Tag Archives: learning about dating again

Planning For the Future In Your Relationship


We’ve all got stress. We’ve all got moments, Friday afternoons are a great example, when the breaking point is reached, and if we’re lucky, the weekend is ready to open up before us. Ah, the WEEKEND. A time to cut loose, rest, rebuild ourselves and our love lives, and … And then we still find time and need to be distracted. Taken off point. Unplugged from our goals, plans, work, whatever.

I pull my headphones on, engage the noise-canceling function and boom, I’m in a moment of zen, right in my living room. Turns out, sometimes, I’m just looking to be distracted. Even the good things (okay, the great things) are often stressful.

She has a different type of creativity. Her’s is for dreaming up what’s next and then making the dream a reality.

And recently there have been too many good things to even list. But I can tell you the biggest impact has been the woman of my dreams showing up. And even in that blissful honeymoon-ish state, I still need time to disconnect. I guess we call it “alone time,” but sometimes it is just isolation time for me.

Isolation is a funny thing. I can be Facebooking like made, reading 5 articles on 5 tabs in my browser, and taking notes for new post, and I feel like I’m really connected, alive, multitasking. But, if I’m honest, I can see how my social media passion is also an escape from the present.

I was having a similar discussion with my new significant other about the concepts of backwards and forwards time, I first encountered in Time and the Art of Living. Here’s my basic paraphrase.

1. Present Moment. What we’re all striving to stay focused on. Meditation. Awareness. Conscious sex. Honest conversations. Listening. Hitting flow. Whatever you want to call it.

2. Thoughts about the future.

3. Memories of the past.

While I do think that keeping our attention on the present moment is a very powerful tool, there are times when these two other modes of time can be helpful and illuminating as well.

As I was chatting with my woman about the house we are buying next month, and she was working on a lot of details. She was measuring the rooms and comparing them with our current house. “Do you know we’ll have half a foot more width and length in our new house?” she asked, excitedly. At first I was thinking she was over thinking it, and then I remembered this concept of future time.

When we project ourselves into the future, it can be a wonderful exercise. We can begin to set goals and ideas for what we want, what we are looking forward to in the new experience. Setting up a framework for the future plans. And sometimes the projections in themselves can be lovely moments. As I leaned into the dream with my future wife, I enjoyed hearing about her fantasies regarding the new house.

“We can have romantic evenings in front of the fireplace.” And of course, we will. But in this very moment, projecting our ideas,  we could go there together. And everything, absolutely everything could be perfect in our minds. And this positive projecting can have bonding and energizing effects on us. We can find motivation and inspiration for what needs to be done to create the perfect moment we visualized.

And certainly we will live in this new house together. And certainly we will enjoy a glass of wine in front of the fire place. And it’s not as if the longing for that future moment causes us to miss out on some experience of the present moment. Actually, in projecting ourselves into this future-perfect moment we are creating an image of reality that we can actively create. (Did I get too woowoo on you there?) Let me give you a quote from the book.

Fast drivers can see no further than slow drivers, but they must look further down the road to time their reactions safely. Similarly, people with great projects afoot habitually look further and more clearly into the future than people who are mired in day-to-day concerns. These former control the future because by necessity they must project themselves into it; and the upshot is, that like ambitions settlers, they stake out larger plots and homesteads of time than the rest of us. The do not easily grow sad or old; they are seldom intimidated by the alarms and confusions of the present because they have something greater of their own, some sense of their large and coherent motion in time, to compare the present with. – Robert Grudin.

So it is this projection of a great project (in this case the house – and perhaps the house of our relationship) that I am willing to indulge in with my sweet woman. And together we can map out some ideas about what we want to create, not just physically, but emotionally as well.

A relationship is a lot like this. You state ideas and dreams to see if the other person resonates and lights up. Like a trial balloon.

“Wow, this cold night feels like New York City,” I said, some months ago.

“Do you want to go to New York City together?” she asked, clutching my arm against the wind and splinters of mist.

“Yes, that would be awesome. To walk the streets together. Like this.”

We’ve been taking wild flights of fancy into our imaginary future relationship as we give voice to various whimsical and fantastical ideas.

And with that she took several steps over the next week to book a trip together. This was still pretty early on in our relationship. WOW. I remember thinking, “What the heck? New York, so soon?” And what I learned was, she likes to set plans in motion, she likes to have events or travels to look forward to. Almost like my big ideas that pull me along. She has a different type of creativity. Her’s is for dreaming up what’s next and then making the dream a reality.

And here we are. Leaning forward into the next chapter together.

We have both been floating ideas and catching them as the other person tries out a together-dream. The two of us have found very little resistance, and thus the connection and commitment, which might freak some people out, has seemed right and natural. We still ask each other, as we ask ourselves internally, “Are we moving too fast?” The resounding answer is always the same.

“No. And I love you.”

That’s been the path. Present moment work staying focused on our jobs, our projects, my kids (for me), and we’ve allowed the future to unfold before us. Yet, at the same time we’ve been taking wild flights of fancy into our imaginary future relationship as we give voice to various whimsical and fantastical ideas.

Stay focused in the present moment, but do allow yourself to dream and project into the future with your partner. Opening those doors of dreaming together has been a gateway of power for us. So far… We’re batting 100%! Let’s keep heading in that direction.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

back to Positive Divorce & Co-parenting

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A few references for your time as art process.

image: lovers in new york, cc 2015, John McElhenney, creative commons usage

I Sing the Body Connected: Cultivating Sexual Energy


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At what?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always Love,

John McElhenney

back to Dating After Divorce

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