Divorce, Single Parenting, Dating, Sex, & Self-Recovery

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She’s Still Mad at Me

OFF-madgirl

It’s been almost four years since my divorce was finalized. Today marks the anniversary of my leaving my house, our house, for the last time. And I’m not exactly sure how or when it happened, but my then girlfriend-to-wife-to-parent was not so unhappy when we met. I would’ve run the other way had she shown the vitriol she is capable of maintaining and even increasing over time. What happened?

I hear the story all the time: responsible mom, lazy dad, equals unhappy family. But that’s not the way it was in our house, in my eyes. But that’s the problem right there, “in my eyes.” I have no way of knowing what happened in her eyes. I cannot pull out the thoughts in her head and thus I am left with only my side of the story.

We had some great times and some hard times. And we rallied along together for a long part of our marriage. Through financial difficulties, through a major medical scare with the pregnancy of our second child, and even through some emotional infidelity on her part. I forgave. We grew bigger as a couple. And we continued with our married life. Everybody has ups and downs.

It’s impossible for me to know what her thought processes were. Other than fighting with me, she didn’t share to many of her dreams of where she was going, or what she wanted.

And just as we were beginning to find some footing again, my stable job at a huge corporate tech company, the kids doing well in school and thriving, and her retooling her career and reimagining where she wanted to go from here. Well, something in her eventual vision began to exclude me from those visions.

It happened just as the 2009 economic downturn forced my big corp employer to layoff all of my innovative team. Since we were not directly tied to an ROI we were let go, but in the most generous way possible. Essentially I was given a small golden parachute, that said, “Thanks for your effort, here’s a little something to send you on your way.”

But this was the beginning of the end of my marriage. In this moment of repose, refactoring what I wanted to be doing next, I saw this moment as a great opportunity for both of us, for our whole family, to reestablish priorities around our work/life balance. And the parachute gave us nearly 8 months of running room, in my mind.

Not in my then wife’s mind.

We had lunch one day, soon after my sabbatical began. I had started a blog (which I still write) about digital marketing and I was enjoying a little extra rest and flexibility. We were talking about the future over tacos.

“So, I think we’ve got a little breathing room to decide what we want to do next,” I said.

“It’s not that much money.”

“What?”

“What’s going to happen when the money runs out?”

We argued. She too was looking for work at this moment, but she was trying on several different paths and not having much success establishing a new career. I was applying for jobs and playing tennis in the afternoons, and getting a bit of time to myself.

She really didn’t want to work full-time and she was pressuring me, in more than one way, to get the next job that would make all of our lives easier.

At this point, looking back, I can only guess at her mindset. Either we were both going to start working in some full-time capacity, or I was going to find another big corp high-paying job, and she could continue to seek her bliss. I was imagining a few months to regroup and reset our priorities together. She was already done with that and really just wanted me to go back to work, and quickly, before there was a gap in our income stream.

Um… We had a disconnect. And this is about the time the “fuck you” outbursts started showing up in her vocabulary. I can only guess that things would’ve been easier for her if I had merely complied and taken the first corp job that came along and we could return to status quo.

But I was unhappy with the arrangement, as I shipped off to work everyday to a 45 minute commute each way, and arrived home in time for dinner, or in time to bring dinner home. She wasn’t really doing the happy housewife has dinner ready thing, not that I expected that. I was stressed and tired a lot of the time. The culture at this corp gig was notoriously bad and it had become more hellish once a re-org took away my manager and replaced it with an arch-enemy. My last year at the corp gig was pure antagonism.

Unfortunately, the next year of marriage would be pretty antagonistic as well. I was unclear what was going on at the time, and today I can merely guess at the worries in her head that led her down the divorce path rather than the joining-in-a-new-dream path.

The stereotype is of the man who does nothing around the house. He goes to work and says, “Well, I’ve brought home the money, you do the rest.” But that wasn’t our arrangement at all. If anything we were 50/50 parents. I was the early riser who made lunches and breakfasts and got everyone out the door, including my then-wife when she was working. I was actively trying to do better and better at noticing chores and doing them without being asked. But honestly (and this is a common refrain as well) I didn’t see a lot of the issues she saw. The dishes in the sink overnight were worth the opportunity to wrestle with my kids for a few more minutes before they went to bed.

