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

dating

Passive Aggressive Mis-Communication

OFF-2016-blur

“Stop trying to change me.”

In my two marriages there were plenty of power struggles. Just like any relationship, people begin to wield influence. And asking for a change is acceptable. Manipulating the other person, through anger or rewards, in order to get them to do something you want but would rather not ask them to do, well, that’s called passive aggression.

As adults in relationships we need to be aware of asking for something and asking around something.

We often want different behaviors from those around us. I’d like the person in front of me to drive more quickly. I’d like my kids to pick up the towels from their bathrooms rather than throwing them for me to pick up. My role is to ask them to pick up their towels. And on about the tenth request, since we’ve moved into the new house, they are beginning to get it. They are teenagers, they could be not doing it to piss me off, or get some autonomy.

As adults in relationships we need to be aware of asking for something and asking around something. Let me give you an example from a few nights ago.

My fiance likes to drink. Not a problem. I am rather “meh” about alcohol, but I could always say yes to an ice cream. So when we are approaching a bar and she asks, “Would you like a drink?” I hear that she is asking if I am thirsty.

The other night she asked me and I said no. As we got closer, she asked, “Are you sure?” “Yep,” I said. And she asked a third time, “What about a water?” “Nope,” I said with some frustration beginning to show in my tone, “Nothing, thank you.” I probably said something like, “Quit asking.” But I don’t recall. I do know she reacted with a pout, letting me know I my frustration had registered.

Later the next morning as we were sorting through our plans and replays I made a discovery that excited me a bit.

“When we were heading towards the bar last night you asked me if I wanted a drink.”

“Yes, and then you got all pissy.”

“Wait. I just understood what was frustrating for me.” She looked at me with suspended disbelief. “When you asked me if I wanted a drink, I wasn’t sure if you were asking me if I was thirsty, or if you were making a request for me to join you for a drink.”

“Okay.”

“To me they are completely different.”

“I was asking if you were thirsty.”

“Yes, but you don’t have to ask me three times to see if I am thirsty. It’s very possible what you were asking initially, was ‘Will you have a drink with me?’ But that’s not what I heard.”

In our relationships with others we need to strive to ask for what we want. To complain when we don’t get the results we wanted. And to make our own desires as clear as possible.

“And if I knew you were asking me to join you for a drink, as in a request for us to share a drink together, then I can still say no, but I understand more clearly what you are asking. It seems like last night, the reason you asked three times, was because you might have been asking me to join you for a drink.”

“Maybe.”

“What do you think?”

“I think I was asking if you were thirsty?”

“Three times?”

“I agree, that’s a bit much.”

“So you understand how I got frustrated?”

“No, I just thought you were being an ass.”

“But I’m never an ass on purpose. I’m an ass to register frustration, or if I’m clear, to ask you for a behavior modification.”

So the passive aggressive way to ask me to join her for a drink, would’ve been to ask if I wanted a drink. But typically I say no to that question, because a “drink” is rarely what I’m thinking of. If she EVER asks me if I wanted an ice cream, I’m guessing I’d be 100% compliant. But with alcohol, I’m more like 10%. Just not my thing.

“Do you want a drink?” is very different from “I’d like you to have a drink with me.”

In our relationships with others we need to strive to ask for what we want. To complain when we don’t get the results we wanted. And to make our own desires as clear as possible. Anything unspoken, or actions used to manipulate the person into doing what we want, well, that’s out-of-bounds.

Speak what you want. Complain when you don’t get it. And ask for a modification if it becomes a habit, or pattern of disconnection.

“Do you want a drink?” is very different from “I’d like you to have a drink with me.”

The first is about me. The second is about you. If you want me to have a drink with you, say it. It shouldn’t matter if I have bubbly water or bubbly, unless that is also what you are asking.

The clearer we become in our communications the clearer we can be with our intentions and disappointments. Only through this type of honest communication do we get tuned-in to one another.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Beautiful Women and Two Cups of Coffee: How This All Got Started

OFF-titcups
This is how it all started, my marriage to the exy: Easter Sunday, a number of years ago, we ran into each other in the parking lot of a local coffee shop. It’d been 15 years since I’d seen her. She looked good, but then after what I’d been through, almost any woman looked good. But she looked exceptionally good.

I reached out my hand to say, “Hi.”

She reached out her arms for a hug.

Turns out we were both recently through our first marriages. Mine of 7 years, hers of 7 months. Maybe that should’ve been a warning flag, but it wasn’t.

She left a scent of perfume on my neck.

From then on, if the person didn’t have something extraordinary going on, some really amazing trait, or some smashingly witty banter in her messaging, I wasn’t interested.

I wasn’t aware of it’s affect on me until an hour or so later when I could still smell her. (To be honest, I’m not a huge perfume fan, but something else was at work here.) It was as if the hug, the smiles, the quick conversation, her easy laugh, “Yes, divorced here too.” The moment and the perfume had drugged me. I was in a daze.

What I realize, now, having had the perfuming experience more recently with old ladies, my mom, even my daughter, was that the sense of smell is a powerful trigger for me. And what it triggered so deeply that Easter morning so many years ago was the loss of that womanly smell in my life.

When my first divorce was final and I finally got back into my condo, there were still remnants of my first wife on the walls, in the drawers. But the part that I really missed, the place that I really noticed the lack, was in the bathroom. I no longer walked into steamy, sweet-smelling rooms with a uber sexy little basque woman in them. And just the smell, the loss of that smell, was huge. I did not know this when my old high school friend hugged me that Easter morning.

I had no idea that my synapses and hormones had taken over from the olfactory triggers. I wanted her throughout the entire day, like I had never wanted anyone before. Of course the hole in my heart and soul was huge, I also didn’t know this. And the newly triggered trance-like desire would blind me to so many of the signs that could’ve avoided the ultimate train wreck of style differences.

That, of course, would’ve been a different life. I would not have the amazing kids I now have. And UG, I would not be who I am at this very moment.

BEAUTIFUL is GREAT. BUT BEAUTIFUL lasts for a limited amount of time.

A little tip I now understand. Small scented candles (the organic kind for me, thanks) and other scented things like groovy Method foaming hand soaps, and great Aveda shampoos, can go a long way towards elevating my sense of erotic smell. And when I accidentally get the scent of a woman on me, and I notice it’s starting to have the drowsing effect on me, I can retreat to my OWN shower, and get my OWN clove shampoo, and take off the infected shirt.

On Easter 14+ years ago, that wonderful woman had a spell on me. She cast it without knowing, and I was pierced in my own loss and pain without being aware of anything but the electric connection between me and this old flame. Sure, when she told me later, over lunch, that she’d had a crush on me in high school I was touched. But the virus of her touch, her scent, that one morning, did more to alter the course of my life then I could’ve ever imagined.

I guard against some of that now with my own scented regimen. I’m not going to be drugged and dragged down into the cougar’s lair just yet. And when I do want to be devoured, I can inhale and relax into the fall with intention. I am ready to be drugged again, but this time, after we’ve gone through a few cycles of the relationship first. Intoxication is great. But then you have to get on with the mundane of living shortly there after.

It’s kind of like the beautiful woman I was sitting across from a few months ago. We’d exchanged some message via OK Cupid. And there was no question this was a woman in charge and in radiant glow. She was breath-taking from the moment she walked in Panera Bread.

And she smelled great.

Please come at me with a real imagination and things you are excited about besides cardio and American Idol.

Almost as quickly as she opened her mouth and spoke, the spell was broken. There were exactly 3 things this woman was ready to converse about. Working out. TV. And her job as an executive assistant.

As I jumped from topic to topic to try and find something more relevant to my life, I found nothing. She had made it kind of difficult to set up the first face-2-face with the declaration, “I work out every evening after work.”

I thought, “Um, okay, good for you. Do you want to find a time that DOES work?”

I walked away from that coffee with a new understanding of myself, online dating, and what I was interested in. From then on, if the person didn’t have something extraordinary going on, some really amazing trait, or some smashingly witty banter in her messaging, I wasn’t interested. BEAUTIFUL is GREAT. BUT BEAUTIFUL lasts for a limited amount of time. Work out all you want, you’re going to grow older and older. I think you are beautiful in all your forms, woman. And in some of your scents as well.

But please come at me with a real imagination and things you are excited about besides cardio and American Idol. And for me personally, if you’re wearing a lot of perfume, lean towards the essential oil types and away from the ones at Nordstrom. Thanks.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Appreciating Your Partner’s Exes

off-massage

Saying “Thank You” to your partner’s ex can take humorous turns.

He fucked up and lost her. After two years of dating she threw in the towel. I could be mad or hateful on the old boyfriend, but I’m not. I’m grateful about a lot of things, and his lack of appreciation for her, well, for that I can thank him daily.

Now in the case of this boyfriend it wasn’t a very graceful exit on his part. While she failed to disclose our relationship (“I don’t want to hurt him”) he failed to take no for an answer. And for several months he texted her, dropped by her house, and left gifts out at her house for her. At the same time he whined that she had “dumped” him. He vacillated between “would you like to join me in the hot tub” to “you’ve made the worst mistake of your life, dumping me.” It was an odd and tense few months.

On the one hand I wanted to remain confident, unattached, and non-judgemental of either of them. On the other hand, his texts cause me pain. No matter how I covered it up, I was not feeling 100% confident in my connection to this amazing woman, and him… Well, he had money, he had a career that seemed bent for higher things, and he’d had her as his girlfriend for almost two years.

But I had her time. She was with me. You’d think that after a few months of not seeing her car in the driveway (he lived nearby) he’d figure out that she was overnight-ing at someone else’s house. But loneliness is a mean mistress. And after a few days of silence he’d usually chime in with some sexual enticement or frustrated complaint. At first she responded. I suggested she cut him off, let him know she was with someone, or that she just stop responding all together. But I also had to let go of her behavior and responses to his texts. I had to step away from my own jealousy, even of a man who was no longer in her life.

And then it just got weird. He dropped off a massive jar of Organic Coconut Oil at her house. She was like, “WTF? I don’t even know what this means.” I joked, “What it means is he went to Costco and had to buy two of these vats and he donated one of them to you.”

The humor of the situation didn’t occur to me until several months later, when she had moved into my house and I noticed the vat of coconut oil in our pantry. And about that moment a post from The Elephant Journal appeared on my Facebook news feed about coconut oil as the miraculous sexual lubricant. It smells like coconuts. It’s good for your skin. It’s safe externally and internally. And it is an amazing, water-soluble slippery fluid. BINGO.

I brought the vat to the bedside table a few days later, and the rest is history.

Amazing in two words. Coconut Oil. Try it.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Reference: The 3 Naughty Things I Do With Coconut Oil. {Adult}

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After Divorce w/ Kids: You Won’t Believe How Good It Can Get

OFF-coupledacing

Off as in wacky. Off as in when you don’t have your kids after divorce. Off as in batshit crazy. What is an OFF Parent?

As I have begun to reemerge as a happy dad I have paid careful attention to who deserved my “off” time.

Divorce sucks. And in the end, divorce may have been the most liberating and creative thing that ever happened in my life. I have certainly been transformed in many unexpected ways. And the decision of my then-wife that wrecked and the reshuffled my family life, might have been the event that set me in motion towards the next true love of my life.

But getting from married with children to divorced with children to dating with children to whatever-you-want-to-call-next with children… Well, that’s the tricky part about being an off parent. I’m here to offer hope.

I’ve been through:

  • major depression
  • financial disaster
  • dickish ex-wife moves set to hurt me
  • complete loss of my identity and home
  • rebuilding and reassessing
  • creative rebirth
  • establishing relationships with my kids during *my* time
  • losing a best friend and partner in planning and future visions

Through all of it, things get a bit rough. Things might even get so bleak that you consider dark and harsh alternatives. Hope is hard to come by at times.

And I arrived at:

  • creative freedom
  • effortless and inspired writing about my experience
  • creating my own parenting style, not burdened by my ex’s OCD
  • establishing father-son and father-daughter bonds in the time that I did have
  • a rested state of living (naps whenever I wanted, instead of a fight)
  • redefining *my* needs and passions
  • exploring and learning from what went wrong
  • setting sail for a new kind of relationship
  • finding the love of my life

I’ve been married twice. And I can tell you the divorce from both of those relationships was difficult. With kids, however, you never fully get divorced from your co-parent. And as I have begun to reemerge as a happy dad I have paid careful attention to who deserved my “off” time. I went through a few test relationships, learned some powerful lessons along the way, and arrived here: madly, passionately, and freely in love with a new woman, a partner unlike any I have ever imagined. Better. Stronger. More passionate. Much more compassionate.

