Tag Archives: offline dating

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

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

The Heart and Desire

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

The Heart and Fulfillment

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

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

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

The Head Analyses

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

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

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

The Head Aims

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

When It Is a Match

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

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

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

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: hand and heart, creative commons usage

My Failure with Online Dating Sites

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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

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image: tango and curves, creative commons usage

The Spiritual Quest for Love

WHOLE-heart

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

Action Not Intention Will Determine How Long I’m Single

WHOLE-court6

 

Single moms are sexy. And if they play tennis… Well… I’m getting the picture.

Relationships are a force of nature. When we don’t have them we suffer from loneliness, boredom, ennui. When we do have them we suffer from feeling smothered, codependent, and overwhelmed. And of course, there’s the up-side. When your single the options are limitless. You’ve got online dating sites, apps like Tinder, and all the potential dates you could possibly imagine. And a lot of free time to spend searching, buffing yourself up, and putting your best foot forward.

I was in a cardio workout yesterday with two very attractive women. I was noticing my own joy at just being around them.

As I begin the conscious move away from online dating and into real-time dating, I’m aware that it takes a lot more energy to actually go out. In truth, we get lazy. We think that browsing online profiles is kind of like dating. We tell ourselves we’re upping the odds by adding our own hopes and wishes to the online pool of potential partners. But mostly, for me, I’m understanding that I’m lazy. The effort is 100% up to me. And some nights, even when there’s a known woman at a known event, I skip it.

I’m understanding more about what’s going on when I opt-out in the real world.

  • Online dating (the browsing and contacting part) is easy. There’s very little risk. It takes very little energy. And, in theory, you are browsing hundreds of available women in your area.
  • Online profiles cannot translate any of the feeling part that you get when you’re in proximity with another person. When there’s a spark, you can feel it, before anyone has spoken. Without it, well… you’ve just wasted an evening and several dollars trying to find out.
  • Even great pictures AND great txt/emails don’t equal a match. I’m learning to reel it back in a few notches. I used to engage in long romantic chats with potential women only to be sadly disappointed when we finally met.
  • The lack of energy required to “date” online is equal to the energy you are going to get back. Feeling lazy, too lazy to go out? No problem whip up OK Cupid and cruise the internet a bit.

So what are some of the things that make putting yourself out there in the real world more challenging? What are the things that keep me at home on a Sunday morning, when I know there’s a spiritual service nearby that is likely to include several attractive single women?

  • I’m not feeling too great about myself. This can be energetic, spiritual, or physical.
  • I just don’t have the energy to put my a-game together.
  • I’d rather do something else.
  • I’m afraid of rejection or looking like a fool.
  • I’m just a little bit comfortable in my aloneness.

But in two years of seeking, I can tell you that a love poem is never going to get the girl. It might get someone interested. It might even illicit an email when it’s published online. But it’s only the intention without the action. It’s the romantic longing for romance without the risk. It’s not easy to get excited by someone and be let down by their lack of resonance. I was just looking back over a near miss post from a few years back. (See: Met My Match)

The women in question has popped up on OK Cupid again. She still looks as delicious as she did. Well, she’s using the same profile and the same pictures, so of course, she looks good. And she reminds me of how I can imagine everything is ON when it’s not. What she showed me, for the first time since my divorce, was dating and finding the right combo of looks, intelligence, and joy, is tough. It’s not as easy as flipping through some profiles, having a nice hello and … even after two hours of inspired conversation… it’s still a NO?

Okay, so what’s different for me now? What needs to be different in 2015 for me to find my next relationship, not date. I’ve had two dates since my divorce. I’m interested in moving out past the three-month mark, making a statement with someone. (Probably not adding them to my Facebook profile picture, but that’s a different story.)

I know what I have to do.

  • Focus on myself.
  • Be radiant and potent in my walk through the world.
  • Get fit because I deserve to be stronger, healthier, and more energetic.
  • Go out even when I don’t feel like it.

I was in a cardio workout yesterday with two very attractive women. I was noticing my own joy at just being around them. I did not have any designs on them. I did not proposition either one of them. And the banter during the workout was hilarious and untethered to any idea of “dating” or romance. Oh, I guess I should mention, they were both married. BUT… two weeks ago, when the same two women were in the cardio class with me, I’m certain that the “friend” was not wearing her ring. A certain antennae perked up in my brain and I noticed how I took her in with slightly different eyes, imagining that she was a single mom.

Single moms are sexy. And if they play tennis… Well… I’m getting the picture.

Dating Goal: I will take specific actions to meet single women who play tennis.

Parenting is a life journey that I’ve committed myself to. My partner should have the same orientation. And tennis, being my favorite sport, is a passion that if shared, can unlock a lot of positive feelings and shared time together.

