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A Single Dad In Love, Again

WHOLE-no-goal

Neither of us are broken, neither of us need fixing.

Yes, it’s happened. I think I’m changing my status from single dad to something else. (Stops for a minute and checks Facebook.) Yep, it’s official, I’m engaged to be married. Married I say. Yes, I’m a dreamer and a believer and an optimist and am no longer a single dad. I’m just a dad. I like it.

Even with all fantasies of that poem, things imagined and dreamed, she, this REAL SHE, has blown away all of my expectations.

I’ve written so many roadmaps and rules, tips and hints for what I was looking for, how to know what I needed in a relationship, how to get my Love Languages stroked in the proper direction, that I’m pretty tired of my own lists. So I need to make a new one.

Here is my outline for how a Single Dad fell in love again, in spite of all the warnings and previous failures.

  1. She is fascinating.
  2. She is driven.
  3. She is self-contained and rational.
  4. She has a crazy, flirty, quirky streak, just like me.
  5. She’s bonkers about me.
  6. She sees the best in me and pushes me to be even better.
  7. She’s got the sense of humor and enthusiasms of a child.
  8. She’s never had kids.
  9. She’s fit.
  10. She’s unafraid to tell me when it sucks.
  11. She makes easy repairs.
  12. She’s got her own agenda, her own projects, and some of them don’t include me.
  13. She is grateful.
  14. She is spiritual.
  15. She wears practical shoes, but she also has flirty and bad girl shoes.
  16. She is ever rub-able. Always game. And rarin to go.
  17. She’s taking on tennis to be with me, doing what I love.
  18. She sets plans and sticks to them.
  19. She’s the most loyal person I’ve met.
  20. My friends love her.

It wasn’t that long ago, I was writing an aspirational love poem to the “SHE” who I was anticipating. And even with all fantasies of that poem, things imagined and dreamed, she, this REAL SHE, has blown away all of my expectations. I know that’s hard to imagine. But she, this woman, my woman, has let me know that I am her man. That she wants to spend the rest of her life with me. And that she thinks I too am the cutest, sexiest, funniest, and smartest person she’s ever met.

If we can keep our business focused on ourselves and our passions focused on each other, we’re on our way to a life-long relationship. How do I know?

Easy. We are both the fighters. We fought for our marriages even when they were failing. We were the one’s who asked for a re-commitment even after the deal had been broken. And if you put two fighters for love in a relationship together… Well, I think, we think, the writing is on the wall.

Today, we have all we need. And what we don’t have or don’t like, we’ve learned to ignore and tend to our own issues.

Sure there are things she does that drive me crazy. Probably they always will. I am anti-OCD, anti-schedule, and freeform. She likes her lists. She likes to ask what I’d like for dinner, days in advance. I still look at her sometimes and say, “What do you mean? Like a menu for next Wednesday? I don’t even know what I want tonight.” The real magic is to laugh at and love the differences. We both appreciate what’s odd about each other.

Quirks are the things you’ve got to learn to love as well. I love that she’s different from me. That her ways are logical and strategic and often seem diametrically opposed to my natural instincts. And then I’ve learned to let those ideas go as well. In my best flexible thinking, I’m learning to love all aspects of this amazing woman. Why? Because I believe in her. I believe that what she says is true, and that when she invites me on a trip to NYC, that it will (and did) happen.

I don’t work the same way at all. And I’m pretty sure that’s some of what she likes about me. I lead with my heart often before I know the direction we are going. I misstep out of passion and vision, when a more measured approach might have worked. But I always do it out of love. I always do it from a place of caring about her more than I care about myself.

My lists were all blown away when the right woman showed up. I like to think that my prep work, the writing and sorting of all of this “relationship” data, is what made our connection so clear to me. We have jumped fearlessly into this love thing. We’re going to get married. We’ve already started wearing our wedding bands. In the eyes of the state we are indeed already married.

But I like the anticipation of the marriage too much just to skip or belittle it. We are going to get married. And our friends want to know the plans, the schedule. And I’m sure she and I are working at odds in our natural patterns as I flippantly say things like, “When it happens.” She on the other hand, in my mind, is ready to make a plan.

But that’s the beauty in the end, of our courtship and partnership. She doesn’t need to force me into a plan. And I don’t need to buck against her plan or freak out when it hasn’t been put forth. We are indeed already married in every way but two.

  1. We need the legal papers to do things like combine health insurance or car insurance.
  2. We need the spiritual ceremony shared with other to celebrate and hold our tribe together now and in the future.

Today, we have all we need. And what we don’t have or don’t like, we’ve learned to ignore and tend to our own issues. Neither of us are broken, neither of us need fixing. In fact, as equals, neither of us has a need to be married. But I think we’re looking forward to it.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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Why Online Dating is a Distraction and Not a Solution

WHOLE-diningalone

Yes, I know the statistics. All the happily married couples from online dating sites. Well, I don’t buy it. All online dating sites, regardless of the flavor or method, are more like Facebook than real life.

