Tag Archives: dating

A Muse Enters and Leaves

I’m all about having a muse. A romantic ideal that I can project all my needs on. And last week a woman showed up in a big way and became a muse. We met for coffee and she said we couldn’t date but we could be friends. “Fine with me,” I said. “I’m not looking to date anyway.” We made tentative plans to play tennis over the weekend.

She lodged a possibility in my emotional mind. “This is a woman who could challenge and reward me in a new way.”

So I did what the 38 Special song says, “Hold on loosely.” I texted her a few times over the weekend suggesting times and got nothing back. “Hmm,” I thought. “Maybe she’s just not that into me.”

But she did finally respond with a positive text. And we, again, tentatively, made plans to do something during the week. Today’s Thursday and this morning she said. “All those ideas you have are great but they sound like dates. I’m going to pass.”

So like that, before we had our second conversation she was gone.

Her ideal, however, lingers on. It wasn’t about her. It was about my projection of what I want in a relationship. Let me try to define the qualities she had that heated me up.

  • She was very smart, witty, and psychologically deep.
  • She was beautiful in a simple way. Her smile was killer.
  • She was fit and very active.
  • We seemed to hit it off with our conversation.
  • She liked me.

Perhaps she did not see the potential to love me. Maybe she didn’t see the same spark that I did. For whatever reason, she passed. Not what I was anticipating, but okay. I can move on from here with a better idea of what I’m looking for. And a muse is a near miss. A woman who I can see potential and hope with. A woman that meets some unspoken standards, and fits some magical equation in my heart.

Thank you, muse, for giving me something to shoot for in my next friend.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: autumn woman, creative commons usage allowed

Dear Single Ladies, Here’s What Single Dads Want

I’ve recently been back in and now back out of online dating. It’s a rough world out there. Lots of scammers. Lots of really young and really old women. Lots of profiles that are like “WHAT? That’s the best photo you could come up with? That’s what you’re leading with?” And if you don’t like dating, well it can be hell.

But I came upon a different perspective with my latest loss of a 2.5 year relationship. I don’t want to date at all. I want to have some women friends and see if anything develops from our friendship. Like everyone goes into the friend zone until I’m 6 months sober from my last intoxicating adventure. I’m not ready to date or be in a relationship even though it’s what I long for. I like being a couple. I like mundane joys alongside someone I love.

As a single dad I have a few additional responsibilities in my life. And so does the woman who I’m ultimately with. If you don’t respect and cherish my kids, well, you’re kind of disrespecting me. You don’t have to love them or be a mother to them. But you’ve got to put in the effort to be a friend to them.

Okay, so in line with my What a Single Dad Wants post, I’m ready to update my list based on my current experience of dating, loving, being in a committed relationship, and losing it. Here goes…

  1. I’m not looking for kind of, maybe, or a near miss. I’m looking for everything rolled up into one package. A woman who’s done the work on herself and is looking for an evolved and loving relationship.
  2. She’s got to be physically fit. And this is more about us doing our exercise together, not about body shape or ultimate tone. If we play tennis 3 times a week and 1 of those times can be with our significant other, well, that’s heaven.
  3. She probably has kids of her own. The reason I say this (and I get flack everytime for putting this in) is I want someone who’s made the commitment to another human being (0r two) and knows the sacrifice and work it takes to parent.
  4. She needs to know more about healthy food than I do.
  5. She needs to enjoy her work in the world. And yet, she needs to have ambitions and dreams that zoom out into the future. Where she it going, with or without a man/partner.
  6. She needs to be spiritual.
  7. She needs to understand Real Love and how to get there first with herself, and second with me.

I think that’s a pretty solid list and not too much to ask for.

If you were looking for a partner, what are the must-haves on your list? Share in the comments. I’ll promise to respond.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: tennis player, creative commons usage allowed

see also:

Why I’m Not Dating Again

Dating sucks. Perhaps in today’s lingo “dating” means having sex, but the whole concept is outdated. Or I am. Today i’m shutting done all four of my dating profiles. I’ve got two new friends and that’s all I can handle. The nice thing about proclaiming that you just want to be friends is it takes the urgency and pressure off both of you. Let’s just slow the whole thing down and take our time. The next relationship i want is going to be the ONE. I’m only going to accept that. No excuses, no exceptions.

