Category Archives: love

Dating Boundaries After Divorce

BFFN: best friends for now; boyfriend for now.

So when you begin “dating” a new person how quickly do you become attached? How soon do you both actively use the word “boyfriend” or “girlfriend?” As you begin to lean into a new relationship the boundaries between you can become very abstract and blurry. This lack of boundaries or inability to articulate what we need or want is the cause of many early dating failures. I recall a woman, years ago, who had given me her phone number after a stellar first date, saying, “We should just hang out sometime. Call me.”

I was so thrilled that I emailed her a few times. I connected to her phone # and sent her a few texts. I thought I was being enthusiastic. She thought I was going way to fast. “You need to slow your roll,” is how she put it. We never made it to a second date. I don’t know what boundary I crossed, or what previous dating experience had caused her to be so dramatic in her pushback.

As I am entering into some new “dating” relationships I want to get very clear about what my needs are.

  1. I don’t need a rescue.
  2. I don’t need financial support.
  3. I don’t need someone to validate me.
  4. I don’t need a support system. (see Liz Phair: Support System)
  5. I don’t need to move quickly towards defining the relationship.
  6. I’m not heading for a hookup. (When I decide to have sex, it will be because I am choosing you above all others, and I will immediately become monogamous and drop all dating profiles and apps.)
  7. My intentions are set for a long-term relationship, not a dating partner.
  8. You must be on your own path of strength and beauty.
  9. You don’t need me to support you emotionally, financially, or spiritually. (These are parts of a relationship that might evolve, but at the outset, we need to be two individual countries engaged in becoming allies and trading partners.)
  10. Your sexual energy enlivens and engages my chemistry in a way that we both enjoy.

I’m not looking for a lot. I’m looking for exactly EVERYTHING. There is no “almost” in my next relationship. And I am willing to stand in and be a good celibate man until I find her.

How you define your boundaries early in the relationship is how you will relate to each other for the duration. If you cross boundaries and violate minor issues of trust, you will break the fragile bond that is forming between the two of you, even before the first fibers of love have begun to form and enmesh.

As Brené Brown puts it in her talk on BRAVING, you develop trust and love through hundreds of tiny engagements and opportunities. You either show up or you turn away. I am showing up. My next mate must show up too. First for her own life. Is she standing in her own power, her own dream? And then as an equal, as she considers joining together and combining forces.

I want to be a better man by being with a woman who calls me to attention and accountability. Today, I am alone and doing fine. I am doing some of the hard work of healing past wounds (mine have to do with childhood trauma) and celebrating a positive self-image. As I learn about loving myself, I am readying a place in my heart to love another.

I’m not quite there yet. But I’m excited by the opportunities ahead to become someone’s BFFN. The “for now” part is critical. I can’t plan the future of my next relationship. I can only show up, be honest, and remain open. The other person has 50% of the balance in our things turn out. In the past I have tried to be bigger than my 50%, I have compensated for qualities that were lacking in the other person. I’ve learned that being unbalanced in any way (sexually, financially, physically, spiritually) can l cause problems in the future.

Let’s keep returning to the now of our relationship. Sure, let’s become girlfriend and boyfriend. Then let’s see where it goes from there.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

back to Dating After Divorce

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The Unattached Male

I am a wild animal. I understand this about my brain. There are parts of it (the reptilian brain) that are still connected to instincts like “survival of the fittest” and “sex for procreation” and “sex at every opportunity.” There are parts of all of us (yes, I believe women are just as energized by sexual energy and attraction as men are) that are more like animals on the hunt for a mate than a rational human being going about their modern-day lives. We’re hooked on sex. And when our sex-is-on-fire we pay attention to what is right in front of us.

I know myself “in relationship” as a man who is satisfied and settled. I am no longer driven by the energetic part of the sex-brain that is hunting for attractive and available women. When I have a relationship to call my own, my entire body is more relaxed, more connected, and more grounded. I can see and appreciate a sexy young woman, and as a connected male, I can let it go with a “God has made another beautiful woman,” thought. I do not need to lure, to approach, or engage.

I noticed this afternoon I was fascinated by a young woman a few tables over at lunch. She was chatting with a friend and never noticed my attentions. But I noticed I was seeing things about her that might be construed as… Well, as not all that healthy.

