Tag Archives: love after divorce

Two People In Love Spread a Message

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I know it when I’m radiating love. I know it when I’m with my lover and we’re both in the glow. I know that I was seeking a new partner for six years after my divorce, and THIS TIME, I knew I had met my match.

She read my blogs which laid out the simple roadmap to my heart. And then she joined. She laughed. She slid up beside me and never left.

This relationship is different from any I’ve ever experienced. (Do we say that about every new love?) It’s based on a very different set of rules than my previous marriages. This one has nothing but desire holding us together. I’ve got kids, she doesn’t. I’ve got debt, she’s got some money. I’ve got a creative fire that warms us both. She’s got an athletic passion that pulls us both along to healthier lifestyles.

When you’re around us, you know, you feel, that you are with lovers. We have an easy and playful way of being together. Even when we’re in disagreement we find ways to laugh about the differences. And that’s how our relationship started. I was living in my mom’s house. (Embarassing moment.) And she says, “You must be writing some hilarious stories about that.” She was right. But she was also letting me know she saw through my present situation and was still bright-eyed and bushy-tailed about getting us together.

She had a plan. She lured me in with tennis. She read my blogs which laid out the simple roadmap to my heart. And then she joined. She laughed. She slid up beside me and never left. It was an easy join and an even easier period of getting to know one another. Now, a year later, we’ve both become even more comfortable together. We let the disagreements roll off our backs. We move onward with our own agendas and plans. And then we return to our side-by-side connection. And we cherish that connectivity.

This past weekend we were vacationing in Canada and it was apparent the joy we were spreading as we walked around the freezing city. People recognize two genuine lovers. People feel warmed in the glow of our friendship and joy. Perhaps we are giving a gift of our love to others. Or perhaps it’s the gift of hope. That someone is out there.

We’d both been through divorces. We’d seen the things we didn’t want to do in relationships. And we set out on a mission to secure someone with more like-minded sensibilities. And when we connected the YES YES YES came through us loud and clear, like and electric current, or a magnet. And we bonded within  weeks and were living together within a few months. And the rest… they say…

We are choosing, every day, to be together. We are respecting each other’s space and energy, every morning when we wake up and make coffee for each other.

Well, we both know the rest is ahead of us. We are not looking too far forward from the present moment. We are fully committed and fully alive. And at the same time, our love allows us to be flexible and ambitious within the relationship. We are choosing, every day, to be together. We are respecting each other’s space and energy, every morning when we wake up and make coffee for each other. We look into each other’s eyes and say a blessing.

Can we stay in puppy love forever? I don’t know, but we’re doing pretty good.

Love is a gift. By sharing your joy with others they too are reminded of love in their lives. You must go for 100% love. Settling in this department will not serve you. Perhaps those little warning signs we had in our marriages should’ve waved us off. So far, for me, there have been no warning signs in this relationship. Some things I don’t like, sure, but we’re wide open about those too.

Love is letting the other person be whole and complete without your influence or supervision. And then in love returning to hold the other person in the highest regard because you want to, because you can’t help it, because love fuels every muscle in your body. That’s love. This is love. May you feel it in your life, as I have found it in mine.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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image: tango fatal, creative commons usage

The Spiritual Quest for Love

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On the spiritual path, there’s nothing to get, and everything to get rid of. . . . The first thing to let go of is trying to get love, and instead to give it. That’s the secret of the spiritual path.

—Ayya Khema, “What Love Is”

When you are alone, everything in your world is colored by your own internal thoughts and feelings.

In the company of friends I talk a lot about how I met my sweet woman. We both talk about how “the time was right” for both of us. And how “the stars or gods aligned in our favor.” And to be sure, we are both very prayerful and thankful people. And each morning when we wake up together there is a lot of gratitude between us, for us, about us. And there’s more. There’s another element that came first, that bonded us in a way that no previous relationship or marriage had done before, for either of us.

Spiritual and Kinda Religious

When you are alone, everything in your world is colored by your own internal thoughts and feelings. And your strategies and prayers are your own alone. When you join with another person, you’re songs and prayers add a “together” element that I believe is transformative. But let’s take a few steps back and explore what made our meeting so timely and so connective, what was the through-line that was so strong between us even before we met for our first date.

