Our Thin Threads of Love: Weaving a Pattern of Greatness Together

I've been seeking the "great love of my life" for over 50 years. Here's what I'm weaving today in my relationship.

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I read a series of love poems this past weekend with a group of writers that I have known for over 25 years. At some point during the discussion that ensued one of my friends exclaimed, “I’ve gone through my whole 67 years of life, and I’ve never felt like I was with ‘the one.’”

I had also shared a poem that I had written the day before, anticipating the return of my girlfriend, of 3 months.

her smile

arrives a few minutes early
the dog barks, paces, looks



touch without goal
love without need
presence undemanding


And something occurred to me. “I always lead with the victory in mind,” I said to the group. “Even today, three months in, I think she’s the one. It’s how I love.”

Sure, we have challenges ahead. We are complex individuals with independent lives, building bridges and rope swings between our two countries, but we’re reconnecting and recommitting in each moment, each day. We seek new ways around common disagreements, new ways to navigate old ghosts that can haunt us from previous relationships. Hoping for comfortable ways to be together on a typical weeknight when we’re both tired and don’t want to take the lead on what to do for dinner or the evening. We are sallying forth as pioneers in arms. Arm in arm, that is. This particular relationship, this combination/flavor has never been tried before. It is all new.

Some moments, I occasionally step back, alone, and evaluate a few crucial elements:

  • Am I enamored with her?
  • Does she show the right signs about loving me back?
  • Are we building a process for moving through tough patches with minimal collateral damage?
  • Is there genuine joy between us?

I think these are the check-ins of the heart. The “how are we doing” moments that come and go in any relationship. And somedays, I suppose the answer is not always 100% yes. Little speed bumps along the journey. Those are the moments we must listen to, ferret out, go after. Anything but 100% connection is not enough.

But here is a new learning on this front, the reconnection, does not have to happen immediately. Sometimes a person does need a moment, evening, day, of alone time to recalibrate. This should not be threatening. There should not be pressure to “put things right” immediately. As you learn to trust and grow with the other person, you can also give them the respect to know their own needs, and to support them in their process, even if it runs contrary to what you had in mind.

There is time for learning how to relate and work through issues. There should be no urgency to jump on every minor waiver in “the force.” There is plenty of time if you believe this is the one person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Well, that gives you plenty of time. So, slow it down, listen when something gets hard or out-0f-balance. And seek the repair when the time is right. Take into consideration both partner’s process and needs. The bridge back to wholeness is one built with both partners in coordination. If one partner is always the builder, the reacher, the one who asks for reconnecting, perhaps there is an imbalance that runs deeper than the myriad of issues that pop up from time to time. Is that an imbalance that needs to be examined?

Each partner needs to understand their own needs and healing process. When triggered, both partners must take responsibility for their own growth, expression, and understanding of what has shut them down. It is their work alone. The connected partner must allow that healing to take place without too much intervention or prodding. And it can often feel unnatural, not to rush in with solutions, and hugs, and ideas. We, as partners, want to jump in, take care of, solve, and get back to that lovin feeling. But often, what the wounded person needs is time and the reassurance that you are not going away, not afraid. They want to know you are and standing in solid for them to lean on, should they need it. They may not need it. They may need to heal alone, away from you. Again, it feels difficult at first, as if there is a running away, but it’s much less about the relationship and more about the individual.

Allow your lover to feel their feelings deeply. When something is upsetting, give them time to reset and rebalance themselves before offering your support. The best standing-in may be just the reassurance that they are loved and that you are there for them, just as they are, even in their distress.

We want to feel connected all the time. As things come up in the relationship, or as individuals, it may feel like a disruption in the connection between the two of you. But it doesn’t have to be. There is a good chance that the disruptive feeling has nothing to do with you. And a phrase we learn in Al-Anon about dealing with other’s pain can be very helpful at this point.

I didn’t cause it.
I can’t cure it.
And I can’t contol it.

As we weave our lives together in a new relationship things are going to come up for healing. Things from past relationships, things from our family of origin, things from our own hurts and desires. A relationship becomes a vehicle for passing through old baggage to get to the new adventure. The hope is that as you shed the old hurts the new relationship can become even stronger and closer. As we attempt to weave a pattern of greatness with a lifetime partner, there are going to be missed stitches and bad ties that will have to be pulled out and redone. What a gift if you can work this craft with another, loving person in your life. New patterns can be written over the old hurts, and this adventure of continuous renewal becomes a life work. A love story unfolding at the active hands of two people committed to their own growth and the connected growth of one another.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
The Whole Parent @wholeparent

To read more or discuss life coaching in Austin, Texas with John, contact him online at

And pick up John’s latest book: Single Dad Seeks: A Guide to Dating Again After Divorce on Amazon.

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