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


Sex Rules: the Frequency, the Fun, and the Fantasy

the importance of sexual desireA couple of data points recently have led to me to contemplate what I know about sex and the differences between men and women. Let’s see if any of this sounds familiar.

First, I picked up a book in the library yesterday called Kiss and Tell, Sexual Secrets from Women. I jumped quickly to the cliff notes section and I read something I had suspected but could now confirm. There wasn’t data given, or study cited, but the message was very clear. Men (testosterone driven) crave sex all the time, it’s part of our animal. Women (0.10 of the testosterone) don’t crave sex in the same way, and often require much more enticement to even think about sex.

Okay, so that’s not all that new, but this next part was the confirmation I had experienced in my first two marriages. During courtship it is important to get to know your partners level of desire. See, in the early phases of a relationship a woman’s libido and testosterone levels are boosted by the novelty and excitement of sex. After several months in a relationship, assuming monogamy, the woman’s sexual desire levels falls back to her normal level. The advice, from this woman, and woman’s sexuality expert, was to figure that out early. If the two levels of desire are wildly out of sync there might be a problem as the routine of sex becomes more predictable.

I tried to be a good sport and roll with it. But it was hard to make due with my hands and porn when I was sleeping next to a woman who I adored.

It’s no mystery that women desire sex too. But what was news (at least confirmed my thinking) was that during the initial blush of a relationship your partner may exhibit sexual tendencies and enthusiasm that is not in line with her normal levels of arousal and desire. And according to this expert, the range of normal sexual desire ranges from once a month, to once a week, to once a day. All of them being considered different but normal. No wonder the online dating questions about your sexual desire and frequency are so interesting, and HELLO: IMPORTANT.

Second, today I read a column in Dear Abby about  a woman talking about her husband’s obsession with frequency of sex. Her mate of 30 years liked to track their sex on a spreadsheet and aim for 100 times a year. “Last year, we only had sex 72 times and he was upset.”

Holy cow! 72 times a year is A LOT. About what I would LIKE, but expect? No way.

And Abby responded quite simply, he should stop acting like a college kid making marks on his bedpost and consider the Quality of the sex and not just the frequency.

This got me to thinking about the discrepancy in my second marriage that began to show up more dramatically after our second child was born. See, before our daughter, we were trying to another kid. The sex was wet, spontaneous, and playful. She had a bit more purpose and calculation that I did, but it was great. For some GOAL, her libido had risen to match the task.

Keeping sexual communication open throughout the entire relationship is critical.

Things started taking a nose dive at some point after our second child was born. It appeared that a comfortable frequency for my then-wife would’ve been once or twice a month. But letting a few months go by without accepting my offers of a massage or straight out asking to make love, seemed like no problem to her. I tried to be a good sport and roll with it. But it was hard to make due with my hands and porn when I was sleeping next to a woman who I adored.

A few years after my daughter was born I got a vasectomy. It seemed like a good thing to do, and I imagined we were both hopeful that it might provide some juice to our love-making attempts. Certainly not having to worry about protection was a big incentive.

And a funny thing happened that surprised both of us, and reminded me today of the Dear Abby column. You see, when you have a vasectomy, the prescription is to have 45 ejaculations before coming back to the doctor’s office to get tested for swimmers.

Woo Hoo!

Somehow the GOAL, really inspired my then-wife. It was like checking boxes on a spreadsheet or getting A’s on a test. We had sex all over the place. And it was occasionally just about getting me off, and getting another gold star for the week. Fine with me.

We reached the goal and suddenly we were able to have unprotected sex again. And things were HOT HOT HOT. For about a week. I’m not kidding.

We never recovered our sexual sync. And it wasn’t too much later that things started to go off the rails on deeper issues. But I think it was indicated by my then-wife’s return to an almost frigid libido. Again, I found myself making love alone rather than to a woman who I adored and found to be my sexual ideal, in all except desire or frequency.

Keeping sexual communication open throughout the entire relationship is critical. As one partner starts closing off, and not just having periods of low sexual desire, but shutting down the idea of sex, something is going to breakdown. And it’s either going to be your relationship or your relationship to sex and how you connect with each other.


The Off Parent


image: faux upskirt, Dave Gingrich, creative commons usage


Browsable Women: The Three Hells of Online Dating

the three hells of online datingLet’s talk about online dating and visual marketing. There are three forms of browsable women. (Substitute “men” if you like.)

1. Pornography

2. Mass media and cheesecake photos.

3. Online dating.

Each of these types of browsable partners has something to offer. Let’s see if there is a relationship between them, or if we can understand something about ourselves through a bit of exploration.