The second love of my life took over 52 years to arrive. We had been looking for each other for 5 – 7 years. And when we connected the sparks flew, the inhibitions evaporated, and our hearts began to sing in harmony, the big “Yes” from within minutes of our first kiss.

“That was the most auspicious beginning I’ve ever experienced,” I said to her a few days after we’d spent the first weekend together.

My kids, as important as ever, will be building new connections with the WE, rather than just me, Dad.

The exhilaration has not stopped. The continuous effort on both of our parts to find the time, find the space, and find the way to connect both in an out of the bedroom. And of course, the sex is amazing. And how could I have imagined, as my known world was collapsing, that I would be having the absolute best sex of my life at 52? And more sex than I’ve ever had? How could this be possible?

When you embrace the loss of your marriage, you can begin healing yourself and reestablishing your relationships with your children and yourself. As you burn through the pain and frustrations, you may find yourself stronger and more self-assured. You may find yourself unwilling to settle for half-ass. And with the compressed amount of time you have, you will value both the ON parent time and the OFF parent time.

Today I begin a new journey with my girlfriend. (That term seems so weak compared to what we have established.) Today we begin building OUR relationship WITH and AROUND my kids. The parenting plan I defined with my then-wife spelled out a 6-month waiting period before introducing the kids to a partner.

The new relationship is between her and me. My kids, as important as ever, will be building new connections with the WE, rather than just the me, Dad. She won’t ever be Mom, but she can bring a new idea in to their young lives.

In the next 4 years of my son’s life, and the next 6 years of my daughter’s life, I can show them what a healthy and happy relationship looks like. The last time they saw my then-wife and I in respectful partnership was when they were about 5 and 7 years old. What a gift I imagine in this new, re-envisioned partnership, with the next love of my life.

The more amazing thing about finding love again, is when you find the flow of energy and affirmations is easily expressed by both partners. In my marriage I was the “emotional” partner. My then-wife was more logical and excel/task/budget based. This new connection is stronger and more pure than anything I’ve experienced in my life. (I know this sounds like puppy love, and I’m not afraid to admit we are still in the honeymoon glow.)

Where we go from here is together and up as a newly formed family unit. The three of us now have a co-pilot. I now have a collaborative partner to reason things out, to make joint-decisions, and to reflect on the demands and requests of my ex-wife. Not to mention, the most exciting partnership I’ve known.

Today, I have it all. I’m still rebuilding. My kids are still adjusting. Perhaps we will be readjusting our entire lives from the fracture that changed everything. Today, at this moment, I can say, “For the better.” By a long shot.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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if you are her

OFF-handinwater

let’s say
for example
that i’ve written
i want to pour my love into a lover
i’m not speaking metaphorically here
i’m talking about
time
effort
joy
action

i electrify with the sound of you
and carbonate with imagined smiles
if you can contain all this
stand in the flame
if love poems don’t terrify
and delusions of grandeur
are also in your dna
i wonder
if we’ve found something

fluid and open
skipping along the flight path
towards
what we cannot yet know
what we dare to dream about
yet leave unspoken

let’s just imagine that i’ve spoken
some of it
i know not of what i speak
i’m imagining
fantasizing
but if you are you
and here is now
let me set alight the maps
and look into the fog of the future
fearless and emboldened
grabbing your hand
racing the rain away
that has followed so many attempts

if you are
her
here
and ready

2-4-15

image: hand in water, walt stoneburner, creative commons usage


You Should Go For What Makes You Happy (Divorce Me)

OFF-greenergrass

Have we made it too easy and convenient to get divorced?

I know that sounds rather absurd, after all the pissing and moaning I’ve done around my divorce. But some how, my ex-y decided it would be easier, more to her advantage, more joyful to go seeking a relationship with someone else. So she decided, well before I was aware we were in negotiations, that she would check with a lawyer to discuss options. Or more bluntly, what she could get.

And so we divorced. I was not happy about it. And though I swear I’m moving on, I don’t guess I will ever fully be OVER it. I mean, what am I doing tonight? Seeing if a date is going to materialize through the txts and emails I’m exchanging with someone from Match.com. And I’d rather be hanging with my kids: chatting about their day, their projects, their hopes and dreams. Much like the past five days of this dad-weekend.

In relationship therapy she didn’t answer the question, “When did you exit the relationship?”

The ex-y on the other hand, seemed to move on rather quickly into a couple relationships that seemed a bit more like reactions, or rebounds, or “wouldn’t this be thrilling,” rather than Relationships. (capital R added for emphasis) Okay, but I’m not here to judge.

But something a “friend” of hers said today, brought a bit of a different perspective on things. What if my ex-y’s DIVORCE gave permission for this “friend’s” divorce. Heck, I didn’t even know she was divorced as my daughter is best friends with her daughter, and seems to think they are still married. (Odd. I wonder what they’ve told their kids?)

Either way, there is something about the permissiveness of divorce these days. Perhaps greener pastures are enough of a reason today. Perhaps the THRILL of something new is reason enough to wander, to flirt, to “have lunch” with someone of the opposite sex. Or if you want to get really thrilling, how about the same sex?

So this friend mentioned how horrible I had been to my ex-y with my blog. She was telling me why or how I lost her and her (now ex) husband in the mix.

Hmm. Her point is well taken. And something I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about while writing and publishing The Off Parent.

  1. I started this “process” in the heat of the divorce. It was my way of recording and vocalizing my anger.
  2. Anonymous is only so effective.
  3. When asked in the summer of 2010 to take The Off Parent offline, by my soon to be officially ex-wife, I didn’t fight back. I was depressed. I was deep in the anger and sadness of the whole mess. I took the blog down without question. And I apologized.
  4. A year later when I turned The Off Parent on again, it was from a different place. This process [of divorce and recovery from divorce] was bigger than my ex-y and bigger than my anger and advice. I learned that I was still living the experience. And that the experience of divorce never ends.
  5. The process has now devolved into all kinds of interesting topics of self-revelation: 1. depression; 2. online dating; 3. self-improvement.

And as I evolve this narrative and journal I hope it is clearer that this is not about the ex-y.

But, let’s come back to that in a minute.

When given a choice to try something  new and “exciting” my ex-y chose to exit the relationship for what might make her happy. (Or maybe at this point, for her, it was *less angry.*) It reminds me of the two times I actually feared for my relationship.

She had a working buddy who became a pen pal. I stumbled onto an email thread between her and a coworker that was all about me, my depression and how unhappy she was. Turns out she’d gone to several lunches with him. And the thread was one of several that went WAY DEEP into our relationship. Add to that, he was attractive to her, she had mentioned him in several passing conversations.

So maybe he was the first infidelity. It was only emails, phone calls and lunch. But it was all done on the down low. Just checking out things. But if it was innocent and honest, why hide it? The several times during our marriage, for example, when my first ex-wife called with some reason we needed to have coffee, I would talk to my then-wife about it.

[Um, this is how the ex-y and I got started. She was WITH someone when we ran into each other again. We went to a few lunches. It was just lunch, right?]

Fuck. That didn’t feel good. I flipped. She apologized. She agreed that she had crossed the boundaries. But in couple’s therapy she never answered the question, “When did you exit the relationship?” Perhaps it was too soon to admit it to herself.

The second time I felt a tectonic shift, very different, was at a titty bar. We were there joking about bringing home the young girl with us. We’d always joked that it was fine to have another woman, as long as she (the ex-y) was there. It was a running joke, as if she had lesbian fantasies and of course I did. I mean, you know…

So was it too easy for her to set her sights on that new goal, male or female, and then make her calculated and spreadsheeted plans to get there?

Funny thing… However, when the young thing, a bit rough around the edges and smelling of cigarette smoke, was assigned to give the ex-y a lap dance… Well, all kinds of things broke loose. I guess I recalled how easily she revealed private issues with her pen pal, I felt a flash of fear, watching her really enjoying the affections of this pretty little siren, that she could just as easily leave me for a girl as leave me for another man. The point was, things were unstable, and I didn’t want to consider her leaving me for any reason. We never tried that little experiment again.

Chances are she was already in the process of leaving, separating.

And all it would take was that last offer, opportunity, greener pasture, to launch her into a new trajectory. A path away from me and the family we’d created.

So was it too easy for her to set her sights on that new goal, male or female, and then make her calculated and spreadsheeted plans to get there? That’s kind of how her mind works. Still. Spreadsheet first, emotions later, if at all. It’s okay, it’s just very different from what I needed. And, as I understand from writing here, very different from what I truly think I need. I need warmth and emotion. I need a partner who takes an equal part in generating the joy and warm emotions in the relationship. I need someone who adores me, and who I adore back.

I know it’s coming. And more clearly now, than when I started this rant. I think through this process I am growing, redefining, and exploring what went wrong and what I want to get right next time.

And for now, I’m alone tonight because of a choice she made. I’d rather be with my kids. But ultimately I’d rather be with someone who loves me back with honesty and love language I understand. For her too, I hope her multi-year boyfriend materializes for her into something that makes her happier. The kids will benefit from joy all around.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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It’s the Quiet Time, the Alone Time, the Empty Spaces

OFF-lasskiss

When you’re happily married you think life is all set. Then you have kids and the world gets even bigger and brighter. Then some tough times come along and muck up the happily ever after. And after much hand wringing, and arguments the money is settled, the housing is decided upon, and dad (that’s me) is out on his own, to fend for himself, in the world of being a single dad with normal custody, that is to say, about 30%.

Some days I roll along like a happy man, a single dad working the program, doing his best. Other days, I fall below the “joy” quotient and I would really rather chill in my bed, watch movies, surf the net, and withdraw from all the activity. The holidays are some of the hardest times, for some reason.  And today, when I delivered my kids to my old house, my wife’s house, I was a bit bereft. Lonely. Aimless. Sad.

As the emotional aspects of our relationship got more complicated, the sex simply dried up completely.

It’s not that there was anything that happened. In fact, just the opposite. My life is feeling pretty sweet, considering. But today, as I was getting back in my car, backing out of my old driveway, with no particular place to go, I felt the punch. A light poke in the solar plexus. A minor ache, that continued to echo though my body the rest of the afternoon. It’s the little things that get you.

Like little places you pass that remind you of a good moment. And we had a lot of good moments, before we had all the bad moments. And today, eating lunch, I pulled into a place, not on purpose, that was one of the last good times I remember with my ex. She was working nearby, over six years ago, and we made plans to meet for lunch. It was in this golden moment, right after I’d had my vasectomy, when we were trying to score the 40 ejaculates before we could have the well-earned unprotected sex. And for a month, my wife rediscovered her libido, or something. She joked that it was more about hitting the goal. I was thrilled for the renewal and imagined the sex ahead would be even better.

After divorce, you count back in your head, sometimes, the moments when you knew things were great, and the moments when you first sensed that things were spiraling out of control, in the wrong direction. And the little moments of magic can pop up, like today, and re-trigger the old hurt. And who, knows, maybe there was part of me that wanted to lean into the ache that was already taking root in my chest.

This last moment flashed before me today, as I was eating at this funky little Mexican restaurant, and there was pang of sadness, a worry, will I ever have another moment, another love so good? The moment strikes at the heart of what ultimately blew us apart, and so this little scene of playful joy is not important, except for the feeling I still get when I remember it. We were happy, joyful in our quest for liberated sex again…

In good old days, this one time, we met at this restaurant, and in the parking lot around to the side, my wife gave me a quickie blow job, in the most silly and playful way. We were like kids, getting away with something terribly forbidden. Today, the flicker of that moment, showed two people playing at sex, enjoying the raucous play, and getting away with a little secret in the middle of the work day.

I guess the deeper part of the ache is the lack of spontaneous or playful sex I’ve had in the years since that peak. When the condoms came off the sex continued at ever slowing pace. It seems the “goal” really was part of the fun for my then-wife. I tried to rekindle whatever I could from my end, but things continued to fade. She became less willing to even be close, much less have sex.

We all have to work on our sexual communication. If it gets off, we need to chat about it. If it REALLY get’s off, we need to bring it front-and-center in therapy.

