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John McElhenney

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Durable Love: Forgiving Your Ex and Refinding Love

Posted: 11/26/2013 11:02 am

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I had the desire and intention to go the distance with my ex-wife. When I entered the agreement, and we decided to have kids, the deal was sealed for me. And love was never an issue. Compatibility and control would often come up, but I never doubted my love for my wife.

I understand that about myself. Even in the failure of my marriage, my second marriage, I know that I was not the one who wanted out. As the veritable caca hit the blades, I was sure that this moment of truth would actually bring us closer together over the long run. But there wouldn't be a long run.

But even as things were deteriorating between us, I was trying to get the message across that I stilled loved her. Even if I didn't like her, I did believe the durable bond of my love would transcend any problems. Even in the darkest hours, I continued to ask, "Are you sure this is what you want? Because it is definitely not what I want." For me, I kept asking, because part of me couldn't believe it was happening. And another part of me was sure she would snap out of it and realize her mistake. And a final part of me wanted to give her the "You're right, I made a mistake" opportunity to repair the relationship.

But of course, I was alone in this desire. Once the fracture happens, for some people, there is no recovery. There was no break for me. I was still writing love poems and recording love anthems trying to reawaken the light of her love for me.

I know this about myself. And as I aspire and look into the future, where my next relationship will come, I know that this is one of my strengths. Once I love, once I know I'm in, I'm all the way in.

I never strayed from my marriage. I never had the desire to be with another woman. I could look at and admire other women, beautiful and young, but I was so in love with my wife that the actual thought of acting out with someone else seemed almost comical. Sex is great, but sex isn't worth breaking up a marriage about. That's what porn is for: sex with all the young and younger women you want, with none of the consequences.

So as I try paint a picture of durable love for myself, I understand the commitment I have to work with. I don't have any concerns about monogamy, or loving the same woman for the rest of my life. I saw myself completely satisfied year after year, exploring the same loving woman's body, over and over, and discovering new ways to tickle her fancy.

But something got lost in that relationship that I will do a better job of protecting in my next relationship. And there were mismatches on things like love languages, and what types of activities gave us pleasure.

But my checklist might start with listening for the other person's concepts of love. What is it that this other person really values in a relationship? Have they had successful long-term relationships? And are they aware and able to articulate what broke in their previous relationship?

I think self-awareness is key. And not just mine, but the self-awareness and learning of my partner. Have they let go of their anger at their ex-partner? Can they see through the stress of their lives to the core of the issues necessary to be a loving co-parent? Because if they can't be a good co-parent, if they don't have the capacity to love, even after the divorce, then I might find myself in the same position, god forbid, in a number of years. Can they forgive and move on with their lives as gracefully as possible?

For a while I used to blame my ex-wife for the divorce. And even reading the first part of this post, you might think I'm still in that mode. But it's not true. There were many things that caused us to get crosswise with one another. But I do know that I was the stand-in partner, who was asking to fight for the relationship. And perhaps she was just too tired to give it another shot.

So I know this about myself. I love fully. And as messed up as things might get, I am going to be working at being the most loyal and loving person I can me. And I know that when I get the chemistry right, I will never stray sexually. In fact, I really look forward to learning how to play her body like a guitar, finding the little places that make her resonate.

I look forward to getting old together. To being an example of that durable love. I see the older couples who are still in obvious glow, and I'm certain that I am capable of that. That is the goal: love that rides off together into the sunset.

So, perhaps I'm looking for something slightly different than I was before my divorce. With my awareness now, I am looking for that durable quality. I'm listening for it. In how they talk about their kids, their parents, and even their ex-partner.

Letting go of blaming my ex-wife for the divorce was the first step in forgiving her. And by forgiving her, and seeing how hard we both tried to keep things together, I was able to forgive myself for the divorce as well. And with forgiveness comes a new respect and another layer of the same durable love. I will always have those 11 years together. All the growth and joy we experienced. All the things that have brought me to where I am today. And some days, I can still really appreciate her. It's not easy. And there are still struggles and issues between us. But I can honestly say I still love my ex-wife. I have learned how I don't want to be with her as a partner again, but as parents we are partnered up, like a do-se-do, forever, round-and-round we go.

Perhaps in a way my durable love is still present. Today, I hope to find another person with more compatible ideas of what that means. Yep, I believe forgiveness and release of your ex is key.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth

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See The Whole Parent blog for more of this story. And I welcome your comments and suggestions here. And your participation via Facebook and Twitter.

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