She didn’t see it that way. But something about her attitude about the differences between us began to change. Some how the situation, or her anxiety about the situation, was my fault. Even though it was pretty obvious that dell had laid-off about 5,000 people, somehow I wasn’t fulfilling the required breadwinner role at the moment. I was fine with that. She was not.

But here’s the part that I still have difficulty understanding. It was during this year, as we were trying to negotiate our new financial order, that she made -$5,000 for the year. I didn’t see this number until we were doing our taxes the next February. And I was happy to support her in looking for something she wanted to do for a living, but she was NOT finding any work. Okay. So the pressure grew on our financial planning, and eventually my severance came to an end, and while I had done a bit of consulting work, I was nowhere near making our full nut with my consulting business. But the big corp job had not presented itself even though I was applying all the time.

And this is when things really began to break down. The only thing I can come up with, as I try and project myself into her mind (which I can’t do, but we always try) is that she really didn’t want to work full-time and she was pressuring me, in more than one way, to get the next job that would make all of our lives easier. Um… No.

In the end, I would’ve stayed in the marriage despite the unhappiness, so in many ways she did us both a favor.

And in December of that last year of our marriage I did get the next big corp gig. And while it was thrilling, there was very little celebration on my family side. Rather than be excited about my new income stream, she was fighting with me on my first week on the job about “when does the insurance kick in?” I was excited and fighting about money at the same time. It was an awful feeling. I had WON the big job but LOST my happy wife.

The happy wife never returned. And perhaps when she landed the full-time job in February, she was already mapping plans for her departure. Again it’s impossible for me to know what her thought processes were. Other than fighting with me, she didn’t share to many of her dreams of where she was going, or what she wanted. Well, beyond me getting the next big job and us all living happily ever after.

And in March, just as her job was starting, my big corp gig took an unexpected turn and they let me go in somewhat of a coup, but we don’t need to go into that right now. And my marriage quickly unraveled after that. There was some crack that had been widening between my then-wife and me at that point.

And the loss of the job that was going to save us was the breaking point for her. Of course, if she had already consulted with a lawyer at that point, her intentions were already in motion. I’m not sure of the timing on those events, but the loss of this new job broke the thread hope for her. Somehow the struggles we had been through would lessen if we were no longer together.

In the end, I would’ve stayed in the marriage despite the unhappiness, so in many ways she did us both a favor. I can say that now. But it still hurts to have your primary mate and confidant decide to bet against you. And I understand it wasn’t me she was betting against, it was somehow preferable, in her mind, to break up the family and go it alone. And it’s true, the happiness equation would’ve taken a complete 180 in her attitude and approach to our life together. She would’ve had to return to the woman I married. And that wasn’t going to happen.

So she’s mad. Today we met about the school year schedule and I almost forgot how mad she could get. Everything went without a hitch, but I was glad to have the therapist there, just in case. I no longer need to be exposed or responsible for someone else’s rage. And today she wasn’t mad. But I know better than to count on compassion and patience, though that is what I attempt to give back. We move along, now on different paths without joint progeny, and we are okay. That’s enough.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: dana showing off, frank kovalchek, creative commons usage

Free, the Poet – My Soul Podcast Interviews The Off Parent

A wonderful podcaster interviewed me today. She’s amazing. Free, the poet. Tune in and listen while we talk about life after divorce, and dating again. What would real love look like again? How do you listen for it?

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click to hear the podcast

Free, the Poet presents My Soul: Re-Defining Aging and Lifestyles: MEN: Personal Journals “The Off Parent” Tune in and turn on.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

Love at the Speed of Text or Tinder or … f a s t

OFF-dontworry

Okay, texting is not a great method for finding love, but it’s what we’ve got. And at least, if you’re got their phone number you’re a step closer to contacting them for real, maybe “in-person” even. So when you send the

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and you don’t get an immediate response, just chill. However, when you don’t get the message until a second message is sent, you’ve probably already been deleted from “potential” contacts.

plansforsat

And that’s it… It’s that simple to “know” you’re done. Whatever the chemistry was on your end, it was not reciprocated or appreciated. When there is a YES on both ends the delays are short and sweet. So that Match date while exciting is a NO. Oh well…

And then we move on to the speed of Tinder or it’s imitators. (Hinge or LinkedUp) And while I just got my account activated yesterday, I’m aware that this ultra-superficial process is a hot topic. My friend who has had some success with Tinder is a big fan. In fact, one of the interesting trends with these apps is travel. Imagine hitting a new city and opening up your Tinder app to see who in the NEW area might be up for a drink… or who knows…

I’m guessing she’s had better offers from younger and cuter guys. Probably a lot of them.

