do, be, don't - dating advice from the whole parent

Understanding Attraction: Do, Be, Don’t

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Try this little gestalt.

Do – sexual chemistry gets me high
Be – I’d really like to “be” this person
Don’t – I’ll keep my distance

When walking through a local organic grocery (or a venue of your choosing) I noticed my own energetic feelers reaching out. “Do” means my sexual chemistry is high. “Be” is a different type of attraction, more akin to jealousy. And the “Don’t” people push some avoidance button in my mind. It’s a nicer variation of the old meme: K F M.

Understanding Your Energy

What I’ve come to understand about energy and attraction: it’s mysterious.

In my experience, I’ve been confused and bamboozled by my own desires. Perhaps, my marriage while productive (two kids) was not very compatible. Of course, Love Languages had not been published, so we didn’t have the tools we have today. But, it is obvious now, that our primary means of expressing affection was not related to my ex-wife’s preferred language: gifts of service. She really wanted me to change the lightbulb the second I noticed it was burned out. That’s how she would know if I really, deeply, loved her. So, with each day the hallway had a burned-out bulb, I became ever more of a disappointment to my wife.

Yes, perhaps men are most likely to have “touch” as our love language. But that’s an easy answer. The nuance is more illuminating. With men, it’s important that you learn their 2nd top love language. That’s where you are going to find additional information about their needs. In my case, my secondary love language is “words of love.” I absolutely melt when my partner leaves a Post-it note with a heart on it. Simple gestures. Thoughtful words. Or just a note of love and encouragement that reminds me repeatedly, infinitely, that I am loved.

Sexual Chemistry Circus

When a person approaches you on a walking trail and you are immediately aroused make a note of what is getting your carbonation going. Is it their looks? Their body? Their sexual energy? Something else? Perhaps it says more about your sexual arousal and desires. It is a bit of information you should become acutely aware of. For example, my first wife was a ringer for my older sister. Thin. Artistic. Batshit crazy. I should’ve run, but I leaned in and married her, even after I was picking up hints of the damage hiding just below the facade.

In another adventure, I met a woman through Match who lit my fuse from the first phone call. It seemed racy, intoxicating, and harmless. Six months in, when she bolted for no reason, I learned how deep her damage actually went. When I asked her a few months later, “Don’t you think it would be good to explore and understand your “bolt” pattern with someone who cares about you and is willing to work through it?” “Nope,” she said. Like flipping a switch. The drama of the breakup must’ve fueled some other pathway of satisfaction for her.

I do understand how we get addicted to “high emotions” or drama. Sometimes, when there is little or no drama we begin to wonder about our partnership. Maybe we’re too comfortable.

I don’t think that’s an accurate assessment. Calm, loving, and well-attached can be what you are looking for. Unhinged and sexually advanced, while fun for a few months, was not a winning combination for me. Or for her, apparently. She’s married now, to a small Texas town man with a Mustang that he won’t let her drive, “It’s too much car for you.” I guess that’s what she always wanted. She looks happy and all. We’re still FB friends, though I’ve been only posting on FB for this blog.

When my sexual chemistry radar is set off from across the room, I can observe myself in “fascination” mode. I’m fascinated by women. I live in a state of unrest when I’m alone. I want a relationship. I am learning more each day about what “relationship” means to me. As I’m building my lifetime partnership, I’m going to be extra careful to interpret my own energy and signs, as well as those of my partner. We are prepping the maps for the next journey, together.

Infatuation and Ambition

There are also partners who immediately want to glom onto you and your entire life. This has been more of an experience for one of my successful female friends. She told me, “After a few months they all seem to want to be me, to assume my life and my lifestyle.” I guess I considered dating her after an offer one late night watching Game of Thrones together. Jet setting around to go snow skiing sounded good. The rest, perhaps not the best path toward finding my next partner.

Yes, when you’re immediately attracted to someone’s life, career, or lifestyle, you might be transferring some of their success into your motivation. It’s a dead-end street. In my experience, dating and relationship-building is a joint process. Both partners have to be equals in authority and (more importantly) empathy. When there is a major imbalance of power: either perceived or exhibited, there is little hope of evolving into a balanced and equal partnership. It could happen. I’ve never seen it happen. I learned, that when I was too impressed with a potential partner’s lifestyle or career, it was usually a sign of my own insecurity. It was NOT A TURN ON. When I am too infatuated with my date there’s an issue.

