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

dating

Big 5 Relationship Questions to Answer Before You Start Dating Again

OFF-girl-boy-plus

Just like everything else in life, dating requires goals. Either you are working towards those goals, or away from them. And if you don’t even know them yet, I can assure you, you are working away from them. Getting clear about why you are dating is a great first step. The further you can go down the path of clarity, in understanding what you are looking for, why you are attracted to the people you are attracted to, and what you ultimate goal is… Well, without goals, you’re going to end up starting over a lot.

The -1 response is an easy No. The +1 response is also an easy Yes. But the ones I get confused about are the neutrals.

Each time I go on a date I try to get clearer about what worked and what didn’t. I’m not in this for the fun of it, I’m pretty focused on not-being-too-focused on dating. And each time I come up empty-handed, from a developing relationship, or even a dating experience that teaches me something new, I pause and reflect. I am in one of those moments. Just let down from a very nice/short high of “almost” and back to nothing.

Walking with a friend today, I answered the question again about long-term commitment.

“Are you looking to get married again?” my friend asked.

“I don’t know. But I’m looking for a relationship. What’s after that is a bit more about the relating and the mutual goals we set.”

Here are my BIG 5 RELATIONSHIP QUESTIONS you should answer before you start dating. Get yourself and your priorities oriented before you jump back into the dating pool. There is a lot of BS in the process of dating, both online profiles and meeting the person for the first time. And there are a lot of reason for wanting to date, many of which may not have anything to do with a relationship. That’s fine. I’m not interested in casual sex or building up my network of friends. I’m interested in a relationship. If that’s your perspective as well, perhaps these questions will provide some clarity out there in the ambiguous world of dating.

  1. Are you ready for a relationship or are you dating for fun and nighttime activities?
  2. Do you have a good sense of what makes you happy?
  3. What are the traits you are looking for in a partner? Is physical beauty the number one trait?
  4. How would a good first date experience look and feel?
  5. As you progress along the dating experience with someone, how would it unfold in your mind?

When you come to a relationship there has got to be a physical attraction, that’s a basic requirement for me. After we’ve done the “hi I think you’re cute” date we can both move on to what’s next. I’m noticing a new variation on the theme for me. When I’m meeting a woman for the first time I get one of three responses.

Negative: there’s no chemistry at all. The feeling may or may not be mutual. But there’s no moving forward for me.

Neutral: there might be chemistry, there might be a spark, but the response, or resonance with the other person is a bit less clear. Perhaps they are not an excitable time. Perhaps they don’t show their happiness in the same way I do. Or maybe their having a “meh” reaction and are having a hard time letting me know.

Positive: these are so rare for me, that I’m certain that they are the harbingers of a real relationship potential. These are the women who light up visually and verbally in our conversation. You don’t have to ask about a next date, because you’ve already begun planning things, or imagining things to do together.

If I am interested in a relationship, that’s going to take time, patience, perspective, and the right YES woman. And with all those things factored in, a MAYBE is so far-fetched that I am really wasting time.

What I’ve found about myself in these three situations is interesting. The -1 response is an easy No. The +1 response is also an easy Yes. But the ones I get confused about are the neutrals. And I think I’ve found myself pursuing neutrals even when I know the HIT is not there. Why? Because there are so few positives. So few women that light up the way I imagine I light up. So few women who are clear enough about what they want, and that find what I am has some of those qualities. So few YES responses. So I push on the maybe dates a bit too hard.

I’m learning. The YES is going to come from a Positive. When I am going after a neutral, I’m really compromising.

So let’s make a pact, in our next round of dating “work” I want to commit to pursuing only the clear YES women.

Everything else is a distraction. If I am interested in a relationship, that’s going to take time, patience, perspective, and the right YES woman. And with all those things factored in, a MAYBE is so far-fetched that I am really wasting time. I don’t want to mess around with “dating.” My goal is a relationship. And then a Relationship. And then a RELATIONSHIP. I’m not sure what those steps mean, but I am sure that it will only begin with a YES.

From here on NO and MAYBE are the same response. I want a YES and I want it whenever the right woman, who’s answered most of the questions above for herself, shows up and says, “What’s next.”

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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The Cute and Happy Woman is Nearby, I’ve Seen Her

OFF-wfm-girl

Dating and looking for romance is an odd ritual. Even as an adult, the patterns are much more like high school (maybe elementary school) than adult life. We play games. We use social networks. We put forward ideas and photos that don’t really represent our lives or our current physical fitness, all for the purpose of what?

This afternoon I am sitting at the mecca for healthy and self-conscious women, Whole Foods Market (the Austin Mothership), and I am simply observing the parade of women passing by on the up and down escalator into the building. And I can see them. The happy and attractive women are here. And many of them are attached, married, dating, or otherwise unavailable. And certainly at least some of them are not currently dating anyone, AKA: available.

Is it the predatory nature of our species that keeps our eyes to the ground of the phone, that keeps us from looking at each other?

And it’s a wonderful confirmation of all that is human about our different sizes, shapes, colors, and approaches to life. You can almost see it in the dress and attitudes of the people heading into, or just finishing up their organic, high-priced, lifestyle. I start at Whole Foods, because this seems to be the highest concentration of people in my preferred demographic. Young, upwardly mobile, attractive, and health-conscious, or getting there. I’m okay if she is a bit of a work in progress, or in transition. What I don’t want is someone who’s not even on the same planet yet.

So here they are, passing by in fitness gear, in professional work outfits, and in all stages of dress, or undress, in-between. And in the stream of women it is an interesting experiment to see who I notice, who is inherently attractive to me.

Of the “potential” types who have passed by this morning are these archetypes:

  • Fit, yoga, just about to do it, done it, or letting you know I’m doing it.
  • Just eatin lunch, stoppin by, on my way to or from work, professional.
  • The dressed-to-the-nines professional woman.
  • Casual, got out of bed, don’t have work to do, hippie.

And of these stereotypes what are the criteria that interests me:

  • Fit or fat (sorry, it’s a harsh light, and unfortunately I fall a bit more on the fat side than I’d like, but that’s life)
  • Distracted or present.
  • My phone is the center of my universe, please don’t disturb me.
  • Athletic and active.
  • Makeup or au-natural.
  • Inked or not. (no need to include the heavily inked in my opinion)
  • Spiffed up or casual.

But the amazing thing I have noticed, in this hour of observation and self-reflection… There is not a lot of joy in the place. The smiles that come up the escalator are not all that apparent. Why is everyone so serious, or distracted, or focused. Why, if they are entering Whole Foods are they not evolved like the food they are aspiring too? Is happiness such a rare trait? Do most people walk around in some form of isolation and closed self-expression? And if so, why?

Is it the predatory nature of our species that keeps our eyes to the ground of the phone, that keeps us from looking at each other? But that can’t be it. Because a lot of these women and men have put a lot of effort and thought into their wardrobe. So what’s the magic ingredient of happiness that is still so rare, even here in this rarefied air of high-end organic produce and natural body lotions?

If I were to conjure her up, at the table next to me, here’s what today’s journey into hunting or trolling has illuminated for me.

I’d like her pre-occupation to be on her kids, her creative projects, her dreams. And if she’s actually single, then I’d like to hear about her ideas about relationships.

1. Happiness above all else. The woman who did sit across from me, who was clear and comfortable with her joyousness, was like a bright light to my magnet. In this swarm of beauty at Whole Foods there is less happiness than I would’ve expected.

2. Fitness within limits. Too obsessive about exercize or abs has tended to result in slightly neurotic partners, in my limited experience. So I shy away from the uber-fit. But then, I’m not uber-fit and have a fairly low trajectory towards six-pack abs. So my fitness level is a bit out of my comfort zone, and I would guess that I’d be looking for someone in the fitness zone, within a few percentage points of my own fitness level, or the fitness level I think is within my reach.

3. External awareness. Are they seeking, open, conscious. You can almost see it.

4. A feeling of optimism, even when no one is looking. In all this coming and going, I want to see someone who shines in their own inner joy. You can tell. It’s like a halo or a force field. The “up” woman exudes her joy.

5. Eye contact and smiles. She’s looking. She’s expressing her joy. She’s so much more attractive than any uber-fit, uber-yoga’d babe in my mind.