Seeking, Longing, Looking for Love

When there is an absence of love in your life, for many of us, it is like a missing piece of our soul. The term “empath” has been getting a lot of play lately, in describing people who feel into others empathetically. And what I’m well aware of about myself is: in the absence of a love relationship my experience of joy, passion, and elation is greatly diminished. I glow more brightly when I have another person to resonate with. So in my seeking, post-divorce, I have been looking for a resonance in both physical and spiritual terms.

Eventually I hit on the accurate dating profile: Desires a LTR and someone who is actively pursuing their own dream, project, agenda. I was clear, I was not all that interested in “dating.”

So you set out on your noble quest to find a new relationship. In my case I set up profiles on a few of the online dating sites. (eHarmony – nope, give me the ability to browse people, don’t tell me who you think I match with; Match.com – a bit better, larger audience, fairly interesting profiles, and you pay, so you’re looking for something; OK Cupid – my favorite site, because of the random and often revealing questions, it’s free, and has a lot of people who are just playing around, not looking for a relationship.)

And for the record, I had a few dates via Match and OK that were interesting. I learned several things about myself in my first rush at “getting back in the game.”

  • I was not interested in casual sex.
  • I was not able to feign interest when the person was boring.
  • A lot of profiles (pictures and stories) are outright fabrications.
  • A lot of people are playing on dating sites, but have no intention of dating.

I had some interesting insights in filling out my several profiles. Eventually I hit on one that seemed to attract the right mix of women. Interest in a LTR and actively pursuing their own dream, project, agenda. I was clear, I was not all that interested in “dating.”

Dating to me means several things:

  • Actively in pursuit
  • Not looking for commitment
  • More interested in entertainment
  • Drinking was part of the focus for 90% of the daters
  • Interested in lots of dates, lots of entertainment, maybe playing the field

And the first real relationship I had was from Match.com. The first contact was from her to me. (Very rare.) When I was non-responsive, she followed up with a second email that said, “Hey, I was looking at your profile wondering why I we hadn’t gone out on a date yet and then I realized, hey, this guy didn’t respond to my email. So I thought I’d ask, ‘What’s the deal? Is there something wrong with my picture or profile?'”

And this first relationship changed everything and eventually set me up for success later down the path. Girlfriend #1 was a tiny bit older, wiser, and a few more years down the road of the post-divorce routine. But most importantly, she shared the same love language: touch. BOOM, a light went off during our first week together.

As I reignited with the proximity of her physical affection and began to find my inner joy again, I began to look beyond the present moment and into what relationship goals I had, beyond her.

In two marriages combining into 17 years, I had never felt as adored and loved as I did with this woman. She easily engaged in hugging, holding hands, and other physical signs of affection. And just like me, she reach out for that touch *all the time.* And she was also comfortable expressing her affection verbally. She would just tell me, “You are so damn cute.” Like, out of the blue. And every time I heard it, I was surprised. “Me?” And the real surprising part was how infrequently I heard that during the entire course of my two marriages. Touch is language number one, but words of affection also play a strong role in my constellation of what “feels like love.”

The Nearest Miss

There was one missing ingredient for me in this first relationship. Something that didn’t immediately click. And since we had both been through a divorce recovery class, we had a label for what had happened. And she even predicted this outcome in that first amazing week at the beginning.

“I may be the healing relationship for you, and that’s okay,” she said. “I’ve had mine, and I know what I’m looking for. And I’m okay if this is just a crush. Let’s see where things go and not get too far ahead of just being together.”

She was right. As I reignited with the proximity of her physical affection and began to find my inner joy again, I began to look beyond the present moment and into what relationship goals I had, beyond her. In the moments between Christmas and New Year’s Day, we found the space to separate without a whimper. We both knew it wasn’t *the one.* And we were both committed to finding *the one.” And with that, we also wanted each other to have the best relationship for them. We had breakfast the morning after we “broke up.” I remember a few tiny tears, but mainly the big realization at how much I loved her. And when the romantic relationship was out of the way, I could fully feel my adoration of her. We’re still friends, confidants, and virtual wingmen, as we encourage each other, even now, to get what we really want.

