three essential elements of love

The Three Essential Elements of Love

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Looking for a together partner, and a partner who is together already.

It is easier to say what didn’t work than to count up the things that did work. Especially as we arrive at the end of yet another relationship (dating, marriage) it is more common to identify the things that broke down. But in focusing on the positive aspects of what has worked in the past, you might be able to focus your attention there. Looking for the positive as opposed to looking out to avoid the negative.

Here are the three essential elements of love, in my experience thus far:


Calm Center.


There you go, those are the essential keys to lasting love. Let’s take them one by one and see if we can illuminate what makes love blossom in the company of someone who shares these qualities.


essential element of love: joy

You know it when you feel it, and you recognize it when you see it in another person. There is no faking inner joy. Positivism can help, but the peaks and valleys of life puncture positivism all the time. The joyous person stumbles just like the rest of us, and they tend to get back up quickly and with a hopefulness that accelerates their recovery.

I would love to have you alongside me, grooving to your own dream. And together we can bond and thrive in support of our mutual time together and our individual dreams.

What demonstrates joy? How do we recognize this joyousness?
We are all looking for joy, both in our lives and in the relationship with another person. If there is a huge imbalance in the levels of innate joy there will be trouble ahead. And maybe there are highly joyous people and people who are comfortable and fine in a more medium joyousness. Perhaps I am asking for someone to match my highly-activated happiness. And maybe it’s more important to understand your own energy and set-point of joy, then you can align yourself with a similar inner smile.

Smiles that light up the eyes are a good start. But even from a distance, if you are tuned in, you can feel a joyous person enter a restaurant. It’s an amazing recognition. And when you see it, feel it, taste the hint of joy in the other person, you can no longer do without it. I remember standing next to a date at an art reception and being rather painfully aware of her self-consciousness and over-thinking while being a bit blown over by a woman, several groups of people over, who I recognized as a fellow radiator.

Perhaps not everyone radiates at the same intensity. If you are a highly joyous person, like me, perhaps anything less will be painful and disconnecting. I know that I seek joy above all else in my next relationship. I will settle for nothing less.

Calm Center.

three essential elements of love

All the tumbles in life and we all deal with setbacks and interruptions in our own ways. If there is drama in our lives we can either respond with more drama, or urgency, or we can pause and reevaluate. I am a slowdown-and-observe-what-is-going-on type. When the drama hits from outside my life, I do my best not to respond in kind with more drama. I have always scored very low on the “sense of urgency” scale. It’s one of the things, I think that drove my then-wife crazy. She always felt she was the only one responding with the appropriate action.

But I’m not looking for any more drama or urgency in my life. The world brings out enough of that in our lives without us contributing to the frenetic pace. Calm centering is one of my superpowers.

I’m almost always hopeful and joyous about this new journey. As a single dad, I have more time and more complications than when I was married.

If your partner is also a centering person you might have a better chance at finding that inner peace together, in spite of the drama around you. Listen to their words. Listen to how they express the frustrations of the day. You want to hear a lack of victimization. You want to hear a simple pragmatic approach to getting the tasks and chores of life accomplished without a struggle. Sometimes there will be frustration and energy, that’s okay. But what is not okay is the needless amplification of the urgency of an issue.

“Is someone going to the hospital?” If the answer is no, then you can take your time in the response. And, especially in dealing with your ex-partner, the pause is your friend. They no longer respond within minutes, they no longer have to. So you too have the option to wait a bit before responding to any request. Time is on your side. Not manipulative time, but time to pause, reset, think, and respond.

It is always a good idea to get your center before responding to a dramatic or urgent message. Again, unless there is a fire or someone needs to go to the hospital, the urgency is probably falsely constructed to elicit a response. Give your response, on your time, by taking a moment to breathe and think about what you want as a result.




What keeps you up at night? How are you envisioning your life beyond the daily grind? Do you have goals that transcend your role as a parent or worker bee? If you don’t this might be a good time to figure out what other goals you can put out there for yourself. You need bigger goals. Call them life work, hobbies, or passions. You need to have some bigger ideals and bigger visions for your own life.