6. Mostly makeup and ink free. I’m just not a big makeup person. There’s a time and a place for getting spiffed up and going out, but the grocery story, even a holy mecca like Whole Foods, is not the time for too much fashion work. And if they are mostly in makeup all the time, they’re probably not the right person for me. And tattoos can be interesting, but they also seem to indicate some kind of addiction when they have to branch all the way down someone’s arm or leg. And when they are trying to think of the next tattoo. If that’s a focus or preoccupation, I’m gonna pass.

I’d like her pre-occupation to be on her kids, her creative projects, her dreams. And if she’s actually single, then I’d like to hear about her ideas about relationships. If you’re not looking for a relationship, that’s fine. I am. If you’re thinking you’re looking for a relationship, but have no idea what that would look like, well… You might give it some thought.

And when you figure it out, I’m right over here, on this computer, typing a love poem to you. When I get bold, perhaps I’ll give it to you. But not right away, I’m enjoying my voyurism. This is fantasy land. And each of these women passing could be grabbing fresh vegitables for dinner, for me. Or maybe, I’m here, working and I’ll get the fresh produce for tonight. Whatever it takes to lighten us up a bit.

That’s the goal. A lighter life. A path that is about joining and enhancing rather than controlling. A relationship that is founded on mutual attraction and joy rather than any kind of necessity. I want a partner, I don’t need a partner. Let me think about that… Yes, I’d say that’s true. I’m happier with a partner, when things are going well. But the last few years of my marriage are a type of relationship I will work to avoid.

Let’s find the lighter path together. And if we find ourselves walking along it together, and continually renewing our intentions to get together again, maybe that’s enough. I’m really ready for the “ready and centered” woman to show up. She’s nearby, I can feel it. I’m just not sure how to catch her eye. I’m smiling, though.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: whole foods girl, the author, cc 2014


She Came On Like a Freight Train – The Woman Who Says “Yes”

OFF-yes-girl

The light at the end of the tunnel may be an oncoming train, or a love crush barreling down on you.

My first Tinder crush went swimmingly and ended without a whimper. The poem (i could fall in love with a dress if it shone in the sun) was written about the final moments of this most amazing firework pop and fizzle of a relationship to-date. She was here, she came on like a freight train, and now she has passed by in the night without so much as a whimper. And I let her go. We let each other go. “Maybe for later, when your life sorts itself out a bit,” I said to her.

“I’ve always done this. I’ve always gotten into a romantic relationship right at the beginning of some huge change. I did it with my divorce, I did it when I graduated from college, and I was doing it again with you. But I’ve got to stop, this time. I’ve got to make a change. Something has got to give.”

In fact, for me, the poem was a part of the letting go process. What started out as three amazingly intense days of courtship, felt a bit too good to be true. And maybe it was. Or maybe the universe shifted, for both of us, and we needed to regroup, alone. That is certainly the case for her. And me? Well, I’m not sure if the relationship part of it needed regrouping, but I was aware of my tendency to stretch out towards someone, even after the connection was severed.

I love the wake up text. The little ritual of saying “Good Morning, Sunshine.” Just letting the other person know you are thinking of them.

It’s about being 50/50. It’s about being contributing members of the growing relationship. And when one or another partner drops out of the 50/50 partnership, it’s about stopping and listening to hear what is going on. In our case, her life had taken a wild and unexpected turn, like a rocket blasting off from the back of our collective freight train, once I had gotten on the same track with her.

Enough metaphor. She was amazing. She looked and spoke as deliciously as she texted and showed up in her best profile pictures. I could see through the styling, and honored the core brilliance that came out from the moment we met. And we met with great joy, in the middle of a huge bookstore, playing hide and seek. And she found me in the blank book section. “My favorite section,” I had texted her earlier.

“Is it appropriate for persons’s under 18 years of age?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Is it the kid’s section?”

“No.”

“Literature?”

“Great guess, but no.”

I picked the meeting spot, she picked the game. We hugged and laughed in the sweet smelling area of leather bindings and blank pages. And we talked and talked and walked around the store for a couple hours.

“I really would like to kiss you,” I said, somewhere in the middle of the second hour. “I’m just letting you know that.”

She smiled. “I would like that too,” she said, with a sly smile on her face. I was blinded a bit by the direct sunlight, but I was already feeling a bit smitten. “In a bit,” she continued.

We moved our coffees and chat into a more shady part of the outdoor park, and continued leaping from books, to blogs, to writing, to food. She was a #foodie. I am not a #foodie, but I worked with #foodies for two years. We had a lot to talk about and a lot of mutual energy to fuel us along.

She reached out her hands at some point and pulled my face in for the kiss. She planted the kiss. She initiated. She took charge. And I went back in for a second kiss a few minutes later. Reciprocating. But alas, the mosquitos and sunlight were pushing us back inside, and when there was no place to sit, we decided to rendezvous, perhaps tomorrow.

“Yes, definitely,” she said. ” I’d like to give you a kiss after your first day at your new job.”

And we texted a few more times over the night. The next morning we picked up with the chatter. This is the fun of new dating. I love the wake up text. The little ritual of saying “Good Morning, Sunshine.” Just letting the other person know you are thinking of them. And it goes both ways. It’s a simple tap. A connection that requires little more than a willingness to imagine a relationship.

We texted a few times and spoke once over the weekend. This is from full-tilt boogie, three days in a row, amazing morning selfie of a kiss, and on to ZIP.

It’s like a virtual “good morning” kiss. Except, of course, you’ve just met. But still, there is a lot of potential in those little hellos. And she was a master of the flirt. She called me on my way to work, and we had a spirited conversation about sex, and kids, and relationships, and work. And we made plans to meet for a glass of wine after work. DONE. She was efficient, hilarious, and full of love and life. I was liking this development.

In all but one of my post-divorce dating experiences I have been the over-sharing partner. I have courted when perhaps I should’ve played coy. I have sent a poem when I might have been better served to just be quiet. The whole absence makes the heart grow fonder, thing seems more like game playing as adults. If you like someone, tell them. If they like you back, jump in. She was certainly jumping in. And I was excited to see how things played out.

The wine bar date was no less exhilarating. Except this time I was anticipating the future kisses with mad fantasies. And she arrived looking like the smiling picture she had sent me earlier in the day. She was radiant. And we jostled along in our second date, wine bar, “what was your day like” conversation. It was a moment between anything actually happening. We had exchanged some very intimate information via text and phone calls, but we still didn’t really know each other. Not at all. But there was a lot of energy and intention, and that was enough to set us both on a fast track.

In the parking lot, saying goodbye she kissed me, or we kissed, again. This time there was no casual innuendo, it was all kissing. And while it didn’t last more than a minute, I was electrified. Not by the kiss, but by the potential behind the kiss. Here was a beautiful woman, saying she was ready for a relationship, saying that she thought I was cute and funny and smart, and kissing me madly in the parking lot. And we made plans to see each other the next day as well. And we parted. I walked to my car with the lift of someone who’s been well-kissed.

That was the first real moment between us, and the last good moment between us at the same time.

As things would progress, I was fired the next day, due mostly to this blog. And that collapse of my plan, nearly cratered the relationship all in one fail swoop. But she wanted to give me a hug, and to support me in this massive bummer. We met. We exchanged some more information about our current state of unknowingness. She started talking about how she had no business getting involved with anyone at this moment… And then she had to go get her daughter. We kissed awkwardly in the parking lot, in broad daylight, in a hurry. And she’d let me know her schedule over the next three days was going to be mad. So we parted in this semi-unresolved, semi-unstable place.

And then her life changed dramatically as well. (I can’t tell you about it, or I’d have to shoot you.) And I saw her smile and her texts almost drain right off my phone. The communication went from 80 mph back to a full-stop in a hurry.

I went with my “hold on loosely” strategy. Pinging, but not over pinging. A couple messages without any requests or commitment. Essentially I was supporting her in this new opportunity. And she was going with it, and full of her life. We texted a few times and spoke once over the weekend. This is from full-tilt boogie, three days in a row, amazing morning selfie of a kiss, and on to ZIP. Nothing? It was painful. It was also understandable.

The poem I was writing over the weekend to try and give a love poem to frame the joy I was getting into. Of course, the story played out, the poem went unfinished and then like magic the story completed to resolve the poem without the need for another letter.