Don’t Darken My Door Again

Of course, the majority of people in life, walking around in a grocery store, are non-starters. There’s a “nope” right in their first appearance. Or in terms of online dating, once the conversation begins, there’s nothing there. There is no connection at all. Or worse, lack of energy. You feel nothing, or worse, you feel repelled.

Let’s imagine the online dating pool today for a man in my demographic. (A bit younger than the Golden Batchelor.) When you’ve reached middle age, your kids are out of the house, and you’re in the “what’s next” mode, you should’ve figured out a bit more about life than entertainment, working out, and work. If those are your “interests” we’re not going to find much to talk about. Those are the basics of survival: money, health, daily living. When someone is too focused (stuck) in one mode, working out for example, it’s a bit telling when their free time, or “passion” discussion moves to “the gym.” I’m sorry, but if you love time at the gym, we’re never going to meet there, much less go there as a couple (ever), so what’s the allure? Oh, right she’s fit and hot.

Finding something to relate to it harder than finding something to disqualify a potential partner. When you find a YES, lean in a bit and see if there’s more. What we’re looking for is a connection that transcends sex, appearance, and work. What we really want in a partner is someone we can grow with, and evolve with. We want an aspirational partner. And we want a partner who thinks we are aspirational too.

Letting go of the “meh” and “maybe” can be difficult. If they have also triggered you in the sexual arousal department, it’s often a temptation to “give this one a go, for a bit.” But, we know it’s not our goal to be in a hot sex relationship with a damaged dungeon master. Even if that’s what we’re into, we want a healthy dungeon master. Learning to move on, swipe left, and find new opportunities is a process. At first, we’re all about the sex. Being released from a sexless marriage, many of us are hot to trot. 10 years after my divorce, I’m surprised when I see some of the same hotties (good on pics and profile) are back in the market. “What happened,” I want to ask them. But, that too is a waste of time.

I once got a first date with a local luminary of the world. She’s got an epic body. A wonderful engaging smile. And she’s about as interesting as a Planet Fitness brochure. The wine date was cut short. She lived nearby and needed to go… Yes, she did. She’s still prowling the online dating scene for a workout partner. Wasn’t ever going to be me. I was curious. I was not disappointed by the discovery that beautiful women who have a history of relationship problems, might actually be the problem themselves.

Heal and Grow Stronger

Each breakup since my divorce has made me stronger. I am clearer today about what I want vs. what I must have. There are a few red flags that I choose to prioritize: addiction, lack of empathy, over-involvement with kiddos, and overreaction to anything related to her divorce. Kind of like, Aiden in Sex in the City after he reacted poorly to an ex-girlfriend’s voicemail, “What’s all the ‘fuck you’ about?”

Move along with grace and honesty. Don’t stay for the good sex. Don’t stay for the beautiful arm candy fantasy you’re running in your head. Don’t stay because you’re confused or intoxicated by this amazing person. Learn what has NOT WORKED for you in the past, and when you see the signs again, don’t hesitate: leave. You will be attracted to what’s crushed you in the past. You’re going to be longing for someone who is not available. And, even if you get them in a relationship, it will not be fulfilling, as they are hyper-focused elsewhere.

When you lose a partner, take time to collect your data. Understand what went wrong. Recall the red flags you might have ignored or missed. Get clear on what your priorities are. For me, a long-term relationship was always my goal. I didn’t want to date for sex. Or have sex for sex. I wanted to find my next partner and make a 100% commitment to make it work. I needed a partner who felt the same way. And… At the same time.

Let go of the near misses. There is someone who is right for you, you’ve got to go find them. Then, you’ve got to court them in a way that brings out the best in both of you. And if things go well, you might wind up in a relationship. From there, within the relationship, you can begin to work on your relationship-building skills. Find what you like and what she doesn’t like. Find new things you can both explore together. And find how your needs, desires, and futures align. Then, you keep going. You both keep evolving. You keep getting better at giving your partner what they most desire. And they are working on the same thing: understanding what your heart needs.

I believe in love. I also believe that it works. Be patient and kind with your partner. See how far you can take things. Keep asking for what you want. Keep listening for their deep unspoken requests. See how you can align your future plans and dreams. Keep going. Stay honest.


John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
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