Reset and Rebuild

I went through a year after breaking up with her before I ran into my next girlfriend. But the year in the middle involved a lot of rebuilding and remembering what made me happy. On that back porch, with girlfriend #1 she asked me, obviously aware that I was struggling a bit, “What do you look like when you are happy? What kinds of things do you do?” Those two sentences became my mantra over the next year. I hit the online sites again and went out on a few dates, with no real connections. And repeatedly learned that an evening drinking a glass of wine with someone who wasn’t even a near miss was a true waste of an evening. I slowed down my efforts to find my next date.

And I started looking at what things made me happy. I reconnected with my music and started looking for musicians to play with again. I started attending a tennis workout several times a week. And I started a focused walking program in the foothills around my house. I was building the new me. I was determined to become the happy me, the one who would attract the next girlfriend rather than have to go out advertising myself on Match.com.

As I was starting to “feel my oats” in spite of some financial set backs I crossed paths with my next girlfriend: the tennis player. We flamed up and flamed out fairly quickly, but she also taught me a few valuable lessons that made my real relationship so much more obvious when the right woman came along.

I was going to work exclusively on my own program of becoming a better tennis player, a better more confident musician, and a more confident me. I made a fundamental shift away from pursuit and back towards self-work.

With girlfriend #2 we had the physical spark that had been missing in my first relationship. And we had tennis. That was enough to keep a lopsided relationship going for a good bit of the summer. But something was amiss. And this time it was easier to pull back when the signs became more obvious that the “relationship” was something I wanted but she didn’t. I was willing to create 90% of the connection in order to keep playing tennis and keep up the illusion that we were building a relationship. We were not building a relationship. And when I was able to see this, I was also able to say good-bye without anger and to affirm my ability to break up well.

The Turning Point

This second relationship showed me what was missing from the first relationship, and showed me my own blind side of being the over-achieving optimist. I was willing to overlook the dysfunction in the name of relationship. But that’s not how it’s supposed to go. And I knew it wasn’t working out, but I continued a few more cycles of passion-breakup-passion-breakup before I opted out.

And at this point I made a fundamental shift. I was going to take my dating profiles down. I was going to work exclusively on my own program of becoming a better tennis player, a better more confident musician, and a more confident me. I made a fundamental shift away from pursuit and back towards self-work.

My idea was, I wanted to become the person who she would fall in love with. I even wrote a poem to her, before I had any concept of her, almost as a prayer. (SHE IS HERE.)

The interesting part of the equation, the part that must have something to do with a higher power (Or maybe it’s just “timing.”), was how my new girlfriend (fiancée) had been traveling down a very similar post-divorce progression in her life. And we both hit on the “no more playing around at relationship” idea at about the same time.

It turns out we’d been “friends” on Facebook for 5 years. And it turns out, she had noticed me at a party 5 – 6 years earlier and made a note of my disinterest. (This is exactly when I was entering my divorce, so yes, I was unavailable and unapproachable.) And then a few amazing things happened.

  1. I got a Saturday night gig for my band and was working using all of my energy to put on my musician coat of many colors.
  2. This interesting woman “LIKED” my gig announcement on Facebook and began to put out notes about her support of the gig.
  3. She went on a spiritual retreat a few months before the gig and confirmed that her current relationship was not working. She’d been doing the 110% routine as well and was done with the dysfunction.
  4. She took a pre-gig nap and slept right through the gig. (So the eventual meeting was delayed.)
  5. She put up a picture of a fancy bottle of Scotch and celebrated the silliness of her ex-boyfriend and the benefit of giving a gift you wanted for yourself.
  6. I contacted her via Facebook about the post, pointed her to this blog, saying I’d been writing about breakups and dating for a while.
  7. She responded via Facebook with an invitation

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 12.10.04 PM

Um… TENNIS?

Turns out I had hipped her to the blog a few weeks earlier. And she was planting the real seed. The road map to my heart had been well documented, at least in theory.

The Spiritual Message:
The first thing to let go of is trying to get love, and instead to give it.

And that’s the moment that we began reframing out future ideas while including some other person in the picture. I had been writing constantly about not dating and going offline, and real-time. I had also been writing almost daily love poems. The poems of desire, I called them. But they were also like a call for someone to answer. Like this fragment from, “burning up in prayer”

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 12.16.03 PM

I had also enlightened her to the other blog and somewhere along the way she decided that these poems were painting the outline of her. So she architected the “tennis” message at just the right time.