I am ready for the dress in the sun. I am hoping there will be an intelligent and attractive woman inside who is also ready for me.

She had come and we had sparked. When we talked on the phone this morning, it was to say, “You were awesome, the timing is not awesome.” And I told her the poem was a capture of that amazing moment in the parking lot. Full of promise and potential and all imaginary. And now the poem was the answer, the complete story of us.

i could fall in love with a dress if it shone in the sunlight

I did start falling. And she let me. She responded with a “yes.” And now we’ve moved back into our individual stories, to see if at some time down the road our romance would make more sense. But we were both happy, when we spoke today. I was so glad to have rubbed up against her at such an amazing time for both of us. And we may or may not ever see each other again, and that’s okay too. But the poem captures the full experience for me.

I am ready for the dress in the sun. I am hoping there will be an intelligent and attractive woman inside who is also ready for me. This time, I got the dress and the girl, but the timing was amiss. But she gave me a taste of what things might look like when someone DOES show up, and that someone IS ready for a relationship.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: girl in the beach, bruno caimi, creative commons usage


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

OFF-dontworry

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

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 8.21.06 AM

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

plansforsat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 8.54.56 AM

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

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

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

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

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

And this made me smile today.

tinder-yes

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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

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

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 8.33.13 AM


The Happy, the Fit, and the Beautiful

OFF-fit-beauty

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

Happy.

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

Fit.

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

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

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

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

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

Beautiful.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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


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

OFF-cigars

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

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

“What? Cigars?”

“I guess that’s a no then.”

“Do YOU like cigars?” I asked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh?”

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

“Is that what you are looking for?”

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

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

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

“Wow, really. What was that like.”

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

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

“Yes. That was hard.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

plansforsat

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

Nothing.

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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My Casual Sex Experience – First Lesson

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Following on my Casual Sex post, there is a little more unpacking required to understand what casual sex is and isn’t, to me. Here are a few of MY assumptions about casual sex:

IS:

  • Spontaneous
  • Present moment – not imagining the future plans
  • Fresh, new, dangerous (in your mind)
  • Two willing and lust-filled partners
  • All about enjoyment of both partners

IS NOT:

  • Relationship material (not necessarily)
  • Full of conditions or restrictions
  • Building a connection with the partner
  • Assuming you are sleeping over even if it’s late
  • Making Mexican breakfasts in the morning
  • Waking up together
  • Love making

Again, I am not trying to write the rules of casual sex, I am merely trying to orient myself to the ingredients in my experience (very limited) that make up sex without strings. (NSA – no strings attached)

In my most recent fling I was amazed at my ability to remain surface with this woman in distress. She was in the very early stages of divorce, still in a bit of euphoria at being released. And I knew the emotional reality was inescapable. You can’t walk away from the plane crash while the plane is still in the air. And nobody gets out unscathed. Still she was electric with her passion and rocket body, as she teased and touched my arm in response to my flirtatious banter.

And I really enjoyed her. Her condo, her dog, snuggling on her couch and watching OITNB. We had a wonderful thing going on. But one romantic dinner and few more encounters later and the OITNB season 2 finale, we were done. She simply asked if I would be mad if she wanted to go upstairs and sleep alone.

Done.

I suspect the dating site is more of an escape, as I had been, from the crushing work of separating from someone you’ve been married to most of your adult life.

I waved goodbye to all of her cool condo newness, to her sweet dog who was beginning to get attached to the sound of my non-threatening male voice. I grabbed the Ben and Jerry’s I’d brought over and headed for the door. She didn’t even walk me out, as she had done every time before. She was hurting. Something in her exit strategy was not going to plan. And she would rather not have someone else around while she felt things. I understood. And in some ways I appreciated the casual nature of our moment together. I was not responsible to fix or assist her in getting through her emotional collapse.

In some ways I was prepared to be there for her, but I knew my connection was more about the fantastic breasts with the perfect tan lines. I was not signing on for processing old relationships, dealing with the money of divorce, or being her emotional punching, snuggling, pushing, pulling, partner. Nope, I walked out of the door, slightly sad, and slightly relieved.

I have thought about her over the last week. And I have sent her a few uplifting texts that did not suggest getting together, even if that was my intent. And since we’re still connected on Match.com I see that she is still active. (Online in the last 3 hours.) So perhaps it was just me. Maybe this was her way of exiting the fling that no longer met her needs. Or if there was closeness developing between me and her dog, perhaps she didn’t like how that was feeling.

Here, alone again, I can reset and rebalance before moving back onto the playing field.

I suspect the dating site is more of an escape, as I had been, from the crushing work of separating from someone you’ve been married to most of your adult life. She didn’t know how to date, or what dating meant. I think she was pretty clear that we weren’t dating.

She made a joke about something her husband said. “You’d better hookup with someone who can afford you,” he told her. “Because I don’t what them touching my money.”

It was sad. “Of course,” I said, “It’s not his money any more, once you’re divorced.” But the sadness was the fact that they weren’t divorced yet. And her still-husband was just starting to lawyer up. He was asking her, according to her, if this is really what she wanted.

It’s kind of like me, asking her, “Is there anything I can do for you?”

Her ex was trying to prevent a costly divorce. And I was hoping to see her costly breasts again.

Is that callous? I’m sorry. I found it sort of funny. Not at her expense, I could not anticipate what she was about to go through. Nor could I take responsibility for any of the pain and chaos that was about to hit her secure little world of working-by-choice two days a week, as a way to establish something more interesting in her life than her crossfit workouts, and children who were off and living on their own.

I am not apologizing for our relationship. It was fast, furious, and full of fun. And in the end she gave me the exit sign and said thank you. And I suppose that’s the beauty of keeping the attachment as surface as possible. My desire is about her body and the pleasure I derived from being with her. But even cuddling in bed after sex was a struggle for her. I think it was such a foreign activity that she wanted to turn the TV on immediately. And being a bit of a non-TV person that was my clue to leave.

But she needed cuddling when I last saw her. And she wasn’t willing to let me even close to whatever was hurting her inside. We watched the grand climax of season 2 and she asked me to leave and take my goodies with me. I patted the wonderful little dog beside me and kissed her gently on the top of her head.

“Let me know if there is anything I can do for you. I am your friend.”

I’m not looking for “almost” in a relationship. Maybe in some FWB or casual sex way I am, but that is only marginally interesting to me.

And I meant it. Perhaps more than casual sex I am defining FWB (friends with benefits) for myself. I’m pretty sure I’ll never see her crossfit body or her cuddly dog again. And while that carries a hint of sadness for me, since I have no other prospects in my field of vision, it also provides a moment of relief and pause.

Here, alone again, I can reset and rebalance before moving back onto the playing field.

And I’ve had two “hello dates” since then that both seemed to lean towards potential. And one of them, I’m certain by her responses over the following two days, would’ve loved a relationship of some sort. But I’m not looking for “almost” in a relationship. Maybe in some FWB or casual sex way I am, but that is only marginally interesting to me.

If there’s no long-term potential, I’m not all that interested. There I said it again.

I guess this time I’m believing it even more. But there might be room for that tangential fling when the moment arises again. And I might go for it. But, at the moment, I’m not so into that idea. Perhaps my touch-needs were well met with my crossfit maven.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Casual Crossfit Sex

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We’d just finished a rather rawkus roll in the hay and I said, “Whew, maybe I should start doing crossfit with you.”

“What would you get out of crossfit?” she asked. A glow in her face, told the story of her experience.

I didn’t really need to answer that, now did I? But I was winded. We’d just had a energetic and fun sexual encounter and we were still wrapped together in post-coital snuggles. My heart was racing and my lungs were still catching up. See, she had this crossfit body, and even though she was six years older (and at our age that can be a lot more distant than you think) she was uber-fit. And I was expressing my desire, in that moment, to make love to her even better, even more energetically and with more stamina and longevity.

I think it’s about communication. And communication during sex is difficult. Or it can be.

BUT… I’ve been learning recently, that a woman often doesn’t want or need porn-length sex. As men, we’re taught that you’ve got to stay in control, and last as long as you possibly can. But that’s a trap that comes back and haunts you later in life. If you stay controlled during sex you may be missing some of the greatest parts of it: utter and uncontrollable abandon. If it’s all about how-long-can-I-last I am probably not focusing on how-good-can-I-make-it for her.

