I don’t want to be negative, or a Debbie Downer, but… It’s more than likely your relationship will not work out. I mean, it’s math, right? The odds are not in our favor if we are diligently seeking a lifetime partner. A long-term partner, sure. But LIFETIME… Um, let’s discuss.
If you knew then what you know now how would you change your trajectory? Would you avoid certain relationships altogether? Would you do things differently in your last relationship? What would you change about your past if you could do it all over again?
Here we are again, starting over. The love of our life didn’t turn out to be the prince we’d hoped for. While not exactly a frog, certainly their warts became red flags and eventually deal-killers over time. Starting over is not a failure. Starting over is a new beginning if we take our past mistakes and follies as lessons to build on. When I wrote Single Dad Seeks, I was only 3 – 4 years out of my marriage. I was eager and naive. I was fired up about online dating, match.com, Bumble, Tinder, all of which held a mystical allure. My fascination with online dating quickly grew to cynicism. Today, I have a different view.
There’s nothing wrong with online dating. There’s nothing inherently good about it either. But it is certainly a channel to start a relationship or two. You may find the compatibility and bullshit factors make online dating a bit more of a distraction. You can find a partner on eHarmony, but it’s not necessarily easier or more efficient. It IS lazier. Low risk, low consequence if you fail.
Online we can make up what we are and who we want. We can lie. We can use old photos and claim to be 5 years younger than we are. We can do all these things. And we can imagine that almost everyone is doing it too. If that’s the case, well, where does that leave us and our Bumble profile? Bumble is bullshit. Tinder is trash. Match is mirky. And OK Cupid is not really okay.
Who Do You Want to Love When You Grow Up?
I keep thinking I’ve got some of the formulas figured out with relationships and dating. I keep writing posts about “relationship-building” and still I fail again and again. Why? What am I missing? Is it so hard for people to love and cherish one another for the long term? Do the frivolous apps make changing partners TOO EASY? Does breaking up come up as a strategy more often now that there are so many options? If you break up with a partner, does that mean you’ve failed, or does that mean you’ve matured and grown to understand you deserve better?
Over ten years ago, when my then-wife asked for a divorce, I never imagined the dating journey I would travel just trying to find love again, just trying to define “home” again. And ten years and counting and I’m still seeking. I’m failing a bit faster these days. But I’m still dropping the ball somewhere. There are some red flags I’m not paying attention to. There are some catastrophic failures that I keep leaping into.
Okay, that’s not fair. The last three relationships have not been catastrophic. If I can see them as educational, I can move past the shame and guilt that comes from being single again. Being single is not a failure. Becoming single again is a pause that gives you the opportunity to relearn the fundamentals of what makes you happy. And guess what? It’s not being with another person. That’s the cherry on top.
Another Person Can’t Make You Happier
Sure, another person can make you more comfortable. A partner can provide cuddles, support, guidance, and the challenge of a lifetime. And if we’re up for the challenge, then we can learn a good bit about ourselves and what makes us, as individuals, happy. But we’ve got to figure that out WHILE WE ARE ON OUR OWN. Seriously. Listen!
You cannot find happiness in your lovers’ arms. Just as you could not find shelter under your mother’s wings as you grew into a teenager. You can learn to push against the relationship, the lover, and ask for what you want and need. But your happiness is completely and utterly up to you. And if you ultimately break up AGAIN, you’re going to have to rebuild the most primary relationship of all: the relationship with yourself.
Alone Again, Naturally
We die alone. We dream alone while we sleep. While we’re awake, most of us today have work that takes us away from our partners. (Covid, of course, changed this for all of us.) So what we make of our relationship only makes up a fraction of our actual life. While I prefer to live with someone else, I have to get better at maintaining a healthy relationship with numero uno, me. And alone, on this solo journey of life, we find ourselves again and again.
While I reboot, each time, I go deeper into this truth: I alone am responsible for my happiness. I am responsible to ask for what I need. And I am responsible for leaving when those needs are not being met. How long I stay, how long I put up with a shitty relationship is entirely up to me as well. (frown)
Finding The One
I’m looking for The One. And as I define her, that is an ever-evolving lover who is willing to risk great adventures with me, both in the physical world and in the spiritual world as well. All elements of our love have to ignite with our perfect partner. THEN, we have to retreat into ourselves and our life path, and we have to CHOOSE to adore and celebrate our partners forever and ever, amen. It doesn’t work out that way for most of us. For me, it’s never worked out. In the famous line of U2’s Bono, “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.”
The beauty is in the understanding that this experience of love and loving another person is all part of the spiritual experience of being human. I was telling a friend tonight, that I believe I get closer to god when I am cherishing a romantic partner. “I see the face of god in my lover’s eyes.”
The One is me.
The love affair is ongoing.
My partnership with another person is optional.
I will always return to aloneness. And when I die I will die alone. The journey IS THE EXPERIENCE of loving another person and loving myself when all else fails. When the love of my life falls. When the business plan collapses. When a family member dies. I have to reset, rebuild, and restart my life. I have to recommit to my uber-goals. My overarching drives and passions come into clearer focus when I have to push up against a lover, and their demands/requests for my time and attention.
I am the one. She was not the one. There will be another one. Until I am again, the only one.
Alone I stand, again,
an adventurer of the heart and soul,
ready to shout, “Let’s Go!”
John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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