Here are a few examples of where online profiles don’t tell the truth.

  • Pictures lie. Even recent pictures, when taken with the right light, can make a NOT look like a HOT.
  • Words are made up ideas. Yadda yadda, we all like beaches and wine. Music maybe.
  • Chemistry is impossible online. You can’t imagine how that person will feel when you are together.
  • The mind is wonderful, but even eloquent emails and text messages can add up to zero when you meet.
  • Some people are on dating sites for the entertainment of the idea and not to date.

Yes, it is true, online dating sites up your odds of meeting people you might not otherwise ever come in contact with. But why is that? Because you come in contact with people when you are out and about and doing the things that are important and fun to you. There’s a reason that an extroverted creative type like me isn’t going to naturally run across an introverted mathematician. It’s because we have so little in common, virtually zero over lap. And while the idea of “getting to know someone” is intriguing, you’ve got to start with some common ground to establish a relationship.

I was feeling the miss on a deeper level, but I was trying to make it all right. I wanted “her” to work.

So I’m bored on a week night and we have some unscheduled time. I can choose between a lot of different activities.  I could go out and get some exercise, that would be good. But barring the self-improvement regimen for a minute, I could

a. spend time on Facebook chatting about nothing,
b. spend time on Match.com browsing faces for a hit, or
c. do something creative.

What I’ve come around to lately is that c. is the only good answer. Let me explain.

Facebook seems like community. We call it social media, but it’s becoming more just media media. They’re showing you approximately 8% of your friend’s status updates and messages. The rest… is Facebook. Pabulum. Media. Consumerism. Today Facebook is a lot more like TV than it used to be. After taking a 99 day break from my FB habit, I’m happier and more productive. I’ve dipped back in a little, but no more hours socializing.

Online dating may also seem like a beneficial and worthy activity. But because of the illusion of social media, we might think we have a pretty good idea of who these “potentials” say they are, and what they look like today, but we don’t. It’s simply not true. Profiles on Facebook or OK Cupid are very similar. You put your best pictures up, your best accomplishments, and your little quirks. Except on dating sites you don’t get to see the quirks. (Well, OK Cupid’s questions sections are full of quirks, and kinks, but that’s a different conversation all together.)

Creative process is where I grow as a person and as an artist (writer, musician, poet, whatever). And as I am growing myself up, and growing into my creative energy I am also putting out more energy and more joy. You see, I think this dating thing is all about joy. It’s a little bit about looks. And it’s a little bit about thoughts. But the chemistry thing, I think, is all about mutual joy. Do you feel it when you are with someone or not? If you feel joy at the sight of someone, there’s a hit. If you feel nothing or something less than nothing (negative) that’s also an indicator of where things might go.

I spent a good part of a week getting to know a new woman recently, and I could see the potential. I could admire her good looks, dark eyes, and flashing wit. And yet there was something that was not coming across. I couldn’t decipher it right away. I was hopeful and encouraged by our initial and mutual glow. And her persistence in getting back together again the next day. “Spontaneously.” I loved that. “Yes, yes, yes,” it said to my brain.

But…

In my joyous engagement I was missing something from her that I couldn’t identify. I thought I was listening well, responding well, and behaving well. I thought we were moving things along nicely. But I could only make those assumptions about myself and my own thinking. While she was sharing a lot about life and asking a lot of questions about me, she wasn’t really lighting up. She was reserved. She admitted to being an introvert. I initially thought, “Oh, that’ll be interesting, to see how I am in relationship to an introvert.”

First, I must become the lover I hope to meet, by becoming large enough to call her in, without the help of a dating site.

And even in the real-world, with all of our faculties between us, the miss between us was something deeper. And after three “dates” and the promise of an actual “date” for the weekend ahead, I was feeling good and yet still mixed. I walked away from our meeting wondering, “Am I’m pushing this one along? Am I making this one happen? Am I trying to construct my lover?”

I think I was. She pinged me the next morning saying she’d considered our time together and felt it wasn’t going to be a match for her. She was canceling the date. And would catch up with me spontaneously as the occasion might arise in the future.

Huh?

I was feeling the miss on a deeper level, but I was trying to make it all right. I wanted “her” to work. And that’s when I understood it was time to kill my online dating profiles. I WANT a relationship too much. My focus has gotten lost in all this browsing, assessing, and pursuit. What I really need to pursue is my dream and my creative output.

I have time for a relationship. I have the will and the energy. I need to put myself and my life in the places where “she” already is. In real life, not online.

Sure, I will have another great love. First, I must become the lover I hope to meet, by becoming large enough to call her in, without the help of a dating site.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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image: dining alone, john mcelhenney, cc 2014