Timing Is Everything

So, is it timing or god that brings us together at the perfect moment?

I don’t know the answer to that, but I do know this: someone can walk into your life and change everything you’ve ever wanted or imagined you wanted. When that happens you are either prepared for departure and flight or you are not. The first time my sweetheart crossed my path I was in no mood or frame of mind for anything beyond my own sad story. When we crossed paths the second time, she was well prepared with my trigger words and actions. And I was broadcasting on all channels my desire for a partner to step up and be enveloped in my madness.

The wash and rush of our relationship surprised us both, but we accelerated into the good feelings and absence of red flags. There was/is nothing holding us back. There is growth and adventure ahead, but there is mostly our joint willingness to join with and appreciate the other person’s circus. Our prayerful thanksgiving throughout our daily lives together, merely affirms what we feel and hope.

My path was winding and long, but here are the basics.

  1. Learn what you really need in your relationship
  2. Learn what you must jettison from any future relationship
  3. Keep focused on your own life, your own growth, your ripeness
  4. When the moment arrives, be fearless in your commitment to love fully
  5. Stay in the present moment
  6. Listen for and discuss issues as they arise
  7. Celebrate the spiritual and physical connections in your life together
  8. Press ever onward and upward together – limitless

Any divergence from this path is a distraction. If you want the relationship you’ve hungered for, settling for anything less my teach you some valuable lessons, but you eventually have to move on.

I wanted a relationship. I didn’t want to spend time “dating” or trying to impress someone. I wanted a woman to show up in my life fully-formed, fully-empowered, and fully-ready to take off with me. When I was prepared to give myself in the same way, and when I had decided to quit pursuing the dating thing, that’s when I was ready. That’s how we knew were were both ready, we had both been expressing the same desire for the *next* relationship.

Arrived.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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Reference: What Love Is – by Ayya Khema

image: heart with love seeds, epSos.de creative commons usage

Loving Again as a Single Parent is an Ongoing Leap of Faith

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Loving someone is a leap of faith. A continuous renewal of your intention and energy to cherish and support your partner. Loving again after divorce or a painful break up is a process of releasing your previous experience and allowing for the new experience to be different. But there are always echoes. And with kids those echoes can create barriers to fully loving again.

We constantly say “Wow” to each other and to ourselves. It’s a bit like a prayer.

As you begin any new relationship there are moments when you have to decide to move towards the YES or away from it. The YES is that pull towards partnership, entwinement, entanglement, and committing to that path, that person, is a risk. You have to be willing to  challenge and rebuke all of those old tapes. You have to take a leap of faith well before you can be sure of anything. Falling in love is a process of allowing yourself to jump into the arms of this new person, into their lives, without too much concern or fear of the future relationship.

As you begin joining in this new love life with a new partner it is important to recognize the strings from the old pain and old patterns of your relationships in the past. When you feel that fear or sadness, it is a renewed committment to seek the new partner, that becomes the YES that allows your heart to reopen and re-feel the exhilaration of loving again. A friend once talked about “Writing over the old tapes with the new ones.” She was talking about reformatting your brain and putting new and good experiences over the old painful ones. It is important that you not run from the echoes, but that you open to the full experience of what is happening in your life.

The love pushes up the fears. The love with a new person will retrigger old hurts. As you spend more time with this person the little shocks of, “Oh hell, I remember doing this before with another person” will lessen and you can begin saying, “I have never experienced anything so free and loving.” That’s what you want to listen for. That’s the message you want to confirm with your new lover.

My significant other and I call it the “WOW.” And we constantly say “Wow” to each other and to ourselves. It’s a bit like a prayer.

In my mind, “Wow,” says:

  • Thank you
  • You are amazing
  • I can’t believe how much I love you
  • This is the moment
  • I’ve never felt so much love
  • Amen

However you think about divine intervention or higher powers or your religious touchstone, love is the most powerful force in our lives. It is through love of ourselves, love of our children, and love of another adult, that we find meaning and fulfillment in our lives.

