Tag Archives: seeking love

The Three Essential Elements of Love


It is easier to say what didn’t work than to count up the things that did work. Especially as we arrive at the end of yet another relationship (dating, marriage) it is more common to identify the things that broke down. But in focusing on the positive aspects of what has worked in the past, you might be able to focus your attention there. Looking for the positive as opposed to looking out to avoid the negative.

Here are the three essential elements of love, in my experience thus far:


Calm Center.


There you go, those are the keys to love. Let’s take them one by one and see if we can illuminate what makes love blossom in the company of someone with these qualities.


You know it when you feel it, and you recognize it when you see it in another person. There is no faking inner joy. Positivism can help, but the peaks and valleys of life puncture positivism all the time. The joyous person, stumbles just like the rest of us, and they tend to get back up quicker and with a hopefulness that accelerates their recovery.

I would love to have you along side me, grooving to your own dream. And together we can bond and thrive in support of our mutual time together and our individual dreams.

We are all looking for joy, both in our lives and in the relationship with another person. If there is a huge imbalance in the levels of innate joy there will be trouble ahead. And maybe there are highly joyous people and people who are comfortable and fine in a more medium joyousness. Perhaps I am asking for someone to match my highly-activated happiness. And maybe it’s more important to understand your own energy and set-point of joy, then you can align yourself with a similar inner smile.

What demonstrates joy? How do we recognize this joyousness?

Smiles that light up the eyes are a good start. But even from a distance, if you are tuned in, you can feel a joyous person enter a restaurant. It’s an amazing recognition. And when you see it, feel it, taste the hint of joy in the other person, you can no longer do without it. I remember standing next to a date at an art reception and being rather painfully aware of her self-consciousness and over-thinking, while being a bit blown over by a woman, several groups of people over, who I recognized as a fellow radiator.

Perhaps not everyone radiates at the same intensity. If you are a highly joyous person, like myself, perhaps anything less will be painful and disconnecting. I know that I seek joy above all else in my next relationship. I will settle for nothing less.

Calm Center.

All the tumbles in life and we all deal with setbacks and interruptions in our own ways. If there is drama in our lives we can either respond with more drama, or urgency, or we can pause and reevaluate. I am a slow down and observe what’s going on type. When the drama hits from outside my life, I do my best not to respond in kind with more drama. I have always scored very low on the “sense of urgency” scale. It’s one of the things, I think that drove my then-wife crazy. She always felt she was the only one responding with the appropriate action.

But I’m not looking for any more drama or urgency in my life. The world brings out enough of that in our lives without us contributing to the frenetic pace. Calm centering is one of my super powers.

I’m almost always hopeful and joyous about this new journey. As a single dad I have more time and more complications than when I was married.

If your partner is also a centering person you might have a better chance at finding that inner peace together, in spite of the drama around you. Listen to their words. Listen to how they express the frustrations of the day. You want to hear a lack of victimization. You want to hear a simple pragmatic approach to getting the tasks and chores of life accomplished without struggle. Sometimes there will be frustration and energy, that’s okay. But what is not okay is the needless amplification of the urgency of any issue.

“Is someone going to the hospital?” If the answer is no, then you can take your time in the response. And, especially in dealing with your ex-partner, the pause is your friend. They no longer respond within minutes, they no longer have to. So you too have the option to wait a bit before responding to any request. Time is on your side. Not manipulative time, but time to pause, reset, think, and respond.

It is always a good idea to get your center before responding to a dramatic or urgent message. Again, unless there is a fire or someone needs to go to the hospital, the urgency is probably falsely constructed to illicite a response. Give your response, on your time, by taking a moment to breathe and think about what you want as a result.


What keeps you up at night? How are you envisioning your life beyond the daily grind? Do you have goals that transcend your role as a parent or worker bee? If you don’t this might be a good time to figure out what other goals you can put out there for yourself. You need bigger goals. Call them life work, hobbies, or passions. You need to have some bigger ideals and bigger visions for your own life.

And seeing that passion in another person may be the final critical element I look for. I want a passionate partner. I want to be a cheerleader for your dreams. Of course I am sensitive to your needs and goals for your kids, but I’m most interested what warms your synapses in the off times.

Tell me about your dreams. What are you passionate about?

If we can find the balance of these three traits between us, perhaps we can build “what’s next” together.

I have a few things that I will slowly reveal to you as well, as we get to know each other. But I don’t want to overwhelm you. I don’t want to brag or show off with what I’m working towards. But it’s one of my most prized accomplishments. Sure, I love my kids. And I am clear that they are the priority in my life, way beyond my ultimate dreams for myself. BUT… They will grow older and no longer require my utmost attention and nurture. What will I be doing after they are gone?

Retirement is not an option for me. The time gained in divorce has been a boon to my big dreams. (This blog, for example, is a direct result of having the additional time when I don’t have my kids.) So as I continue to move through my life, I am growing my bigger dream. I am gathering momentum as an artist, writer, musician, and poet. I am happy with my alone time. I would love to have you along side me, grooving to your own dream. And together we can bond and thrive in support of our mutual time together and our individual dreams.

I’m almost always hopeful and joyous about this new journey. As a single dad I have more time and more complications than when I was married. And if we can find the balance of these three traits between us, perhaps we can build “what’s next” together.

Looking for a together partner, and a partner who is together already.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

back to Dating After Divorce

The Dating a Divorced Dad series continues:

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image: imogen heap – pop tech 2008, kris krüg, 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

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reference:The Three Types of Love – The Off Parent

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