Tag Archives: sexual chemistry

How Do You Radiate? Becoming the Lover You Are Looking For


So we are starting on the same page, here are my quick notes of this amazing video on creating and sustaining long-term desire within a relationship. The secret to desire in a long-term relationship | Ester Perel

+++ notes +++

“Sex isn’t something to do, sex is place you go, together and in yourself.”

In her studies she asked what made a long-term partner attractive again. Here are the typical responses.

  • when they are away (when we can gain some distance from our mate we can re-see them)
  • when they are being radiant – holding court, in their element
  • when they make us laugh, or surprise us (seeing our mate decked out for a party)

There is a big difference between needing someone and desiring them.

“There is no neediness in desire, no care taking.”

+++ end notes +++

On another blog I examined how these concepts played out in my marriage and subsequent divorce. I’d like to dig into the attractiveness section for a moment and see if there are things I can learn and put into practice in the coming year, as I  open up to the idea of seeking a relationship again. (I’ve put “dating” on hold in Nov – Dec in order to gain some perspective and insights, if possible, into my own patterns and what was not working. Because it’s not working.)

She had lost her own radiance and was no longer willing to be rewarmed by mine.

Radiate. That was the word that hit me when watching this video. When someone is really in the element the radiate. What is more critical for me in 2015 is to radiate with my joy and creativity. When I shine I show up with as much of my potency and intention showing as possible.

When I’m doing more of my thing, I’m more attractive. I often show up with a lot of joy. But when I’m glowing with my creative talents as well, my concept is that I will become irresistible for someone. What I’m looking for is a resonance.

Resonance in a relationship: When the warm and vibrations put out by one partner enlivens and sparks the other partner.

When this resonance is lost, or nonexistant, a creative soul begins to doubt the connection between himself and the beloved. In my life, I’ve had one experience where I believed I was enjoying full-resonance. I married this woman and had two wonderful children with her. Long before the kids were added to the equation we basked in our mutual illumination and creative energies. The weekends were a sort of scared time.

Our typical Saturday and Sunday revolved around some kind of shared breakfast with plenty of coffee and a conversation that often went like this, “So, let’s touch base later in the afternoon, and see if we’ve got anything going on.” And with that we’d go to our separate artist studios to do our thing.

“And if  something’s really burning tonight, just go with it, I’ll bring you food,” I would add. This mutual support and appreciation for alone time, creative time, was one of the resonances we enjoyed as our relationship deepened.

There was zero resonance between us. That became a fracture and a loss that we were unable to recover from.

Somewhere along the shared path, several years and two kids later, we began suffering from a lack of resonance. While we were both reforming our identities as parents with creative ambitions we began to reframe our lives and priorities. It’s hard to dissect exactly how or when things changed, but at some point my creative projects and requests for creative time in my studio became threats rather than celebrations. As I worked to maintain my dad role in addition to my musician role, I began to  capture my alone-creative-time from 10:30 (when the kids were finally asleep) to early morning. Consequently I would look for nap opportunities during the weekend. But somehow naps were bad, in our relationship. What?

Call it whatever you like, but the weekend conversations changed in tone and went something like this.

“So what are your goals for the weekend?” she would ask.

“Um, some rest, some creative time, and a little love making.” I answered as playfully as I could.

“Oh.” she would say. And then nothing. So we’d go along for a few minutes and I’d invariably ask if I didn’t want to get into a big fight. “And what are your plans, dear?”

“I want to clean out the garage and get some new drapes for the bedroom.”

“Okay. Um, and I’m guessing you need my help on the first one. So… When would you like to work on the garage together?”

“Now.” And that would reorient my ideas for the weekend.

Somewhere along parenting process she lost the resonance with our shared artistic visions. Or she sublimated that vision for something around her role as a parent. And while the friction was minor in the beginning, it began to wear on us both. She seemed to always be asking me to help with a weekend project, complaining about my naps and requests for evenings to play music. The conversation would often end up with  her expressing a frustration at my lack of “responsibility.”

If I am genuinely looking for a relationship and not just a date, then my concept of holding out for resonance becomes more critical.

But it’s the lack of resonance that began to really hurt emotionally too. I began to find my stride again, in my 11 to 2am sessions and I would often bring a new composition in to share. She stopped listening. The love songs I was singing fell on stone ears. And it wasn’t as if she was chained to the stove or scrubbing the floors. We had house keeping support. We had our bills paid. We were entering the next phase of parenting: settling in after the mind warp of early parenting. But some how she never returned to her creative space. And she resented mine. As things devolved, it seemed like my musical endeavors were threatening, in some way.