And I’m certainly not going to get my body involved before the mind has a chance to explore some of the nooks and crannies of this other person. So why date? What I was really doing on those sites was looking for women to hangout with. Turns out they are both quite sporty and our friendship for several months will probably revolve around doing some sport together. What better way to spend time together? What better way to motivate myself to workout every day.

I’m in no condition for starting a relationship. And I don’t like calling it dating whatever it is. So I’m just online friending. And the future looks bright.

Get back out there, but make sure your mind and heart are in sync before you “date” anyone.

As we said in my divorce recovery group, “Don’t take your show on the road until you’re ready.” And I’m certainly not ready. Give me a few more months. But I haven’t put a time frame on it, and I’m not missing anything. I’ve got two new friends. And I can turn off the distracting emails and alerts from the dating sites. Whew.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: dating, creative commons usage allowed

online dating, dating apps

Single Dad, Again

I did not ever think I’d write this post. I was certain I had found my forever mate. But somethings are not meant to be, and the best is yet to come. I won’t say much about it, in respect of my partner who I still love deeply, but I think if you read the last 30 posts or so you might catch a theme of what wasn’t working, for me. Anyway…

I want to talk about online dating for a minute. Gross, I know. I’m very discouraged to even be in this place again after so much bliss, but it is what it is.

Here’s the thing. Online dating is a pure numbers game. Regardless of what site or app you are using here are the stats, in my opinion. About 80% of the women will be out right away for various reasons. Then 10% of the remaining women are so cute that you’re unlikely to ever catch their attention. So then you’re working with about 10% of the total. And the percentage that might be a match from that smaller subset is about 2%. That’s my experience. And it’s not all bad, but the numbers are stacked against you. And if your profile pics don’t tell a happy and honest story about you, well, you’ll understand what I mean when you look inside the apps.

So… If 2% of the women in all of online dating are potentially interested in exploring options with me, why would I stay on one site only. Surely there are different people on different sites, right? Right. And if it’s a numbers game, why wouldn’t I go ahead and put myself on all of the top 4? I did and you should if you’re serious about looking for your next relationship. Here are my top 4 dating sites/apps ranked in order from best to worst.

  1. OKCupid – smaller pool but the questions are a great way to understand more about the person.
  2. Match – a bigger pool, but has a lot of scammers.
  3. Bumble – a simple app that puts the woman in charge of initiating a conversation.
  4. Tender – not so much luck on this one, but still on it.

In the week that I’ve been on the sites here are my results.

OKC – I’m currently chatting with 4 women. I’ve only met one of them and we happened to know each other from high school.

Match.com – I’m chatting with 2 women here. But there’s a lot less bio information available.

Bumble – Only one woman has contacted me, but she dropped off the map as soon as I suggested coffee.

Tender – zero.

Now, I’m not in a hurry to get back into a long-term relationship, but it takes a lot of time to get anything started, and harder still to find that person that intrigues you and is intrigued by you. So I fired them up all at once, to widen my pool.

The bonus that happens right away, as soon as you get a touchback from someone is the idea of potential. When my relationship ended I was devastated and certain I would never find another person so perfect for me. But as soon as a cute woman responded to me, I had a glimmer of hope. It’s worth it just for that. And now I have several women in conversation. And I even played tennis yesterday with a woman from Match. And it was AMAZING.

So, if you’re single, go ahead and put your best foot forward and get out there. Getting to a relationship may take months, so you might as well start exploring the field. And if you see the 10% as potentials then you begin to get hopeful that there “might” be someone out there for you.

Oh, btw, there is. Good luck.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: creative commons usage – https://goo.gl/images/JAcr1K

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

Back to Positive Divorce & Co-Parenting

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image: biking together, the author, creative commons usage

8 Lessons from My First 2 Divorces

WHOLE-2016-tangobw

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

Back to Positive Divorce & Co-Parenting

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reference: The 5 Love Languages  by Gary Chapman

image: tango in bar, creative commons usage

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

back to Dating After Divorce

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Offline Dating: Setting Intentions and Actions in Real Life

WHOLE-yogagirl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what I think.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’ll let you know how it goes. (grin)

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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

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

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

WHOLE-couple

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

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

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

1. Before We Ever Meet

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

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

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

2. On the First Date

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

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

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

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

3. Following Up

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

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

4. Getting Into the Groove

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Back to the Drawing Board

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

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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