And seeing that passion in another person may be the final critical element I look for. I want a passionate partner. I want to be a cheerleader for your dreams. Of course, I am sensitive to your needs and goals for your kids, but I’m most interested in what warms your synapses in the off times.

Tell me about your dreams. What are you passionate about?

If we can find the balance of these three traits between us, perhaps we can build “what’s next” together.

Retirement is not an option for me. The time gained in divorce has been a boon to my big dreams. (This blog, for example, is a direct result of having the additional time when I don’t have my kids.) So as I continue to move through my life, I am growing my bigger dream. I am gathering momentum as an artist, writer, musician, and poet. I am happy with my alone time. I would love to have you alongside me, grooving to your own dream. And together we can bond and thrive in support of our mutual time together and our individual dreams.
I have a few things that I will slowly reveal to you as well, as we get to know each other. But I don’t want to overwhelm you. I don’t want to brag or show off with what I’m working towards. But it’s one of my most prized accomplishments. Sure, I love my kids. And I am clear that they are the priority in my life, way beyond my ultimate dreams for myself. BUT… They will grow older and no longer require my utmost attention and nurture. What will I be doing after they are gone?

I’m almost always hopeful and joyous about this new journey. As a single dad, I have more time and more complications than when I was married. And if we can find the balance of these three traits between us, perhaps we can build “what’s next” together.

Looking for a together partner, and a partner who is together already.

*post written August 2014.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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The Dating a Divorced Dad series continues:

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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Eli@coachdaddy

    Of these, the Calm Center is most difficult for me. I’ve grown so much better at quieting the ruminations, but at times, they play in the background. My biggest challenge is to keep them from gaining momentum.

    1. John McElhenney

      I repeat the serenity prayer as a mantra.

  2. Hasha

    I really enjoy your stories. It’s been a long and winding road for me as a single mom trying to find a stable relationship again. I have everyday questions as I feel this is all so new to me, and leaving away from my country and my friends has made it more challenging as I get so lonely. This is one of the things I’d like to get better at. In short here is my situation. I’ve been dating this single dad for a couple of months now, we seem to get along well, mutual attraction, all good. Time of course is very short when we get to see each other but we both agreed that isn’t a problem as long as there is interest in a future closer relationship. You know when we’ll know more about each other and we’ll get more serious into it (meeting each other’s kids) etc. However, I have a hard time with being lonely (I have no close friends or family where I live) just me and my kids. So I find myself to become quite “needy” “clingy” craving attention. I often have a hard time, while waiting for his messages. For example I was so sick last night, i get anxious at the thought of having no one to take care of me, or my kids shall anything happen with me. I just texted him that I don’t feel well, hoping to get an sorry you’re not well, do you need anything, don’t worry it will be ok. Well no such luck, I only got a message this morning “oh no”. That’s it? Lol. Yeah, so I do get it, I know he doesn’t know me very well, he doesn’t understand my loneliness, and it’s way too soon to have many expectations, but how can I handle this better for myself? I get feeling that he doesn’t care, he’s not into me, he’s selfish and self centred. Or is he just avoiding drama and living in a calm centre?
    To be mentioned is also that he is very busy (so am I though) and under a lot of stress (as am I) he texts me sometimes complaining about his terrible day. I do answer, try to be supportive and understanding. He enjoys that.
    How can I get him to understand my needs a little better, without scaring him? I’m not a crazy obsessed girlfriend. I just want to know that there is someone who cares that I can count on. Someone a bit more responsive than he is right now.

    Funny thing is, that after writing this I can totally see the big picture and how difficult this may be to achieve. But a word of advice and a man’s perspective would be very helpful in any case.


    1. John McElhenney

      Thanks Hasha. Keep going.

  3. Carla

    So glad I came across this article today! Reading these words was like hearing myself think just the same things that are written here. Having just recently been dumped by my fiancé, this article has come as a glimmer of hope. Thank you :)

    1. jmacofearth

      Carla, I’m so glad you found comfort in my words. If he dumped you he was not the one for you. Keep the essential elements of love in your sights and work to find the best relationship you can imagine. Thanks for your comment.

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