I am not a misogynist, but I do have a hard time not making women’s bodies “objects” of affection. That’s called the objectification of women. (Not a good thing.) So I notice. Appreciate. And let go.

This is when I’m in a good place, relationship-wise, as in connected, satisfied, and satiated. Today was not one of those days. I’m alone again. I’ve been dating and meeting women, but I’m unattached, unsatiated. I’m still in my reptillian brain and desiring women in the world around me with a possesive and primal energy. I wanted this young woman, smiling, talking, and taking no notice of the dad-bod near her.

What was it about her energy, her sexuality, her youth, that fascinated me so much? And this is not strictly about youth or fitness, though those things can add or subtract from the momentum. I was attracted and pulled toward this young woman, because I do not have a primary relationship in my life. Sure, I’m exploring a few options via online dating, but I’m no longer attached to a woman.

This untethered state is something that makes me feel less than optimal as I walk the earth. I feel a bit more energetic, but in a sexual and driven way. She was a tasty mate, and that’s what I was looking for, even if the idea of “mating” for procreation is no longer part of my physical possibilities.

Today, I don’t have a greener pasture I’m looking for, I’m looking for any available, rational, Brené Brown reading, fit, and funny woman. I’m looking.  And in this seeking state, I’m more of a predator, more an old lion on a hunt.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

back to Dating After Divorce

The “Third Glass” series:

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Going Global with the 100%-Positive Single Parent Message

Today marks a new dawn for The Whole Parent.

Today, the online agent who found me a few weeks ago begins the process of putting The Whole Parent into the reach of millions more people than we’ve touched so far. Today, The Whole Parent has over 1 million reads of our posts. We’re pretty happy with that stat. But it’s not enough.

anne leedom - the whole parent

Anne Leedom’s Online PR is about to take the journey with us to creating a more positive divorce and single parenting experience for you and your kids. We need to let go of the divorce and anger. We need to become “whole” parents again. And with Anne beside me, I’m confident we will continue to touch lives.

Today is the beginning of something big. Welcome aboard Anne. We’re ready to do great things with you.

Thank you again for coming along on my journey.

John McElhenneyThe Whole Parent

Imagine a Man

Let’s talk about your (woman’s) side of the equation. I’m so focused on what I want, what about you? What does your ideal man look like? Please discuss.

Here my ten success factors for a relationship with a man.

  1. Mental fitness
  2. Physical fitness
  3. Spiritual fitness
  4. Emotionally available
  5. Financially stable
  6. Happiness scale
  7. Sexually attractive (chemistry)
  8. The way he walks in the world
  9. The way he approaches you/women/life
  10. Timing is everything

How does your vision for a man stack up? Could you put your list together for an ideal man? Have you done it? Have you done a vision board for the man you are dreaming of? Are you ready to meet him? If the man of your dreams shows up tomorrow are you really ready for him? What would it take to be swept off your feet? And it that really what you want? There are some dangerous aspects of getting too romantically, or too sexually, connected before the “relationship” part of the relationship has a chance to develop.

Sex is great. Chemistry is vital. But the rest of the relationship is more important. What happens if the sex is amazing on the 5th date? You still know very little about how this man lives his life. And you certainly don’t know how you would fit into his routine. Because you have not had a chance to figure out a routine together. You’ve just gotten hooked up on the love drug. And love/sex is a very powerful drug.

In the marriage to the mother of my children, I got physically connected, attracted, to her long before I was clear on what she was like. And this proved to be a problem later when I began to understand a bit more about her spiritual and mental makeup. I’m not going to say anything negative about her at this point, other than to say we had great chemistry and less relationship compatibility. How will you know about your new relationship if you don’t give the “relationship” time to develop. Once the sex-drive is connected, your ability to logically navigate the adventure of building a life together is compromised. Yes, it’s a great compromise. But it’s also a trap.

Sex too soon can lead to bad relationships based on sex and physical attraction. Make sure when you are thinking of having sex with someone (this is my relationship DNA – The 6-Step Relationship Strategy) that you are preparing the idea that you want to have a long-term relationship (LTR) with this person. If you are hooking up, you are reading the wrong blog. (grin)

Have fun out there. Get yourself a map of the man you want to find. Imagine the man, imagine a man, imagine your man, and then do the work to get yourself in the best shape (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) of your life, so that when he shows up he will notice you. That’s all it takes. If the magic is going to happen, it’s going to happen. Having sex too soon can derail the emotional and spiritual bonding that also needs to take place.

