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Heading Into Love for Life OR Intoxicated by My Own Desire

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I am looking forward to a real Valentine’s Day, this year. 2022. We’ve almost emerged from the pandemic shutdown. And yet, we’re still scared of the next variant, the next election, the next crazy turn of events that is the Roaring 20’s.

What Love Looks Like

When you have the experience of being truly loved, truly adored, you will no longer settle for lukewarm affection. What’s the point of casual relationships, or friends with benefits? If it’s not long-term, you might examine what your goals are. Sure, you’re young, but don’t you think learning to thrive in a relationship is a life skill worth starting sooner rather than later? I didn’t understand much about love as I embarked on my first two marriages. Fortunately, I only had kids with my second wife. And for eleven years, so far, I’ve been writing about relationships and dating, while seeking my next (or first) deep love.

Love doesn’t try to change you. Love cannot fix you if you’re not well. Love is the gateway to building a life together, but it’s a process and not a destination. Love is an ongoing attitude towards your beloved. Love is active, intentional, and well-articulated. Someone who loves you can express their affection in many different ways, and they do. The beloved does not hold back kisses or love poems. Two people in love can change all of those around them. Showing up as lovers in love is a fantastic party trick. The real magic trick, however, is continuing to show up “in love” for the rest of your life. Sure, ambitious, but what’s your real goal?

My goal is a lifetime partner. My journey since divorce is to get clearer and clearer about what was essential in a partner as well as what would no longer be tolerated. I still mess up and fail. My last three long-term relationships had highs and lows, but from the outset, there were clear indicators, flaming red flags, that should’ve warned me off. All in all, I spent the last 5 – 6 years in 3 relationship attempts. One evolved into an engagement before it fell off the wagon. One had an intrusive and abusive pattern that continued for over two years before I understood that the pot was on fire and the water was boiling. The third was absolutely on fire with sex. But that’s not a good sign. There were plenty of burning issues just under the beautiful and seductive surface.

And poof, six years are gone. Okay, let’s refine and redefine love for the next attempt.

What Love Feels Like

  • Love does not use alcohol or drugs to feel happy or safe or relaxed
  • Love does not exclude
  • Love is not a competition
  • Love considers the lover before making plans
  • Love expresses affection regularly and easily
  • Love finds the positive in all parts of the journey together
  • Love asks for honesty, forgiveness, and trust
  • Love does not demand compliance or change
  • Love will not attack you
  • Love does not limit your expressions of happiness
  • Love always considers the lover in the most positive light
  • Love sees the joy and beauty in you, even when you can’t
  • Love stands beside you in the rainstorms and reminds you that “storms run out of rain”
  • Love gives you warm fuzzies as an intentional act
  • Love thrives with an active and supportive feedback look
  • Love gives you confidence and courage
  • Love shelters you in times of crisis, loss, and stress
  • Love is never too tired
  • Love does not give up
  • Love never ever gives up
  • Never give up on love

How Love Supports All Moods

I love my partner in all their modes and moods. Tonight she was upset. I loved her as hard as I could over the phone. “I am here for you. I am standing beside you. You can reason things out with me. I will not try to fix you or give you advice. I will listen. I will support your decision. I will be here for you no matter what you decide.”

I remember telling a woman, “I want what’s best for you. Even if, that eventually means you need to move on and seek a different partner.” I was clear about my intention. I will be here for you while we try and figure this out. When she came to the conclusion that she was not ready for a relationship with anyone, I was okay to move on, without drama. It was good that the break was her idea. I had been trying to figure out how to give her my release without creating an enemy. It worked out perfectly and opened my dance card up for the next adventure.

And in this next adventure, I’ve been contemplating a different model. “How do you listen for emotional intelligence and availability?” I am listening. I am learning. I am in love. And I am still moving in my own rhythms and asking her to continue to explore and find her own passions. We’re too early in our courtship to move in together. And as we’re learning from the science of relationships and marriage, we need to keep a good portion of our autonomy even as we move into a marriage and lifetime partnership ambitions.

Love Is Always Aspiring, Together

I am super positive and hopeful about my current love relationship. I recognize I am driven in my desire to work on this partnership. I am not in this for a casual thing, for sex, or for all the amazing benefits I get from “being in a relationship.” Nope. I am working on my own issues. I am asking my partner to continue to evolve with me, and work on their own issues. Some of this work occurs outside my relationship. My therapist and several insider friends are part of my inner circle. And, from what I can see from here (month 5) I may have struck gold.

From the moment we met, I enjoyed this woman’s no-bullshit way of asking probing questions. We had been enjoying lunch and conversations when she looked right at me with her piercing smile and asked, “So, what do you think?”

“Wow. Okay. I’ll answer that, but you’re next.”

“Of course.”

We were off to a great start from the first hour we spent chatting over burgers and fries. And, while there have been a few bumps, I’d tell my best friend, “This one is different. This woman is available. This woman is smart, beautiful, and most importantly, able to handle her own side of the partnership.”

Getting It Right with This Lover

I was telling my daughter a little bit about my experience in seeking a partner over the eleven years since the divorce.

“Finding an attractive, sexually charged, and passionate partner is not the hard part. Finding someone who adores you and lets you know it, someone who grooves with your lifestyle and way of being, is the hard part. How well you hang together, is critical. Can you just be happy together, even doing the mundane stuff? Love is about finding someone who fits.”

As she is a freshman in college, we both agreed that she was not looking for her lifetime partner. But she was a bit frustrated that her partner didn’t want to establish BF/GF status. They spent most of their nights together, and yet, somehow, in today’s college environment, he wanted to remain unattached even as he was fully attached. I’m not sure we’ve done a very good job at showing our youth what a healthy relationship looks like. Shows like HBO’s Girls go a long way to exposing the problem with love in our younger generations. They don’t know what a good relationship looks like. They certainly don’t know what healthy and honest sex looks like.

I am convinced that through active participation and a cooperative approach to love, I can establish and maintain a loving partnership on into my later years. That’s my dream, anyway. To be walking on a beach somewhere, with my partner, and doting on our grandkids and our kids, together. Love, for me, is contained in that dream. I will love you and your kids and your kids’ kids in the same way I already love my own kids. In the same way, I already love you. Darling.

I know how to love.

Always Love,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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