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Happiness Dating and Joyful Coupling Post-Split

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It's not all about sex. But a lot of it is about sex.

I was chatting with a new date on the tennis court the other morning. We were hitting and catching up on our own ideas about life, dating and sex. She was telling me about a girl's weekend she'd just been on. "All the married women were complaining. And all my divorced friends who were with someone were talking about the great sex. And the married women wanted to hear about that."

Why is it that sex is often what dies in a marriage and then becomes part of what justifies a separation and then divorce? What's so mysterious about sex that we all crave it, but we're so inept at keeping it interesting? How does a man with an amazingly receptive and beautiful wife become more interested in porn, or sports, or drinking with the buddies?

In my marriage we went through significant ups and downs in our sex life. And that part's normal. Extended and heightened sexual appetite year-after-year is a myth, or something that Sting might claim, but most of us mere mortals and non-rockstars have to work at. And sure, there are plenty of reasons that sex becomes harder and harder to be joyful about, as the "relationship" matures. But most of those disconnects have to do with expectations and unmet needs -- needs, that most often, have nothing to do with sex.

We grow together as a couple. We either have kids or we don't. And as things mature in our relationship there are certain non-sexual expectations that begin to factor into our desire and sexual lustiness. Here are a few that we all know about.

Tired -- when you're too tired for sex (TTFS) it's not a sexual problem it's an energetic problem. Solve for tired, and you pick up a lot of potential sexual drive.

Angry -- yes, sex is used by both sexes as reward and punishment. Either you are kicking ass as meeting both spoken and unspoken expectations, or you are not. If you're winning the sexual desire may remain high between you and your mate. But when things go off track a little, and stress of many colors enters into the equation, the sexual drive is often the first part of the relationship that begins to show the stress.

Busy -- we're all busy. Most of us are over-busy. And for most of us, busy is an excuse. Sure the clothes in the dryer need to be folded before they wrinkle. Yes, the dishes do need to be loaded into the dishwasher. BUT... that's no excuse for not jumping at a kids-out-moment and taking a roll in the sack. It's often the first thing a man thinks of and the last thing a woman thinks of. The woman wants the damn chores done first. The man wants his nookie. We're at odds often about these "chores," but if you talk and the desire is still there on both sides, then a compromise and solution is a matter of negotiating. If the desire is not there, the negotiation is often very short. The woman says, "Not now," to the random wandering husband hand while standing in the kitchen appraising the post-dinner activities.

Okay, so those are the things that turned our marriages into sad, sexless shells of our former glowing and sexually fulfilled lives. Does it have to go that way? When dating you are probably not going to be attracted to a complainer. When the chores and "other responsibilities" come into play too often, and prevent you from even being able to arrange a next date, well, you get the picture of how future negotiations are going to go.

Look for happiness. Find the balance between beautiful and happy, because beautiful and mad is simply not a workable situation. Relationships with complaining or angry people are not fruitful, they are tedious and full of compromise and apologies. We learned how to do angry. We want to learn how to do happy again.

Sex is the same way. If the act of love-making, even in the first few couplings, is strained and controlled, you might question what's actually going on. If you can talk about it with one another great, but that's rare. What you're looking for, even in early sex, is playfulness and a somewhat whimsical approach. If orgasm is the focus, your's or their's, you might be entering into something that is more about fulfilling unmet needs, or old resentments, rather than healthy sex.

What is healthy sex? How would I know? But you can tell happy sex from strained sex right away. It's not a stretch to expect playful and enjoyable sex. In fact, as a starting point for determining long-term compatibility I can't think of a better indicator of inner confidence and happiness than someone's approach and enjoyment of sex.

Right, it's not all about sex. But sex has a lot to do with it. And those women in my friend's group, longing to hear about the passionate sex of their friends are a sad lot. They are compromising or shutting down in order to remain in their marriages, often for the benefit of their kids. And this is okay and noble. But it's not where we "divorced and single" folks are. We ARE looking for greener pastures. And the burden is on us to seek happiness with every fiber of our bodies.

Joy has got to be the biggest turn on there is. You can feel it when someone enters a room and they are glowing with their own inner happiness. If you've got the joy to reflect it back to them, then perhaps you are both on your way to joy in life and joy in the bedroom. Now, the keys to keeping this joy on into marriage again, or on beyond the first few years, is still a mystery I am trying to solve for. I got there on my side, but had a partner who exited the joyful bedroom and never returned.

Let's not do that mistake again. Maybe it's just a matter of time. Putting in the time with someone. Learning about their rhythms. Riding out the ups and downs and looking for the hopefulness that still radiates even in tough and stressful times. If you find the happy person. And they light up your happy person. Do that. And cultivate that. Then if sex is also a happy and playful act, you might be at the start of something durable and fun. Good luck. Let's do happy first, relationship second.

Sincerely,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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