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

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Sex at 110 Miles Per Hour: Red Flags or Red Flashing Lights?

There is nothing like new love to get your motor racing. As I’ve stated repeatedly, I’m not into casual sex. I’m looking for the next long-term relationship (LTR). And when the woman came racing into my OK Cupid profile and began asking difficult and enticing questions, I paid attention. My whole body paid attention.

Turns out she was the real deal. Her “sex” answers were all 100% honest, and not just flirty or racy. She asked me a question during our first “coffee date” that had the blood rushing from my large head so quickly I thought I was going to pass out. And this was over migas, before we’d ever even kissed. She had the chemistry thing going with me even before we ever laid eyes on each other. And how fun it is to hear that the affection or affectation is real. Our imaginations run wild. And when the other persons’ imaginations run in parallel and sometimes even build wow and flutter into the mix, well, you’re on a hot track to something.

And this is different from any of my previous beginnings. I’d say the last one was close, but there is something more open about this woman that turns all my defenses off. I’m actually less nervous even as we lean into things much quicker than we’d even hoped. In your wildest dreams, you hope for magic, fire, flames, and sexual fireworks. And when all those things arrive, AND the relationship has deeper emotional legs than you recall in previous attempts at going long.

Wow.

Flutter.

Pause.

Race ahead.

There’s no stopping this momentum between us. No pullback from the accelerator pedal on the new BMW M-Sport wagon I purchased as an affirmation to my renewed vigor and success. (“The last car I’ll need in the next 15 years,” I say repeatedly as if to soothe myself round making such a big purchase.) But this relationship is a much bigger purchase. This is hook line and sinker, heartstrings to the max. This is the big kahuna and what… what could we possibly be thinking?

At this point, you still have to chalk it up to exuberance and honeymoonism. We’re hooked, we’re chemically addicted and high, we’re going for each other with every sense and sinew we can uncover. And just last night things got out of control.

It was a big evening. Some sort of spiritual full-moon was happening and we went to a potluck of soulful seekers. And we went as a couple in love. As a couple of seekers. As a couple. We went coupled. Wow. 10 days? GF #1 asked, “You’re talking about moving in together after two weeks?”

It’s a bit longer than that if you consider all the times we chatted online. All the phone conversations we had that ran into the wee hours of the night. Virtual kisses and flirts all over each other. We’ve been essentially staying together since we got together for the first time a couple Wednesdays ago. (Days and dates: I really don’t know, I can’t keep track, and I’m not really all that concerned about it.)

So we attended this very sensual and spiritual party together and grooved on the groove, danced with the colorful people, and bonded in public as lovers. As this was one of our first real “dates” it was a nice punch to the upward momentum we were already remarking to each other about. “Wow, this is amazing. Kinda scarey and fearless at the same time.”

We’d had both been seeking a mate. We’d each been doing our work on ourselves. And we’d each proclaimed our allegiance to Brené Brown’s BRAVING, before we began to fall deeply in love. (WAIT. BACK UP. WHAT DID I JUST SAY?)

Okay, we’re not saying that yet, but we are saying, “Actively falling…”

Both of our intentions are clear and both our arrows are pointed at the other’s heart. Yes, our hands are firmly gripping the other’s ass, but as expressed desire goes, we are both saying the same thing, the right thing. “I want you in a big way. And I’m prepared to make this relationship a priority in my life.”

As you may imagine, that’s already happened. I simply have not left her small town home since I was invited in. Fortunately, I have a virtual job at this point, so the driving back and forth between the big city and the small city has not had much of an impact on my work. I have brought a few bags over, parked them under the foot of her bed. And she’s invited me to stay. Not indefinitely. But with the intention that this is what we want. That WE are the WE we have been wanting to create.

How powerful to be looking at a woman and thinking, “Wow, this is the cutest woman I’ve ever been with.” And having your partner spontaneously reflecting back the exact same sentiment 30 minutes later. We’re on a collision course with LOVE or CRASH AND BURN. And of course, there’s a tension there. Of course, there is exhilaration and awe at the rush of the heady sex that is melting our souls together. (Even my language has gotten poetic rather than rational.)

And I’m driving back from the spiritual event last night, the moonroof is open, the music is pumping and she takes off her panties in the passenger seat of the beamer. It is a perfect moment. She squeals as I pat my hand gently on her belly and move ever-so-slowly lower. And I’m pushing the accelerator. And we’re pushing the accelerator. And she’s leaning into my hand, and I’m feeling butterflies in my stomach. As if we’re speeding towards a crash as if the car/relationship/sex/love thing has gotten out of control. And she moans, and the music shifts gears to a deeper, faster groove. And the full moon is raging. And my hand is numbing and tingling as she locks herself into the car seat with arms and legs at stiff attention. And it’s over. The moment crashes into bliss. The song ends. My hand relaxes and stays warm against her wetness. And we’ve just made love at 110 miles per hour on a back road in Texas.

And we’re in bed by 10:30 in a deeper spoon than I can ever recall feeling.

I know I’m going. I know I’m gone. I know what I’m doing. And I know I’ve already lost control. We both have let go of our expectations beyond NOW and HERE and WOW and FLUTTER. At this moment, we have arrived, in a state of love that we could not have anticipated or hoped for.