Okay, so we’re in need of an update around this sex thing and how long should it last. So, from what I’ve been reading (Kiss and Tell – Secrets of Sexual Desire in Women) a woman is usually okay with sex taking about 15 – 20 minutes, rather than an hour or more. What? That was news to me, even in my early 50’s that women didn’t always crave the afternoon-of-love like I did. And that’s not to say that we’ve gone back to wham-bam-thank-you-mam, but we’re somewhere in between.

Again, I think it’s about communication. And communication during sex is difficult. Or it can be.

In my training as a sexual athlete I learned to listen and wait for the woman to have an orgasm first. Always. It was a sense of pride I had, to always wait. Um, okay, but what if the woman often had a hard time achieving orgasm? Or what if they were really just jumping in the sack to meet my need at that moment, and didn’t really care to much about an orgasm for themselves.

Often this difficulty in orgasming could have a direct relationship on their willingness to have sex in the first place. AND if it was all about them, all about me waiting for them, that was going to put some undue pressure on them. What? Pressure on them to have an orgasm? When did we get to worrying about that?

A lot of factors come into play with orgasms, that if we can remove those expectations, we can have more fun making love to the other person and enjoying the act of love making ourselves.

And in this new age of older sex and even sex with new and different women (post-divorce) we’ve got a whole new language of love to figure out. And though orgasms are cool, the can also be an inhibition. It sounds like a contradiction, but let me explain.

I really enjoy making love. Almost all of the aspects of the routine and ritual of courting and coupling, I love. And in the act, I am fully engaged and fully digging it, even if I NEVER have an orgasm. (I don’t me never, that would be a discussion I needed to have with my doctor.) I mean, if I don’t have an orgasm during one of our sexual encounters I am not really disappointed. In fact, some of my desire to crossfit train, as I was expressing it to this woman, was my desire to last longer. To enjoy the act of making love to her, as much as the moment when it climaxed in a fiery release. Hopefully, for both of us.

This time we were successful and our new love making found the momentum it needed for both of us to have an orgasm. Cool. But not necessary for ME to be satisfied. A lot of factors come into play with orgasms, that if we can remove those expectations, we can have more fun making love to the other person and enjoying the act of love making ourselves. If it’s all about the O, then we’ve both got some performing to do.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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An Early Frost: Dating Options and Casual Sex

OFF-fordrinks

As “summer” has officially ended with the kids return to school, the landscape of my dating prospects has also had a dramatic shift.

1. The casual sex bunny has gone into hibernation. Seems the early round divorce work finally found her tender spot and she’s withdrawn diplomatic relations. I’m watching for signs that my heart was involved, but so far I am merely sympathetic to her plight. The early stage divorce process is no picnic, no matter how prepared you think you are. This is the primary reason we kept such a nice casual approach. No need to get deep when the ecstasy and whim might be fleeting. And it was.

What I’m learning at this very moment, is sometimes even the casual thing, is pushing a bit to hard for a relationship.

I count this relationship as a victory in my liberation from the previous “structure and mappings” of my relationship ideas. In some ways, learning to be casual at the beginning, learning to let go of expectations and projections of what will be, is a good thing. And I’m not saying I’m a player now. I don’t think I am. But I do think that if the “r” of relationship is never capitalized it’s okay. It’s not a failure if both of you enter into the arrangement eyes-wide-open.

And thus, I am sad about losing this remarkable woman from my circle of friends. She made the “don’t call me, I’ll call you” nature of her withdrawal pretty clear the last time I was at her house. And maybe she’ll lighten up and contact me later, but pushing into this friendship would not be an advisable strategy.

2. And the second tennis-playing and un-kissed prospect gave me the “friends” proposition last night over a nice bottle of wine. At least there is no longer any ambiguity about where we were heading. No where, according to her. “I like you a lot… But…” And then she felt bad that I didn’t want to jump to a different bar for another drink. Things got kind of frosty on her side, but I think she was apologizing for spoiling the mood more than expressing any loss on her end. “It’s not like you broke my heart,” I said as we hugged in the parking lot. “It’s fine, and I wish you well.”

With this women I was perfectly comfortable with the slow start. The lack of kissing opportunities was balanced by her good flirting. She liked to flirt. She liked to give me a hard time. And all that was cool. Even teasing can be kind of bonding. But her edge was also there, and she readily admitted to being a hard ass, as she sent the first bottle of wine to another table as a gift, because it was so bad.

And she asked the bartender to change the 4 x 4 television so that all screens would be on the US Open. Um, I don’t think that’s going to happen. And it didn’t. But she was happy to ask, in a sort of demanding tone. I could see the control and capture issues pretty clearly, but she had called me for an after-work drink. “Sure.” But I’m pretty sure that’s the last one we’ll have. Oh well, we move along and learn.

I had dodged a potential bullet, getting involved with a harshly critical woman, and was once again clear of the “prospect” nature of our developing relationship.

3. Tinder – the hookup app won’t load on my iPhone. I think it must be karmic or some other reason that the dating app of the new generation won’t load on my phone. It’s funny. And while I like hearing the experiences of one of my male friends, I’m not sure the swipe right or swipe left mode of connecting is all that alluring to me.

Match.com seems to be about the right fit. OK Cupid was cool, but it seems the “free” aspect leads to a lot more people who are not at all ready or really interested in a relationship. And eHarmony… well, we don’t really need to talk about a dating system that feeds you their “matches” rather than letting you browse. I don’t care how awesome their demographic/analytic system is, I want to browse. So the app form of dating is not all that warm for me at the moment. And actually that’s fine. My creativity is blazing, and when I left the blazé woman last night, I was happy. My evening opened back up to creativity and production.

What I’m learning at this very moment, is sometimes even the casual thing, is pushing a bit to hard for a relationship. The tennis-but-no woman was a stretch. She was attractive enough and funny and friendly, but she had such a biting edge that I was glossing over, I’m not sure I was all that clear where my intention was with her. And I think that’s a pretty critical element of dating again after divorce, you need to know what your intention is in dating. If you are looking for casual, great, own that and don’t be disappointed when a few casual prospects grow cold. And if you’re looking for the next Mr. or Mrs. Lovejoy, be cool with that too. It’s mainly about being cool with yourself and what you’re looking for. AND even more importantly, being easy on yourself and your ego as things don’t work out. That too is a learning moment.

Last night as I drove away from the BJ’s I was almost elated. I had dodged a potential bullet, getting involved with a harshly critical woman, and was once again clear of the “prospect” nature of our developing relationship. I told her at the bar, “I don’t need friends to go get a drink with. I’m looking for someone I can kiss at the end of the date.” She had just mentioned moving to another bar so she could smoke a cigarette. Um, what? That would’ve been a deal killer anyway.

Onward, untethered and wide-open again.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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If Age is Just a Number Why Do I Still Want to Lie About It?

OFF-winners

Yadda yadda, people lie about their age. In fact, the woman I’m dating at the moment, said she was 49 in her online profile. And when we met, I couldn’t have told you any different. But she was 57. She admitted it fairly early on in our first date.

I get it. The women who proposition me on Match.com look much more like my mom than I’d care to admit. (Please, at least try to update your look, won’t you?)

If we could forget that number is an age, we might find compatibility in a wider range of people.

And when I first entered the online dating pool I posted my age as 45, rather than 50. It just felt a lot more like my tribe. But I learned pretty quickly that I was mistaken. When you start courting younger women and begin to look for connections beyond youth, beauty, and “having fun,” there might not be a lot of common ground. Your musical tastes will be different. You grew up with different TV shows, movies, bands, global events. It can be done, but I’ve found a lot of comfort in being with women of my own age, or god-forbid, a bit older.

So when this woman was clearly within my range of beauty and fitness and admitted to lying about her age, I was nonplussed. “Yeah, I did that before. (pause) But I am 51.”

Here are few of the assumptions I have about age.

