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Dating 2.0: Enticing and Keeping the Next Love of Your Life?


Let’s begin again. This time, we’re not going to rush anything. This time will be different. This time we’re determined not to waste time on maybes and “meh.” I am 100% committed to taking the high and hard road of being single.

Dating 2.0 – The Post-pandemic Reboot of Modern Romance

Relationships have changed. Today we’re not just scared of emotional entanglements and broken hearts, we’re worried that our date might kill us with a sneeze. The rules are the same, it’s just that the stakes are much higher.

As I personally enter my 59th year, in November, I’ve put the bow on my fifth attempt at a long-term relationship since my divorce, in 2011. I have been diligent. Mindful. Focused. And willing to stretch and grow. And guess what?

Each relationship has ended in failure. (Not exactly, failure, but I am single… so, I have not found *next* big love.) There have been some great learning experiences. There have been some highs and lows that I never expected. I’ve chronicled my first 5 years in the book, Single Dad Seeks. It’s time to pull together all I’ve learned about intentional and focused relationship building. How and why did I fail? Is breaking up really a failure, if I am leaving a bad relationship? If I am growing and learning, perhaps I am also evolving. Maybe I delude myself.

All About Putting In Time and Energy

If the “work” on a relationship is one-sided, eventually the fighter/optimist is going to get worn out. I can lead. I can work on myself. I can ask for what I need. I can get clear on what is mine and what is not mine. And I can ask again, for what I need. When that request is not met with equal force, energy, and commitment, well… here we are, 11 years later.

A fantastic podcast, The Hidden Brain, just did an episode about the changing dynamics and expectations we have of marriage and our life partners. We (all of us modern lovers) might be putting too many expectations in our BIG LOVE relationship basket. Go give it a listen. I’ll be here when you get back. THE HIDDEN BRAIN: Marriage.

Here’s what I know about love, relationship building, and the breakdown of all FIVE of my attempts at building lasting love.

Relationship-Building Strategies

  • Both partners have to commit a certain amount of energy to the building, nurturing, and navigating of what I call the WE.
  • When the white-hot honeymoon phase is over, the work on the relationship can begin.
  • Sex is essential and good. And it can cause us to strive for relationships we would otherwise identify as bad fit. Good sex does not equal a good reason to stay in a relationship when the breakdowns continue to happen.
  • We all carry our own loads. What we share with another person is empathy, energy, and support. When we’re too tired to give our partners the attention they need, we might have a good reason to want to sleep instead. But we’re coping out.
  • Love is a process and an ongoing commitment of time and energy.
  • A couple is either moving towards each other or away from each other, you don’t get to take a time out or a break.
  • Know when to stay and fight for a relationship and when to throw in the towel. If you don’t know, get someone to talk to. Reason things out with another person. Don’t keep it all in your head.
  • When the relationship ends, if the relationship ends, it’s best to move on as cleanly and considerately as possible. It’s easy for LOVE to morph into RAGE and HURT and ANGER. But that’s our own shit too. Give it up. Give them up. Do the hard thing and be the bigger partner.


life of pi

Love Is Like Managing a Life Boat

Both partners need to be familiar with the tools. Both partners need to bale water occasionally and let the other partner rest. Both partners need to provide comfort and energy to support the other person. The relationship lives and dies on the balanced participation of both partners.

It does not work if one partner continuously rows the boat, while the other partner makes themselves busy and busier with all the other details. It might be because they don’t like rowing. It might be because they are afraid. It might be because (like me) they secretly want to be rescued. Even if being rescued is at the expense of the other partner. Both partners have to invest time in the shared discipline of relationship building. It’s sort of like survival in a boat. Neither person is allowed to jump out of the boat, you are too far from shore and you will drown. So, you’re stuck in the boat together. Either make cooperation and support the rule of law or expect a painful and protracted death. Relationships cannot survive on the efforts of one partner. As you can see, in the boat example, that would kill the hard worker, and leave the other partner alone.


Okay, So We’re In A Boat

Dating is similar. And the earliest interactions are going to give you a good example of what kind of boat partner you’re getting to know. If it’s hard to nail down a time to meet for the first time, perhaps you’re dealing with someone who’s not really ready to put in the work of building a loving relationship. In the early stages of dating, be observant of how your negotiations go.

As you move towards a more intimate connection, pay attention. Are they equal participants? If there’s an imbalance in the first weeks or months of the relationship, there are going to be bigger issues as you move deeper into the choppy waters of real relationship building.


John McElhenney
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Dating 2.0

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