She had lost her own radiance and was no longer willing to be rewarmed by mine. There was zero resonance between us. That became a fracture and a loss that we were unable to recover from. Only after the divorce was I able to refind my musical voice. And in the last few years I’ve begun to radiate again with my musical joy.

I’m looking for another creative person. Someone who stands in her own power. Someone who resonates with her own mojo and is not threatened by mine. I want to start a symphony here on my own, and find a co-author for the second movement.

One last note from the video about what causes people to fall in love.

Factors that determine why you fall in love with one person:

  • timing
  • proximity
  • mystery
  • fits your love map (list of traits you build as you grow up)
  • complementary brain systems

So with this new information, I am formulating a revised plan for 2015. Rather than seeking so much, I’m going to work on my own radiance. I’m going to sing and perform with more gusto and more frequency. I’m going to continue to improve my fitness and energy. And I’m going to be listening for another strong voice, that I can join with.

The last item, “complementary brain systems,” seems deeply revealing. The idea is we tend to gravitate towards others who have a similar education and intellectual focus.

I have been thinking about a term I read recently about a “free soul.” You recognize a free soul when you see one. They are the people who are noticed when they enter a room full of people. An energy that speaks of sensuality and joy. I’ve recently run into a woman in my work out group who’s obviously a free soul. She’s married, but even so, there’s a chemistry and confidence between us that is different in tone from any of the other people I’ve come across in the last 5 years. I can see her clearly. And in her, I can recognize another free soul and understand more clearly what I am seeking.

Finally, this brings up the concept of dating vs. relationship again. If I am genuinely looking for a relationship and not just a date, then my concept of holding out for resonance becomes more critical. I’ve had a resonant partner once before. I know how that feels and how transformative that can be for both people. Anything less than that is a distraction.

Always Love,

John McElhenney

back to Dating After Divorce

related posts:

image: ember dance, Jake “Forester” Barbour, creative commons usage

Nothing Is As Exciting As New Love, Right?


The first step to recovery is admitting there’s a problem.

Preamble: When the animal intoxication of chemical romance hits, our brains go on stun. We are no longer thinking like a human, we’re more like a dog.

I’m not a greener pastures guy. I loved my wife. I loved my last girlfriend. Those relationships are over, in the romantic sense, so I prop my hopes backup and set off again on the epic quest. The chivalrous knight’s journey. ARGGGH. I’m a bit exhausted from all the questing and leaping off after any romantic potential. I’m most tired of my optimistic fool’s trait that keeps my heart engaged long after the true colors have been shown.

All we have is hope. When things go wrong, when disappointments happen, when “bad things happen to good people,” all we have is our ability to imagine a better place, a new hope, a delayed gratification dream. Thank goodness for that, but good grief for all the times we have to fail to find another human to grow and evolve with. We keep trying.

Today I will try again. I will hope that “love” with the little “l” is out there, and perhaps nearby. The last quest led to a brilliant woman, who dialed in my number physically and sexually, for some unknown reason. We don’t really understand chemistry. We try to rationalize the “opposites attract” theme, but it doesn’t make rational sense when we look at our preferences. I use a dog metaphor sometimes to illustrate, even to myself, the simple mystery of physical attraction.

Two dogs meet in a dog park. Either
1. One tail is wagging
2. Two tails are wagging
3. No tails are wagging

There is also potential for overlooking some egregious problems, some unfinished issues that are as plain as day to anyone standing nearby.

I think it has a lot less to do with our conscious brains and a lot more to do with something subconscious, sub-lingual, and more dog-like. I might think I have a thing for poodles and pitbulls. But when a fancy, just-my-type, boxer enters the park, all my previous ideas of who/why/what I wanted are thrown to the wind. A whimsy of hormones, eye signals, body language, and something else… Magic. That’s the only explanation for it. When magic happens we are up for the pursuit. Our animal instincts kick in, and even across a room, we can spot the “potential” and feel the tiniest rush. If we are open to the signals, we might close in on the deal, attempt a proud display, and engage in courtship.

When both tails are wagging, there is a potential for magic. There is also potential for overlooking some egregious problems, some unfinished issues that are as plain as day to anyone standing nearby, but we’ve fallen into some other state. An altered state, and not always for the better. When the hit of sexual chemistry arrives, we are also vulnerable to euphoria, rushing into things, and premature sexual engagement. Fine. If you feel it, go for it. If you have insatiable lust and passion, go, do the animal thing, rut, pounce, devour. It’s wonderful. But be aware, it’s like an intoxication. And while you’re intoxicated you should not operate heavy machinery nor get pregnant. (A joke and subtle safe-sex hint.)