Before children I was extremely self-focused. I was intense and focused on success. And then I fell in love with the woman who would become my wife and suddenly all the possibilities were open. And through the opening of our relationship we were both able to make the massive leap of faith to consciously bring another human into our lives. The moment we looked at each other and communicated that we were ready to go from practice (using birth control) to live ammo our lives were transformed. The leap of faith we took that morning in France, would burn away all of our ideas of self-actualization and striving. We said YES to our spiritual guides and asked to be given the opportunity to become parents.

As our story went, the marriage ended up not continuing, but we spent 11 years together leaping into the unknown, first in our relationship, second in our marriage, third in becoming parents. In divorce you must take that final leap, the fourth, into celebrating and supporting your previous partner in spite of the fracture and distance that comes as a result of dissolving the marriage and undoing the vows you made to one another.

But you never undo the vows to your children. And as you move through the years as co-parents rather than cohabitants and lovers, you will be stripped down to the bare essentials. In my case, over the last five years, I lost everything. Jobs, money, possessions. In some dark moments I contemplated losing myself. Amazing, that sadness that overwhelms completely enough for someone to consider an easy escape into death. I am ashamed to admit this moment, as if it’s some weakness in my character. But it’s a fact. A fact that I didn’t follow through on, but a fact that I contemplated, ruminated, on the idea that I could escape this pain and loss by escaping my own life.

As you move through the years as co-parents rather than cohabitants and lovers, you will be stripped down to the bare essentials.

My father must’ve felt the same despair as he made choices that led to his divorce from my mom. His choice was towards alcohol rather than towards us and our mom. He “chose” to deny his drinking problem and chose to marry another woman with a love of the distilled spirits as well. The descent was quick and horrifying to watch. But as he occasionally reached out to me, at 10 and 14 years old, to come live with them in the new fantastic house, I was clear that I would be taking a significantly different route.

As I have begun this new relationship in 2015 I have been shocked at times by the frictionless momentum we have developed while saying “Wow” to each other. But the bumps have been nonexistent, and the timing seems to have allowed both of us to make the repeated leaps necessary to join and rejoin regardless of the fear or differences. The YES has been much more powerful than any of our objections, and often more powerful than either of our individual ideas or expectations. We’ve blown through all of our expectations and are in an ongoing process of including our leap towards each other as we say “Wow,” and revel in the bursts of good fortune that continue to rain down on our lives as a couple.

And as we radiate and recommit, as we lean in towards one another and take the leap of faith towards life-transforming love, we can see the effect our joy is having on our friends and family. And the kids, while still readjusting to our new configuration, are already showing warmth and enthusiasm around our together unit, which now includes a new partner for me.

I can’t predict what will happen, but I can declare my commitment to staying in the YES mode and continuously transforming my fears into prayers as I turn towards this amazing new woman in *our* lives.

The leap of faith is strong and consistent on both our sides. As we hold hands and travel together and say “Yes” and “Wow” and “Thank you,”  we are creating love. You build love one leap at a time. And as long as both of you continue to leap towards one another, you’re future may be unpredictable, but the core energy will be solid and the core sound will be “Yes.”

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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image: kids leap into summer, june 2014, john mcelhenney, creative commons usage

Is It Love We’re After?

WHOLE-coupling There are three types of love.

Eros: is often thought of as the love of sex. But it’s much more than sexual. It’s the fire, the passion, the drive to create. And noticing that much of my eros, or erotic energy was focused on finding a partner, I could understand how that energy was being funneled away from the other creative passions. In my attempts to create the lover I wanted, to woo in a certain way that the other person becomes inflamed at the same level, was draining some of my resources and some of my beauty with all the effort. *

Filial Love: family, community, connectedness. This was the love I was being washed in, sitting alone with friends. Sometimes, in the darkness, even this filial love is not enough, and we’d rather stay in our quiet, dark, boxes and suffer alone. But just knowing that our family was out there, that our filial ties were strong even when we were all silent…  *

Agape Love: the flat-out powerful love of the creator, however you care to imagine her. God, Jesus, Mohammed… Native American gods. All part of the whole. The GOD of gods. However you chose to believe, however you chose to be amazed, that was the god of Agape. And while it could be sustaining, it was not nourishing in the same way as the first two. And certainly not as filling and energetic as the first one, Erotic. *

Today, walking around the lake with my “special friend” we were discussing our relationship. She was being funny for a bit teasing me about what our relationship was and was not. “Well, we’re not dating,” I said. “Because I don’t want to date.” “Okay, well what are we then?” “I don’t know. I don’t have any name for it,” I said, attempting to be honest and exploring the idea of what we had become. “So,” I said, “You don’t want a long-term relationship and I don’t want to date. We’re even. I don’t even care what you call it, whatever we’re in.” We agreed that we didn’t have the name or definition of what we were becoming, or even what we were at that moment, in a tender morning of “just being together” and grooving on that. And we walked on and talked about many things.