Sex is not everything, but it’s important. As our sex life continued to fade, I continued to be the interested party who was given the challenge to “ask differently” and “keep the house clean” and “pay all the bills.” It was as if there were a string of conditions for intimacy that became more of an alchemical mixture rather than anything I could predict or influence. Why is it, that this stereotype is so common? Men continue to want sex. Women, as we now know, get bored within monogamous relationships. Um, no shit. Men do to, it’s just we’re more willing to work on the monotony with more intention.

In the last year of my marriage, I am certain we could easily go for a month at a stretch without having sex. And it’s not that I wasn’t asking, cajoling, seeing if she wanted a massage. Her switch flipped off and stayed off. There was not much I could do about it. As I was making lists of things I could do to entice her, she was becoming more distant.

In a recent post by a friend, on what to get your husband for Christmas, I was saddened that the tone, even from this psychologist, was so one-sided. Here’s the list.

  1. Oral Sex
  2. Regular Sex
  3. Some Other Sexual Thing…
  4. Appreciation
  5. Love
  6. Wear a Santa Hat and Nothing Else

This is a common theme. The “how sex used to be” theme. In a Facebook post Dr. Psych Mom poses a theoretical question from a reader.

“Why his wife last 69ed before they had kids, 12 years ago. Then i can answer, with solemnity:

My friend, there is probably no amount of doing the chores that is going to get you that again. It’s one of those things that women only do when they are young and uninhibited, like dyeing their hair purple, or dancing on top of the bar.

Now if you took care of the kids for an entire weekend while she visited the friend with whom she used to dye her hair purple and dance on top of the bar….. then maybe.

No promises.”

But that’s the point. I was doing the extra things. I was offering her “girl’s night out.” I was taking care of putting the kids to bed so she could get in the mood. Except, more often than not, she was falling asleep or working on a project when I came out of the kid’s room.

We all have to work on our sexual communication. If it gets off, we need to chat about it. If it REALLY get’s off, we need to bring it front-and-center in therapy. Somehow I was letting our sexual disconnect be “okay.” We went to therapy, but we were usually dealing with some “crisis” that I didn’t really see as a crisis. And I’m sure, that was the problem. I wanted closeness, and maybe even sex. She wanted all the worries and struggles of the day to be gone.

Sure men have an easier time getting turned on, and women take some warming up. But women also have to be open to suggestion, or it’s a non-starter no matter how you phrase it, or what technique you use to rub her feet. Needless to say, it wasn’t the sex that caused us to get a divorce, but the loss of sexual connection sure indicated that something had gotten out of balance. Unfortunately I was never able to regain that balance with my then-wife. And as the emotional aspects of our relationship got more complicated, the sex simply dried up completely.

So dear, Dr. Psych, what is a man in a committed relationship, who *IS* doing all the extra things and still getting the cold shoulder supposed to do? Move on?

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

This posts continues here: Sexy Sex and the Other Two Kinds of Romantic Relationship

back to The Hard Stuff

reference: What To Get Your Husband For Christmas. And None of The Suggestions Are From Brookstone – Dr. Psych Mom

related posts:

image: kiss, martin neuhof, creative commons usage


dateless

off-dark

[from strange horizons poems]

i’m struggling in the dark again
striving against feeling alone
and failing
it’s
a long night ahead
and how your ear should be curled about
and whispered into
sweet poems
and
later
a kiss

12-17-14

image: dark, ekaterina nosenko (katia), creative commons usage


Redefining Dating, As a Man, As a Dad, As a Lover

OFF-observer

I’m learning so much these days, having revoked my own dating pass. I’m done with dating for a bit. I’m resetting and recovering my center. It’s not like anything major happened. But after one recent near miss I’m taking back all of the energy I used to put into “dates” and bringing the focus back on building myself. I think I’m rebuilt, but I’m still refining my roll, as they say.

As I’m sitting in a nearby coffee shop I’m observing the flow of people and noting my own wandering eye. WHAT IS IT? Really. Which women resonate with a “yes” in the flowing line of candidates (in fantasy only) versus a “meh.”

  • Body type
  • Attitude (You can see it in their eyes and smile, or opposite of smile)
  • Hair (over done, colored, natural, dark, blonde or graying)
  • Clothes (what mode are they in: work, yoga, casual Friday, dressed to the nines)
  • A pretty face (some magical equation combined with historical context)
  • Vibe

Sure it’s impossible to get an accurate picture of the whole woman from 15 – 20 feet way. But the elusive “chemistry” is not as random as you might think. Rare, but not random. So what is it? What’s my combination?

For the moment, even in the presence of a willing and available woman I have taken a step back from my own inner “spark” so I can see more clearly.

The “spark” as I tend to call it is obvious in the first 10 seconds. Beyond that I’m taking my own projections and using my desires as a magnifying glass from which to evaluate each woman.

[NOTE: Let me be clear, this is a design and branding exercise, not a predatory process. I am not actually looking to “relate” to these women. I’m merely observing my thoughts as they pass by. The availability or reality of the actual woman is not part of my evaluation. Sky’s the limit.]

In life, women stream by all the time. Married, young, athletic, damaged, bright, angry, euphoric, women, all are part of the flow of life. It’s our observations and actions in this flood that are going to determine if we remain alone and hungry, or if we are willing and able to take the plunge into a relationship.

As I’ve released the “dating” concept for the moment, I’m learning some new things about myself in this detached state.

  • I am much more easy-going around all women when I’m not actively sizing them up
  • As I am not “interested” I’m more able to see them clearly as multifaceted humans and not just “women of potential”
  • I’ve got a lot of energy to use in other aspects of my life
  • I can see my craving for a woman more clearly for what it is, a craving, an addiction
  • I can savor the anticipation and desire and all the wanderings of my mind without any of the logistics or planning that’s required in actually taking action
  • By not taking any action, I’m allowing these women I come in contact with to be more natural and relaxed.

I’m not saying, “Hey, I’m not interested in you,” but the idea is circulating in my mind. For the moment, even in the presence of a willing and available woman I have taken a step back from my own inner “spark” so I can see more clearly.

This week I had a clear hit. A date potential that sort of came out of the blue. And all of the components were in place. She was cute, articulate, enthusiastic, and she had a very direct approach to life. She was also training in an exotic sport, that was clearly a passion. I’m attracted to women of passion. Always passion.

After a week or so we found the night we could meet in-person. Again, this time, while I was enthusiastic, I was somewhat reflective of the opportunity rather than “looking for a relationship.” At one point, an hour before we met, I was a little concerned that I was going to underwhelm her, that I was too subdued. I was just tired from a busy day that had started at 5 am.

When we met and sat eating a late dinner, I was able to keep my “observer” at the table with us. I was watching her and even watching myself, as we chatted and flirted. And while I noticed her fine figure, her sparkling eyes, and her contagious enthusiasm, I was also aware that something else was feeling odd.

I didn’t get turned off, because I had never been turned on. So I listened.

That was enough. I didn’t need to judge her. I didn’t get turned off, because I had never been turned on. So I listened. I noticed how she often didn’t hear what I’d just said. She was on some kind of monologue performance. There wasn’t much room in her active and imaginative genius for me or my ideas.

As we parted she mentioned wanting to write an article for my blog. She was all over the map. “Um, okay,” I said, surprised by the new concept. “No, really. I’m a great writer,” she said. She didn’t notice that this is a first-person narrative, about me and my experience. I’m not sure where she thought her “post” might go. I’m not all that interested to find out.

It would be great to think we have evolved beyond Hot or Not, but really it’s hard-wired. The immediate reaction that we label “chemistry” is really a swipe to the left “nope” or a swipe to the right “yes.” It’s what happens next that is more important. In my paused state, I think I am able to evaluate more objectively what turns me on and what registers as a “pass.” Because I’ve taken myself off the playing field it is easier for me to recognize the players, even my own playbook becomes more obvious.

The swipe happens in our mind regardless of our evolution.  Our own game plans kick into gear almost automatically. By interrupting the pursuit I’ve been able to sit back and watch in a new way. My idea is that when I’m ready to re-engage with the process of pursuit I’ll be clearer in my actions and intentions.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

back to On Dating Again

related posts:

image: random coffee shop, the author, cc 2014


The Lover I Had This Time Last Year

OFF-greentango

I was trying to figure out why the cold weather and my upcoming birthday were starting to feel heavy rather than up lifting. And I got it. I’m alone. Damn. In this most exciting of times, dark cold nights, holidays and birthdays and time-off ahead, and what… Nothing.

I’ll admit I was so struck by her sexiness that all I wanted to do was jump into bed. She, however, wanted entertainment along with her sex.

Last year I was falling into some sort of intoxicated frenzy of a relationship. (see this poem from that time: it’s just desire) And while I know it wasn’t healthy, it was so sexual, I’m now recalling the warm friction and the full mornings lounging, lovemaking, and lounging again, until we had to get out of bed to find food. It was good and innocent, but lacking in some fundamental element that I have to have in addition to the good sex.

When courting this woman I was not aware that she was about to turn 40. (I was moving towards my 51st year.) And while that wasn’t the issue, there were definitely issues that ran along those lines. She was recently divorced and still working through a lot of conflict and drama with her ex. And, of course, I was a good stand-in confidant for her. But I didn’t really like being her sounding board for all things divorce. It made my heart heavy. I would try to sum up the conversations occasionally with, “Oh that dickish-ex.”

I was also struggling with my own issues, as my ex-y had pressed charges against me with the AG’s office, and now it looked like I might not be able to save my house. I was heading into the holidays with very little money, and very little self-esteem. And this woman was just the tonic I needed. Or so I thought.

She met a lot of my criteria for dating.

  • Smart.
  • Pretty. (she was way-out pretty)
  • Funny and playful.
  • Has kids.
  • Well-employed.
  • Gets me.

And still there was something fundamental that was missing in our interactions. I couldn’t put my finger on it. But when she railed at her ex, I sometimes felt like I was part of her inner dialogue. And sometimes she also said things to me that seemed (I don’t know) disconnected.

I’ll admit I was so struck by her sexiness that all I wanted to do was jump into bed. She, however, wanted entertainment along with her sex. She wanted to “go out.” But we didn’t even know what that meant for us. Probably two very different things.

Still I liked having her on my arm at the club to see a couple of my friends playing hot jazz. No dancing though. And we ate out a bit, and that’s nice. But as we rounded 9:30 pm she was ready to start the evening, I was ready to wind down. I blasted through some wine-soaked evenings with her, and came out the other side wondering, “What the hell did I do that for?”

Short answer. Sex.

We, fit well in that department. But in most other areas we didn’t have a lot of common interests. She loved music, but it was more from an iTunes perspective, not necessarily going out to see bands. She liked partying, and I wasn’t really ready to jump back in that pattern, with the potential job interviews coming up. And so we ate nice food, spent mornings in bed, and tried to find other stuff to do together.

If the idea of dating was to entertain each other every night we were together that got tiring pretty quickly, especially if the time to start was 10pm.

And that’s a part of *my* problem. I have a lot of projects I’m working on. (This blog included.) I’m not ever looking for something to do. I don’t need to disconnect to unwind. I plug-in and get creative. That’s my passion and my past time. So how am I going to fit a girlfriend in?

It’s an interesting question. I came close to sorting it out with my first girlfriend. We really liked being together. And we did like to go see music and movies together. And she had her own projects that gave her a lot of contentment as well. I got to feel what it was like to have someone who was cool with just hanging out. “What’s for dinner,” became a date invitation, even if it only meant one of us would grab some stuff to make dinner. That’s what I really wanted. Just some living and being with someone else.

If the idea of dating was to entertain each other every night we were together that got tiring pretty quickly, especially if the time to start was 10pm.

I’m missing the smell, feel, and presence of a woman. As the cold weather seeps under the doors I’m missing this amazing vixen that came into my life to light me up. And she did to that. She ignited my sexual enthusiasm in a way I hadn’t experienced since college. And while we didn’t stay together very long, I came away with the understanding of what good and happy sex looked like.

