Tag Archives: love language

How Love Transforms Us Completely When We Feel the YES


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, I wanted to create my own.

“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 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 are 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 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

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.

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 others 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 all together. I noticed an immediate shift. I was no long 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 key word 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.

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.

Even through 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.

Honeymoon Period

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 the lightning quick connection.

  1. We have both been married and divorced.
  2. In our failed marriages we had both been the partner fighting FOR the marriage.
  3. 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.)
  4. 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.
  5. We talk.
  6. She’s touchy-feely.
  7. 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.)
  8. 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.)
  9. We love sex together.
  10. We pray and give thanks and appreciations 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…

Is enough to keep me smiling for the rest of my life. (Or that’s the plan.)

Always Love,

John McElhenney

[Note: This is the post I’ve wanted to write since I began this blog over two years ago.]

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The Fascinating Sound of a New Lover


The nuance and sublingual information captured in the sound of the human voice is amazing. Human hearing has been adapting and evolving over thousands of years. Where once our ancestors were listening for “fear” or “fight” or “danger,” our modern minds are listening for more subtle clues.

In the new world of online dating, often, we jump from photos and texts to a “hello” date. And, in my case, more often than not, we are disappointed with our connection to the person who shows up. And perhaps we’re missing a vital link in the communication chain. I’m getting the idea that a phone call might be essential step that I’ve been short-changing.

Of the dates I have enjoyed, the most rewarding were the ones where I had actually already spoken to the woman on the phone. The cadence and timbre of their voice carries a lot of information. Do they rush or interrupt? Are the excited? What words do they choose to express their thoughts?

When there is a sensual connection to someone’s voice, a little rise on the hair at the back of your neck, there’s a good indication that they may also be a sensually focused person as well.

Words. Powerful words. I live and breathe with words, but the sound of the human voice can bring give me a nearly three-dimensional picture of the person. And those cues I am keying on are often well below the language and into the actual feeling I get at hearing the person’s voice.

And I can’t underestimate the number of dates I have skipped due to a lackluster connection on the phone. The disconnect is palpable when it’s not there. Are they listening as well as telling? Are they interested in what you are saying? Can you hear happiness in their tone?

I know it sounds a bit “woo woo” but it’s more subtle than your conscious mind. When there is a sensual connection to someone’s voice, a little rise on the hair at the back of your neck, there’s a good indication that they may also be a sensually focused person as well. And that’s extremely important to me. I can almost hear their Love Language. And when it’s not “touch” like mine, my heart knows much quicker than my brain. And I can get a reliable prediction of this quality in less than a minute on the phone.

In contrast, language skills can be wildly masked by the lack of “voice.” Words without a voice are merely ideas. Once a woman has spoken the words, I begin to believe or disbelieve what they are saying from some much deeper internal sensor. You either get the rush or you don’t.

And, of course, that’s not to say that falling in love with someone’s voice is a good idea either. I have let that idea run amok a few times to poor results. A fascination with the sound of someone’s voice can lead to a hard miss once you’ve met the potential mate in person. There’s no discounting the final frontier, in-person chemistry. Again, I think the voice delivers very powerful messages, at a level well below the words being spoken. But the eyes, when you see them and actually look, can provide all the information you need. I’m sure in the tribal periods, a glance carried “friend, enemy, or lover” information.

I want to hear them and imagine them saying wonderful things. And then maybe they will.

Taking the voice metaphor to its ultimate conclusion, with the sound of someone’s speaking voice, if the *magic* is there, you can almost begin to imagine the sound of their climax. And when you complete that picture with the sensuality of their eyes you are just about as close to experiencing who you might become together. And this process hits us within 30 seconds of meeting in-person. You either get a rush or a fizzle.

I’m officially adding the phone call as a precursor to every in-person date. I’d rather not go on anymore text-only dates. I want to hear them and imagine them saying wonderful things. And then maybe they will. There is absolutely zero chance that they might be a fit if their vocal abilities are dull.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

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image: different kinds of happiness, marcy keller, creative commons usage

The Rest of Our Lives Loving the Same Person


Following up on the Monogamy post from yesterday.

Could I have loved my wife forever? In this moment, thinking of the time just before she told me she’d already consulted with a divorce attorney, I have an unequivocal yes. I was still madly, somewhat painfully, in love with my wife of 11 years, and single partner for 13 years. And even as things had gotten strained in our relationship, I was confident (stupidly or naively so, perhaps) that our relationship, our marriage, would never falter. I cared too much about her and my kids to worry about a temporary sexual hiatus, or minor problems of communication and responsibilities.

I felt a warm rush in the moment. It was not a sexual excitement, it was something much deeper and more vital.

Of course, I have no way of knowing what would’ve happened had she not asked for a divorce. I was certainly not happy with our relationship, but I was committed and confident that we would find our stride again. I was certain that the financial issues and struggles, for both of us, around work and money and shared efforts could be worked out. Nothing was as important as my marriage. Nothing.

