It has been a long road back to love.
It was a long struggle a. to get free of my own despair and depression; b. to find a balance in my life when 65% of it no longer included my kids or my ex; c. to begin liking myself again and growing into the happy person I had been before the marriage went south; d. actually putting myself out there as available in a real way (beyond online dating). And that’s when she showed up.
My Maps and Hopes
I had been writing a lot of ideas about relationship theory, how to date better, how to relate better, how to let my own inner joy shine so that I might attract another like-minded and happy person. I came up with an idea called a JOY TRIBE. You know joyful people when you see them. And I wanted not only to be a part of a JOY TRIBE, but I also wanted to create my own.
I even wrote about how my “maps” and “strategies” were only projections. I knew that when the WOMAN showed up, joy and all, that my planning and ideas would be valuable, but that the maps would be burned up in a fire of passion that was this new adventure, this new adventurous woman. And I believe when you call on all your resources, put your attention where it needs to be, the universe will respond to serve you up in unexpected ways.
What Language Do You Speak?
Part of my re-education has been discovering The 5 Love Languages. Once I read that book, even when my marriage was collapsing, I knew I had stumbled on to a key to happiness. It was clear that my then-wife and I valued very different forms of love and attention. Neither of them is wrong, just different. And while couples can try to accommodate differing love languages, it’s an AMAZING connection when your partner speaks the same language as you do. Absolutely amazing.
I had not experienced a relationship with another person who was TOUCH centered. My first relationship after the divorce was with a stellar woman who remains a friend and confidant, and who was 100% touchy-feely, like me. The first weeks with her, two years ago, were transformative for me. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make me feel loved and adored and supported. A simple hug, a single word of encouragement and a smile, and more hugs…
While GF1 and I did not end up being perfectly matched, she had shown me a LOVE-STYLE, the Love Language of Touch, that I knew would be fundamental to my health and happiness. She set the bar pretty high and I used to joke that she ruined any ideas of casual sex or friends with benefits for me. For the first time in my life, when my core love language was being reflected back to me, I was happier and more balanced than I’d ever felt in my life. Even as things didn’t progress with us, we remained cheerleaders and champions for the other’s good fortunes. And we constantly reminded each other how wonderful we both were, and say “You can’t settle for almost. It’s 100% or nothing.” She got there first, but my new relationship blasted in and transformed my life in even more unexpected ways.
I Fall Down, But I Get Up Again
When my new woman arrived on the scene, my scene, we’d actually known each other for five years. Our Facebook connection was always warm and casual, as Facebook usually is. And because we worked at the same agency for a period of time, though not together, we had about 20 or so, mutual friends commenting and resurfacing each other posts on our news feeds. I certainly knew who she was. I admired her travel pictures and her marathon training and the physical form that entailed. And she had a wicked sense of humor that you could almost feel in her occasional photographs. Her mischievous smile and laughing eyes seemed to be coming from most of her photos. Even when they were with other men. (frown)
So, last Winter, I was determined to take my dating offline, and even take a break from dating altogether. I noticed an immediate shift. I was no longer a man in pursuit. I was just a man. The women around me, young and old, were just women, not targets or objectives or honey traps. Freeing myself, even temporarily, from the heat of the hunt, I was able to see myself a bit clearer, as well as the women around me.
And it was in this exact period that a photo on her Facebook wall caught my attention. It was a picture of Laphroaig Scotch, which initially would not have been interesting to me at all, but the caption told a story.
“Silly Ex Boyfriend. Always give a gift you are happy to get back.”
I liked her post (odd move, right, liking some adverse event in someone’s life) and wrote her a Private Message about my sympathies. We had been Facebooking a little bit in December before my band played a gig. She intended to come but fell asleep and missed it. We’d been bantering back and forth in Private Message about that, so a little message to her, saying, “Sorry about your breakup. They suck.”
And The Rest is History
In her immediate response, she mentioned Tennis. (A keyword for me.) She later admitted to knowing a lot more about me than I knew about her. She had been reading this blog and knew that I was back into tennis in a big way. She laid the bait out and I took it for a full run and we made plans to hit some tennis balls the following weekend. Except the rains came and when she noticed the forecast she suggested a movie instead.
DATING RULE: Both partners have to put in equal amounts of time and energy finding ways to be together.
Even though the movie and a follow-on non-date to see some music, I was being very chill with my emotions and intentions. I was, in fact, playing it cool. I was also, trying to observe her from an objective point of view before I let my heart and libido engage. And at first, I wasn’t sure is she was shy, or introverted, or if my touchy-feely thing was going to be overwhelming for her. I kept my closeness but I never went in for a kiss or much beyond a nice hug.