I’m not saying don’t have sex. I’m not saying wait 5 dates or 5 months before having sex with someone. I am saying, when you’re about to have sex with someone, ask the question, “Does this person have the potential to be the one?” If the answer is less than a resounding YES, you might be more interested in a hookup than a relationship. That’s okay, but notice your own feelings about the idea. And if you want to hookup, do it. But if you’re looking for a relationship to last the rest of your life, give your heart a chance to catch up with you and your man before you bring him into your bedroom.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

* If you are interested in meeting Daniel, or getting a coach in your life, please let me know.

More from The Whole Parent:

+++ imagine a man, by the who +++

Imagine a girl
You long for and have
And the body of chalky perfection and truth

Imagine a past
Where you wish you had lived
Full of heroes and villains and fools

And you will see the end
You will see the end
And you will see the end
You will see the end
Oh yeah

Coaching for Single Parents – Lifecoaching Practice Announced

The amazing people at started courting me in October of 2017. I was having a tough holiday and I did not respond until the editor in chief connected with me on LinkedIn. She wanted to do an interview and profile of The Whole Parent.

A lot has changed since this article came out. Too much to fill in here, but over time you will learn how February 2018 was one of the most transformative months of my 50+ years on the planet. The transitions are still in motion, my life is still approaching hyperspeed of some sort, and many of my major life goals are revealing themselves to have answers that I did not expect and was not actively looking for. Yet, here we are.

Click to see the profile

Today the world changes for The Whole Parent, aka John McElhenney. As my life has been moving in recent years, my passion for helping and guiding single parents through the hardships of divorce, depression, recovery, addiction, and ultimately renewed belief in a future relationship, I am announcing today that my services as a single parenting coach/wingman/confidant/cheerleader are now official and I’ve got slots open.

What this means to you as a reader of The Whole Parent.

  1. My rate to you is 50% what it will be in April when the public announcement is made.
  2. After your first session with me (skype/facetime/in-person Austin, Texas) you will get a free copy of my new book, What a Single Dad Seeks, as well as lifetime and unlimited access to the upcoming community that is being built behind the Single Dad Seeks Community Website.
  3. Your first 30-minute session is free. Let’s just talk about your goals, what you’re looking for in a coach. What kind of help you need. If I’m not the best fit for you, I have a network of coaches I consult with.
  4. I’ll have the honor of talking to you about your life, your dreams. And you can ask me about my story, what I’ve written, what my experience as a single parent in the online dating world has been.
  5. I’ll email you my ebook, What Single Dads Want You To Know About Online Dating.

That’s the entire offer. First call, 30-minutes, is free. Let’s just connect. I’ll send you an electronic copy of the book and ebook just for connecting with me online. There’s no payment, no commitment. That’s as honest as I can get about what I do and how I can help you get back to your authentic strength and happiness.

I do Skype, Zoom, or FaceTime sessions for on a sliding scale… That’s it. Easy. Tell me what you want to pay in the opening email and describe your situation. I can help.




Speaking engagements and interview inquiries can be emailed to [email protected] or for quicker response, you can call and leave a message at 512-524-6684.

For review copies of John’s newest book, Single Dad Seeks: Dating Again After Divorce, send mailing info to [email protected]

This is why I do it. I’m a dad to this wonderful 15 yo girl. She makes my life worth living every day. My 17 yo son, not pictured, is also a top priority in my parenting, earning, and dating life.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

I am alone.

I don’t like being alone. I like sleeping next to someone, loving someone each morning, finding new things to love each day. I crave this connection a little too much and I know that’s a bad thing. I think I’m too susceptible right now to my own addiction. I think I might be addicted to women. In a slightly unhealthy way, that has led me to trouble in the past. So let’s slow things down a bit and look at how “the waiting” can be the best part.

At the moment I am in a perfect relationship. I wake up , go to sleep, nap, walk, play tennis, write… all that, I do all those things without considering another soul. I am in love with myself. Okay, that’s a bit extreme, but I’m learning to like my own company again. For awhile there, after my last breakup I was not sure I would survive to see another relationship. Today, I know I will, I’m just not sure how or when. It’s that unknowing that I’m also beginning to understand. I can’t say I enjoy it yet, but I get it. I’m not ready.