So, let’s say for illustration, you’ve got the ‘chemistry’ with someone and the rushing blood in your head and heart is an indication that you are getting intoxicated. Notice. Appreciate. And take a long drink of it. BUT… PLEASE… PAUSE…

Sorry. The headlong rush into sex and animal passions is awesome and fun and … Dangerous. I know I sound dramatic. But I am being dramatic on purpose. Let’s see how I can make this more clear, less metaphorical.  I’ll get more personal and tell a little bit about my experience with the drug of love.

I have gone headlong into the night of intoxicated coupling. And with two exceptions (in college, sort of one-night-stand variations) all of these rushed relationships have ended in fiery disasters. Hear me. Nothing is as exciting as new love. YES. I agree. And nothing is as blinding as the animal chemistry that kicks in somewhere below our human intelligence, and that blindness lasts for weeks, months, years if we’re… that “lucky”? or “tragically deceived?”

Let me try again from the beginning. My first marriage was initiated by such flames and synchronicity that I spent the first 45 days of our “relationship” either in her bed or mine. Of course, we were just finishing college, we had time, we had the uncertainty of “what’s next” in our lives. We had time and chemistry to burn. I knew on my honeymoon, however, when the fieriness showed up aimed at me rather than with me, that I had made a huge mistake marrying this woman. STRIKE ONE for hot sex.

When the female of the animal species is showing unhealthy signs they are either ostracized and left behind, or driven from the herd.

My second marriage was a bit more stable, but the chemistry was no less mind-altering. I was still wounded from the flame-out of my first marriage and the wreckage that was left behind after she did her business of “divorcing me.” So I fell effortlessly into romantic reverie when I ran into an old high school friend. And she was/is still beautiful to me. And we attempted to be smart, we attempted to be honest and go slowly. The stars were already in place, and we were negotiating with seriously impaired intellect. Such is the role of the intoxication. We partner and mate for the good of the species.

So my second RUSH went that way. We spawned two beautiful children. Still, I should have never consummated this relationship. There were red flags and issues within the first weeks that should’ve could’ve would’ve made a more sober man say, “no thank you.” I was sober of any artificial intoxicants, but I was as addicted to her beauty and body like a garden variety addict.  I saw the danger. I responded to the warnings. I proceeded onward and inward. We married. Altered everything about our lives. Had kids. And things went off the rails, in part due to the disconnects I was getting warning signals about, in those first few love-addled weeks, even before we’d ever slept together. I was too far gone to pull up from the terminal velocity nose dive. I gave it all. I put it all in. We both did.

The third RUSH ended last night. It should’ve ended months ago, when she calmly and forcefully broke up with me. But I was on the trail of exciting love. I was in the quest mode. I had gotten a taste of hot sex and I was no more sober than a male tomcat around a female in heat. And I’m not making any judgements about her or the warning flares she was firing straight at me. I was well aware of the danger as I moved in for the conquest. I was as hungry as I’ve ever been, maybe still (of course still) wounded. But more lonely and ready and energetic.

If we’re addicted and activated we’re at risk of slipping back into our unhealthy patterns of addiction, intoxication, regret, withdrawal, and repeat.

When the female of the animal species is showing unhealthy signs they are either ostracized and left behind, or driven from the herd. I even had a friend telling me, “She’s in no shape for a relationship.” I had all the information I needed. Heck, when the woman is saying, “No, nope, nada, don’t do it,” while still welcoming you into her arms… well, that’s your problem right there.

New love is a drug, that might be more powerful than heroin. If we’re addicted and activated we’re at risk of slipping back into unhealthy patterns of addiction, intoxication, regret, withdrawal, and repeat. Not a fun or survivable path. Addiction eventually kills us, if we don’t get help.

I’m on my own for this one. I walked in “eyes wide shut” as they say. Knowing, seeing, being told, “This one is not for you,” and going for it anyway. And five or six breakups later, it’s hard to count them now, I’m finally sober enough to admit my problem.

The first step to recovery is admitting there’s a problem.

Yep. (hand raised) I have a problem with love.

Always Love (responsibly),

John McElhenney

< back to Dating After Divorce

related posts:

image: blue angel, tanna valentine, creative commons usage