Are we deluded? Most certainly. Can this delusion last a lifetime? I’ve heard of such things. Are we jumping ahead rather than staying in the present moment? I don’t think so, but it’s hard not to imagine growing old and ever-more-sexy with this woman. This woman who stood in and said, “I think you should pay attention when someone shows up for you.”

She has shown up. She has delivered a sexual potency to both of us with her abandon and willingness. And I am more than along for the ride. We are both drivers and we are both passengers.

Today, Easter Sunday, we drove to the big city to meet my family. It was a well deserved joyous holiday moment. She stood in with my kids and my mom and sister too. And it was good. And as we dropped my daughter back at her mom’s house I asked, “Will you drive us back to your house, honey?” I’m still not calling it/her home, but in my mind, I arrived over a week ago.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

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References:

big night at whole foods

jesus walked into whole foods today
mary was close behind in an elegant silk robe
the wise men were nowhere in sight
i believe they were seeking papaya
and a tannin-free pinot
no one noticed
perhaps they had just finished ice skating on the roof
refreshed almost
lest you think it wasn’t *that* jesus
let me assure you streaks of light
were shooting out of his head
as he walked by
“maybe the halogen lights in your eyes?” you say
or perhaps
i am an unbeliever or unsaved
maybe even of unsound mind
but i’m not kidding
oh, look over there
it’s buddha in the checkout line
with a beautiful woman or two
it’s a big night at whole foods
in austin, texas

john mcelhenney – 2015

image: whole foods, creative commons usage

The Cut-out Dad

November begins the season of holidays and birthdays in my family. Remembering when the kids were young and Christmas was still a mystery. My son just turned 17 and my daughter will be 15 this month. And to say they are in a period of disconnection would be an understatement. But there’s something more disturbing that’s been happening.

Their mom has been leaving me out of critical parenting discussions.

  • Like if my son is allowed to sleep over with his girlfriend.
  • Like if he’s been prescribed anti-anxiety medication.
  • Like if it’s okay to smoke pot in her house.

I don’t know what else I don’t know, these things were big enough. I only know about them now because of the crisis we went through several weekends ago. And then was not the time to “go into it.” But today I wrote her a letter stating my disappointment and asking to open communication between us back up. There are no excuses for keeping your co-parent out of parenting discussions. If you go it alone you are giving a strong signal to the other parent and the kids that one of you doesn’t matter. I was not considered when these decisions were being made.

As I head into the holidays I hope to recommit to reaching out to both my kids daily to let them know I am here. I know that when I was in college all I wanted was for my father to see me, to recognize me and what my strengths were. I think I do a good job of affirming both my kids all the time. I am not there as often as I would like, but in the time given I show up.

There’s no good way to share that the holidays are a tough time for me. I will be looking after my own health and happiness much of this season, to assure that no melt down occurs in my life. But I will also leave some of my bandwidth open for my kids. Letting them know I am here. Letting them know I support them and their ideas.

I hope my ex agrees to co-parent with me again, rather than going rogue. It makes things easier on all of us.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

image: father son, creative commons usage

An Absence of Time with My Kids: The Gap Years

My kids are both teenagers so they are clearly on the path of separation from their mother and me. The experience, however, could not be more different and some of it is my fault.

Several months ago, as a relationship ended, so did my ability to house and feed my kids on the alternating weekends that had become my primary opportunity to connect with them. Truth was, I was a little ashamed and disconnected from them even when they were with me. Something about not being a success, not being as close to them as I was when they were kids, and something about putting my priority on my primary romantic relationship at the expense of some of my conscious parenting. I was punting the major duties of guardianship and discipline to their mom. I was imaging that I was staying close, but I can see how I was responsible for the drift.

As we were sliding into the end of their 14th and 16th year I was content to keep mainly to myself. I no longer had a place for them to stay on the weekends, but the alternating housing routine had become a tedious exercise that no one appreciated. And as teenagers, one with a car, they wanted to be elsewhere every weekend anyway. And I was okay with that. Kind of. I was also sad about it, but didn’t know what remedies were available. Certainly some of it was my own sadness at the loss of my younger kids, the kids who needed and depended on me for everything, including entertainment. Now, they needed nothing from me. Of course, I knew they needed love and my continued expression of desire to be connected to them and their activities. But needless to say, we were drifting apart as we muddled through the summer and began what would be their Freshman and Junior year in high school.

My relationship to both of them has been reduced to “dates” and “dinners” scheduled with semi-regularity. And the requests and ideas for these meetings was up to me. We were all happy to coast along in our disconnected relationship. Me as a parent, clueless how to rebuild. Them as teenagers with very different priorities and goals. Still, we needed each other. But the value of the relationship was much less obvious to all of us.

And much of this disconnection I have to place at the foot of the divorce and my loss of time with them from 5 and 7 until now. Those years when bonds and confidences and closeness are welded together, I was a 1/3 presence in their lives. I was also struggling with my own demons of depression and looking for high-level marketing work so I could both support them (child support) and afford a place to live.

