Losing a partner is a traumatic event. Even years after my last breakup I long for this woman. I thought we had a shot. She was (still is) unable to join me in building a life together. Oh well, I’m happy to say this post was originally written a few years ago. Today, I’m happily attached to a loving and *available* partner.
There Is Beauty In The Breakdown
We learn a lot from giving everything we can and still coming up short. I learned again, that I alone cannot force a relationship to work. I cannot do the majority of the heavy lifting (oh, yeah, I’m a relationship coach, but…) and hope for the best. My partner has got to put just in a similar effort into building a trusting and loving relationship. When there’s an imbalance of time or effort, there’s going to be a breakdown. Relationship Rule #1: both partners have to contribute to the growth and expansion of the relationship.
Some things I’ve learned now, in my 11 years of looking for my lifetime partner.
- Relationship building requires effort from both partners.
- Timing is everything: if one partner does not have the time, nor the energy to grow and stretch with the relationship adventure, it’s going to hit a dead-end.
- Good sex is essential, but it can also encourage one or both partners to stay in the relationship, even if the fundamentals are not working.
- Trust is built over time, through actions. Words are not enough, regardless of your love language.
- BRAVING is an essential skill, and it takes practice to get the process down.
- Kindness is everything. Even in breaking up, kindness is the uber-skill both partners must-have.
- Doing the hard thing, the right thing, rather than the easy thing, is about moving on and releasing each other when things no longer work.
- Love Languages, The Four Agreements, and Getting the Love You Want, are essential reading.
- There is no excuse for laziness when it comes to the relationship. If the relationship is not your PRIORITY, you should move on.
- You may want a relationship, but still be unwilling to make the changes and do the work required to keep growing together.
- New love, new partners, are exhilarating: some people are addicted to that love rush. The honeymoon phase is not sustainable.
- Getting the relationship fundamentals right is essential.
- 110% commitment and effort are required to give your BIG LOVE a real shot at success.
- A relationship is over the minute one partner is hedging their bets, seeking comfort outside the relationship, or closing off their hearts in defense.
If You Are Not Falling You Are Not Learning
We used to say this about snow skiing, but it relates to any passion or project in life. In love, if you are not willing to give a full effort, you’re not going to achieve the results you are striving for. If you don’t jump into LOVE LOVE LOVE with your heart and mind open, you’re going to be dilly-dallying in “dating” rather than relationship building.
Over the last 11 years, I have given myself fully to FIVE women. I have invested all of my available time and energy to build a partnership, to strive for a healthy communication style, and grow in my ability to love again. I have failed. But I was also very successful. Sure, I could frame this return to dating as a failure, but I feel I have a renewed energy to keep going for pure gold, 100%, the BIG LOVE.
In each of these relationships, over the years, I did allow myself to fall hard and fast into LOVE with the other person. In my first two relationships, I learned some essential lessons that served me well through the next three. (SEE: Single Dad Seeks) In relationships 3, 4, and 5, I had the opportunity to try on some very different ideas about what I wanted. I met some new needs. I ran into some unsalvagable red flags. And ultimately, I had to say goodbye and move on. I am in one of those periods of PAUSE I like to write about so much.
In The Pause, We Relearn What’s Important
My essential love list:
- My partner can express love and affection easily and freely (relationship #1 really opened my eyes to what I was missing in my marriage)
- My partnership is aspirational. I am reaching for the stars with this person. I am so enthralled with them, that I am willing to give up almost everything esle. Almost.
- Drugs and alcohol are deal killers for me.
- Sex can be a drug. Good sex can be like getting high. The high of sex is not enough, and cannot last at the honeymoon level. It’s not physically possible. Eventually, you’re going to come down and have to deal with the mundane routines of life.
- You must love my kids with the same energy and abandon that you love me. I will strive to love your kids too. While the relationship is with the adult, the love must really be felt among all of the family members.
- If there is a breakdown in the relationship, it is essential to ask for the repair, the adjustment, the realignment. If the repairs are always one-sided there is a big problem.
- All the love and adoration in the world is not enough. Relationships take work. They take energy and time together.
The Currency of Love is Time
If your partner does not have enough time and energy to give you, you have several choices.