  • People our age (50’s) are often more like my parents than my peers.
  • If you haven’t taken care of yourself (mentally and physically) by the time you are 50, you will be looking 60.
  • Gray hair might be nice, on octogenarians.
  • Fitness can be a factor at any age, but in your 5o’s you’re either fit or you’re not. (And I’m not talking about weight, exactly.)
  • Age is one of the first qualifiers or disqualifies when looking online for a date

I used to like looking at the younger 4o-somethings and imagining… But the actually engagement rate was very low. And when I did hook one in for a date, I was underwhelmed by their banter. It was a missed connection from the start. Even when the cutest girl I had laid eyes on in more than two years was sitting in my car after a first date that involved margaritas, I was tempted but not really interested in kissing her or pursuing the next date.

She was a bit miffed later and she texted me, “You looked like you were going to kiss me, but you didn’t. WTH?”

I was still unclear on what I would get out of a “relationship” with this young runner. She was fit, pretty, smiled and laughed a lot, and we had nothing in common.

So there is some wisdom to the adage, stick with people your own age. At least within your high school class. (That would be a 4-year range on either side of your actual age.)

Now physical age is different from attitude or youthfulness. I am 51, and I’ll admit to taking the George Clooney out of my hair every 6 – 8 weeks, but I’m always getting, “No way,” when I tell the younger women, my real age. (This is not from online dating, I’ve been reporting my real birthday since my second week there–four years ago.) So age is a number, how?

  • What you do in the evenings
  • What you do for fun
  • What you do to stay fit
  • Your curiosity and joy at learning new things
  • How you entertain yourself when you are alone
  • What you bring to the conversation
  • How much energy you have
  • How much joy you have

It is NOT:

  • How much partying you can do
  • How much you like to drink
  • How good you are in bed
  • How flat your stomach is
  • The color of your hair (though I have succumbed to this trap, more for work purposes than dating, but it helps.)

If we could forget that number is an age, we might find compatibility in a wider range of people. But it’s a deal breaker for me. I’m sure the genius 42 year-old is out there. She’s a famous rockstar named Imogen Heap. But there’s a really slim chance we’re ever going to meet. Outside of that, I’ll take beauty, age, and wisdom over fitness, youth, and spontaneity, every time.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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5 Early Warning Signs When Dating: Looking for Mr. or Ms. Lovejoy

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Conducting a rigorous self-examination to help determine my own readiness for dating.

___

Let’s talk about joy for a second. How do you recognize it? When you see a joyful person do you gravitate towards them? Certainly we can spot the absence of joy a mile away. Steer clear of the hottie in the black dress with the angry eyes and enhanced frown. She’s packing heat of a variety we’re much too familiar with from our 11 years of marriage, six of them happy.

As a divorced adult, we have been freed of all (most) of those constraints. Now, instead of suffering through the bad times, we can just move on. When a few too many red flags come up early in a relationship, it’s OK, at this stage in our lives to just say, “Later. And good luck.”

When you are still reeling from the collapse of your marriage, you might be ready for some free love, but the completion of the work needed to actually enjoy it is still a few months or years down the road.

The closer we get to our own innate joy (even when alone) the more we are able to recognize the same joy in others. And it’s a process—we don’t emerge from divorce happy and hopeful. We might think we are, we might hit the ground (dating sites) running, for example, but most likely the divorce process, the recovery from divorce, will take a number of years. I’m sorry to break that news to you if you’re just emerging from an unhappy marriage, but relationships, even starting out, take work. And when you are still reeling from the collapse of your marriage, you might be ready for some free love, but the completion of the work needed to actually enjoy it is still a few months or years down the road.

♦◊♦

For me, it was indeed, several years before I was ready (am ready) to enter into a joyful relationship. Before that time, I was interested in a relationship, but I was not bringing a full and healthy person to the table, so to speak. I was showing up, smiling as much as possible, and telling my happy tales, but I wasn’t able to fake it ’til I made it. I just wasn’t very good at covering up the real emotions that were still wrestling within me. It’s OK. It was actually better for me NOT to get what I wanted. It was necessary for me to spend some time alone, to sort through my regrets and triumphs and decide from a balanced perspective, what I was looking for in “next.”

So, maybe by examining and sharing some of the joyful things I look for in a woman, I can better understand my motivations, and you can better understand the male sex impulse that is often troublesome and misguided. But first, let’s get one thing straight: I am not an apologist for men and their bad habits. I am a thinking and feeling man in search of my next relationship. I’m not clear on what exactly that means, and I am clear that I don’t know. But I do know what I will and will not tolerate in my search for Ms. Lovejoy.

Here are five signs I’ve identified that the man you are looking at is more of a fractured soul than he is letting on.

ONE: He’s too positive.

Everything is great! My kids are great! My ex is great! And my, you are great too! I’m so happy I could sing the Pharrell song all day long. I’m the most positive person most of my friends have ever met. I just radiate positive energy. “You can feel it, right?” Stand back from Mr. Yes. I’ve been this dude. And while I do profess to have a very positive and happy outlook on life, I know that I can overdo it. I once floundered in a lopsided dating experience, because I was so damn positive I was going to be able to shift it from the friend-zone to something more intimate. I was wrong. But even the woman mentioned, “You’re one of the most positive people I’ve ever met.” Yeah sure, I thought, just kiss me then. We never really kissed. And after a few months, I woke up and smelled the coffee. She was not ready for any relationship beyond just holding hands and a sweet peck on the lips at the end of a snuggly evening. Fine, but that’s not what I was looking for. It too me a while to get beyond being so UP. But when I sense it in someone else now, I put up some more awareness filters and look to see if it’s covering up something that’s deeper and unresolved. For me, it wasn’t really about unresolved issues, but I did let a distant dating relationship go on for a long time, thinking my yes-mind was going to convince her to sleep with me. Nope. When the person is too happy, move along.

We are learning. We have no idea what life is supposed to be like after divorce. And dating and relationship building are things we last thought about in our twenties.

TWO: He’s too accommodating.

“Oh sure, we can reschedule,” I texted her for the third time in a month. We’d not been able to work out the first “hello” date. Each time there was some event that came up. And all of them about an hour before we were scheduled to meet. I was accommodating even after the third, “I can’t meet this morning. Sorry.” But I was too accommodating perhaps, and denying that she was giving me all the signs she was not ready at all for a date. When it’s too easy to move the date, you might be looking at someone who’s desperate. Even though she was resetting and I was being accommodating, I was ignoring my own over-accommodating tendencies. And I realize, just as I’m writing this, that she’s a disaster waiting to happen. If she’s reset three times, and within an hour of our meeting … Why do I think she’s going to be a different person in actual relationship. Um … Oops. I’m too accommodating sometimes. I need to move on from this one.

THREE: He’s too eager to listen.

“Women really want you to listen.” It’s advice you’re going to get from both men and women when you start dating again. And the premise is correct. Listening is something we’ve become less and less adept at over the years, and with the increasing pace of life and technological interruptions. So slowing down and paying attention to what the other person is saying, IS important. But it can be over done. When the listening is too animated, too connected, you need to gauge whether someone is being attentive for their own needs or as a strategy. I listened like a therapist. I listened to women complain about their marriages. I listened to them talk about how great their kids were. I even listened to their funny online dating stories. And I listened too much, and too long, when I should’ve ended the “going nowhere” date. But I didn’t. I was trained to listen to women. Almost as a technique to satisfy my marriage, a counseling recommendation, “Just listen. Quit trying to respond before you’ve heard what she’s saying.” Yes, that’s true in relationship, but in a dating, and early dating situation, you need to listen, but do it lightly. When I catch myself listening for overtones and hints, I try to stop. I try to just listen lightly, respond naturally, and just have a conversation. I am not a therapist. And when I listen hard, like I am a therapist, I am really just trying to get you to love me, or to trust me, or to sleep with me.

FOUR: He’s touchy-feely.

I’m a hugger and a toucher. It’s my love language. I express myself through touch. And I feel most loved when I’m being touched. So if I go in for the arm brush too early, be aware that I’m feeling you out for your touchy-feely level. And if I’m too touchy I might be showing my own emptiness or hunger. You might not be ready to be devoured. Are you responsive? Do you recoil when I touch you? (We’re talking first dates here, so either way it’s OK, but it’s giving me a lot of information.) Do you touch me back? Do you lean into the touch? I can tell a lot from a first intentional touch on your shoulder. Sure, I am illustrating a point, but I’m trying to sense out your touchy-feely scale. Are you a 10 like me? Or does touch/hugging/kissing/sex come with deeper reservations? I admit this is a learned technique. And when I touch you, it IS casual, but I am looking for clues to how you will react later on. I’m not doing it in a creepy or manipulative way, but you need to know I’m doing it. And if you are a touchy-feely person as well, we’re going to hit it off wonderfully. If you’re touch-adverse, I’m guessing you’ll give off these clues fairly quickly.