This winter I’m okay with the loneliness. I raise a glass of bubbly water to my hot lover from a year ago, as I let her memories go. I’m resigned to the rebuilding program I started 4.5 years ago. I am also committed to saying YES to someone amazing. Nothing less will do. But for now, I’ll be here, buzzing away at my creative tasks. The more amazing I become, the stronger my broadcasting signal grows. She’s out there. Lot’s of women of potential are out there. It’s up to me to call them in.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

back to On Dating Again

related posts:

 image: tango, juliano campos, creative commons usage


cherish is the word

OFF-professor-plum[from a second wave – poetry]

i cannot diminish your brilliance
as i sweep in underneath for support
and gentle caring
i leave no trace
nothing but air
and a pillowy feeling
in your chest
i swim in this air with you
and adore your moves
smiles
grins
even your moments
let me never forsake this beauty
in this moment
you are
the
priority
may you always feel this way
and me continue
cherishing

11-3-14

image: professor plum evolved, the author, cc 2014


Dating Time Out: Swiping Left or Right is Wearing Me Out

OFF-glider

I’m done with the online forum for a minute. I’m back to rebuild, remodel, retool mode. I think I’ll even take my profiles down for a bit. I had a non-online date become a non-date via email yesterday and I sort of bummed me out. Not that she was an amazing fit, or that sparks were flying all around between us, no, it’s more the idea of dating that’s wearing me out.

I’ve got a new fitness program, that I’m committing to. I’ve got my next musical performance in early Dec. And plenty of kid duties and work duties between now and then. I think I’ll take them down and focus back on the project of building, becoming, and enjoying a better me. The “she” will have to follow.

I’m done with pursuing women who are nonplussed at the start. And until I find the partner who can share her bright flame with me, I’m going to reserve mine for myself.

Would I date me, at the moment? I’m not sure. If I take the example from this week as a sample, I’d say yes, I would. The woman was within range on certain qualities, she was vibrant, engaging, intelligent. And on others (touchy-feely, love language understanding, physical closeness) she hadn’t shown any indications how these things might come into play. And that’s where I knew we had a sticking point.

I know the woman I want to be with will light up when were together. In the same way I light up and cheer at the sight of a new potential lover, the same way I still light up ever so slightly when I see one of my two previous girlfriends. I’m a “happy to see you” kind of person. I don’t need subtle, or introverted, or quiet. I can be quiet. I can enjoy quiet. But a lack of joy comes across to me like a dull color. I need shine and dancing.

I generate a lot of energy and joy in the world. And I’m clear that I tend to blow people off their center, especially if there center is not very well established. I will require a strong partner. Both previous marriages broke down in some ways as a response to my over-abundance of energy and creative drive. It became a competition thing. I didn’t think I was competing, but some how the woman, both of my previous wives, did.

So I get that. I temper a bit when I’m meeting new people. I keep most of my peacock feathers tucked beneath my non-logo t-shirt. And still, I’m often the person who interrupts, jumps from subject to subject, and if I’m zoned or in a highly productive day, I might miss the person completely. Or I might miss a moment, when I should’ve been quiet rather than engaged. When I should’ve had a non-response, rather than a delighted one. This last woman didn’t seem to be able to keep pace. More likely, she didn’t want to.

Again, that’s OH KAY. Really. I hear myself explaining my own type-a, driven, goal setting, personality. But I’m not apologizing for it. I’m merely saying, this is the way I am. I hope you can keep up, and I’d really like it if you came on the ride.

Live the path of joy and energy. When I am in that space I don’t require a partner, I merely want one.

Heading into November, my birthday month, I’ve got no one to cuddle up with. No problem. Not the way I’d want things, but there is a LOT of stuff that’s not the way I’d choose it to be, at the moment. Still, I’m not unhappy about my withdrawal from online dating. It’s more of a refocus, again, back on myself and my empire building.

I have many rooms in my house. I am remodeling some. Others I have down, but I prefer to spend less and less time in them. While over here, in the writing and relationship wing, I am constructing an entirely new atrium. I’m done with settling for almost in an online profile. I’m done with pursuing women who are nonplussed at the start. And until I find the partner who can share her bright flame with me, I’m going to reserve mine for myself. Each of the projects I am working on requires a certain amount of energy. The date this week was an opening of possibility. As she closed that door, I’m taking the message from the universe (too woo woo, again?) and getting back to my own basics.

Become who I would like to be with. Show my highest form of passion and creativity. Live the path of joy and energy. When I am in that space I don’t require a partner, I merely want one.

Switching to glide for a bit.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

back to On Dating Again

related posts:

image: Hang gliding over Makapuu Beach, peddhapati, creative commons usage

They’re begging me not to cancel my Match.com account.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 5.32.11 PM

But when I do, I get a nice message. Almost like an answer. 11/27/2014 will be my 52nd birthday. Gracias Match.com!

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 5.32.37 PM

And finally, the Tinder…

tinderdone


Dating Lessons: Gentle Catch and Release

OFF-catch-release

You don’t want to hurt the people you’re dating, and when there’s not a match you want to be gentle with the let down.

I understand not being ready for a relationship. I understand taking your time getting to know someone.

A recent “potential” emailed me an hour ago that she was canceling our date on Saturday night and putting me in the friend zone. I kept the email because I wanted to be sure I understood her message. Here’s a phrase I’m hearing more frequently, “I like you, but I don’t see it developing into more than that.” Well, at least she let me know. We were really only three “hello dates” and one “I need to give you some feedback” in, so while I’m slightly saddened I’m more curious about the jump out of my boat.

I was asking myself similar questions, about this particular woman. Things like:

  • I like her but there’s no real spark
  • I wonder what she’s like when she’s excited
  • We’ve already had one “feedback” session
  • Wouldn’t something be sparking up by now

But two other moments passed yesterday that had me in the “wtf” zone in my own thinking, so I suppose she was telegraphing her information ahead of time, but needed an email to let me know. Fine.

There was a moment, as we were parting at the end of a third encounter (the one where I’d proposed the date for the weekend) and as I hugged her I noticed there was zero energy coming back from her. Normally there’s a slight buzz, a warm fuzzy, or some joy that comes from the act of hugging another person. As I walked to my car I wondered, “Hmm, that was a bit odd.” We were getting to know each other better, we seemed to be on track towards a date…

Later in the afternoon I grew more curious. I texted her the Unadulterated Love post from a few days ago, as she had asked me to share the link to this blog. So I did. But as I sent it, I started wondering what effect this bold talk about joyous sex might have on our trajectory. Certainly I could have sent her a link to the blog and not aimed her at the sex bits right away. But since we’d been talking in-person about the Love Languages and this was the post that linked to something else we’d been discussing I let it fly.

Later in the evening I sent a “how’s it going” text just to let her know I was thinking about her. And I followed up with

Screen Shot 2014-10-28 at 4.50.13 PM

Okay, so that’s officially flirting with a purpose. Especially since we’d talked repeatedly about my LL being touch. So I was asking her, so how to you plug into this wacky world of love languages. I guess the underlying question was, “and that hug this morning… Um… What’s that about?”

She responded about liking all the love languages and how they were related to situations. Um, what?

I tried to follow-up, “Most people gravitate towards one or two, but perhaps you haven’t dug into them fully. Or perhaps you are above them, kind of meta.”

She said it’d been 8 years or so since she’d looked at them.

Okay, so you’re embarking on an exploratory journey, and you’re getting to know someone. They pitch out Love Language = Touch or bust as their motto, and you… haven’t checked them out in 8 years? Okay, I’m starting to get a picture here.

I understand not being ready for a relationship. I understand taking your time getting to know someone. And I’m glad she did seek me out so we could have a few of these illuminating conversations in-person, but it’s clear to me she was NOT a touch-oriented person, and as I asked about her love language twice, that was enough to trigger the “not developing” email. I sure am glad I didn’t send her the poem. (easy surrender)

Easy release. And back into the pond for me.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

back to On Dating Again

related posts:

image: fish #3, tim regan, creative commons usage


Unadulterated Love: What Is Joyful Sex?

OFF-joyfulsex

When you’ve felt the raw power of sexual joy there is never any going back to ‘blah.’

Sex is often a mixed up dance between two people. But sex begins with yourself. And ultimately, your sexual joy begins with your own relationship to something inside you. Sex, and sexual dysfunction, is 90% in your head. So when sex is off, either between you and yourself, or you and others, there is some examination that might need to take place. (I’m no doctor, and I have no understanding of E.D. or other medically related sexual issues.)

I can count on one hand the joyful sex partners I’ve had in my life. Some were even joyful with a side of obsession, and that’s not really good, but the sex was amazing.

You want joyful sex, you explore and ask for a joyful partner. And when the chemistry is ON you can imagine seeking ever deeper levels of connection with this partner.

If you agree with the idea that sex between committed partners is a critical part of a healthy relationship, you can begin your quest: first, to find the joyful sexual partner within yourself; second, to find another joyfully aware sexual partner to explore core sexual satisfaction.

I don’t mean to sound like a tantric sex practitioner, I’m not. (And when someone does claim to be, as Sting did a while back, I want to run the other way.) And I don’t really profess to understanding all the nuance of what goes into sexual chemistry (one of the great mysteries of life). But, what I do claim is my commitment to understanding my own sexual partnership goals and using those guidelines to frame part of my “nothing but 100%” commitment to finding my next relationship.

Ten tenants of my joyful sex hypothesis.

  • Much of what happens during sex is very personal (inside an individual’s mind)
  • There is a physical joy that comes from finding a connected and aware partner
  • Even the prospect of sex can awaken all kinds of wonderful chemical changes in the human body
  • Casual sex can contain elements of joy and bliss, but true joyful sex, in my definition, requires two committed partners
  • The discovery and unlocking of your partner’s sexual potential is a lifelong quest (otherwise monogamy would become boring and lead to infidelity)
  • Is is possible to get too interested and rapt in your partner’s sexual pleasure
  • When you are in the “flow” of sex you are experiencing a micro-nirvana
  • When sex deteriorates in a relationship it is an indication of deeper communication and commitment issues
  • The free play of joyful sex is as necessary as a good sleep, once you’ve experienced it, you crave it, and are somewhat restless and unsatisfied in life, without it
  • Sex is not everything, but it’s a lot

And I have a few ideas about how to discover your partner’s inner joy while having sex.

  • Always approach sex more as play than work or a goal-oriented task (the orgasm is cool, and fundamental, but it’s not always necessary for joyful sex).
  • Sex can be fast and furious (a quickie) or long an luxurious (afternoon delight: bath, massage, sex, nap).
  • One-sided sex is fine, and nice if you can get it. (This is one I’m still working on, how to just lay back and enjoy an event just for me.)
  • Sexual energy can be shut down or limited by stress, alcohol, drugs, hunger, exhaustion, worry about work, hyper-focus on the orgasm of either partner.
  • Every sexual encounter with another person is an opportunity to unlock some new pathways of sexual joy, both your partners’ and your own.
  • The more playful and unscripted sex can become, the more flexible and adaptable your relationship becomes.
  • Core sexual satisfaction soothes over all kinds of frustrations and disappointments in life and in your relationship. You still need to talk about any problems in your relationship, but when the sex is “worth it” you will be a better listener and be more committed to the necessary negotiations to keep the other aspects of your relationship healthy.

I don’t know that it is much more complicated than that. You want joyful sex, you explore and ask for a joyful partner. And when the chemistry is ON you can imagine seeking ever deeper levels of connection with this partner.

If you can find your way to playful sex you can find your way to the inner joy of sex that just might give you a longer life.

Even after 11 years of marriage and the duties of becoming parents to two lovely kids, I never lost my joyful appetite for my wife. Somewhere, she began to pull away and shut down her joyful sexual being. It was hard for both of us. But, as bad as it got, I still remembered and sought out the joyful sex I had imprinted between us. I was not willing to compromise, even if I was willing to delay and sublimate my desire while she “worked through some stuff.” When she didn’t return to our sexual bed for weeks, sometimes months at a time, I know there was more going on than sex.

What I understood even in the end of our relationship is my connection to her had been 100% strong and pure. And it did not diminish over time, until some other aspect of the relationship was failing.

As I move forward in my quest for another joyfully connected partner, I know the sexual chemistry is also a non-negotiable. And it’s really more of an attitude than a technique or prowess. If you can find your way to playful sex you can find your way to the inner joy of sex that just might give you a longer life. And a longer life with more joyful sex… well… that may be an enlightened path right there.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

back to On Dating Again

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image: kiss, pedro ribeiro simões, creative commons usage


My Funny Man Divorce: A Little Bill Murray a Touch of Robin Williams Mixed w/ Ferris Bueller

OFF-billmurray

If anyone can explain why he hasn’t been able to find the love of his life it’s Bill Murray. And I’ve often been likened to a younger Bill, so I read this Vanity Fair article with a bit of self-interest.

“Not to diminish a relationship with a woman but I can’t take care of another relationship if I can’t take care of the things I really need to take care of the most. It’s not a selfish thing . . . it’s just sort of an obligation.” – Bill Murray

What Mr. Murray latches onto as his reason for not being in a relationship is his own lack of attention and self-examination. He mentions his children from his previous two marriages, but it’s clear Bill hasn’t found what he’s seeking in a woman.

