your story begins today

Love Is… Love is Not… How Do We Find and Keep Love?

Love is not mystical.

Love is a lifetime quest. If we are lucky enough to journey along the path with another person, a deep love, we are not lucky. We are blessed. And it’s the diligence of our efforts to find love, to keep love, and to enhance our love action. Let’s discuss how love becomes a spiritual quest if we’re ready.

Seek with Intent

Dating to date is a good way to waste a lot of time. If dating is entertainment, you’re probably not on the same path I am. That’s okay. No shame. Casual sex, casual relationship, casual attitudes about love, are all okay. That has never been my way. In high school and college, I was often the guy in a relationship. I was learning, evolving, and putting together new star maps all the time. But the stars have very little to do with it.

I date to find a potential long-term partner. If I’m honest with my idealistic optimism. I am dating to find the last date. I want a lifetime partner. It made my experience reentering the dating scene after my divorce 13 years ago, a lot clearer. I jumped into dating thinking I was going to go the casual route and go for volume and adventure rather than the ONE. I didn’t make it beyond a few casual dates when I realized I was not interested in dating. I wanted a relationship. That could become a Relationship. And ultimately, The RELATIONSHIP.

Once I understood my goal of a finding a compatible and healthy long-term partner, my process got more focused. Here’s my outline

Dating with Intent Outline

  • evaluate all “dates” with a long-term perspective
  • listen for emotional maturity and emotional intelligence
  • don’t get too enamored with looks or sexual chemistry (they can lead you astray: The Beauty Trap: How Good Looks Can Lead Us Astray)
  • when things feel good, spend time together doing more than drinking and kissing
  • learn what they are passionate about
  • are they good listeners? interested in your vision and goals?
  • how does it feel when you are with them?
  • how does it feel when they are away or unavailable?
  • if it feels good continue
  • if red flags emerge confront them
  • even the slightest “nope” is a hard pass, move along to the next person of potential
  • stay hopeful and optimistic
  • be realistic

Listen with Intent

It’s important that you up your listening skills. Even in the swiping stages, if you listen to what they are messaging you, you can avoid many pointless “hello dates.” My rule quickly became, a phonecall before any “date.” In two or three minutes I can tell if this person is receptive or oblique. And if they’re talking about working out all the time, make a note. They may have an amazing body and a vacuous mind. What are they interested in? Do they have an overarching passion? Do they talk about their kids? Their exes? Work? Music? Where does the conversation go when you listen more than talk?

You want to find someone who can listen. But, just as importantly, can stop you when you’re rambling on. It’s a two-way street. Be yourself. See how they respond.

Evaluating an Early Date

  • what are they passionate about?
  • can they explain their past breakups with awareness and self-reflection?
  • how is their relationship with their kids (if they have kids)?
  • are they touch-friendly or withdrawn?
  • does your heart light up when they are talking or smiling?
  • do you want the conversation to go on and on?
  • are you sexually present or in fantasy about the future of sex with them?
  • what’s the one thing you’re going to take away from the early dates?
  • what’s the feeling you have when you’re with them?
  • what’s the feeling you have when they are away?
  • how is their communication? (texts, emails, phone calls, social media interactions)
  • do your heart AND your mind say YES when you are together?

Commit with Intent

The last step in dating is making a commitment to explore more time together. In my experience, it’s best if you delay sex a bit. Any relationship that started with flaming sexual chemistry usually caught fire and exploded before the relationship could develop. Stay out of the bedroom for a bit.

Kiss only one person at a time. Once you’ve found a “potential partner” it’s a good idea to talk about your expectations.

Showing Your Commitment

  • give them time
  • listen more than you speak
  • learn what they are passionate about, can you support their “habit” or “obsession?”
  • agree to postpone sex
  • agree to monogamy
  • agree to be 100% honest
  • agree that red flags on either side should be examined and dispelled
  • leave when you feel the commitment is not reciprocol
  • be patient

Be Patient

We don’t find a soulmate. We don’t luck into the best relationship of our life. We work and refine our goals and our own behaviors.

At several points during my relationship-building past, I was impatient, I wanted my partner to EVOLVE. The problem was, it was ME that needed evolving.

The real news is there is no HIGHER/LOWER game in love. Whenever I was feeling superior and HIGHER than my partner, I was the one with the issue. Sure, my partner’s experience so far has been different than mine. Sure, they’ve only had a limited number of relationships. If I get impatient about their growth and learning process, I am really showing my own immaturity. This is not to say, stay in a marginal relationship when things are not working out. BUT, don’t jettison a wonderful partner because you don’t like the way they kiss. Keep talking. Keep being honest. Give them time. Ask for what you need. See what happens.

In my past, I’ve made both mistakes: 1. booting someone who might have been a great partner, 2. stayed with someone who was not a good fit.

Creating the good fit is the goal for both of you. If you’re in the hunt for a lifetime partner, you’re going to need to be flexible and focused. Flexible to allow your expectations to change and be updated. Focused on the longterm goal and dropping all near-misses when you become aware that things aren’t working out. There is a huge difference between, not working out vs. not being patient. Give them time. Give them attention. Give them what you want. See if time together begins to change both of you. That’s flexibility. It’s a lifetime skill.

Growing together is hard. There will be bumps in the road. Even your perfect partner may appear less evolved and you might be tempted to return to the swiping apps. Don’t. Kiss only one person at a time. When you invest fully in a new relationship you can tell much sooner if things are out of balance or out of integrity. Balance can be negotiated and fixed. Failing integrity is a deal killer.

You are *both* learning to love. What love means to you. What love means to the *we* of you together. When you find the WE, and work to keep the alignment and commit to making it better and better… Congratulations, you’re on your way! Good luck. But, more importantly, good evolving.

Your new story begins today.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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