emotionally intelligent, and we spark together. But without venturing out there, I’m going to continue sitting here looking at pictures of what might be, could be, but won’t be.

You’ve gotta get out there to get over yourself. It’s in the relating to a real woman in a real setting that things might become interesting. I’m not sure MissTexasEx and I would have much to talk about.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: blade runner promo image, creative commons usage

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

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

The Heart and Desire

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

The Heart and Fulfillment

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

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

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

The Head Analyses

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

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

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

The Head Aims

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

When It Is a Match

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

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

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

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: hand and heart, creative commons usage

Fearless Love: A Holistic Theory of Active Love

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

My Failure with Online Dating Sites

What’s the deal? Online dating is supposed to offer up so many possibilities for us to find each other. To find our mate. But it’s not that easy. Here’s my recent experience (say 30 days) of seeking a relationship on Match.com and OK Cupid.

Yes, my profile is still active, but I rarely go to either site and here’s why.

  • Women rarely respond to “hello” messages.
  • The “new” profiles are far and few. So I’ve seen everyone.
  • Once you’ve said “hello” to all the interesting women, you wait. You say “hello” again. And you wait.
  • It’s a woman’s world out there, and they have the power to engage or ignore.
  • The only women who have reached out to me first we either scammers (trying to lure me off to their other page on another, paid, site.) or women whose profile pictures were actually scary to me. As in, WTF and I doing here.

I wonder, if I’m that guy to the women I’m reaching out to? I’m trying to seek within my own age range, plus or minus 5 years. And I’ll admit I’m more drawn to the younger end of the spectrum, to a point. And in that respect, I wonder if I’m the “ug” guy that keeps pestering these cute women?

I don’t think so. I think my profile shows me in a good light. I think I’m fitter than I’ve ever been. And I think I’m being realistic with who I am contacting. So what gives?

From my conversations with some of the women I’ve gone on first dates with, I understand that the online dating world for women is very different. Attractive women get from 20 – 30 offers, or emails, per day. (Even if that number is per week, it’s an amazingly high number. I get 1 a week on a good week.) So the women are literally filtering through hundreds of offers and picking the guys they want to respond to. Turns out I’m not that guy. Or maybe I’m not that “first impression” then buried in a full and filling inbox. Either way, I rarely get even a “Hey” back from my “Hi, I’d love to start a conversation,” emails. I get nada.

So this lack of feedback is disappointing. And the lack of new profiles is disappointing. And my three four dates have had disappointing outcomes. So what’s the point? Perhaps, I am deciding, I am still pushing the river too hard. Perhaps I’m seeking a relationship in an aggressive style that really doesn’t match who I am. Perhaps I need new profile images that show my newly clean-shaven face?

Or, and I think this is the real answer, I need to give it a rest and just be with myself. Write. Explore. Do my thing. And to be honest, I am enjoying this in-between-time quite a bit. So today, I’m taking another new approach. Fk online dating. I’m not really one to make snap decisions about a woman’s attractiveness based on a few photos. And that’s not how I go about starting a relationship either. Of course, I’m not going bar hopping either.

Slow it all down. As I say in my profile, I’m not in a hurry to be in a relationship. I’m looking for friends.

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

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

Constant Craving

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image:  kiss, creative commons usage

Breaking Up: Loss as a Journey

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

Grief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Turning Point

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

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

Results

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

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

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image:  elvis, creative commons usage

Back In Pursuit of Love: Slow Dating

Giving up on a loving relationship is one of the hardest things you might do in life. Calling it quits hurts and goes on hurting for weeks or months. And somehow, when you come out of it, the desire to be back in relationship comes back as well. It’s sort of a magic process, this human recovery story. Find love, explore life together, breakup, and we’re back to looking for love again. The human spirit is very optimistic when it comes to relationships.

And then there’s online dating. For most of us, a bit to busy to be sitting at a bar trying to attract someone, the online scene is the next best chance we have of finding companionship and potentially love. But it’s a long haul. You don’t want just anyone. You want the ONE. The NEXT. The lover who will join you for the twilight years. And that adventure begins with a single spark. And that spark is oh so hard to find.