Only one of these pools of images has the potential for a real human connection. (With someone other than yourself, I mean.) One of these pools of images and videos has the potential for immediate sexual gratification, if at a lower level than the real human connection version. One of these pools offers but doesn’t reveal the potential for both of the previous pools.

I turned on my online dating profile again yesterday and I was a bit underwhelmed by the opportunities for real human interaction. (see “momentum” in previous post) But the non-human (self) interaction gets a bit boring when you’ve recently sampled something delicious and alive. I glanced at some nudie sites but there was ZERO arousal. And then I started finding myself looking at TheChive. (Home of the almost nude, cheesecake shots and teases.) And while this didn’t exactly fire me up, there was something more enticing about the tease.

Again, nothing physical about photos, but the covered breast often offers more than the plentiful and heaving breast.

Either way, it’s odd, browsing for a pretty face online. It seems like there are several levels of this hell. 1. The topmost hell, cheesecake offers enticement without reward. 2. The second hell, gives plenty of sex at the expense of enthusiasm or potential. 3. The final hell is trying to browse actual women on a dating site and seeing how many are WTF?

Shopping for a house online is a similar experience. You browse by area then you look for the curb appeal. Without a nice preview photo you’re not even going to take the 10 seconds to look at the portfolio of pictures. That’s how it works.

And online dating, in my experience, is similar. And these days I’ve become even more selective in who I would consider. Yesterday I spent most of my time hitting the HIDE button on profiles that could not possibly have been accurately returned by my search results. I was left with 20 smiling faces. (This is from thousands, according to the site.) And from there I contacted 4 of them. I got a casual response from one of them.

So here we are, here I am, browsing women online and hoping to find a spark. A real live spark, not a fantasy one. And I’m travelling back and forth through the three levels of hell.


The Off Parent

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image: a few of my “potential” dates from yesterday’s foraging.

Relationships and Dating Are A Bit Like Space Travel

space station flyover, creative commons usageDating is not my favorite thing. I like relationship. Of course you have to go through a period of dating to get to know someone, and see if there is a mutual adoration and physical/emotional fit. And sex too.

I have only had one relationship in the three-plus years since my divorce, and I’d have to say I learned some things that I had never known about myself. I also got to feel what it would be like if I were with someone who shared my love language. AMAZING.

There was one component missing from that three-month journey. For the first month I tried to understand what was going on with my sexual desire, because here was a beautiful woman who was admittedly crushing on me. In the second month I addressed things more directly, and tried to awaken some sexual chemistry between us. I mean, how could I not be… I mean what did that say about me? Was I in need of some kind of Viagra, at my age, for the first time in my life? Well, masturbation was still working, to some extent, so I learned it probably wasn’t that. In the third month I came to realise, that as much as she adored me, I wanted to adore her back. It was a circuit that was incomplete. She was amazing, and she deserved someone who could appreciate that in all it’s facets. Sadly, I was not that person.

And an interesting thing happened when we broke up. I realised how much I did love her, but I wasn’t right for her. We had breakfast the next morning, after “the call,” and I could truly see what an amazing friendship we had developed over the course of our courtship. There were no hard feelings. Perhaps a twinge of sadness for both of us. But we are still strong friends who encourage each other along our journey. Just knowing someone is out there who is thinking about you, is a cool thing.

A few months back I had a different kind of relationship. As my first relationship was about adoration, my second relationship was about sexual chemistry. It was a fiery six month build up that had us both riled up before we ever had our first date. We had met over a year earlier, but things had begun to warm up between us on Facebook. She had gotten divorced. She simply said, “Hi.” And the dialogue/courtship began.

And on paper (or should I say, in the virtual world of texting and emails) we were a fit. And though I was not clear how old she was, she was a reach for a much more fit and sexual partner. It was sexual attraction first, we will figure the rest out as we go along.

Well, when we finally went on a date, it was sweet and touchy-feely and exciting. She was unafraid to tell me how she wanted to kiss me later via text. And the stage was set for our next rendezvous.

Then we hit it off. And it was a blur. I simply didn’t want to get out of bed and do anything else. We connected deeply in our desirous and unfilled centers. As we spent more time together, however, the differences also showed up. Lifestyle choices. Verbal acuity. What had been sort of open in the virtual world, was less easy in-person. (this poem captures a bit of the spirit: it’s just desire)

What I realized, pretty quickly, is while the sexual hunger and connection was hot, the rest of the relationship was not much of a WIN for either of us. It’s fine to sit quietly together and admire how fantastic the other person looks bra-less in a tank top. But there were not a lot of points of connection in our interests. I backed out as gracefully as I could.