Murray did admit that he wonders why, at 64-years-old, he still hasn’t found the great love of his life.

“I do think about that. I’m not sure what I am getting done here. I do have kids. I have children that I am responsible for and I enjoy that very much. And that wouldn’t have happened without women.” – ibid

>He knows he need to so the self-examination work, but he doesn’t really want to do it. He’d rather show up as a comedian extraordinaire and find his love in the public embrace. One of my favorite movies with Bill is Lost in Translation. It seems to capture the loss and ennui of Mr. Murray’s self-reveal in this article. Fascinated and crushing on the young Scarlett Johansen, Mr. Murray tells much of his life story. I’m guessing that this film captured a bit of what it must be like to be Bill Murray. Detached and disoriented by the “jobs” that send him all over the world. Drawn to youth and beauty. But in this touching film, the father-figure chooses not to take advantage of the young woman. It’s an amazing moment. And it’s a huge win for both characters and the film.

Only from a place of inner-wisdom and self-knowledge can you hope to regain your balance in life and open your heart back up to the possibility of love again.

And Mr. Murray plays his role in a number of Wes Anderson movies as well. Perhaps it is easier for him to act out the scripts that others put in his mouth rather that examine or work through his own troubles.

Robin Williams is another character and body type I’ve been associated with. I share the bear-ish shape with these two rock stars as well as some of their demons. Whatever depression Robin was dealing with, he killed himself while his adoring wife slept in the next room. How terrifying. How dark his night must’ve been to extinguish even his bright star of hope.

AS a bit of a frenetic funny man, myself (I’m not putting myself in the same league with these greats, please.) I am also prone to flights of fantasy and falls of desperation. And it’s wonderful to hear that someone as buoyant as Bill Murray can come out and share his own difficulties, much like he does in Translation. I can take a different path from either of these body doubles. (I wrote myself in as Ferris Bueller in divorce, as well.

I am committed to self-examination and taking care of as much of my sh*t as possible. In the same spirit I can do what it takes to keep my dark thoughts at bay. Often it is the self-examination and self-revelations that come from doing deep work, that keeps me above water. Bill speaks of the difficulties of stripping off the mask and looking at the ugly truth.

Asked what has stopped him from committing to himself, Murray continued, “What stops [any of] us is we’re kinda really ugly if we look really hard. We’re not who we think we are. We’re not as wonderful as we think we are. It’s a little bit of a shock . . . it’s hard.” – ibid

As men, we are often not encouraged to dig deep and feel what’s going one. The man’s role in the world is to be strong, to be stoic, and to be a good provider. I don’t see either of these men being described as feeling fathers. Perhaps Mr. Murray has had to distance himself a little from his role as a father. (Of course, I have no idea.)

What it takes, as a man, to deal with divorce is the courage to strip away the facade and let the feelings and frustrations out. You can do this in therapy, on a blog, or with friends. You cannot do this with your kids or your ex-wife. But most of all, you have to do it. You have to strip back down underneath Bill’s Caddyshack character and understand what’s hurting inside. Only from that place of inner-wisdom and self-knowledge can you hope to regain your balance in life and open your heart back up to the possibility of love again. Because with the risk of love comes the risk of failure, again.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

Note: My brush with greatness involves Bill Murray. I was on the set of Ghostbusters, my sister worked for Warner Bros. at the time. During a break Bill came around the corner and saw a teenage boy standing there in red painter pants. “Whoooooo’s the madman!” he shouted, as he reached out and shoot my hand.

References:

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images: bill murray, publicity shots


For Hire: Used Husband, Classic Model, Works Well With Kids

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I’m feeling a bit like a for sale or for hire ad on Craigslist.

Upbeat and optimistic dad of two middle-school kids, seeks pleasant and easy-going woman for casual and romantic evenings. Looking for an extraordinary woman in need of service and support. I’m touch-oriented. I thrive on honest and open communication. I’m over playing any mind games, and am looking for a steady relationship.

I didn’t really mean for this to be a personal ad. Let’s cut to the chase.

I’m a former husband and a current father. I am more focused on my kids than on my own relationship status, and for the moment, that’s how I believe it should be. I do have time in my schedule to accommodate a relationship, and now that I’ve gotten my act a little more together, I’m putting our a few feelers again. I’d like a relationship. I thrive in proximity to a nurturing and active woman. In fact, I expand creatively when I have some sexual chemistry in my life. Oh, what wonderful things that chemistry does to our souls.

When I’m not so aggressive about looking for an available woman, my entire body relaxes just a bit. Rather than hunting and pursuing, today I’m going to continue to refine my package.

In relationship I tend to think less about myself. Or, to put it another way, I spend a good bit of time thinking about, imagining, writing poetry, singing, in response to the growing warmth in my heart. I’m a hopeful romantic. I know the right romance is yet to come. I got close in marriage number two. And perhaps now, with a good bit of recovery time in between, I’m re-centered and ready.

Perhaps, I say, because I also enjoy my seemingly limitless alone time. When I’m in a creative mode the “off” evenings seem like a gift. I would’ve had a hard time negotiating a single evening off to go into my music studio before the kids went to bed. So I worked creatively between 10:30 and 2:30 at night. Any wonder I was a bit tired as the corporate work routine wore on, and my double-lit candle began to burn perilously close to meeting at the center. I was inspired and yet constrained. As a family man, as a fully engaged father, it was okay. But my creative drive was suffering under the time constraints.

Of course as a single man on a regular schedule with my kids I go into some weekends knowing I have 5 nights in a row with minimal obligations. I could set up some activities to keep me busy, but I’m over that period of my recovery. Now I see the juicy potential of that time and I am jumping into those nights with a euphoria that will be hard to give up, when a relationship re-grounds my flight. I’m looking forward to that, but it will be a change.

Already I had a moment of awareness when the last date nearly turned into a girlfriend over a three-day period of romantic, lusty, courtship. She bailed out. (See She Came On Like a Freight Train – The Woman Who Says “Yes”) And though she gave me some reason, I’m not sure it wasn’t just her “holy shit what if this happens” moment. She too was highly creative and a full-time single parent, with little or no support from her ex. That’s a scary place to be, I’m sure. But when she was pouring on the fuel in the first two days of our “dating” I began to not only get ramped up romantically, I began to turn my evening attentions towards her and away from my creative projects.

That is a transition I want, mind you, but it came on so quickly with her, that I didn’t really have a chance to warm to the idea. In a day we met from a Tinder connection, and in the second day she was texting me alluring (non-sexual) photos. But she was in my head. She was changing the course of my week and we’d just met.

In the end, I think the derailment was more an indicator of her actual stability rather than the projection she was showing me. She did have some amazing effect on me. I was ready and willing to lay down all available nights in search of her sweet spot. And that too was an indication of how unrealistic I had become while basking in the light of such a white-hot romance. When the euphoric state hits too fast, I’ve learned that something is off. Kind of like the woman who got this amazingly glazed look in her eyes as we were making love. I thought she was blissed out. Turns out she was vaping pot in the bathroom just before sex. Um… No. (see My Casual Sex Experience – First Lesson)

I don’t need drama or high theater. And at the moment I “want” more than “need” a woman.

Okay, so I got a big YES/NO and I’m a bit lonely at the moment. And by lonely I really mean hungry. I’m hungry for a woman, for that connection, for the scent, touch, tasted, and imaginative rush that comes from being with someone who turns you one. And at the same time (this is not a cop out) I am willing to wait and work on myself, my physical fitness, my musical project that hits the stage on Dec. 5th, my own internal creative inspiration. I’m happy. I’m alone. And I’m dialing back the hunter-mode a bit.

When I’m not so aggressive about looking for an available woman, my entire body relaxes just a bit. Rather than hunting and pursuing, today I’m going to continue to refine my package. Sure, I’m flirty and aware of every breathing female in a 50-foot radius, but I’m content to appreciate and smile. When there’s a smile back, I’m also satisfied with that. I’d rather see if there are additional signals, additional indications that might illuminate some “mutual” attraction, without the forcefulness of approach and courtship.

One recent example. I was picking up my daughter from a new friend’s house. The mom was there and very attractive, and yes I noticed, not wearing a ring. She was playful and touched my arm a few times as she expressed herself. (Ah, my type, a touchy -feely person.) And yet, also not my type: she was just heading into her divorce. She was preparing the house for sale. And according to my daughter, she and the dad didn’t get a long at all.

Quit a contrast from the rest of my daughter’s friends the weekend before when she said, “Everyone at the sleep over had divorced parents.” It’s becoming the norm. And at a 50% failure rate, you’re likely to have just as many divorces as you have marriages.

So she was amazingly pretty and open. She was not exactly in my “type” mode, but she was wearing little or no makeup, she was practical and happy to chat with me about our kids. She was reaching out to connect with me. And that was enough. I let the moment just be a nice moment. (Yes, I’ll admit I tried to get my daughter to give me some contact info so I could give her the martial arts instructor’s name.) And while I was revved up by her presence, I was also clear in one thing: divorces are hard and getting INTO a relationship as you’re getting OUT of your marriage is a terrible idea. I wasn’t going to stand-in for the maelstrom.

And so, I’ve been girlfriend free since the end of the summer and it’s fine. I’d rather not be. But I’d rather be alone that coping with another person’s major emotional distress. I don’t need drama or high theater. And at the moment I “want” more than “need” a woman. Sure, I’m hungry for a mate, but I’m also aware that I’m hungry for an adventure at the same time.

Re-center, refocus on myself and my growth. < My current mantra.

But I’m putting up the services available ads as a way to feel like I’m at least fishing for an amazing catch. I’m also enjoying the boat ride around this new pond of older single women.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

back to On Dating Again

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image: headless hunter, jd hancock, creative commons usage


Tinder Matches: Is Swiping the New Evolution?

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A swipe right for YES and a swipe left for NOPE. This tiny superficial action is the basis for the new dating app Tinder. (I know it’s not *that* new, but it’s new for us over-40s.) And there’s even the, “Oops, she was hot and I swiped the wrong way.” No remedy for that. You’ve got one shot at them. If you fail-swipe they are either gone for ever, or temporarily in your YES column. (Those you can easily un-match.) There is no un-do.

The dating odds are only improved by upping your numbers. Tinder is one simple way to do that.

If you can get the little beast running on your phone, you’re in for some fun. A sort of fun, until the novelty wears off, and it does wear off. There are only three kinds of filtering in Tinder: 1. age-range; 2. geographic proximity; 3. male or female. And from there you are on your own. Jump into a new part of town, check Tinder. Fly to a new city for business, checkTinder. Want a mid-day jolt of dopamine, check Tinder.

But the success at then taking a “match” to an in-person date is a bit more of a trick. There’s simply not much to go on from their Tinder profile. If that’s okay with you, jump in and see what you find. See if Tinder is your gateway beyond the Match.coms and OK Cupids. My milage has varied tremendously.

You have very few clues before you reach out and contact a “match” on Tinder.

  • They’ve swiped you YES (unless it was an accident) and therefore your photos appear to be within their “desirable” range
  • A few photos can give you “some” indication of what they look like (but pictures are easy to manipulate and might be YEARS old)
  • They might have a short bio
  • You can see a few of their mutual Facebook interests
  • You can see how many Facebook connections you have

And it’s this last one that could provide a keyhole into a deeper examination of this “potential.” See, I don’t want to waste a lot of time on near-misses, and I want to spend zero time on “nah” matches. So a little sleuthing can help me determine if there’s any extraordinary in the Tinder match before I reach out to begin the flirtation and logistics portion of the process.

If you want to get a closer look at your Tinder match you can cruise the “mutual friends” section of Tinder and look for someone you know. The better you know them the more likely it will be that you can get insider info on this person. Of course the first step is to find them in the “friends” tab of your friend on Facebook. And since Tinder uses real first names, you’ll probably be able to find your Tinder target pretty easily. And if they have a public Facebook profile, Boom, you’ve got more information than anyone would share on a dating site. What are they into? What does today’s selfie look like? What kind of updates do they post about their interests or themselves?

That’s the beauty of Tinder: it is 100% photo-driven. Either you are a YES or a NOPE to someone.