As the years wore on, the gap became more obvious. Weekly decisions, weekly chores, and weekly activities were exclusively the domain of the mom-kid relationship. Their bonds grew closer while I learned to function as a bit of an outsider. Weekends with dad were different from the core of their lives. We all worked it out as best as we could, but there was a huge gap in our communication and bonding. As they grew closer and more connected to their mother, my relationship with my kids took on a more dutiful role. They were obliged to come to my house every other weekend, but there were no significant advantages to this arrangement for them. We were always having to “stop by mom’s” to pick up clothes, retainers, sports equipment, and books. They were saying with me, but more like a hotel with a good driver and less like a home. And I get it. Packing every other weekend for four nights (Thur-Sun) at dad’s was a pain in the ass. More so as they grew older.

I don’t blame their mom for this disconnection. In fact, I think she has done a fantastic job or stepping up to the plate to become their best friend, confidant, counselor, and caregiver. I have nothing but respect for her.

But this past weekend, as a major event unfolded in our lives, with my son ending up in the hospital, I was again struck at just how far out from their orbit I had become. So many items came up in the process of getting a grip on my son’s situation, items/issues that I had never been told or asked about. Huge parenting issues that had been overlooked and not shared with me. It was not the time to confront the secrecy, but it pointed out a huge gap in my parenting intelligence: the relationship between the mom and dad (especially after divorce) about core parenting issues, like drugs, school, relationships, sleep habits, discipline… I had been left out of the loop on some significant data points and in this moment of family crisis, I learned just how out of the loop I was. I was purposefully discarded as a resource and counsel on major matters concerning my son and his wellbeing.

I’m sad. I’m scared for my son and his future growth through this experience. And I’m not looking forward to the eventual conversation/confrontation with my ex-wife about these gaps in our parenting narrative. She’s got reasons for leaving me in the dark. I have to be ready to step up to the plate for the requests that may come out of my readmission into the family structure.

I admit I’ve been a bit self-absorbed trying to get my own shit together. I had no idea how far the breakdown had been progressing on their side of the orbit. And today, I am left wondering when and how to both support and renegotiate my relationship with my ex-wife. Parenting is a journey best shared by both partners. I am strong enough to engage with love and caring and the knowledge, that somehow she believed leaving me out of the loop was the best option for my son.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

image: hospital image, creative commons usage

The Coffee Date Fail

Ah, the coffee date. It was a beautiful morning, I was hopeful and ready for coffee and conversation with a new woman. A woman I’d courted online for several weeks. A woman who inspired some sense of sexual interest in her online profile and then actually responded to one of my emails. The day and the meeting was set. It felt like a winning morning.

Nothing happened.

It’s my fault, perhaps. I don’t know that I’m really INTO IT. I mean, I know I don’t like being alone, and I’d like to start “building” a new relationship, but I’m simply not gung-ho about it. I think you’ve really got to bring a lot of energy and optimism to this dating process. If you’re just “meh” about the process, then you will get “meh” in return.

This date was okay. She was attractive. She was interesting. She was not interested in me. The disconnection was obvious. The chemistry was off from the first introduction inside the coffee shop when we first spotted each other. There were no outward signs of dissatisfaction. She was dressed nicely, looked fit and happy. She was chatting with a friend when I came in. I introduced myself and shook his hand too. Then I got my coffee and went outside and waited for her to fetch her fancy coffee.

I think I was already leaning out rather than leaning in on the introduction. I’m not sure what triggered it. I was happy to sit and talk for 30 minutes or so, but we were just killing the appropriate amount of time. We both agreed that being alone was working for us and we had trepidation about bringing someone into our lives. And we both had our doubts about how online dating might provide some realistic opportunities.

She mentioned how many men she met did not match up with their profiles. “Well, how am I doing compared to mine?” I asked. She paused. I was looking for some feedback. Was there something in my profile that I projected that didn’t show up at this coffee? “Your profile was pretty sparse,” she said, after considering it. She was talking about the words. I was interested in the pictures. I think that’s what we key on. I know that’s what I key on. Are they cute? (At 55 do women still want to be referred to as “cute?”)

The mass of women on OK Cupid and Match.com are not cute. And the ones that are usually ten years younger than me. And the few, this woman was one, who are my age and seem cute-enough for a closer look, are far and few in between. I don’t even visit the sites anymore. It’s the same faces. The same few women who ignore my emails. And more swiping through hundreds of sad profiles.

What are we doing? Is the reach of our online connection worth the disconnect of our emotional system? There was nothing in our profiles that prepared us for our coffee today. Neither of us felt it. That was obvious. But we’d decided to take the time and the risk to actually meet in person. And I wasn’t sad leaving the coffee shop. In some ways, I’m sure, I was relieved. Those next steps towards “dating” and building a relationship are so complex and time-consuming. I’m happy as I am right now.

The sky started misting as I was driving home. The fall air pushed in the cracked windows and lifted my spirits a bit. It was likely to be a rainy weekend. No tennis. Plenty of work. And no relationshiping. Okay, I’m resigned to that. Maybe next week I’ll open up the dating sites again and see if I can lure another woman into a conversation.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

image: blue bottle coffee, creative commons usage