We are both working to keep our own trajectories intact while beginning to bend some of the time towards being with the other person.

And somewhere along the way, the word “love” was mentioned. And it’s become a more casual and easy word, not huge, or dramatic. Like LOVE. And I appreciated her sincerity. And I have been trying to understand just what she meant by it for a week or so, since the word came up. We’ve been talking about love in many ways. As in you love someone deeply and will always remain friends, no matter what. We have that. And then there’s all that other stuff…

So what love are we, as newly divorced adults, after? Are we wanting love, Love, or LOVE. I think there are escalating forms of this word love. Some of them have to do with desire and passion. Other parts, the bigger parts, have to do with “what’s next” or “what we will become.” Today I am sure we have “love” the first stage along the path. And that’s enough. And I would guess, right along schedule (though I have no real knowledge of what I’m talking about) for a well-matched relationship. Too soon and you risk mixing up lust and love. Too easily and you’re talking more about lust or capture. We don’t want capture at this point.

Love is a growing of intention between two people. As we walk, around the trail and on with our lives, we get a chance to be with the other person. And if we are comfortable about going slowly, we can see more and more sides of this other person, while we are still building our trust and caring for them. In my marriage, I was drawn in much too quickly to love and Love. We were dating and then living together in a matter of six months. We, of course, were on a mission to become parents, and in our late thirties, so we moved through our own internal objections and sped up the process. But we missed a few warning signs along the way, that might have prevented us from getting married had we been less enamoured.

So if love comes too quickly you might be tempted to overlook some of the issues in the early months of the relationship. By keeping things in the lower-case love, you can ferret things out better. Neither of us are interested in moving in together. Neither of us is interested in becoming step-parents. And we are both working to keep our own trajectories intact while beginning to bend some of the time towards being with the other person. I think it’s best to remain in this early-stage love until some true burning desire comes up between the two of you to move things to the next stage. Again, I am not there, at the moment. I am very comfortable with hearing “love” in my friend’s statements. And I am happy to reflect the sentiment. But I understand that we may not be on the same page about what love is or what we are talking about.

“It is more important for me to spend time building a real relationship than it is for me to date a lot of women.”

The two of us have been through a lot already. We’ve jumped through some burning hoops to see the next layer of protection being stripped away. We are pretty close to the pure joy of finding time together and knowing that we will enjoy the company of this other person until something else comes along.

And here’s where our current discussions tend to veer in slightly different directions. She has said, in the past, that she’s not into a long-term relationship. And I have accepted this frame in our courtship. Today, when I mentioned this to her, she winced. She wanted to explain, or to refer me back to her emails. But I was clear in my mind. I do want a long-term relationship. I am into this for the long haul. And if we continue to grow as partners, I am eventually going to want to grow into Love, the capital “L” version, that asks, what’s next. But that’s a ways down the path. And putting too much emphasis or worry about this eventual crossroads is premature.

Today we are together. I don’t have a name for what we are. I am not “dating” her, because I have decided with my heart, that I am in a relationship with her and we are not just casually getting together.

In practice, however, we are casually getting together. And we are getting together when our schedules allow. That she’s not into a long-term relationship, is also a frame that is being contested. What I think she means is she has no way to think about or imagine what the capital “L” love would look like. I don’t either, but I don’t need to go there to know that’s where I’m going. Eventually.

She once asked me, “Well, if you like relationships so much, why have you only had three in the four years since you’ve been divorced.” “Because,” I said, smiling inwardly, “It is more important for me to spend time building a real relationship than it is for me to date a lot of women.” So there (here) we are.

Always Love,

The Whole Parent
@wholeparent

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reference:The Three Types of Love – The Off Parent

image: indiscreet camera, prague, jan fidler, creative commons usage