If we are moving into an era where women’s sexuality is going to be as liberated as men’s then why wouldn’t a woman hit us up on Tinder for a drink and then invite us to their room. It’s happening all around us. I don’t think it’s my bag, and it’s a bit exhausting to be flicking photos to the left for NOPE and right for YES. And as a newbie I have yet to see the JOIN signal on any of the apps. But it’s 100% image driven. And while that’s interesting, the context provided on dating sites is valuable.

I don’t want to waste an evening on a Tinder date any more than I do on a mismatched Match date. Time is currency and loser dates are like throwing $45 and an evening into the trashcan. I don’t mean to be harsh, but something about these “hookup-driven” apps are a turn off for me. Even when the woman says, “No looking for a hookup date, if that’s what your after just PASS,” I’m not so sure that there’s much else possible.

Sure you get a few pictures. And a tiny snippet of content from their Facebook profile. But that’s it. And again, there is a lot you can glean from a texting conversation, but this might be a younger person’s game. But who knows, I’ve not gotten a sweet hit yet.

Slow dating is where my head is at, at the moment. No hurry to meet unless there’s some real magic.

And finally there’s the new girl on Match. Soooo cute and seemingly available.

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Who says “Let’s go” to every one of my emails. BUT… she’s new and she’s about to get flooded with dudes with offers as good or better than mine. Maybe closer to her age, 43, and type. She passed her phone number on to me very quickly and suggested a walk around the lake with her dog, Frank. I didn’t even know her name when we started texting, but I knew her dog’s name.

She sure came back strong and funny. But nothing after the initial flood of conversation and “let’s go” emails.

Needless to say she’s gone quiet. We even exchanged a few texts and she did give me her name. And she kept up the “let’s go” attitude, but I can’t get a “hello” date set no matter how casual and easy I am making it.

In my experience striking for the NEW TO MATCH folks is a good idea. They say all of the good ones are taken, and perhaps the really good ones are snapped up quickly. But for sure, the good and cute and new ones on Match are overwhelmed rather quickly if they are female. We have been trained, as men, to be the aggressor, the initiator. And that doesn’t seem to have changed on the dating sites at this point. Or perhaps I’m not in the target range of any women that are attractive to me. There are certainly a few older women who introduce themselves. And maybe that’s how I appear to this lovely and new 43 year-old.

She sure came back strong and funny. But nothing after the initial flood of conversation and “let’s go” emails. I’m guessing she’s had better offers from younger and cuter guys. Probably a lot of them. I’ll be surprised if I can get a response out of her at all now that she’s gotten the lay of the land.

And this made me smile today.

tinder-yes

Except it was a false positive. No matches yet. Onward through the fog and fury of online dating and the new quick apps.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

back to On Dating Again

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image: giant-tinder-polypore, emilian robert vicole, creative commons image

just for fun, don’t forget to practice safe sex (joke):

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The Happy, the Fit, and the Beautiful

OFF-fit-beauty

I’m not a huge fan of artificial beauty. And to be honest, I’m a little afraid of the uber-fit or uber-beautiful, but that’s my problem. When looking for my next relationship all of these things have to be taken into account, and some of them are contradictory.

Happy.

That is my number one indicator of success in a relationship. I KNOW how happy I am, and I project this joy and enthusiasm everywhere I go. I have been married twice, to people who liked to bask in my joyous glow, but perhaps did not have as much radiance to contribute themselves. I have begun learning, as I have now dated several women, that happiness is the biggest turn-on there is, for me.

Fit.