New direction. I must find a parter for the mixed doubles league. And yesterday I took a step in that direction. I asked one of the two women if she knew of anyone who would be interested in joining a mixed ladder as a team.

She smiled and asked, “Would you prefer a single woman?” The banter between us was rich.

“Well, that would be a double win, but not necessary.” Then she delivered the kicker.

“I’d do it, if I didn’t already have so many commitments. But I’ll give it some thought.”

Just those two little ideas generated a nice warm fuzzy inside of me. She would… She’ll think about it on my behalf. And because I know we already get along (this woman has been coming to the cardio class for months) I can imagine that she will. And of course, she does have a lot of women friends who also happen to play tennis. And maybe that happen to be single. Who knows. It’s not about her or her friends, it’s about the intention, the idea, and the action.

NEW 2015 Dating Goal: I will take specific actions to meet single women who play tennis. WIN WIN.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

This post really began with these two ideas:

And this earlier run at online dating:

back to Dating After Divorce

image: it’s a bit frosty on court 6 this morning, cc 2014 john mcelhenney, creative commons usage

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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related posts:

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

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

back to Dating After Divorce

related posts:

image: dining alone, john mcelhenney, cc 2014

What A Single Dad Wants In the *Next* Relationship

WHOLE-tennisgirl

[Feb 2016 Update: Dating a Divorced Dad – Version 2.0 Updated]

Let’s Hook Up, Wait. I Mean, Let’s Go Out On A Date…

We’ve both got some history under our belt, kids, and some requirements for what’s OK and what we simply won’t ever do again. (Red Flags, we like to call them.) As we navigate “dating” again, we quickly realise the rules are very different. Our experience gives us some distinct advantages in terms of recognising what we don’t want. And perhaps our unfinished wounding might keep us from starting the dating process again.

Don’t miss the exciting conclusion of this single dad’s journey:
A Single Dad In Love, Again

Rules for dating a single dad.

(I’ve got two kids and a full-time job, but I’d still like to find time to be with someone.)

1. Let’s not rush into things.

I will admit that getting back out there, for me, as a man, initially was about sex. Today, I think sex can get in the way of learning if you like the person. And if you’re going to do more than lay around in bed with this person, you’d might want to go easy on the seduction moves at first. Get to know if you like talking to, as well as looking at your potential partner. I don’t have any hard rules on this. But if you slow the drive to the bedroom you might avoid getting mixed up in something purely physical. It can blur your vision when trying to figure out if you want to hang with this person for the long run.

2. I’m Looking for 100% Pure Connection

Half my life is behind me. I have two beautiful kids. And I’m happy with myself, just as I am. (I’d like to keep getting fitter, but my joy is genuine.) In several previous online dates I found myself sitting across the table from very attractive, usually younger, women who had nearly nothing in common with me. I could see myself eyeing their bodies and trying to imagine the sex, but I stopped myself, pretty quickly, even with the fantasizing. It takes a lot to get to a second date with me. Today, I’m even getting pretty stingy with first dates. I don’t want a “date.” I don’t want nice. I want my next relationship to start out with the potential going the long distance. I’ve never been a casual dater.

3. I’m Into Moms

If my date doesn’t have kids, they probably don’t have much in common with me. At our age kids are either a choice you made or one you didn’t. And nothing against the non-parents in the group, but I’m so wrapped up with my kids, that if you don’t have that same passion and joy, we’re probably going to have to look for things to have engaging conversations about. If you have kids, we’ve got an immediate starting point for everything. Trying to talk about your kids with a woman who’s not a mom… Well, they just don’t get it.

4. Let’s Be Clear About This

Games of any kind are an immediate time out. Passive aggressive might have worked in some other decade, but as adults, we should’ve gotten that silliness out-of-the-way. One thing I will tell a first date, “You can ask me anything. In fact, I prefer the hard questions. I’m trying to learn the answers myself. I will always try to answer honestly.” And the one relationship I’ve had since my divorce, went right for it. And while we are no longer a relationship we went through the whole process, getting to know each other >> dating >> breaking up, without any drama. None. We’re still friends. That’s how it needs to be. Let’s do without all the crazy stuff.

5. Brutally Honest

If it’s not a fit on the first date I’m going to try to let you know as gently and as quickly that it wasn’t a fit. I think that initial attraction is something that we can’t really control or completely predict, but I also don’t think we can do without it. I have created a dog metaphor to help me explain what I’m talking about. And I usually share this concept on the first date. (Hmm. Maybe this explains a lack of second dates.) Here it is. Two dogs meet up in a park. Either 1. both tails are wagging; 2. one tail is wagging; or 3. neither tail is wagging. It’s as simple as that. I was born with a Boston Terrier’s body. I can be several different sizes of Boston Terrier, but if you’re into whippets and poodles, we’re probably never going to be a match. And there’s no accounting for taste. I think some of this is hardwired.