FIVE:  He makes smoldering eye contact.

When I was in my early, and very passionate, months of trying to date, I tried to convey my seriousness and earnestness with my dark and smoldering eyes. I wasn’t trying to affect them. I was just peering out of very emotional eyes and I wanted you to see and notice how sensitive I was. How deeply I felt things that you were saying. And how deeply I wanted to drink you in. That hunger is evident in the eyes. My pools of reflection were deep, and I thought I was showing my deep feeling. What I was doing was using my “honest feelings” as a way to hook you. I’m not sure how well it worked, but it didn’t ever really result in the date I was looking for. But I was deep, deep, I’m telling you. When you see an infinite and sensitive soul in your date, you might sit back a bit and see how desperate that searching feeling gets. Being a pussycat, I never pounced with this dark killer instinct, but I knew I was not 100% ready for what I might get had I leapt into the frenzy from this wounded place.

♦◊♦

What’s the Solution?

Now, most of these things are not tactics. They are simply how I am in real life, only exaggerated about 10X. I do have deep and sensitive eyes, but I shouldn’t really be lasering you with them on the first date. When I’m doing that I’m too hungry, I’m too aggressive, I am too enthusiastically in pursuit of you. And asking me to back off is going to give me the signal and information I’m looking for anyway. When the chemistry is right between us, it’s possible that these clues, or tells, are going to resonate between us. That’s happened a couple of times. And while none of them turned into the long-term relationship I am ultimately seeking, I learned a lot from every experience.

And really, that’s the message I want to get across. We are learning. We have no idea what life is supposed to be like after divorce. And dating and relationship building are things we last thought about in our twenties. The world has changed quite a bit. And our expectations and what we will and will not tolerate have changed quite a bit as well. I am aware of my tendencies towards obsession or over-thinking. When I am free of these habits I am more confident that I am actually ready to try for a relationship again.

Be aware of your seeking patterns and when they are out of balance, or overblown, you might dial back your intensity a bit and examine what’s going on for you. In my case, when I find I’m hyper-extending any of my dating super powers, I try and spend some time not dating, so I can recenter on my goals and needs. With a date in sight, and the potential for sexual intimacy, I’m less able to make rational and self-centered decisions.

When I am clear, I can make rational and appropriate decisions. When the chemistry is ON but the warning signs are also shining bright, I can walk away from the temptation. I don’t want surface relationships. I want whole relationships. Or a single whole relationship, that’s my ultimate goal, one relationship. But I’ve got a long way to go before settling down. And I promise I won’t settle for less than awesome.

When you’re dating again after divorce you’ve got to remember to remain a bit more self-centered. You’re not in this next relationship to compromise. You’re in it for the win. Sure, we’re going to fail, we’re going to make mistakes. But knowing where we play games, or where we accentuate our own desires, the better we can adjust and get more real about what and who we want to be with next.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Erectile Misfire Might Be More About the Sex Than the Dysfunction

OFF-happypills

I will have to put this out first, I have no experience with Viagra(tm) or any of its variants from other pharma companies. That said, I have had occasional drooping member issues. For the most part those occurrences were either alcohol or exhaustion related. BUT… the variant I’d like to examine for a second, from my perspective, is the misfire that is a result of some other issues or distractions.

This is not a scientific study, and I hold no degrees in relationship counseling or medical diagnosis. All I have is myself and my experience for data. But even from this small and finite sample set, I am certain that I have identified several patterns that cause my excitement to exit the room. And of course it’s a two-way street, I have not been able to unlock every single woman I’ve been with either. But I can tell you I give it a very thorough try, and experiment, and I ask for feedback. Still, sometimes things don’t jive. It happens.

I was more aware of the disconnection between the sex I wanted and the sex I was about to engage in.

One woman I was with, since divorce, let me know in the same sentence that I had been amazing and that me not having an orgasm was really just about my brain and my thing. While she went on to be less insightful about her own massive issues, and the relationship didn’t work out, I did appreciate her simple approach. “It’s all in your head,” she said. And in this case I agree.

Here are the several situations that have shut down my sexual response in the past.

1. If the act no longer seems pleasing to the woman. Sure, sometimes you need to be able to sit back and let the other person take control. This is awesome. But when the act starts to take on the tone of a chore or obligation, I’m done. “Let’s do something else.” If I can tell that you are not into it, or getting impatient, I’m going to freeze up and try as I may, my manliness will wilt under the “gitterdun” gaze. (I understand that this is a thing for women too.)

2. If we’re tired, or you’re not into it, let’s stop. It’s okay. And what I’ve learned ever more powerfully since my divorce, the orgasm is not the end-all be-all of sex. The act of making love is awesome by itself. Sometimes I even try to delay orgasm for me so I can just enjoy the time in the act.

Sex is all in the mind. If your mind is elsewhere, I’d rather let you go do whatever it is that is distracting you from being enthusiastically present with me.

3. Those far away eyes. The first time my wife looked bored during sex I was shocked. We’d just gotten her off and now it was my turn. And there was the moment, where I would’ve sworn, had she been wearing a watch, that she was checking her watch. Of course she wasn’t checking her watch, but something in her look, or non-look showed me she had checked out. She was waiting, somewhat patiently, to finish. Well, I was finished right away. It wasn’t about orgasm for me, that was a topper. It was about connection. And when that connection was severed, the very first time, I knew things were off between us. And from then on, I admit, I was a bit sensitive to her attention. Sex is about a connection for me, not about a release. All the mechanics aside, if there’s no connection between me and my sexual partner, I would rather go fishing.

4. The other person is sort of into it. But you can tell it’s a bit of a stretch. Maybe they are distracted, or there’s other things on their mind. In my opinion it’s better to skip it, rather than jump into a half-enthusiastic sex session. Sex is not like tv, it’s not a distraction. Everything else is the distraction. If you can’t pay attention during sex, well, what would you rather be paying attention to? Go do that. Because sex with a partially engaged partner is just slightly better than masturbation. And sometimes, not as good.

The several times I have run into my own moments of self-doubt, wondered if I needed to go see Mr. Viagra, and even began to question my own sex drive, I was more aware of the disconnection between the sex I wanted and the sex I was about to engage in. Sometimes you can trick your brain into thinking half-present sex is okay. But after a while your own body begins to sniff our the signals of the underwhelmed partner.

Sex is all in the mind. If your mind is elsewhere, I’d rather let you go do whatever it is that is distracting you from being enthusiastically present with me. The several times I wondered about my own sexual potency, I realized it was much more about my heart and my intention in making love in the first place. When the passion, connection, and desire is there, I have yet to misfire. When it’s not there, I have begun to listen to the signals rather than try to override them.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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What Is Casual Sex? I Have No Experience with This…

OFF-upsidedown

Okay, so let’s put EVERY SINGLE POST before this one, on hold for a second. Let’s suspend our previously assumed beliefs, desires, and road maps. And reset for just a second from the perspective of casual or recreational sex. Um… This is not a term or concept that I’m very familiar with. I think my generation was either way into it, or we weren’t. So, when a woman appeared recently, and introduced the concept (non-verbally) that we might enjoy a roll in the hay, just for the fun of it, I was a bit taken off guard.

I knew this was possible in the post-divorce dating apocalypse. I knew these free-thinking older women existed, but I had not had the pleasure of meeting one until now. And to her, I was an attractive, healthy, and willing younger man. She confessed to having lied on her OK Cupid profile, she wasn’t 49.

So, casual sex to me means no intentions or expectations about the future of the relationship. In all of my writing, to this point, I was *always* talking about long-term goals. What my expectations are for dating someone, and growing that into something more like a relationship. That’s all I thought about. Or thought was available to me. And this woman walked in with all the swagger of a professional athlete and she began to show me some signs that more opportunities might be possible. It wasn’t that we were talking about sleeping together, we weren’t. But the talk of sex did come up fairly early and in a playful and light way.