The next day, after our music night out, she sent me a text.
“I really wanted to kiss you last night, but I didn’t want to distract you on your first day at the new job.”
I replied, “Ah, then my plans are coming together nicely. See you on Friday.”
Sparks, passion, joy, jokes, banter, more sparks, more time in touchy-feely land. We moved rapidly into something beyond dating that first night we kissed. I suppose my trial period, my austerity, ended with a bang. I was revving up inside my heart even before the movie, but after the kiss… I was in FULL JOY MODE.
The beautiful thing is, so was she.
We have pinched each other and ourselves over the last 6 months. Each time something happens and we take a leap of faith into the relationship, we’ve both been surprised by the ease at which we’ve grown to love each other. Today we frequently tell each other, we’ve never been in love like this. Ever. Two marriages for me and this is simply the best relationship (again, only six months old) I’ve ever been in. There are a lot of factors that might have given us a lightning-quick connection.
- We have both been married and divorced.
- In our failed marriages we had both been the partner fighting FOR the marriage.
- We have a very similar sense of humor. (After watching a bit of Portlandia together, we constantly break out in similar character sketches. We’re taking a break from the show so we don’t become Fred and Carry.)
- We love athletics. She’s been a tennis player, but she’s becoming a Tennis player. And she’s a runner, so I’m running about 40% of the time now, rather than walking.
- We talk.
- She’s touchy-feely.
- She is fearless about addressing issues and complications as they come up. (See previous posts on this blog. And she’s even suggested I write on certain topics.)
- We absolutely adore each other. (While this sounds like honeymoony stuff, we’re also fairly experienced adults, and puppy love can only account for part of the bliss we are feeling.)
- We love sex together.
- We pray and give thanks and appreciation all the time.
Are We Moving Too Fast
In my first touch-focused relationship I learned what it felt like to be adored by someone else. In this relationship, I am feeling that again, but this time I absolutely adore her back. This two-way circuit completes a loop that seems to take us higher and closer than we could imagine. And sometimes, we ask ourselves, “Are we going too fast? Are we making a mistake and letting our joy and connection get ahead of the relationship?
I know that we are not.
With this woman, I have established my new JOY TRIBE. And my two kids are basking in the renewed joy as well. By showing them what a loving and happy relationship looks like, they can begin modeling their future relationships on healthy patterns. There are moments of doubt, silences that don’t get explained, and uncomfortable advice from friends and family, but we’re sailing onward.
And the smile on her face every morning…
It is enough to keep me smiling for the rest of my life. (Or that’s the plan.)
Let’s book a free phone call and talk about what’s going on in your life. SCHEDULE A FREE CALL.
John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
Facebook | Instagram | Pinterest | @wholeparent
- The Present and Future Perfect Planning In Your Relationship
- What I Learned About Sex: It’s Almost All In Your Mind
- The Trouble with Alcohol: She Likes To Drink, I Don’t
- Loving Again is an Ongoing Leap of Faith
- An Amazing Thing Has Happened
Here are a few of my books on Amazon:
- Single Dad Seeks: Dating Again After Divorce: Advice and Strategies on Learning How to be Loved Again
- Fall of the House of Dad: My journey through divorce, from loss to joy, again and again
- A Good Dad’s Guide to Divorce: One father’s quest to stay connected with his children
- The Sex Index: Getting Our Love Languages Right in the Bedroom
- Here Comes the Darkness: Surviving and Thriving After a Mental Illness Diagnosis
- The Third Glass: When Drinking Becomes an Issue
- The Storm Before the Divorce: When One Parent Wants Out, That’s the End
- Dating 2.0: Aiming for the Love of Your Life
image: return a lover, wallpaper, creative commons usage
This Post Has 2 Comments
Who doesn’t like a happy ending (or more appropriately a beginning)? You cannot begin to imagine what a lifeline your blog(s) have been for me. I’m a number of steps behind you, and I have miles of suckfest to go before my Phoenix process is complete. One of the things that I’ve started to do is to allow myself to perseverate about my difficulties for 30 minutes a day. I can do whatever I want during that time, but if I go outside that time anything I want to process has to wait until the next day. It’s challenging, but helps me to compartmentalize because too often I found myself stuck in my head. The past has no power over the present and definitely not the future. I’m so VERY happy for you and your beloved. I don’t know what my future holds, but I’m hopeful to find myself first, and a partner second.
Good idea, find yourself first and a partner second. Thanks for your comment.