But the emotional fallout was much more damaging than I was prepared for. Having ridden the high of the build and release of having this beautiful woman in my bed, I was devastated when it turned out that it was a fling and not the connection I was seeking. And there was one major wrinkle. She was a blog reader, she might even be reading this now. And one of the promises I gave her as we walked openly into a relationship, is that I would not blog about us while we were trying to figure it out. Turns out I didn’t feel comfortable blogging about/to her at all. I went dark and silent.

And dark silence is where I crumble and burn. Combine the chemical rush of the high and subsequent fall with the coming of the Christmas holidays, and my inability to write about what was going on, and it was a bad combo for me. I suffered in silence.

And I contemplated reconnecting with her. I contemplated reconnecting with my first and only girlfriend so far. And I did nothing. And I fell apart.

As I pulled my dating profiles off the web and contemplated my navel for a bit, I met a woman at a NYE party who held an amazing attraction. She was a tennis player, so that was a first, and a fantasy. But I didn’t pursue any connection as I knew I was unavailable and wounded. And I knew all hell was still in the process of breaking loose in my personal and financial life. So I admired her and retreated into my cave of silence.

And I stumbled along and went through my next transformation and started to pick up the pieces of my life alone.

A few weeks ago I had started using a tennis cardio workout as part of my physical and mental healing process. And after the 2nd class I realised I was thinking about the tennis player from NYE. Of course it was a long shot, and it was initially about tennis, but I sent her a message via a mutual friend. Her response was positive and immediate. We connected via txts and the flirting went off the charts.

How fun is that? A casual reach out that produces a willing and excitable potential.

And I began to notice the things that changed in my attitude and hopefulness about women in general. Just a little attention from this very attractive woman was enough to awaken my heart to the “idea” that I could have another relationship. And it seemed there was some of that process going on for her too.

And I noticed too that my heart and mind were beginning to accelerate towards her, like a spaceship being pulled in by the gravity of a large planet. And as I opened to her potential I also sent messages of all types, like some sort of electronic scan. It is amazing how much information we can exchange in a short period of time. And while txting might get a bad rap, there is something wonderful in the considered response. As a writer, I thrive there. And I listen with more intent perhaps than I should.

So as my life force and positive energy began to accelerate in her direction I also pulled down my defense shields. Even as I professed my ability and comfort with going slow, I was finding my daily thoughts starting to draw strength from my imagination of her and our potential. Of course, there was very little information to go on, so I pressed on all channels. I sent txts. We sent emails. I shared my music.

And the messages came back in spurts and then long periods of silence. There were definite “yes” readings as well as “I’m crazy, back off” warnings. I logged all of them, but I tended to put emphasis on the positive ones. And I leaned in to the gravity and allowed my romantic aspirations begin to color my vision.

Today, it’s over. I have overshot the landing and catapulted right out of her orbit on to some unknown destination. The benefit I have is momentum and hopefulness. She shared and showed me how I could light up again. She also reflected back my obsessive and overwhelming transmissions. I used her pull to attempt a crash landing and bypass all the “dating” and “going slow” that might be more prudent and less dangerous.

So as I speed away from another “potential” I am trying to be aware of the great things I learned. And most of all, I hope to make use of the momentum her gravity and ultimate slingshot has provided for the path ahead.

I need to remember that space travel takes a lot of time. There are huge amounts of time that are simply waiting. And I can do a better job of allowing the “wait” to be peaceful and less demanding. And perhaps even less draining if I don’t expend so much energy communicating and listening.


The Off Parent

< back to On Dating Again index


image: space station flyover, by chris isherwood, creative commons usage

Blinding Desire

image: shattered, creative commons usageShe said she wasn’t ready for a relationship. She said she was pretty crazy and not reliable. She said she was not over her divorce. She objected when I spoke too longingly. She corrected my assumptions about lust and love by alluding to the problems ahead.

And somehow I blew right through her objections. I was ready for this one. I could move slowly, if that’s what she wanted. I could move quickly and give her a workout to reawaken her libido. I could be even better than she could imagine. Even more confident and comfortable than she imagined. I could do this. I was certain. I did not need to rush it. I was simply enthusiastic and patient and a good honest man.

And tonight I got the dear John letter she had been hinting at. At least she was honest and could give me the blow-by-blow of why we weren’t going to work out. But the objections were the same mundane litany I’d heard before. But what I heard more clearly this time, what came through in spades on this fourth try of hers to wave me off was two concepts.

1. Monogamy.

2. Friends.

The first was an unwillingness, though just a week ago she had not imagined that she would have any relationship at all, to settle down and get monogamous. Of course she had not been with anyone else since her divorce. And perhaps she imagined herself sewing the fields. She mentioned “older and wiser” as a potential enticement. (I’m three years younger, but much younger in spirit.)