While there are not a whole lot of things going tremendously right in my life right now, I am comfortable in my rebuilding. As I went on a “hello date” yesterday I was happy with the me I presented. While there was zero chemistry and thus zero follow-up, it was an opportunity to tell my story again. To hear how it sounds to talk about my divorce and my kids, and what I’m doing with my life. Of course, I leave out some of that life stuff, but I was honest in all that I chose to share.

What I learned yesterday, at some point during our 45 minute conversation, is I am confident and comfortable with who and where I am. I talked about the i-ching for a minute in reference to both of our current situations. (See, when you’re going on a first date it’s likely the other person is alone and waiting for what’s next as well.) That she had never heard of the i-ching was surprising, but hey… Here’s a paraphrase of what I said.

Back when I was into the tao and zen, I used to throw the i-ching for guidance. It’s really just a reflecting pool that you can bounce your current situation off of, a philosophy. What was interesting was out of the 64 hexagrams of the i-ching, three times I threw the exact same one.


Actively Waiting.

And what I learned was the great general does not rest during the down times of war. He is actively rebuilding, strategizing, readying his plans. In our case, we are in a down time, but rather than be lazy or discouraged, we must take advantage of this time and explore, learn, study, plan, everything we can think of, so that when the waiting is over we are well-prepared for the journey ahead.

Am I ready for a new relationship right now? Nope. How do I know? I’m too into it. I’m too ambitious. I’m too eager. There is very little peace in my approach right now. I’m learning and slowing that down over the past few weeks, but I still feel the lingering energy that would swoop in at the first opportunity for a relationship and create an unrealistic fantasy about the woman just so I could have a relationship.

In the waiting I’m working on a few things.

  • Continuing my exercise and good eating habits. (Helps me stay fit.)
  • Reading and writing. (Helps me plan and imagine the future.)
  • Exploring online dating. (Gives me glimpses of possibility. None that I have connected with, but it’s sort of like training school.)
  • Working a shift-job while I continue to seek my next big job. (Keeps me engaged. Gives my kids some child support.)
  • Honoring and visiting with my mom. (She’s 85 and has plenty of worldly-wise and unwise experience to share with me.)
  • Requesting opportunities to be with my kids and build our relationship. (Teenagers are usually too busy for mom or dad, I get it.)
  • Listening and respecting the pace of life. (Mindfulness is an ongoing practice.)

I am confident that each of the activities gives me more strength and passion for what’s next. That could be a new job. A new relationship. Or it could be more of the actively waiting. As long as I am not wasting this time, I am building a better me. I believe that.

When I think about myself at this moment I would say, I’m as happy as I’ve ever been.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

image: meditation, creative commons usage

(Singing) Find Me Somebody to Love

Did you hear the Queen song in your mind? Here, let me help.

There. That sets the tone of my teenage mindset, from when this song came out in the early 70’s. Today, in my mid-50’s I’m still a bit like that young boy, wide-eyed, eager, and most of all lonely. It’s not that I’m not enjoying my time alone, I am. But… As an empath I really feel the aloneness in a deep way. And I know this ache still needs some time to heal before I’m really ready to quest on towards a new relationship.

I’m a bit like a hungry ghost at the moment, and that’s not where I want to start from. I can feel it, however, in my approach to daily life. I’m looking a bit too longingly into other women’s eyes. I have a bit too much “hi, how are you” swagger at work. And I am imagining lustful scenes rather than holistic, real, achievable moments. It’s like my mind wanting to recreate a porn scene while my heart is looking for a real relationship. The two lines are blurred in my mind for now, and that’s confusing.

I don’t see myself as a horndog, but I think at the moment I’ve got all the characteristics of one. I’m not acting out, of course, but I’m actively conjuring up the energy and images in my mind. I see it as revving the motor. Harmless. And yet, the phrase, hungry ghost didn’t come out of thin air. I am a bit too obsessive. I have a drive that I’m not all that proud of at the moment, that demands a partner, a companion, a place to call home with someone else to come home to. It’s fine to want all that, when the time is right. The time is not right for me, at the moment and I know it. And yet the fire burns on.

I am walking around life at the moment with a hyper sense of awareness. I’m trying to identity what features I really “fall in love” with in a woman. And I’m not really getting the formula. I fall for 5 – 6 women a day. Of course this is in a harmless and self-aware way. I see my longing, I acknowledge the beauty of the woman I’m seeing, and I move along. I am not in pursuit.

