It's Not True Love Without These 3 Essential Factors

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couple kissing

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.


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There you go, those are the keys to love.

Let’s take them one by one and see if we can illuminate what makes love blossom in the company of someone with these qualities:

1. 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.

We are all looking for joy, both in our lives and in our 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.

What demonstrates joy? How do we recognize this joyousness?

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.

2. Calm Center

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’s 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.

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.

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“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, toom 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.

3. Passion

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?

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?

Retirement is not an option for me. The time gained in divorce has been a boon to my big dreams. 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’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.

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John McElhenney is a nationally recognized speaker and writer on the topics of parenting, dating as a single parent, and depression recovery. His newest book is Single Dad Seeks. This post is from his popular blog The Whole Parent.

This article was originally published at The Whole Parent. Reprinted with permission from the author.