6. The Spark Is Only a Start

If the chemistry (tail wag) is ON, there are still a ton of steps along the path before we’re in a relationship. We need to have intellectual compatibility. (If I’m a reader and you’re a reality tv junkie, we might not go the distance.) We need to synchronize our schedules over time. (Kids, work, and all the other stuff we’re just remembering we love to do) have to be the priority. It may take several months to get in our first four dates, but… Like I said earlier, we shouldn’t be in a hurry. And then we’ve got all the negotiations about how and when we want to see each other. (Let’s not start with jumping in bed or looking at vacation calendars for a while. Okay?)

7. Fearless Commitment To Monogamy

At first divorce may seem like we’ve gotten the key to the kingdom of sex again. It’s not that easy. If that IS what you are looking for, go for it. I won’t be in your queue. If we do decide to sleep together I want to know that we’ve just become mutually exclusive. That might be a stretch if you’re playing the field, or not sure about what you want. It’s not difficult for me. By the time we get past 1st-base I’m letting you know that I am into you. And if you want to go further, we’ve got to establish some mutual objectives. (If we’re about to sleep together I can assure you we’ve had this conversation.)

8. Feeling the Feelings

Men are often accused of not feeling their feelings. And, in fact, feelings can be scary for both men and women.  But as we begin navigating our time together we’ve got to be able to talk about whatever we’re feeling. The beauty of that is feelings include the ability to fully love. So when opportunity arrises I look forward to being 100% present with my feelings. There might have been a disconnect on those terms in my previous marriage. But I’m a learning individual. I know that I feel deeply and I enjoy being expressive of those feelings. If feelings scare you, that might be something for you to look at. Feelings are the key to compatibility, in my opinion.

+++

I look forward to having another opportunity to learn about myself “in relationship” at some point. I’m happy and patient right where I am. But I believe by having my priorities clear and articulated I can do a better job of finding and sorting through the process of finding that NEXT RELATIONSHIP. I wait enthusiastically.

+++

UPDATE: Responding to a comment on another site about this post, I’d like to share a few more observations.

Thank you for your comment. Here are several points where I think we need more discussion.

1. Dating younger women. Yes, I selected these potential dates and knew their age, and also that they had not ever had children. My post shows some of my learnings as a result of these mistakes. It’s pretty telling for both men and women when their profile says they are 50 and they want to date partners who are 30 – 40. I’m not that guy. I’m pretty clear about wanting a woman who’s experienced a lot of the world. And in that model they’ve probably had kids, and are generally within 5 years of my age, on either side. My one girlfriend since divorce was a couple years older.

2. Straight to sex. Hmmm. This is one I try to cover in the post in several different ways. If this is the case, we are not a fit. (I can only speak from my perspective, not your’s, or her’s.)

3. Who pays, who is the predator, and who’s demanding sex? I agree with many of the things you say are wrong between the relationships between men and women. I am not an apologist for the cultural norms that have stacked the deck against those of us who are trying to elevate the discussion about it all. And I think our culture’s focus on youth is way off base. But I’m not sure porn is any more the driver then the Miley-Cyrus-type circus of celebrity and mainstream media. Our culture feeds on extremism. And it has an effect on all of us, adults and teenagers.

The discussion I am hoping to facilitate is the antithesis of these issues. That’s why I am trying to come out with my individual perspective that seems to be different from the experiences you’ve had. We learn. We evolve. Or we don’t. I am hoping to get better, clearer, and more honest with each attempt at being in a relationship.

I really do appreciate you taking a chance and voicing your opinion. We (men and women) need to have more frank discussions about desire, sexual preferences, and how we want to relate to each other in and out of the bedroom.

AND ANOTHER UPDATE:

I didn’t “find myself on a date” I realised during the date, with an attractive woman who was within my desired age range who happened to be younger than me and not a mom. It was my realization that we had nothing in common (yes we seemed to have a lot of spark on txt messages and via email) once we were sitting at a table together. It was a moment of finding myself, not discovering that she was younger. I discovered that I wasn’t interested in this attractive, younger, woman for a variety of reasons I tried to articulate. I understand the knee-jerk reaction. There are just as many women in online dating who do the exact same thing. Again, that is not what I am looking for. And sex is way off in the future, for ME. What she might be thinking, her motivations for sitting at the table are for us to discover, hopefully, via clear and honest communication.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

The Dating a Divorced Dad series continues:

New Dating Strategy in 2015:

image: tennis girl smelled so nice, austin, texas, july 2013 – john mcelhenney