And at the same time, I can feel the lack of that connection in everything I do. I don’t want to sleep alone tonight. I don’t want to plan all my own meals, and shop alone, and entertain myself. I crave the opportunity to do all those mundane things with someone. Of course, that’s where relationships can get off course, in the mundane. So, this time, I’m thinking I will make things different.

In fact, mundane is a fundamental process in any relationship. And getting to love the simple daily tasks with your mate is part of the journey. We get all jazzed and heated up about sex and sexual chemistry, which are very important, but sex probably makes up about 1% of our lives together. It is the rest of the time you have to figure out if you can enjoy together. I’m eager to try again, but with some new realizations.

  • Partners must have equal power and voice in the decisions of the relationship.
  • Both partners must continue their creative journeys alone.
  • Keeping an outside life enriches the relationship.
  • Adaptability is critical, but some things about your partner will never change.
  • The relationship is always considered first when making outside plans, always. A simple, “Hi honey, I’m thinking about going out with friends on Friday, is that okay with you?”
  • Disconnections must be expressed, even in the face of fear.

And there, I didn’t mention sex at all. Oh, but sex should be connective and pleasurable for both partners. If your attraction and relationship is founded on sex there is going to be a lot more of living that you need to figure out together.

Summing up, what I know about myself is I’m still a bit ghostly inside with too much sexual energy wrapped up in my daily walkabout. I am actively slowing my roll and not looking for a relationship. I can still have those lusty feelings, recognize them for what they are, appreciate the woman who triggered them, and the move on with my life as I am rebuilding it. It’s a perfect time. All the relationships I have are in my head and they are amazing.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

image: lover’s kiss, creative commons usage

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

image: hand and heart, creative commons usage

Fearless Love: A Holistic Theory of Active Love

Love is an action. Yes, it might also be a feeling, but ultimately your “love” is determined by your actions. Either you are continuously moving towards that special someone, or you are not. And as relationships go, it’s the action of love that will sustain relationships. The glow, the chemistry, the sexual connectivity all fade in comparison to simple everyday actions.

I’ve been wondering a lot about why I want to be in love so much. And what is it about a woman that makes me fall in love with her. What I’m beginning to believe is that the “falling in love part” is 100% up to me. Completely created by my imagination of where I think we might go together, what little things about her that fascinate me, and how I might go on trying to discover more about her over our lifetimes together. That’s what love means to me, the kind of love I’m talking about and seeking. The love that says I will be with you always.

In the initial stages of courtship the things that matter most to us are attractiveness and what we refer to as chemistry. I think it’s the little extra thing we see in someone that sets our relationship antenae buzzing with the word, “YES.” This could be the one. I could fall in love with this person. I can see the potential here. When the chemistry is not there, it’s an easy “no” that comes to my mind. It’s quick, it’s painless, and in many ways it is not personal. It’s just a preference. Or some intangible connection with our historical memory of relationships and love. We see something in that someone who lights us up. Chemistry. It’s either there or it’s not. It cannot be manufactured or developed over time. Love, on the other hand, takes a long time to develop.

As we begin getting to know someone we move beyond the their attractiveness and chemistry to something more akin to compatibility. Do they like to do some of the things we like to do? Do they snore? Are they friendly to everyone we come in contact with? Do they show compassion to the less fortunate? And of course there are the more relationship-related things like, do they kiss well? Do they brush their teeth enough? Can I sleep beside them and actually sleep or do they make me restless? Any misses in these areas can spell a quick end to a relationship. But as these things come into sync, as people make active adjustments to join with each other, the move towards a deeper trust, a bond that moves closer to love, becomes apparent as a goal.

If you want to be with someone and they feel the same way, then you can begin to actively seek time and activities to do together. This is the active part of early courtship. In long-term relationships some of this desire gets forgotten or left out. But this is precisely when love becomes an action. You have to work at wanting to be with your partner. You have to continually strive to understand ever more about them and their dreams. And from these images and ideas you can begin to piece together a map for how your two lives could come together for the long haul.

Trust is the deepest level of the relationship circle and it cannot be underestimated. As you build your relationship everything goes towards gaining trust. Even the small misses can begin to build distrust or resentment. This is bad news for the relationship and these kind of issues need to be actively addressed as a form of loving the other person. It is in the active participation of the relationship that you show your commitment. And it is in the depth and quality of the trust that you being to see this other person as THE ONE.