And digging a little deeper (you can actually do this on ANY dating site) you can take their photos (even a screen grab from Tinder works) and run them through Google’s image search. If there’s a photo that they also shared on LinkedIn or Instagram, DING, you’ve got another source of info about this potential. It might seem like stalking, but if you think people aren’t doing this, umm… maybe you should get off the net. Google spiders everything and if you’ve posted a photo somewhere, and then used that same photo on your dating profile, um… well, you need to be informed that this is happening.

PERSONAL DATING DATA: Go try it on your dating profile pics. Pick one and go to Google.com. Then click on the Images tab and you will see an area you can drag your photo onto and Google will do the rest. You might be surprised, or you might WANT people to find out more about you.  If you’re photos are too revealing, you might select other ones to use on your Tinder profile.

Anyway, we’ve come full circle now back to purely physical attraction as an indicator of potential chemistry. It’s an easy place to start. And that’s the beauty of Tinder: it is 100% photo-driven. Either you are a YES or a NOPE to someone. And perhaps that’s as good an indication (even if wildy superficial) as any of your potential match with someone. A friend was giving me a hard time about online dating, a number of months ago. She was saying how she had never tried it and thought it was demeaning and awful that I would judge someone purely on their photos.

“You might be missing a really great women. The perfect woman for you, in fact. Because you’re so stuck on the superficial appearances.”

“You are right. However, it’s a numbers game,” I told her. “If you have a better suggestion of how to filter down 1,823 potential matches into a few that I can manage, I’d be open to your suggestions. “Curb appeal” is the quickest filter I know, just like in real estate. If you don’t like the way the house looks from the street, you’re not going to be all that happy about living there.

Get it or not, Tinder is booming. And my experience with two actual in-person meetings was surprisingly good. One hit and one miss. Unfortunately the hit turned into a false positive, but that’s also part of the game. You need a lot of potentials to find the next YES. I mean the real yes. The next relationship. I’ve been at it for over two years and the odds are only improved by upping your numbers. Tinder is one simple way to do that.

From there, I take my time before meeting someone. I want to learn more before wasting an evening on small talk with a big NO. And in my new learnings I think a phone call is mandatory. I want to hear her voice and imagine her before I meet her in-person, and that requires a bit more than a photo and bio, for me.

Get your Tinder, Match, or OK Cupid on, and get on with getting it on.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

back to On Dating Again

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image: tinder costume, nathan rupert, creative commons usage (this may be the costume for me, if I had a halloween party)


Reversing the Flow: Putting Women in Charge of Courtship

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What if we didn’t behave like male animals? What if we truly gave the woman the lead. Sure, we’d smile, flirt, and cajole. But what if we left it at that? Didn’t make the proposition. Didn’t pursue. And what if, then, the activated woman actually came in our direction. Don’t you think, if SHE was interested, I mean, really interested, she’d let you know?

[Note: I’m not saying the idea is to make the woman do all the work in exploring or setting up a relationship. I am saying, as a man it is difficult for me to let the woman make the first move in expressing an interest. If I relax a bit, and quit hitting on women, maybe we will treat each other differently from the start. Establish our chemistry on a mutual level, rather than something concocted by my revved up hunter.]

Okay, since coming up with this idea a few days ago I’m amazed at what it has changed in my approach towards women. Here’s what I noticed.

  1. By giving every woman the free pass from my amorous attention I have noticed that my interactions are easier and less focused.
  2. There are a lot fewer distractions in my day when I’m not scanning for “women with potential.”
  3. The flow of a conversation is much cleaner when I’m not suggesting or flirting in any way.
  4. I really want a woman who wants me. I have to let her get there. And I have to become the “someone” she would want. (that’s my job)

We can get too intense. Perhaps, men are *often* too intense, as in all the time. If we dial back the focus a bit, and put the attention on the woman, separate from her sexual being, we can begin to lighten up. It’s easy for me with women in their twenties and younger, but women of my own age or in their 30’s or 40’s it takes a change in my mindset. Playing with this idea recently I was talking to a woman on the tennis court yesterday.

I’m alone. Fine. I’m retooling. I’m in a progression of rebuilding a number of things in my life that are (at this moment) more important than a relationship.

She was in her late thirties and quite fit. She was a happy and aggressive tennis player, and I enjoyed watching her hit the ball. As we were on a break from the cardio workout, I noticed she was wearing a Marshall Amplifiers gimme cap. I asked her, “So are you a rock girl?” And what I noticed was my attention was on her answer and not on the idea that this might form an opening for a proposition. She talked about her “previous time in bands” and the asked, “What kind of guitar do you play?” And we were IN. Except I wasn’t interested, or I was clearly deflecting any suggestive feelings, and we talked guitars for a bit. And we played some tennis.

Later I asked her if she had heard a friend of mine, “another local rock girl who played a mean Les Paul.” She hadn’t. And that was it. That was the cool part, there was nothing I wanted from her. It was if I had just flipped a switch and put my dick back in my pants and just had a conversation with a pretty, strong, and young woman who was playing tennis at the same time I was.

I think often we (as men) are driven a bit to hard to find the relationship. I know I am. And I know at this moment, several months out from having any kind of intimate relationship, that I’m a bit more hungry than usual. I would normally have a tendency towards hunting and tracking. But in this case, I was able to *just let her be.* It sounds like a simple thing. But it’s really the change of mind that has allowed me to just CHILL THE F OUT.

I’m alone. Fine. I’m retooling. I’m in a progression of rebuilding a number of things in my life that are (at this moment) more important than a relationship. When I’m in hunter mode I don’t see things as clearly. I can see how, a week ago my conversation with this same woman had a bit of the hunt in it. (POEM LINK) And this week, I felt happier around her, and happy to admire her without any intentions towards dating her.

I was happy with my neutral approach. And a few hours later I had another wakeup moment in this same realm. I was doing some work with a company and needed to get together with one of their staff, who happened to be a recent graduate. We made plans to meet at a coffee shop in the afternoon. And as I was examining my own “chill” mode she sent me a message that put a whole different chill on my hunter imagination.

“I’ve got epilepsy and I don’t drive.”

Boom.

What a powerful moment. What I got from my inner compass was something like this…

  • setting up business date with a cute young woman
  • obviously not a date-type coffee, she was very young
  • resetting my own “hungry hunter” mode back to “chill”
  • she put my heart in my hands with her comment, so matter-of-fact: I’m cute, young, and damaged, and still SO CHEERFUL.

What I got was my own natural tendency to assess the situation on many levels. And in this moment of self-regulation she delivered the coupe de grace, with a smile. She was a beautifully damaged woman. Something else came to mind, from my experience with friends who have a chronic illness. I said it out loud, “She is not her disease.”

I’m hungry, but I’m interested in a woman who stays YES first. THEN I will show her my Tiger.

And to take my own vulnerability to the next level, “She is not a target.” She is not a “potential.” And not because she was disabled, but just for the reason that I’m pulling back my hunter focus. I’m giving the controls back to the woman. And thinking I was enlightened, or at least in a mode of evolving, she showed me how much further I had to go. Would she be attractive to me if she had not had an illness? No. But her beauty and vibrancy was palpable and poignant.

When we met she was an amazingly positive and bright young woman. I related a few stories to her about my daughter. And I could see how that’s more the relationship I could see between us. She wanted to learn some of the digital marketing craft from me. I had nothing but a desire to help and encourage her.

Conclusion: I don’t know where I’m going with this, exactly. I know that I’m dialing back the hunter-focus and paying more attention to women as people and not as “potentials.” Of course do this normally, but consciously setting the OFF switch I’m thinking that I will hear and related to women better. And the full reveal is this: I want a woman who WANTS me. I’m often too busy wanting her. Or wanting to make myself someone she’d fall in love with. I’m just me. I’m working on me. And I’m a pretty conscious male. But I can be even more intentional in all of my relationships with women. Let’s start there. If SHE wants to let me know about her desire, cool, other wise I will assume it’s a NO, and we’re not in a “potential” situation.

And maybe this is what women feel all the time. The men are sizing them up as they might size up a meal. I’m hungry, but I’m interested in a woman who stays YES first. THEN I will show her my Tiger.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

I had a momentary thought: Boy I’m sure gonna regret this idea a year from now when I’m still waiting for a woman to make the first move. (grin)

Back to On Dating Again

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image: coffee date, waiting, rachel sarai, creative commons usage


Haunted By the Ghost of a Kiss

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Okay, I’ll admit it: I’ve not been the same since I had the euphoric hit with my first Tinder date. Nothing since has even come close. I’m actually taking an O2 break, and working on myself for a bit before jumping back into the dating pool. I mean, I’m looking, but I’m not interested in anything less that fantastic. And for THREE STRANGE DAYS I had it. But what changed? Do I believe her story? Or did something cool rapidly? Was there something I did? Was she actually a bit manic when we met and coming down a few days later, realized “Nope, he’s not what I’m looking for.”

Sure. It’s happened to me. I got intoxicated once by a woman who kissed like a teenager. The hope and inspiration in that kissing was all I needed. But it was a short runway. And before we attained flight, I had a moment to assess the actual woman rather than her lips and sexy texts and …

I’m happy and sad to have missed the madness we could have created together. But madness is not what I need.

Okay, it’s an old story. Sure it’s a new dawn for me, but ONE close miss has been enough to upset my optimistic approach to dating again. I’m a bit jaded. I don’t want FIRST DATES. Ever! Okay, that’s not accurate. Let me try again. First dates can be a real drag. I’ve had about three, TOTAL, in four years that were worth the price of a cup of coffee. And I’ve had a lot more that should have never happened. I’m learning. But what my crush showed me, was how close I am to manic passion myself.

I was ready to leap. I was kissing and fantasizing and talking with this woman. And each time she showed up, all three times, I was again fascinated by her looks, her humor, and her passionate style. And she appeared to rise to the occasion as well. Leaning in on the second date, in the parking lot and kissing me with a fury. She texted me later, “I kiss like I make love.” SHIT. She was on fire. But perhaps she was also showing how out of balance she was in her life, as well.

It was a furiously fast pace. But when the chemistry is on, you know it. And with both of you feel it’s on, and are *both* able to express it… The rush is like a drug. You’re chemical romance revs up and you’re ready to go. Ready for whatever. Flexible. Encouraged. Hot.

Usually, I was the one in pursuit. This time I had a live wire. Was something off? Was it me?

And then a bump on the runway. An emergency exit. And a text that said

Screen Shot 2014-10-10 at 5.50.17 AM

What? Where did “at least be friends” come from. It wasn’t in our vocabulary. We weren’t broken up, we hadn’t fought. We had merely paused with the understanding that her life had suddenly become unmanageable. Okay. That’s fine. But this was a breakup text. This was what you say when you’re shutting down a relationship.

Okay. Information received. And yet, she haunts me. I was flipping through my texts and her name showed up. “DAMN,” I thought. Rather than just a little break, a bit of time to sort out the chaos of her immediate life transition, she had kissed me off with a “be friends” text.

What does this say about where she was? Had I been led on? Or did we both merely feedback and connect and generate a lot of heat? Then, as things got complex in her life, I was the simplest item to eject? And sure, messy love is consuming. But she had fired up Tinder as well? She had said she was looking for the next relationship. She shut down her Tinder app within 24 hours of meeting me. “That’s how I do it. I’m not looking to date. I’m looking to find one person and see where things go.” I’m pretty sure that’s a summation of her story. And perhaps the “where things go” had changed for her after date/meeting number three.

I’m not obsessing. But I’m also having a hard time moving on from this moment in the sun of passion, messiness, and an enthusiastic partner.

On the flip side she had a few “um, wait a minute” items

  • She was smashingly good-looking (a smile that melted me)
  • She responded quickly and affirmatively to our Tinder correspondence
  • We met within 24 hours and kissed late into the second hour of our first date
  • She lit up with energy and joy when we met, but maybe it was just too good to be true, maybe it was *too much* energy
  • A few unsolicited selfies moved things on rather quickly
  • Her fluency with sexual communication came through in our early phone calls
  • She gave me a heat rash when I thought about her (things were just a tad too hot)

Um, those can all be good things. But in this case they might have been too good to be true. Too energetic. Too willing to jump into the fantasy of where things could go.

As I browsed our texts and saw the enticing photos she sent me I was saddened for a moment as I recalled the hope she kindled. But it was a false hope. And this is obvious by the way she exited and removed all potential for the future with that one text. When I saw that again, I said to myself. “If you open this one back up, you are just spending wasted energy on a dead-end. She’d contact you again if she were interested. I mean, if *she* was as thrilled as you were, she’d be asking for another glass of wine as soon as things settled down.”