The second she said something about wanting to remain friends. Of course that would be fine with me. But it changed everything. I had just written the following lines today, describing our conversation on her porch.

“I am looking for a relationship. I desire to be “in-relationship.” If you were to tell me you were really only interested in friendship, that would be okay, but I’d probably start dialing back some of the time I’m spending with you. I don’t really need any more “do something together” friends.”  – Need vs. Want

But the rest was where I was searching for “what’s next” and she is still seeking “what do I want.”

It’s okay, but it’s a huge miss. My first IT girl, who seemed to be climbing on board for the ride. She has taught me a lot. She has blown through my life and my heart like a shiver of love. I am grateful that she got it out in language that I could understand. And we’re really only a week into the skin-attached portion of the relationship. And her subtle objections this time hit the mark.

I won’t create a lover. I can’t convince a partner. And when the “no” is given, there is little hope of regaining the magic. There is always the “no” that has been spoken, hanging like a dangerous warning in the air.

So I pass on a very beautiful, maybe the smartest woman I’ve ever met. I can learn from the quickness of my heart to want and capture the imagination of someone else. And how several times, I responded to her objections with loving banter and sweetness. And how she finally got the courage to let me down as easily as possible.

Better now than in a month. The part that I have learned is: now energy I might have given her, to convince, convert and woo should be put to better use. Time to get on with the tasks at hand, and move along. Sad but true.


The Off Parent

< back to On Dating Again index


image: shattered, by valerie everett, creative commons usage

Learning About “I Need You” vs. “I Want You”

image: take my handWe’ve all got needs. And when we were younger, and wanting children, we had needs that involved another person. And for many of us, that meant getting married so we could procreate and live happily ever after. As the story goes in this modern age, many of us find that “ever after” is not as long as we thought. As plans changed between one of the partners in the marriage, so went the change from “need” to “want.”

I believe my ex-y “wanted” something different for her life. She had gotten the need for children taken care of, and tried to remain a loving and committed wife, but much of that pretense was for the children. When the desire died for her, whatever the reason, she began to think about wants rather than needs.

And as adults restarting the world as singles, we have to make some clear distinctions between wants and needs. I think I slipped into my second marriage still needing to be healed from my first marriage. I overlooked signs that today would’ve been huge red flags. But I was in need of healing, I was in need of a child-bearing and willing partner. All of those things were instrumental in creating the rose-colored view that allowed me to fall in love with someone who was much less able to express emotions than I would’ve preferred.

We can’t change what happened, but we can learn from our past and try to evolve a bit in our next choices. And that for me has become a distinction between want and need.

As I have started dating, or spending time with, a new woman, I am more conscious of that distinction. She has some wounding to get through before she’s ready to open up to the relationship idea. That’s okay, I tell her. I’m in no hurry.

And while I mean what I say, what I really am saying is that I WANT her but I don’t NEED her. I prefer to spend time with her than pursuing many of the other goals and aspirations in my life. I want a relationship.

“And if the relationship doesn’t have the potential to be long-term, I’m not really that interested,” I said to her, yesterday.

“That sounds pretty serious. How is that casual?”

I tried to clarify, while treading love landmines and old hurts. “I am looking for a relationship. I desire to be “in-relationship.” If you were to tell me you were really only interested in friendship, that would be okay, but I’d probably start dialing back some of the time I’m spending with you. I don’t really need any more “do something together” friends.”

She seemed a bit unconvinced.

“I don’t think we need to be together. I want to be together. We are pretty good at being alone. And we already have children, so that’s not an issue. What’s important is, do we want to spend time together? Do we like being together? And then, for me, is this a possible relationship.”

Again I am trying, learning, to parse out need from want. And sometimes I am aware that my needs are getting in the way of my clarity of mind. Lust of course is a powerful driver in relationships and coupling. And both of my marriages had a good deal of lusty passion early on. BOTH of them transformed into something less connected and more business-like.

I don’t need a business partner. There may be some advantages to being a married couple, financially, but the unravelling afterwards, if things veer off course, is much too painful to repeat for tax advantages. No, what I want is a passionate partner who also wants to be with me.

I want to want her. I want her to want me. And it’s important that she can express that she wants me. And express what she wants.

We don’t need each other, we crave each other. But after the lustful beginning is burned off, there is a lot of just being together that needs to be engaging, honest, and emotional. I needed a wife, today I want a partner. I will keep trying to remember that the sexual chemistry, while critical to the survival of the relationship, has to be backed up by a genuine joy and the ability to express it.

I’m ever hopeful.


The Off Parent

< back to On Dating Again index


image: take my hand, gisela giardino, creative commons usage