The obsession with glorious abs is a bit overblown in my opinion. When my wife was in her fittest mode, she felt a bit hard and unhealthy. There was a edge to her attention to fitness and getting her run in, regardless of what needed to be done. Now I understand the runner’s need to run. But when she was her fittest she was also her most obsessive about everything else. And in contrast, when she had just given birth to our second child, and was probably at her softest, body wise, and heart-wise, I thought she was about perfect.

Why do 90% of the people on the trail who are running look so uncomfortable? And us walkers seem much happier.

I’ve met the fit-obsessed women in my recent years of singlehood, and talking about “working out” is probably one of the last things I find fascination with. Um, do it, run, swim, diet, Pilates, whatever, but don’t make a life’s journey about. OR, if you do, I guess you need to find someone else who has the same priority in life. My priority is health, wellness, and how I feel about myself. The six-pack abs of my high school swim team days are long gone.

I’d rather walk around the lake with you than try and keep up a conversation while we’re jogging. Besides, if you don’t run correctly you’re probably in for more injuries and less overall quality of life, that greatly outweighs the longevity benefits in my life. There was a joke once about how for every hour you ran you added a day of life to your mortality. The punchline, yes, but you just spent an hour running.

Why do 90% of the people on the trail who are running look so uncomfortable? And us walkers seem much happier. And I don’t really see the runners=fit walkers=not-as-fit concept holding up as I observe the men and women on the trail. There are just as many obese people running as there are fit people walking. Again, fitness and uber-fitness (or fitness obsession) are different things.

Beautiful.

There is something about a beautiful face or smile that can transform any body type into a potential. But there are also a lot of beautiful people who are unhappy. It may not be due to their outward appearance, but it seems the most beautiful people I’ve ever met have been pretty neurotic in some fundamental way. Either they were overly focused on their hair, makeup, clothes, shoes, etc. to really pay much attention to their attitudes or their mental/spiritual programs. No, beauty is not a spiritual attainment, but it can be a part of someone’s life that is more of a burden than a blessing.

I have never known chemistry to develop over time. Either you have a tail wag or you don’t.

And with beauty I have to talk about my fixation on women’s shoes. 90% of the time, when I see a woman in Carry Bradshaw heals I think, “Gross.” And it’s not that I don’t think some of them are quite sexy, but it’s something else. Perhaps it’s the extravagance of a $500 pair of fashion accessories that is distasteful to me, but I don’t really know an expensive one from a cheap knockoff. Perhaps it’s the “porn look” that I associate with this kind of foot ware, the in-the-mall-look-at-me sort of vibe. And I am willing to admit that it’s my problem. But something about a woman in really sexy shoes says, “No thanks,” to me. And I’ve known men who were just as shoe obsessed, but it was running shoes, lots and lots of running shoes. There’s something a bit hedonistic about a shoe obsession, and when the budgets have monthly dollars assigned to them, I’m just baffled.

Anyway, what I’m learning about, in my short dating career is that all of these things factor together to make a YES or a NO for me, for my base animal instinct, we like to refer to as chemistry. It’s either we are wagging our tail when we see the other person or we are not. And if we are both wagging our tails we can start imagining or drafting ideas about a relationship.

I have never known chemistry to develop over time. Either you have a tail wag or you don’t. There are “maybe” tail wags, that might actually be an indication of something that could be build more firmly on the rest of the relationship, but most of us want the strong, leg-slapping, tail wag of passion before we’re ready to invest in building a relationship.

And of course, there are the casual daters who are looking for nothing more than an opportunity to exploit the tale of another animal without any concern about “where things are going.” That’s okay too, but it’s just not me. I tried casual sex and I’m not that into it. But maybe I haven’t had the leg-slapper yet either. And if I did, I imagine I would want to start building something where there may be nothing to build.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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images: smile, sexy fit, beauty, creative commons usage

First Date Lessons: If You’re Not Falling, You’re Not Learning

OFF-cigars

First dates. Oh boy. They always teach you something. And even if the wine flows, if you stay sharp, you can pick up on signals… or think you can. And as a learning individual I am getting closer to the present moment of dating, or dating ‘in the moment,’ then ever before. Last night, for example, a Match date finally agreed to meet up after weeks of back and forth emails. And the date was set, and we began some playful banter a few hours before our rendezvous.

“Do you like cigars?” she texted. “You’re date tonight…”

“What? Cigars?”