But it wasn’t the settling down that needed to happen for her. Her life had been chaos before we met, and was chaos when we began “dating” and it devolved into even bigger chaos. I’m happy and sad to have missed the madness we could have created together. But madness is not what I need. I’ve had a taste of that before too. And I’m not interested in heading back into something intoxicating yet lacking in fundamental integrity. And maybe that’s the rub. She was awesome. Or what she *showed me* was awesome. Maybe the chaos she was showing was only what she couldn’t hide of her maelstrom. Perhaps beneath the writhing and hopeful surface she was a vortex.

I’d meet her and kiss her today if she called. But I’m pretty clear now, that she won’t. And it would not be the best thing for me either. Heady, but not healthy. Oh love, you fickle bitch.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

back to On Dating Again

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image: unknown woman image, russian photographer site vk, creative commons usage


Tinder Dating is New and Fun and Lacking Most Filters

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Okay, so we’re all getting in on the game of Tinder. (see: She Came On Like a Freight Train – The Woman Who Says “Yes”) But it’s more game than dating, in my experience. Swiping left or right might be a bad metaphor for relationships. If your response and requirements are so superficial, perhaps you are looking for something different than I am.

Online dating is hard enough. With most online dating sites you get photos and a few words to determine if the person is a potential fit. LESSON #1: 99% of them are not.

Okay, so what do we have to go on with Tinder?

  • Photos
  • Pseudo-anonymity
  • Number of mutual friends on FB (um, if you haven’t figured this out yet, you can easily FIND the actual person on FB once you have a picture and mutual friend, duh!)
  • Some FB similarities
  • Filtered only by proximity and age-range
  • A “am I hot or not” swipe system for saying YES or NOPE.

There is very little about Tinder that is really new. But it’s the new thing. The idea of it being a hookup tool for younger users, might be true, but as us older folks jump on, we’re looking for a new “dating app.” And if less is more then Tinder might be for you.

I have to admit, I was encouraged by my first Tinder experience. I mean, wow. The first MATCH ever followed through within a day and we were kissing on the first date. Wow.

Here is how my impression of Tinder has changed over time.

A. My initial impression before I got a Match. “Um, yeah this is good for the hookup kids.”

B. My impression after my first YES and eventual MEH: “Hot damn, maybe there are more just like her.”

C. My impression now after date #2 and #3: “Yeah, it’s worse than Match.com. I’ve got nothing more than a photo. And the superficial selection process is somewhat demeaning.”

And yet… After all that, Tinder has something going for it. Simplicity. There’s something sort of thrilling at opening up the app and seeing the little concentric circles going radiating out from your picture, “Finding people nearby.” But of course, that promise is quickly brought back to reality. The women in my sphere are not looking for a hookup, as the “nearby” might suggest. And that’s fine, that’s not really what I’m after either.

tinder-screenSo I keep coming back, I keep opening the app and watching the little circles do their magic, like some magical searching mechanism, that I keep encouraging, “Find me the girl, Tinder. Find her now!”

But once you’ve gotten over the initial rush, and I have to admit my first experience *was* extraordinary, you’ve got a dating app, with *much less* information than you have on other sites. The newness of the swipe grows old as the app opens up to “everyone” within your radius. Once you get going (I think Tinder rewards frequent check-ins) the blur of Tinder-ites becomes more of a tedium than a thrill.

You’ve got the same problems as any other online dating site, but you have less information. My second Tinder date was an amazing looker in her pictures, and when she arrived at our coffee date, disclaiming that she was “coming directly from the horse barn,” it was as if she were trying to look unattractive. I couldn’t make the connection between who I was seeing and who I had swiped right. And my third Tinder date was just… boring. Zero connection. Zero game. I guess I should’ve taken notice of how quickly she wanted to meet without any banter.

Banter is good. Banter and the art of the selfie, may be the two sharpest indicators of a match for me. If she’s got no verbal game I’m done. If her pictures are glam shots (I’m swiping left anyway) or don’t match up with who shows up, I’m gone. With Tinder, you’ve got very few indicators of who you might be setting up to enjoy or waste time with.

I’m really done with the boring “hello” date. My criteria for a face-to-face meeting these days is “amazing.” If she’s not got some quality or fantastic attractant I’m not going to follow-up. I’ve got over 2,000 “hidden” women profiles on Match. That’s a lot of filtering. If I had to swipe 2,000 women to the left, my finger is going to get tired real quick. Tinder, check it out, but don’t be surprised to see a lot of the same faces from Match or OK Cupid.

Perhaps Tinder’s real winning application is travel. If you’re heading into town for a music festival, for example, and you’d like to meet someone for drinks, Tinder might be your winner app. It’s easy to open when you hit the ground. You are likely to see a lot of potentials in your proximity. And if that’s what you’re looking for, who knows, perhaps adults are hooking up on Tinder as much as the kids are. I’ve not travelled with Tinder yet, but I think it might be a neat experiment.

In the end the simplicity is the pro and con of Tinder. It’s easy and sorta-fun to open the app and see who shows up. It’s a little hit of “maybe” dopamine. But the thrill quickly wears off after you’ve been swiping for a while without any YESes. And sad when you get no matches at all. Maybe #4 is going to be a hit for me. That’s always the thought with online dating sites, “maybe she’s out there NOW,” I’d better go check.

Give it a go and let me know what you think.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: almost every girl on tinder, post memes, creative commons usage


Mis-Match in Online Dating: A 10-point Overview of Match.com

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I say it all the time, I’m not much into dating. I’d rather have a relationship. The idea of a new woman *is* exciting, however the steps to uncover and develop a relationship are much longer and (I won’t say laborious) tedious. Last week I was on a Match.com date and I was wondering how I ended up at the table with this woman. She was no match. And if I had looked a bit deeper into her photographs instead of wishing into them I would’ve avoided an hour of … uncomfortable conversation.

So I’m going to examine what Match.com has got going for it, and what parts of the process and site are unproductive, for me. Again, please note my current bias away from dating. And even with that bias, dating is the only way back to a relationship, if that’s what I ultimately want. So here we go.

I don’t check-in to Match.com on a regular basis. I’m in a self-seeking phase at the moment. I do still have the app on my phone and when someone signals that they are interested in me I get a little red dot on my phone and a message on the lock screen. “Someone sent you a wink.” My immediate reaction is always a sarcastic, “Oh boy!”

Let’s open up Match and look around for a minute.

match-mainscreen

I have periods of high activity on my end. I jump on, search for attractive and left leaning women and send them a “hello.” My ratio at this moment is 51 sent vs. 9 received. But that’s okay. We aspire, we connect based on very shallow preferences, and we see what happens. My profile seems to be getting plenty of views. 4 new views since the last time I checked in. And I’ve had some emails and conversations going between myself and several women. All good “activity.”

But the activity doesn’t necessarily mean matches. And my actual success ratio with actual dates via Match.com is about 51 dates to 1 relationship. Now, to be fair, that relationship is the first one post-divorce that changed my entire approach and perspective on what I was looking for, but… the numbers are not in our favor. That’s what you should understand early on. Dating is a numbers game. View a lot of profiles, put some interesting enticements in the water, and if you get a bite or two try and take it to the next step, the “hello” date. But there’s a lot of unproductive dates and wasted time spent trying to sift through the BS and uncover the winners. And if she is too much of a winner, she won’t have the time of day for you as a man. A recent date said she gets between 10 and 15 propositions a day. I get 1 or 2 a week. The ritual still falls along traditional lines: men pursue, women accept or reject our offers.

So let’s get some information about the women who “viewed me.”

match-viewedme

And while one out of seven isn’t bad, as I looked into this woman, before arranging the date, I realized I was forcing the “yes” a bit. She was attractive, but there were a number of things that didn’t jive for me. So I called it off. But this is the general window-shopping mode of match. You have one main image, their “seeking men” age range, and a brief headline. The green highlights are a paid feature you can add, but I’m not sure it does anything to dress up a marginal profile.

And maybe that’s issue number one with online dating in general. There are a lot of people just playing around. I have had an ongoing pursuit of a very attractive woman on Match who has accepted two dates and backed out both times within an hour of meeting. She let me know she’s not really ready for a relationship or even dating, but that trolling around on the site gives her some pleasure. She’s just playing. She doesn’t really want a date. Odd.

And there are certainly the profiles that begin, “My girlfriend made me put this up,” or “I’d never imagined I’d be on an online dating site, but…” that are clear indications that they are just playing around. Checking to see if Ryan Gosling shows up and professes a crush on them. Or something… I guess fielding 1o messages a night might be entertaining, if you’re bored and in need of a superficial ego boost. (That’s not a man’s experience, or this man’s experience. I don’t know, maybe Ryan is here and is having a hard time keeping his inbox from exploding.)

So let’s go deeper and open up one of the more appealing women who have viewed me. Now I guess, already I’m swimming against the current, because she didn’t leave any indication that she was interested. No like, wink, or message. But still, she thought my initial photo and profile blurb was attractive enough to check me out. Let’s see if we see any mutual connections.

match-seemore

 

And it seems the hardest part is finding a mutual interest, but that’s the same challenge with dating in general. The hope being, that somewhere in the 860 women who “match” my criteria there is a woman who is actually interested in a relationship and then interested in meeting me, in particular.

match-search

It’s a hard and long hunt, but what are the alternatives? Bars? Nah.

Match has one other special feature, but I’ve found it to be rather useless. Their expert algorithm calculates 7 matches a day. I’ve stopped even opening them. They are so far off that I find them more annoying than helpful.

So to sum up Match.com in my experience.

  1. Men are expected to reach out to the women and make the introductions
  2. Women tend to get a high volume of “hellos” from real suitors and creeps, while men tend to get very few
  3. A lot of people on Match.com are just messing around, socializing, playing with the idea of dating
  4. You have to weed through a lot of mis-matches before finding people who are in my zone
  5. The Weekly Matches feature is more of a distraction
  6. Finding my way through the 860 matches is a challenge and often feels hopeless
  7. A deep examination of the person’s photographs often says more than their words (looking for the one real photo, that captures the essence)
  8. Once a “hello” date is established there are still plenty of opportunities for the other person to back out (I just backed out of ms. checkmark)
  9. Finally, if you meet and BOTH feel some chemistry, there is a chance to “begin”
  10. If it’s a numbers game, we have to keep playing

Match is currently my favorite site. It seems the “pay” aspect weeds out a few more of the “playing around” people than OKCupid or Plenty of Fish. And while I prefer the questions on OKCupid, the profiles do a bit of the work, provided the woman answered honestly and with some depth.

It’s all a crap shoot. Photos lie. Profiles tell half-truths. And some of us, interested in actually establishing a relationship, spend time in the backwaters of the game sorting through “more like her” to find alternative sorting methods for the overwhelming number of non-matches it takes dig through to find a possible match.

Keep going, there are more people joining every day.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Girl Gone: She Doesn’t Need Or Want My Attention

OFF-girlgone

In fact, often, our attention is unwanted all together. We can easily forget this if we’re not paying attention to our actions.

The beautiful young woman sat at a table across from me. Unblemished, blue-eyed and blonde, and opened her Macbook Air. And of course she drank tea and not coffee. And I caught myself being fascinated. A bit too fascinated.

She’s as plain and simple, and amazingly beautiful. The last thing she wants from me, or perhaps anyone in this place, is a proposition.

As men it is easy to slip into the hunter mode. I’m alone, slightly lonely, and she’s a beautiful potential. And she’s not. It’s hard to remember that all women are NOT potentials. And this woman is clearly out of my own desirable age range. Of course, she is still pretty and nice to observe. But more like a gymnast in the Olympics, and not as a potential partner.

I don’t desire her. In fact she reminds me more of my 11 yo daughter than any kind of relationship candidate. Still we’re trained, conditioned, prone, to look. Are we recalling our earlier lives? Are we simply appreciating one of god’s beautiful creations? What does she hold, in terms of my intentions? Nothing. I am merely an observer.

What then is objectification?

  • Seeing every woman as a potential sex partner
  • Appreciating a feature of a woman (large breasts, for example) rather than the entire woman
  • Qualifying or ranking women in terms of beauty or sexual potential
  • Unwanted appreciations or propositions from a stranger

Okay, so I’m clearly not in those patterns. I can see her. Appreciate her. And leave her along. But it is a process I’m learning. My natural instinct was in full display a few weeks ago when I was attending a cardio tennis workout at a local tennis club. A young woman joined our group and I was again “fascinated” by her youth, fitness, and natural beauty. And I’ll admit to a weakness for women in tennis skirts.