Trust is also a fragile thing. Once broken it may be hard to rebuild or reestablish trust in a relationship.

Moving towards the center of trust we come towards the ultimate goal. Fearless love. A relationship that continues to cherish the process and build rapport is a relationship that can stand the test of time.

Of course, things change. The trust can be fractured. One partner can fall into a deep depression, or be jobless for a long period of time, challenging all that the love relationship holds sacred. And these are the times of challenge. These are the times when the actions of the other person are either perceived as being towards or away from the love relationship. A committed partner can find their way through most challenges. But when one partner opts out, there is no future action that can save a dying relationship. When one partner says, “I’m out,” what prevents them from reaching that breaking point again? Once the cat’s out of the bag, how can you stop thinking about the cat?

Love is a tricky business. And love is built upon actions more than feelings or words.

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

Always Love,

John McElhenney

Constant Craving

I understand the feeling of longing. That ache at having something or someone in your life that is missing. A gap in the joy of your life that is just out of reach or lifetimes away, depending on the strength of your longing. I think I’ve lived a good portion of my life in longing. It is a familiar state.

Today, single again, I really have access to my craving for physical affection. I notice it in how appreciative I am of the women passing through my field of vision. It’s not that I’m lusting after them, I am simply noticing their beauty, and the lack of similar comfort in my current situation. I can feel in my bones what it’s like to be alone and wanting. It’s almost an energetic feeling, like I am motivated to be a better, more attractive, me. But there is sadness in the craving as well.

What I wonder is how to keep that craving alive when I do have what I want in terms of a relationship with a woman. How can this sharpness and presence be with me even in a long-term relationship? Do I need the longing to be motivated to pursue? Does my romantic side appreciate the ache and longing more than the contentment of having a loving relationship?

In the several times in my relationships that I’ve been truly happy and fulfilled, the expansive joy is there, but the moment seems to pass. The mundane creeps back in and chores become resentments and love taps become responsibilities rather than joys. What is it about the craving, the hunger, that makes me a better lover, a better man?

I want a fulfilling love relationship. And I want that healthy craving, ambition, to continue in my life as well. It’s a fine balance. One you get what you think you want does your heart and mind start searching for what you want next? For me, I don’t think that was the case. I was never looking for another relationship, but I certainly turned my focus away from attracting my mate towards more personal, self-focused pursuits. How do we stay romantically engaged for the long haul? What about the craving is necessary to keep the love line warm and active?

If I can see that the craving is a longing for something inside of me, rather than an external goal or relationship that I want, perhaps I will begin to unlock the answer. There are always projects left unfinished, and dreams still gathering dust inside me. When I’m not in a relationship I can devote whatever time I want to these projects. I don’t have to consider anyone else’s timeframes, needs, or schedules.

When I’m in relationship, even as good as it gets, parts of my creative self get compromised. And perhaps this is the craving I experience when I’m in relationship. It’s more about total freedom. However, I know that total freedom is also a trap that stalls me out in my creative pursuits as well. If I have too much time, a whole afternoon for example, I might not get started until after a walk, a nap, lunch, and by the time I get going it’s 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon and I’ve got to start thinking about getting ready for the week ahead.

Certainly this craving is something in me that drives me forward. If I am craving a women, for a relationship, for example, I am more likely to eat well, to keep my exercise routine constant. I am more likely to be working to make myself the best mate I could be. When I’m in relationship, sometimes, those things get put on the back burner. See, I’ve GOT the relationship, so why do I need to constantly work on myself or my physical health? I’ve won the prize of this beautiful woman and companion, now I can really settle down and get my creative dreams in gear.

It doesn’t work that way. Even in relationship I have a craving. Sure, it’s for something different. I no longer observe and appreciate all the women passing me on the street, no I’m more reflective on the time and energy I need to move my creative dreams forward. And, I guess, it seems like the thing that I most want, a relationship, is in some ways a challenge to that “time at craft” I crave. So when I have what I want I crave something different. When I don’t have a relationship, I put a lot of time into craving and pursuing women. I think the catch-22 is for me to work out with myself.

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

Always Love,

John McElhenney

image:  kiss, creative commons usage