The Temptations of a Man in Love

The Temptations of a Man in Love

I guess it’s cliché, the idea that the minute a man finds himself in a relationship is the time that all the attractive young women start showing up. Is it because the man-in-relationship is starting to weigh and evaluate his decision to become exclusive to one woman? Or is it because as he has selected this one woman that fires up the coyote-universe to present opportunities (temptations) to test his resolve?

I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with resolve. When I mate, I mate for life. Well… Okay, it hasn’t worked out that way in my first three serious relationships, but that’s my intention. And on number four, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be even more actively content and monofocused on my woman. I don’t want more than one woman. And when I have selected a woman, a relationship, the rest of my “hunter-male” goes dormant. It’s not that I don’t notice the pretty woman texting at the restaurant store next to me. I do notice her.

I do notice pretty women. I do still have comparative notes. But there’s something about me as a tethered, connected, in-relationship, man that turns my sexual hunger into a content fullness. I am most happy when I’m in a relationship. And most of my adult life has been spent in and working on relationships, rather than hunting for one.

Several times today I noticed I was sitting next to an absolutely gorgeous young woman. But my physical and emotional needs are met. I am calm, collected, and well-kept.

My therapist today, asked, “So given the history of your past three serious relationships, how do you know what a healthy relationship looks like?”

It was a good question. My two marriages and one engagement all had some serious foundational disconnects. How would a healthy relationship differ from my previous experiences?

I tried to talk my way through an answer.

“I have written a ton about what I think a healthy relationship looks like. But I really don’t know. I have ideas. I have architectures and strategies, but I’m pretty sure a solid and healthy relationship has little to do with what my fantasies of what a healthy relationship should look like. I don’t know. But I feel.”

“Yes,” said my therapist. “And you will need to notice when something comes up between the two of you that retriggers some of the previous fears or dysfunctions. And you’ll need to keep checking in with the new person to affirm that you are not seeing them through the lens of the past failures.”

“Okay,” I said. “I can see how I will need to keep level-setting. Keep stopping, and breathing. And keep recommitting to the present connection rather than the projections or fears.”

Make sure you are paying attention to what’s going on in front of your eyes, rather than what’s going on behind your eyes. – anonymous quote

Thinking about relationships is very different from actually doing them.

I’m on this new journey, with a new relationship… (A very young and very new relationship, btw.) And, of course, the young temptresses are showing up in my life. And as my therapist said, perhaps this time, I am being given an opportunity to be in a relationship with someone who is less traumatized than I am.

“You have done a ton of work on yourself,” she said. “And you have been processing and working through your early childhood traumas for years. You either want someone who is in the same place emotionally with their own baggage or someone who has a very different set of issues.

“What happens in relationships is we often get together with someone from a similar family of origin, and similar issues (alcoholism, for example) and both partners relate in unhealthy ways when stressful situations arise.” And both partners begin acting out of their distress and trauma and, in my case, slipping into some unhealthy coping mechanisms. If I don’t have this built-in trauma-response in my mate, how clean could we be? Could we move in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs from survival to fulfillment? I am ready to give that a shot.

Today, I’m in a healthy relationship with a woman who is not from a traumatic family life. It’s hard for me to imagine where I might be if I had not had the challenges in my early years. And, as they say, my experience thus far is what brought me here. But it’s not necessary to go through childhood and family trauma to be healthy.

I didn’t need a horrible family life to get my act together. That’s what happened in my childhood, and this is who I am as a result, but it might have been different. Let me take a run at having a relationship that starts out with a healthy bias rather than one of recovery and repressed emotions. Let the emotions and memories all run wild: I am ready.

I called in a healthy woman. I am all in.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

back to Dating Again After Divorce

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