“I guess that’s a no then.”

“Do YOU like cigars?” I asked.

“Very much. A bit of a hobby. Not an addiction.”

And we were off to the races for our first “hello” date later that evening.

When we finally met over a glass or two of red wine I was curious to watch my own reaction and responses to her. I was sort of in observer-mode, but also very much open to whatever the present moment would bring.

The same phrase kept coming through loud and clear, “while I was dating a couple people…” I’m not sure if I was turned on by that idea, repulsed by it, or intrigued about the opportunities of the evening.

I noticed right away that she was charming and beautiful. Her eyes sparkled much more than they could’ve possibly shown in her profile photos. And there was a joy to our conversation, an openness, and freeness to how our different stories and lives spun together over the next few hours together.

I was curious about how I was sizing her up for a relationship. At first I was just fascinated by her wit, intelligence, and routine flip of her long dark hair from one side of her neck to another. I think that was a sign. Maybe it was just a tick. We leapt through conversations about exes and kids, about dating and current status.

“I’m dating this guy right now,” she said, “And I think I need to break it off.”

“Oh?”

“He’s super nice, and is really into me, but I’m not sure he’s long-term material for me.”

“Is that what you are looking for?”

“Yes, I’m a long-term girl. But it’s hard. Making someone unhappy.”

“And,” I added, “Maybe it’s hard to be alone.”

“Yes, that’s what I thought when I first got out of my marriage. And I went through a period of not wanting any sort of commitment, and I sort of played the field.”

“Wow, really. What was that like.”

“It was fun at first, but it got kind of old. There were some people I really liked and others who were just available.”

“And were there any that you really liked, who maybe wanted to move on?”

“Yes. That was hard.”

“So maybe you would rather keep this current relationship rather than risk being alone again?”

“Yes, it’s easier to have someone to do stuff with. And boys are a lot more fun to hang out with than girls.”

We smiled at one another and decided to order dinner to go with our second glass of wine.

As the evening progressed we moved through a lot of topics. Her eyes continued to sparkle. Her smiling conversational wit continued to entice me. I wasn’t sure if I was really attracted to her or fascinated by her. I was aware that her perfume was similar to a scent I had used when I was young, something from Aramis. I liked how the smell of her made me lean in a bit. I was clear that I was indulging in my own little fantasy. At the same time I was enjoying our conversation and the topics we covered. She seemed fearless in exposing and expressing herself.

As the evening progressed we moved through a lot of topics. Her eyes continued to sparkle. Her smiling conversational wit continued to entice me.

The same phrase kept coming through loud and clear, “while I was dating a couple people…” I’m not sure if I was turned on by that idea, repulsed by it, or intrigued about the opportunities of the evening. Well, except for the fact that she had a kid at home and we both had work in the morning. As we were considering paying and breaking off the conversation we ordered one more glass that we would split. I took this as a good sign. We were both prolonging the “date” a bit longer.

I walked her to the car wondering if she was a kisser or not. We hugged twice and she got in her Fiat 500 convertible and left.

When I got home I texted her a thank you and requested her email address so I could send her a book. It was about 11:15 and no reply came. So this morning I continued my communication and asked if she was interested in getting together again on Saturday night. Her message was clear.

plansforsat

Now, that was pretty clear. No rejoinder. Either she’s being coy and wants me to pursue or she’s not that interested in continuing our conversation. And in my clear way I asked if there were some point in the future when she’d like to get together again. I probably should’ve just kept quiet after that text, but I’m always one to ask for the rest of the information rather than guess.

Nothing.

Oh well, it was a nice conversation, she was a nice woman who liked to date several people at once, perhaps. And we will see if the weeks of waiting for a first date and the several hours of nice courtship has any “next steps.” But at the moment I am feeling fine with the date as it was. A nice woman, a nice Pinot, and eyes that sparkled in the romantic light of the wine bar.

I’m okay with her not being a first date kisser. (I’ve only had one of those.) I’m okay with her not being interested in “what’s next.” I’m even okay with the attraction I felt about her disclosures. It’s all new territory for me and most of us out there dating again after divorce. And I’m okay with that. We’re all just trying to figure it out. It’s a process. Onward we go with good illumination and perhaps a glass of wine.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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