- Have a radical change of heart, and accept the other person just as they are, even if that means 15% of the relationship you were hoping for.
- Ask for what you need and negotiate ways to get both of your needs met. If there is no change over time, it’s time to let go.
- Understand that the other person may never change the way you need them to. Can you live with this painful imbalance?
When both partners are putting in their all, and the relationship is still full of angst, anxiety, suffering, and feelings of hurt and abandonment, it’s time to negotiate and navigate the breakup.
Breaking Up Is Easy, Staying Healthy Afterwards Is Hard
One partner my bolt. One partner may get scared and cause a dramatic flaming breakup. One partner may get quiet or ghostlike. One partner may cheat (sexually or emotionally). Whatever the reason, breaking up is easier than staying together and working through the issues of becoming a long-term couple.
What you do after the breakup is pretty essential to get right as well.
- Take a break.
- Examine what part you played in the breakdown.
- Understand where your boundaries may have been compromised or poorly communicated, cause unnecessary pain and strife.
- Go back to the drawing board about “what I’m looking for.”
Reenter the arena with your heart and eyes wide open
The new information you’ve learned will be put into play. Your new skills will help you get closer and closer to your life partner. It’s essential that you don’t give up. You keep striving towards the best love of your life. Do. Not. Give. Up. Love is out there. You’ve got to put in the effort to find it and mine it with another person. And if you’re lucky, and the stars align, and you are willing to grow and stretch with this next person in your life, BELIEVE ME, it is possible to build a lifetime partnership I met a couple today, married for 65 years, still as in love as when they were kids.
Their answer to how they did it?
The husband said, “She’s always right.” His wife laughed but offered no other insight.
What is your experience of relationship building? What things have tripped you up in the past failures? Are YOU willing to change? Are YOU willing to go for 100% or nothing? Are YOU willing to be alone rather than stay in a compromising relationship?
Give Me 100% Or Give Me Loneliness
I’d rather be alone than feel alone in a relationship. I’d rather sleep by myself in my king-size bed, than sleep in fear of being left, being abandoned, being taken for granted. I do not want to be alone. I do not like my current aloneness. AND, the past FIVE relationships have taught me so much, that I can reenter the “dating game” with vigor and hope. At the moment, I’d say, I’m still in a time-out. I’m still seeing the stillness that comes from a pause. I am seeking a relationship with God, and my higher power. When I turn my will and my life over to the care of my higher power, I am set free from my limited ideas of what is possible.
I have touched BIG LOVE in all FIVE of my relationships over the last 11 years. And I am confident that I will ignite again with a new lover when the chemistry and configuration is right. This time I’m going to be even more open to change and adventure. This time I’m going to ask more clearly for what I need. This time I’m going to fail faster when a red flag bursts into flames between us.
It is not our job to fix the other person. NEVER. It is our job to own our own journey, to seek love with open and honest hearts. When the LOVER shows up in our lives, it is our responsibility to jump in with passion AND emotional intelligence. We have tools like Brene Brown’s BRAVING, and other systems of communication cataloged and explored in these pages over the last 10 years of writing.
I am here. I am actively working on my life. I am patiently in pursuit of NEXT. I am willing to wait alone for the next woman. She will be on fire in her own life and willing to burn beside me without being threatened by my light and power. I am seeking a twin flame who is an additive to my already bright fire. There might be danger in combining our energies and desires. But only inside the flame of a BIG LOVE can we burn away the old baggage of our past and make changes and commitments to grow together as lifetime lovers.
This is the way.
This is the only way.
100% YES or it’s a NO.
John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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- Dating Again After Divorce – the archives
- What Do We Learn When Things Fall Apart?
- Is Someone Getting the Best of You?
- Dear Love, I Want Everything Right Now
- Online Dating Update: Breathe It All In, Love It All Out
- Real Love, The Art of Mindful Connection – Salzberg
- Real Love: The Truth About Finding Unconditional Love & Fulfilling Relationships – Baer
- Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples – Hendrix
- Keeping the Love You Find: A Guide for Singles – Hendrix
- Attached: The New Science of Adult Attachment and How It Can Help You Find – and Keep – Love – Levine
Here are 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