Not even my sexual satisfaction or desires. I was very sensual and touch-oriented. And while sex was important, the deeper loss was when the casual touch left the marriage. I was not clear when this next level of isolation took place, but I was shocked one night when I experienced a moment of tenderness and caring from my wife. I was shocked because of how strange it felt.

She patted my head one night, as I was reading in bed. She had just quieted down our 5 year-old daughter for the second time and she was walking back into the bedroom. She put her hand on the top of my head and said, “I love you, John McElhenney.” And she paused there for a beat before moving on into the bathroom to do her bedtime ablutions.

I felt a warm rush in the moment. It was not a sexual excitement, it was something much deeper and more vital. I actually felt her saying she adored me. The impact of this moment didn’t arrive until almost a week later as I was leaving work on a Friday night.

“I may not like you very much at this moment, but I love you with all my heart. We will get through this time.”

Things were not going great between us. Money was tight, even though I was working a new high-paying job, and we had just survived Christmas, there was still tension. She was re-tooling her career and trying to decide what she wanted to be as she approached her 50’s. So our earnings were quite lopsided, but we were in agreement that the next phase of our lives would be supporting the financial needs of our family so we could enjoy a less stressful future. At least, that’s what I thought our agreement was.

I was getting ready to head home for the weekend and I felt the need to write my wife a love note, a join, a repair for all the disconnects we were both feeling. It started out with an honest statement.

“I may not like you very much at this moment, but I love you with all my heart. We will get through this time.”

But something struck me at that moment. While I was holding out hope that all would be well again in our marriage, I was also stating that I was unhappy and struggling as well. And I tried to give an example. And I went back to the head pat moment. But then something else came out. Something I wasn’t really prepared to uncover.

“What I realized as you said that you loved me, was how strange it felt. It felt so strange, because it never happens. It was as if you were saying and doing something that I had wanted for such a long time, but it felt unreal, foreign. I didn’t have any memories of you exhibiting this sort of unbridled caring for me. And at that moment I became very sad.”

And at that moment, as I was writing the note to my wife, I began to cry. It was a little embarrassing, but there were only a couple of folks still in the office and I was in my bosses office. The feelings that washed over me were deep and painful. When did my wife quit expressing her love for me? I couldn’t remember the last time she looked at me and said, “I love you.” And I said it all the time. I held her, caressed her, and told her ALL THE TIME that I loved her. Why did this one reflection back of this feeling hit me so painfully hard?

She was no longer sharing what she was so mad about, but it was coming out sideways, in random bursts of anger frustration.

It was because in our struggles she became more and more distant, isolated. And I began to reach out more. And as the imbalance went on we fell into these roles. I was the lover she was the pragmatic one who had to focus on bills, chores, kid discipline. Except it wasn’t true. It was true that she had begun to pour her energy and joy into the kids and not into our relationship. And it was true that she had become hyper-vigilant about chores, homework, bills, etc. But it wasn’t the stereotypical absent husband that was the issue, it was her withdrawal from the rest of the marriage that she was covering up with her over-active one-adult-in-the-relationship parenting.

It was a false projection. I was standing tall and present with her on all issues. But as she continued to withdraw from my touch and loving words she began to get more angry with me about my transgressions. “How come you never ask to pay bills together?” she would shout. “Um, because we do it at the same time every week, and I didn’t think it was necessary.”

I’m sure that many husbands use this type of imbalance to blame their wives for the loss of passion. I was not doing this in any way. I was standing beside her, agreeing to all of her requests, and doing my best as a dad with a full-time and highly demanding job that was paying for all of our housing and insurance and food. I was doing all that I could as a husband. And I was lacking the partner who had any warmth or affection for me. I think, somehow, I had become the provider but lost the lover part of my role.

And I’m not sure how anger brews over months and turns into years of anger. But that’s also what it felt like. As our intimacy became monthly, or less, our intimate connection outside the bedroom also suffered. She was no longer sharing what she was so mad about, but it was coming out sideways, in random bursts of anger frustration. The pat on the head moment was so alien also because almost all the conversations I had gotten from her were about what I wasn’t doing or how I had disappointed her yet again.

And I did disappoint her. There is no doubt about that. But I was also doing the best I could to maintain the heavy work schedule, do 50% of the parenting as she was asking, and provide the loving environment for our entire family. I was an overachiever and I was doing my best to keep everything afloat. But there was a poison that I couldn’t ever get at.

It came out one afternoon as we were driving to our couple’s therapy appointment together.

“I’m so sick of this therapy. I don’t feel like it’s getting us anywhere.”

I was stunned. It was the only thing I felt was keeping us hopeful. But she was no longer hopeful. She was cynical. She was already in the process of exiting the relationship. Even as we were going to therapy, we were not getting any closer together. A sad realization.

Could I have loved my wife for the rest of our lives. Certainly. But I wasn’t given that opportunity. A huge loss for both of us.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

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