And as the first class ended I had this impulse to ask her about her relationship status. What? I was tempted, but I quelled the urge and looked into what was going on for me and for her.

First her: She was in a tennis class to get fit and get back into tennis. She was only able to join the class, she mentioned, because her youngest daughter had finally entered pre-k. (Um, so she was YOUNG.) And she had every right to join our class without being hit on. BOOM.

Me: She was attractive, fit, and wearing a black Lululemon tennis skirt. She was fun and happy. She played tennis. And she radiated her happiness at being there, playing, and being unmolested. I got it. I stopped short of saying anything but, “See ya next time.” And I even had to check my intentions on that, as he skipped off the court. I wasn’t prospecting, I was merely being welcoming.

In a world full of hungry men, I am sure women are constantly under the sexual predators focus. My intention is not to be that predator. Unwanted affection or attention is an invasion. I know it’s hard to see that sometimes, but even the common, “You look great,” can be a probing statement rather than a complement. I was certain that I wasn’t heading down that road. But I will admit that I was hoping she was at the next class.

As a man currently not in a relationship, I am more acutely aware of the pretty women in my presence. But my hunger is mine alone.

This focus for me is more about understanding the world I want my daughter to inherit. Men need to get our acts together and keep our testosterone in our pants. I asked on Facebook a few months ago about this.

“So when a beautiful woman enters the room. And you notice. She’s obviously put a lot of effort into showing up and being gorgeous. What’s the appropriate response?”

The overwhelming answer from women was, “Nothing. She’s not dressed up for you.”

The other options were, “Smile.” And the ever-risky, “You look nice.” And leave it at that.

Today’s culture has the idea that she is looking to get laid. Or that she’s seeking the attention of every man. She’s not. She might be dressed to the nines for an interview, for a new boyfriend, or just because she likes to dress up.

And today, the woman at the table working on her Macbook and listening to music is not dressed up or made up at all. She’s as plain and simple, and amazingly beautiful. The last thing she wants from me, or perhaps anyone in this place, is a proposition. Today we’re full of the idea that catcalls and overt expressions of lust are okay. They aren’t. It’s almost as if I’d protect her from a predator. Of course I won’t… Or wait, I am. I am protecting her from me and my on hunger, my own predator instincts.

Women are beautiful. As a man currently not in a relationship, I am more acutely aware of the pretty women in my presence. But my hunger is mine alone. And my responsibility is to keep my lust and desire to myself. There are certain situations where this attraction impulse is appropriate and part of the ritual. On a date, in a dance club, perhaps. But here in public, at a coffee shop, on the tennis court, she, every woman, deserves our respect not our misdirected intentions. I’ll keep my intentions to myself, thank you very much. I’m sure she’s enjoying her tea just fine without my encouragement or encroachment.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

I hope this is the effect of my coffee love letter poems. Simple appreciation and zero impact.

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image: girl gone, the off parent, cc 2014


If You Were a Car, What Car Would You Be? And Why?

OFF-car

I’m a marketing man, by trade, so often we use little tricks to get clients to think about their businesses. “What kind of car would your business be? Describe the features and outstanding qualities that distinguish your make and model.”

I have found that this metaphor, cars, works for people as well. And in my efforts to dial in myself and my type, I think it might be fun to play a bit with the “what kind of car are you” and “what kind of car are you looking for” metaphor for a minute and see if we gain any insights.

You might still be carrying some scars from previous races, but overall, you are still a fine example of beauty and grace.

First me. I am a 2004 BMW 3-series. Great look and body style. Performance oriented. Flashier 10 years ago, but still classic. I’m sporting a bit of extra weight due to some prior body damage, but you can still recognize the lines and strength of the design.

Okay, so I’m not the perfectly maintained version of myself. I’ve got some things I can still work on. And probably the main feature, that I’m less that enthusiastic about is my belly. (There I admitted it.) My love handles have been with me my entire life, and they expand and shrink with the seasons and how much attention I’m paying to diet and exercise. Okay, I’m fine with that. And I think… I think I’m pretty comfortable with myself. But I’m sucking in my gut a lot more than I’d like. It’s like a tightness, almost an anxiety feeling, when I’m trying to compress myself to look a bit fitter than I am. But I’ve done this almost my entire life. So I am familiar with the feeling. I’m pretty sure I’d be more confident and joyous about myself if I spent a tiny bit more time walking or playing tennis, and a few less nights snacking and staying up late. Okay, that’s me.

Her. This one is harder. So I’ll take it in stages.

German engineering. I want a performance car. I want design and form to follow the function of speed and agility. I have a high standard. American cars are almost abhorrent to me. Again, this is MY bias. I  understand that. But I’m looking for a well-designed and classy form.

Within 5 years of my own vintage. The newer models are cool, and offer more features, more performance, but I’m less obsessed with perfection and flash. I’d prefer a car with a few miles on it, broken in, all the kinks worked out, well-maintained, but less needy.

Minimal body damage. When something is broken you fix it. When a tire is worn or low you replace it. You might still be carrying some scars from previous races, but overall, you are still a fine example of beauty and grace. You don’t have to be flawless. I’m not sure my body damage falls within my own range of desirability or not. I think I do, but I’d rather get a bit more of my racing shape back, rather that compromise.

No compromise. The big thing is having a car you love to drive. Spending time inside, even in traffic, or carpooling kids back and forth, is a pleasure. I want to be well matched. Confident and casual about our relationship. I want you to drive sometimes, but I’ll do the lion’s share.

No maintenance lights. A few “check engine” warnings and we’re probably going to part ways. If you haven’t kept a descent maintenance schedule, we might have some problems ahead. I’m flexible, but I won’t be stuck in the repair shop and very happy about it. Do your work, fix your major mechanical flaws, and let’s meet up for a Sunday morning drive together. We should fit. We should purr together and not feel the need to race ahead or prove anything.

Once we’ve travelled together for a few trips, perhaps she will join me in my car, or I will gladly hop in her car for a spin up the mountain pass.

Confidence and stability. Performance driving cars share a love for the road. Curves, dips, and hills are all part of the landscape. And with a well-built car, the twists are a joy to navigate. Cars with less attention to handling become more unstable as the journey continues. I’d like a partner in the confidence and stability class.

However she shows up, the next woman will be a performance car. She will have a few miles on her, like me, and have some wisdom and aging scars. Once we’ve travelled together for a few trips, perhaps she will join me in my car, or I will gladly hop in her car for a spin up the mountain pass. I’m into speed and beauty, but I’m also realistic about myself and my vintage. All the new models, primed and polished, are fun to look at, but I don’t aspire to be in a new model. The payments are too high, and the insurance is killer.

If you’re looking for a classic German sports car, with low miles and good mechanical structure… I am too.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

Note: This post really got me thinking about my shape. The body damage is unnecessary. I am carrying extra weight from stress, depression, anger, sadness, and plain old laziness. Too lazy to eat right. Too lazy to pick up a few more healthy snacks. But mainly, just unwilling to make a commitment to change my diet in the same way I have changed my attitudes about divorce and my single life. That all changes today. A new blog is born. Seek me out and I’ll give you the address. And you can hold me accountable for the next major life transition. Back to my classic beauty and form. I might be nearing 52, but I’m primed for the second half of my life. I’d rather do it from a comfortable place in my skin, and not just an accepting place.

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image: sporty front end of my new beemer, ian mcwilliams, creative commons usage


How Much Sex Can I Expect As I Grow Older? If I Work At It?

OFF-oldsex

I used to worry about frequency of sex in my marriage. Then I got divorced. And now I worry about sex at all, with someone other than myself. Well, to be honest, I don’t worry, but I do go without for long periods of time. I hear that I could go out seeking sex and probably be fairly successful. I hear that women are into casual sex at our age and now-divorced status. That’s what I hear.

I’m not that way. I’m cut from a monogamous cloth. It’s how I’m wired. It’s what I want. And every opportunity, since my divorce, for casual sex, I’ve dabbled, but ultimately turned it down. I don’t want FWB. I don’t want a one-night stand. (I did that a couple times in college. No thanks.) I don’t want to cruise online dating sites for hookups. Or Ashley Madison for married folks who want to cheat. Gross. That’s not me. And that’s not my idea of love and sex and what I want from a relationship.

So how much are most people having sex?

I tell most women, early on in the dating process, if the relationship does not have long-term potential then I’m not that interested.

You might be surprised to know the average sex counts for dating couples and married couples differs substantially. Or you might not be surprised by that, you might assume that sex will cool after you get married. But what about divorced adults, often with kids, how often are those cute women on OK Cupid getting laid? What’s their frequency if they were unbridled by societally imposed limits? I need to ask my friend and OK Cupid serial dater what her experience has been. But she’s not looking for sex, exactly. She wants a relationship. She wants long-term. She wants “what’s next” to be something that lasts.

I don’t know if that’s the normal single divorced attitude either. I’ve met a friend of hers who seems to be more bent towards screwing while it’s good and looking for what’s next when it gets tiresome. Maybe she’s experiencing a pent up unmet needs hangover from her previous marriage.

I remember meeting a recently divorced woman at a singles party arranged by a mutual friend who was happy to tell me within minutes of our introduction that she had never been fully satisfied sexual by a man. And certainly since her divorce, she had not be able to find an adequate lover who was capable of keeping up with her in bed. She was insatiable, she said. Obsessive and a bit gross, was my read, but any way, she formed at least a portion of the single and divorced female demographic. So the answer is, all kinds of women, all kinds of needs, all different amounts of sex.

But often for women, sex is not the objective. And for some men (breaking the stereotype here) are also looking for something beyond the frequent and satisfactory orgasm.

But when you first get divorced you’re sure the time is ripe for ripping up the sheets with as many women as possible. And it didn’t’ happen for me. Not that I didn’t go out on some Match.com and OKCupid dates while I was still tragically hurt from my divorce. And not that there weren’t any potentially willing partners, if I wanted to play act the dance to get them into bed. But I didn’t. I still don’t.

I tell most women, early on in the dating process, if the relationship does not have long-term potential then I’m not that interested. Sex with someone, anyone, is not very much more fulfilling than porn and my own left hand. So I don’t look for this type of sexual gratification as an initial part of my dating process. And I’m pretty clear on my dating profiles that I’m not looking to hook up or jump in the sack. (And research on OK Cupid also shows that men putting those vibes out AT ALL, get very low response rates. Very low. So keep your libido in your pants, at least in your profile and opening communications with a woman.)

Among men, both poorer physical health at older ages and a decrease in its association with frequency are significant factors in the decline. A change in the association between happiness and frequency is also a significant factor for men.

And there have been a few women who contacted me first, with some sort of “hey your cute” proposition. And the two that I did go meet were really a bit more into it than I was. I simply did not care to proceed, even with a hot woman in a bikini who was downing gold margaritas, to the play that could’ve led to sex. Nope. That wasn’t attractive to me in the least.

So how much sex is everyone having out there? Is there some research we can turn to for answers?  If you look at the scholarly approach to data you get this report: Sexual Frequency Decline from Midlife to Later Life – Journals of Gerontology. And that’s really the demographic I’m interested in. (Millennials, who are probably not reading a divorce and single-parenting blog will have to go elsewhere for their data.)

Here’s the summary: “For women, change in the proportion widowed is a significant factor in sexual frequency decline, as is change in the association between happiness and sexual frequency. Among men, both poorer physical health at older ages and a decrease in its association with frequency are significant factors in the decline. A change in the association between happiness and frequency is also a significant factor for men. Reverse causality may explain the happiness–frequency findings for both men and women.”

Okay, but that doesn’t really help us parse our men and women and married vs divorced. For that I went to The Kinsey Institute: sex frequency by age and marital status chart.

First the men:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 8.59.03 AM

click to view full-size chart

And then the women:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 8.59.18 AM

Click to view full-size chart

Okay, so to take my age and desired trajectory (I’m being a bit silly here) let’s see what this data can tell us about the best relationship configuration for having frequent sex on into the sunset years.

frequency-sunset-years-650

Partnered seems to be the winner. Married comes in a close second and the poor single 70+ dude, no matter how fit and virile he is, looks like he’s alone a lot.

Seems pretty simple, but hey, good to know.

reference: The Kinsey Institute: sex frequency by age and marital status

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: Italy – 1948: what would you like to do, dennis jarvis, creative commons usage