“Oh I get it,” I said. “The women that often approach me, the one or two times a week it happens, are usually very disappointing. So I get it. Age is just a number.”

“How old do you think I am,” she asked.

“I’m not falling for that trap,” I laughed. “You’re quite attractive and fit for whatever age you are.”

She wasn’t actually the woman who I would put as “next.” But my libido was pushing my maps to the bottom of the drawer.

That brought a smile to her face and another margarita to the table in front of her. And it wasn’t like it was immediately apparent that we were going to sleep together, because it wasn’t. But the chemistry was there from the moment she came in the restaurant, from my perspective. And sure, the signs were there. She was smiling a lot, we were exchanging casual arm touches, and the ritas started doing their magic as our topics jumped from kids, to future, the divorce, and back again.

She had some of my favorite physical characteristics: dark hair, dark skin, a winning smile, and an affinity for tennis. Perhaps it was her fitness and tennis skirt that did me in. (That was in her dating profile.) She showed up in a LBD (little black dress) that was all but explosive. The idea that she was an “older” woman never crossed my mind. She worked at being fit and flirtatious, and it was paying off. She knew what she was putting out and she found me receptive and accommodating. Again, this is more about courtship and play, than about jumping in the sack. I don’t think she’d had a relationship since her divorce. But she was sprinkling magic fairy dust all over the conversation and me. Perhaps I was bewitched.

Nothing out of the ordinary, so far. It was a first date after all. And nobody is really into sleeping with someone on the first date, right? So we carried on as any other first date would, except there was a joyousness and lightness to our conversation. And actually that’s what had drawn me in this far, she was very funny in her texts and emails. And she liked my sense of humor. This join was apparent and clear in our 2 hour lunch with tequila.

And I walked her to her car. No biggie. Not going for a first kiss, but a nice hug. And that was nice. She was an amazingly fit 5’2″ like a little fitness dynamo. I was enamored. And we talked about maybe getting together again later in the evening for some live music or something. Something…

I handed her a cd of the music that was rocking my world at the moment. Imogen Heap. And she drove off and called me moments later thanking me for showing her how to use her CD-player in her car. A nice new convertible. Wow. She was something else.

But she wasn’t actually the woman who I would put as “next.” But my libido was pushing my maps to the bottom of the drawer. Of course the tequila was talking as well. But we’d been drinking water for the last hour, so I was clear she was some different breed of woman. As joyous and playful as I thought I was. Was that a match or just a HIT.

I got back to my house and passed out on the bed. (see poetic naps) I didn’t even hear the text an hour later from her that asked what I might have in mind for later. And when I roused again my phone was ringing. It was her. What? Most people blow you off at the first sign of a near miss. We talked around options and decided on Orange is the New Black at her house. “Should I bring a bottle of wine,” I asked. She had everything we needed.

“I’m touchy feely,” I said. She laughed and said, “It’s all good.”

And from there I have to admit I was hooked in to the idea of casual, what’s this all about, sex with her. And the odd part is, I was feeling no pain, no resistance, just pure and easy desire. On both our parts! How refreshing. Even as I was showing to get ready I could feel the jump in my skin. The idea of sex was already making its way through my bloodstream.

And we watched an episode over a first glass or rosé. And I’m a red man, so I was a tiny bit disoriented. But she was all there and all present and all okay with my wandering hand. And I mean, on her neck and shoulder. “I’m touchy feely,” I said. She laughed and said, “It’s all good.” Green lights all across my internal instrument panel.

We had not spoken one word about “dating” or what was next. We weren’t really talking about our relationship, or what our expectations were. And that was refreshing. We were just being in the moment and being in touch with the chemistry that was catching fire. And when things did finally catch fire, I was even more appreciative of her physical regimen and joyous outlook on life, and sex, and whatever was next.

And I’ll end the episode here without going into details. But let’s just say I’m excited to see her again. And it really has nothing to do with “long-range planing.” Nothing. I think I’ve found a pocket of YES with the idea of casual sex. And I think she’s happy with that as well. And there’s not really any need to discuss it. We’ve made plans to get together tomorrow night. And I couldn’t be more satisfied with that.

What are our expectations as we enter into the “hello” date? What if things go really well? Are we prepared to let go if things go “off-map?” That was part of the allure. We were clearly in new territory for both of us. And the relaxed and playful way we engaged in the conversation was mirrored in the way we casually engaged in love making. Even for the first time it was great and free and easy. It might have been partly due to the freedom and skin high we were experiencing. The future wasn’t in question or in play, and something about that, let us drop the pretense and just be together. And that was surprising, magical, and refreshing all at the same time. Something about my rigid “code” was cracked.

Sure, whatever. I mean, why not enjoy ourselves, right?

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Get Healthy Before Dating: Avoiding Vengeance Dating Syndrome

OFF-legs

I came out of the gate of my divorce with a fury that was hell-bent on having some fun. It didn’t work out like that, but I joined OK Cupid, eHarmony, and Match.com all at once. I mean, if she doesn’t want me, I might as well get out there again, asap, and see what I’ve been missing. You see, sex had been off the table or intermittent for quite some time in my marriage. Let’s get to my personal definition of the Vengeance Dating Syndrome.

  • You’ve got a score to settle
  • Your lust and desire are raging like a fire
  • All available women seem like opportunities
  • You have no type, just breathing and DDF
  • The best revenge is living well, and having a new girlfriend/boyfriend
  • Dating sites are like window shopping
  • Any opportunity for a first date is a good opportunity
  • You’ll overlook major red flags in pursuit of sex

Okay, so many of those described me as I came into my first summer alone. Or at least “out of my house” and “ring off the finger” divorced. We were still negotiating the terms of surrender, but we were done. So I spent a good bit of time and energy trying to meet and greet any potential women on the three top dating sites.

I was having a hard time maintaining a healthy relationship with myself, why would I want to bring someone else into my fractured life?

And the first thing I learned… Oh my goodness, a boring first date is really a waste of time. For the first few dates I tried to keep my upbeat attitude, even when they showed up looking significantly different from their profile pictures. “Um, when was that glamour shot taken, by the way?”

The second thing I learned… Don’t just accept the date offer to have a date. If you’re just looking to do something, go for a jog, exercise, call a friend. But the supply of potential first dates is endless, the actually first dates “with potential” are much more limited. Have some discretion. You’ll get over the fast and furious attitude pretty quickly, as you learn the romancing requirements today are a bit more stringent.

And the third thing I learned, while in this dating frenzy… Most matches are not matches at all. In a room of a hundred people, I am probably drawn to about 3 potential partners. And of those only one is not married. Online dating has the same sort of mix. Of the 2,000 “available” women in my demographic and within 50-miles of my home, I am interested in about 20. And of those 20, just reading the profile I can tell we’re not even close. And after a few emails, if they don’t respond, it’s obvious either a. I’m not their cup of tea; or b. they are way too cute and thus too busy to even pay attention to my message.

Women have a very different experience in online dating. A woman I went for a glass of wine with last week told me her inbox is overflowing every night. She can’t even keep up with all the offers. Of course most of them are creepy, classless, oafs who are looking to hook up, but even the nice ones have to take a number and get in line.

I’ve had two dates that were the result of a woman reaching out to me first. In four years (not continuous, mind you) I’ve had TWO. And it’s not that I don’t get an occasional LIKE, or FLIRT, or WINK. I get about 2 -3 unsolicited interactions per week. But most of them are WAY OFF THE MARK of what I am looking for. Then I wonder, oh my, am I that far off when I message a woman who is 10 years younger than me? Probably.

So the vengeance thing is a bad idea. And the being in a hurry thing, doesn’t really work with most women. And, in my case, I am not willing to spend all of my free week nights going for coffee with women that are marginally compatible. But back in the summer of escape velocity, I tried and tried and tried. It was exhausting.

The summer of lust became the summer of fizzle. No sex. No kissing. Nada. And it was a year-or-so later before I fired up the profiles and tried again.

The fourth thing I learned, in letting go of my attitude, was that I was not ready to date. I was still grieving my divorce. I was reeling and lonely on the nights without my kids, and I was looking for a distraction, and maybe some sex. I got none of the above. My tolerance for wasting time on an impossible first date as about as positive as my attitude towards reality tv. I just don’t get it. And the online dating trap was a poor distraction.