Viewing hundreds of profiles can get pretty depressing. There are so many NOPES out there you might begin to wonder if there’s ANYBODY out there for you. Even with huge dating sites like Match.com and OKCupid you can exhaust the dating pool, browsing for maybes pretty quickly. And if you’re a guy, the next step is waiting patiently, hoping that someone responds to one of your outreach emails. And you wait. And you hope. And you wait some more.

Then someone cute and seemingly intelligent pings you back. “OH BOY,” your brain and heart say in unison. And we’re off to the races. And if you’re anything like me your imagination takes over and you begin to fantasize all kinds of date ideas, and conversations, and long walks on the beach. And the real trick is hinting at these flights of fantasy without overwhelming the other person or seeming too desperate. Just last week I overplayed my hand with the first woman who gave me hope. And in a heartbeat she texted back, “I think I’ll pass.” And this was after a very cool and promising first coffee date. But just like in real life, you have to drop the fantasy and move on. And we’re back to the waiting.

What’s different for me this time around is I have a much better idea of my ideal mate. I just had a 2.5 year relationship with a very near miss. “So close!” I just had a woman give me a taste of the potential. I caught a glimpse of that “down the road” feeling. I was looking forward to growing old with this woman. And I come back to the game with even more energy for presenting myself with a renewed vigor.

I learned these things about myself in relationship.

  1. I need someone who is athletic like me. (so we can do it together)
  2. I’m not much of a drinker, and that same ideal is of critical importance for me.
  3. The attraction both physically, spiritually, and emotionally has to be very strong.
  4. We need to be great at doing the mundane tasks of living life together.
  5. We have to both be working on ourselves, both in the relationship, and in building a relationship with ourselves.
  6. They need to be self-aware and emotionally intelligent.

I had all these things just months ago, and still the relationship went south.

It’s hard. Relationships are not all flowers and walks on the beach. A lot of the living that needs to be done can be repetitive and stressful. What you’re looking for is someone who can tackle those ups and downs of the human experience with a positive and joyous attitude. Yeah, I’m still working on that for myself. But I AM working on it, and constantly.

I’m not in the pursuit of perfection. But I am in pursuit of 100% authenticity. And I am listening and feeling into what I want in every venture back to the sites filled with hundreds of pictures and profiles of women.

I am hopeful again. I have one new contact that has potential. And I’m slowing my roll a bit. In fact, I woke up this morning composing a letter to her in my head. What I wanted to say next, to reel her in a bit, while remaining cool and collected. You don’t want to overheat, over-promise, or over-pursue. It’s a fine balance. Honesty, clarity, and some demonstrated amount of joy. But heck, I’m a writer, so I should be able to do this.

And I’m actually not looking to date at this point. I’m looking to find some friends who happen to be women that I can spend some time with. If things move on to dating, I want that phase to transition quickly into a relationship. And I suppose the difference for me is monogamy and getting back out of the online dating scene. I look forward to looking at only one profile, the one I experience in real life. So much of what people write about themselves is fantasy, or even delusion. And some of what people put in dating profiles are out right lies.

Finding that genuine needle in a haystack is going to be a long haul, I imagine. And this new “hello” contact is responding to my letters in a 24 – 48 hour window. So there’s that challenge as well. Keep looking while really hoping to be able to stop looking.

And that’s really what we are all looking for. Someone that causes us to stop looking. I am much better in relationship than I am in pursuit. I am much more interested in building a life rather than building an online profile.

Slowly but surely, with patience and grace, I will be in relationship again. Months from now, a year from now, I hope to be writing you again about “the love of my life.” Heck if you don’t believe it, how will you ever get there.

Yes, God, I’m ready this time. Ready as I’ll ever be. So BRING IT.

Keep the faith, and if you need someone to talk to, check out my coaching page.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image:  dating, creative commons usage allowed