I did have a couple near misses in those early months. And one, was so close, she even gave me her number in the parking lot and mentioned maybe just coming over and hanging out, watching a movie or something. But I was too eager and my first email, the next day, sort of freaked her out. I’ll never forget the first line of her email.

“Slow your roll.”

I had never heard the phrase, but I knew exactly what she was saying. And she never allowed a second date, or a movie night to happen. I’m not sure I was too far over the top, but I did write her a poem. And even though I disclaimed the romantic part of it, as just a poem, she was completely wigged-out. My first near miss.

And there were a few more near misses, but what I really realised was that I was in no condition to date anyone. I was having a hard time maintaining a healthy relationship with myself, why would I want to bring someone else into my fractured life? I answered my own frustration by shutting down all of my profiles. The summer of lust became the summer of fizzle. No sex. No kissing. Nada. And it was a year-or-so later before I fired up the profiles and tried again.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Urban Fit Uber Cute Couple Bias – UFUCC

OFF-lulu

A number of interesting ideas came up during my walk around the local lake this morning. I was blessed with the presence of my 11-yo daughter, who is just about full-on irritated with me at this point. “Right on schedule,” I said to her, as she rolled her eyes at me for the 15th time this morning.

The good thing about reaching the “dad is such a dork” phase with my kids is this, I don’t have to behave in perfect and rigid parenting patterns, I’m more of a crackup. And they have grabbed a wicked sense of humor from me. So I am unabashedly dorky, and I’m happy to crack myself up full-on and catch my daughter busting a smile over in her eye-rolling seat.

At one point I made a joke this morning, as she switched the radio for the 10th time to another rap/pop non-musical “tune.” I said, “Listen I’m starting to have a few problems with our relationship. I think we’re going to need to see other people.” She rolled her eyes. I went on. “I mean, I’m paying for everything, I don’t like your music that much, and we never agree on where to go eat these days, so… I think we might need to take a break.” We both cracked up

We’d had so many pseudo blowups, that the real one wasn’t even very interesting or dramatic. It was disappointing, because I had prepared a lot of goodies for the date night.

The resonance, however, with the conversation I had last night as my “friend” was blowing up at me at the “hi-how-ya-doin” moment of our date night. She started spewing a ton of “always” and “nevers” at me. And I registered that she was off her rocker, blaming with wild generalizations about the “entire relationship” and not just her disappointment. And let’s see, that morning she had been 20 minutes late for our walk meetup. And I was fifteen minutes late, due to a father-daughter issue I needed to work out, and BOOM, I’m uncaring, unsuited for a relationship, and obviously only interested in doing what I want to do. (Oh, and I actually don’t dig her choice in music, but that was never brought up.)

If I could’ve rolled my eyes at her last night I might have been better off then trying to negotiation or talk rationally about her outburst. There was no “hi” at the door, there was “I’m mad at you.” And as I tried to blow it off and make light of it, as she often reverts to, “just kidding” this time she wasn’t kidding. And there was just enough resentment and disappointment underneath the wine she’d been drinking to set her off on an unreachable tear. I left. And I’m done done. We’d had so many pseudo blowups, that the real one wasn’t even very interesting or dramatic. It was disappointing, because I had prepared a lot of goodies for the night. But it was more drama and crisis that screamed RED FLAG and GET THE HELL OUT.

I walked.

And this morning as my daughter and I continued our playful banter about all things boy-girl, all things father-daughter, all things “dad is a dork” we laughed off most of the jokes. Sure, she was irritated with me. But it wasn’t really about if I did something great or if I did something dorky. It was just her being 11 year-old and reaching that separation journey. It’s okay. She needs to find her detachment. And now I’m free to play the “dorky dad” she likes to complain about. And I’m free to crack us both up and to illicite eyerolls at any moment. This is where we are.

She was still acting out some routine with her ex-husband or something. And I’m in no mind to be a stand in for her target practice.

Just as we were finishing our hour walk an uber fit couple came down from their lakefront condo in sporty LuLuLemons (my daughter’s crush brand at the moment) and started stretching on the trail as we walked by. I have to admit the woman looked spectacular. And I’m guessing my daughter noticed the tall dark and handsome guy in the fancy workout clothes as well.

We got off on this riff about LuLuLemon clothing for guys. “It’s only for gay guys,” I said. Eyeroll.

“No dad, it’s not.”

“Any guy, inside the LuLuLemon store, and not there with his daughter or girlfriend or wife, is GAY. G. A. Y.”

“Dad that’s so wrong… You’re being, what’s the word for racist except about…”

“Sexist.”

“Yeah, you’re being so sexist.”

“Actually you’re right. I’m being sexist.”

“See.”

“But tell me this…” I was ready to set the punchline of the weekend.

“What…” She was pre-rolling her eyes as we were getting ready to get back in my car.

“What is the LuLuLemon logo in the shape of?”

“Hair.”

“Yes, so what non-gay guy is going to wear shorts with girls hair as a logo? Gay I tell you, gay.”

“They are not gay, dad, you’re just being your dorky self.”

“Fine. We can agree to disagree.”

“And I’m going to get you a pair of LuLuLemon shorts for your birthday.”

“Oh really… You’re going to pay $75 for a pair of shorts for me? Nice.

“Yep. And you’ll be hooked after you wear them one time.”

“I’ll be looking forward to it.”

As far as the woman who misbehaved last night. She was not 11 years-old. She was demonstrating time after time how unready she was to have any kind of adult relationship. She was still acting out some routine with her ex-husband or something. And I’m in no mind to be a stand in for her target practice.

So I walk on, right past the UFUCC. And I anticipate my new LuLuLemon shorts in November when I will officially become gay. Unless I don’t, and then I suppose I will become a LuLuLemon spokesperson.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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[Note: I don’t think I am sexist, or anti-gay, or homophobic for writing or joking about this. And I don’t really have any beef with LuLuLemon, except for the CEO’s comments, and the price of their fancy yoga gear.]


Opposites Attract: Pheasants and Porcupines

OFF-cutout

Nothing about our relationship on paper would’ve indicated compatibility. Nothing but the heat and sexual attraction could actually hold us together. The gravitational pull towards intimacy was immediately apparent, but there were still plenty of touch points. Still we both accepted the “opposites attract” idea. Perhaps one of us more than the other…

Creative mind vs. scientific mind… Should that be a problem? I write, sing, play, but I also love big data. She likes facts, seeks truths, clings to theories even when the data suggests an altered course might be necessary to achieve the desired response. Okay, that’s not too much, right?

I was so addicted to the first chemical romance that I was willing to die for the cause. Bad idea.

Maybe the difference was more in the realm of relationships. What does a healthy relationship look like? Relationship between husband and wife, between mother and father now divorced, between mother and child, all those relationships factoring in and altering the science behind our present relationship. Friends and lovers. But something kept happened to upset the data. While I continued to recalibrate and adjust my research I continued to receive results that indicated my hypothesis might be off. And off by a lot.

“Fine, I’m a clear and present lover, let’s cut through this.” At least that was my statement to myself each time she broke off the relationship due to some internal data error of her own. But the data, even in my mind, was suggesting otherwise. There were plenty of reasons to listen to her corollaries and contradicting ghost-data. “We are too different.” She could make this a truth any time she desired.

But we desired more than we fought. (Well, kinda.) But what is a fact, we desired quite a bit. And the complications of single parenting, for both of us, presented challenges, as it does in any relationship between adults with kids. For me, the challenges and disappointments were well worth the effort. Remain calm, don’t over react to the chemical imbalances. Be like a pheasant in the rain, water off the beautiful shiny feathers. Ease along.

And while parts of the relationship felt like, full-steam-ahead, there were indicators that the sharp quills she was wielding might also have poison tips.

At some point, don’t you have to listen to the objections of the other person, even if the arrows and barbs seem less about the relationship and more about the unfinished business? But, of course, unfinished business can be a big problem. But I did mention the sexual chemistry thing, right?

One relationship since divorce with a passion to match my own. You might say it was my blind side. While constantly craving a relationship, I found my black swan, my pheasant under glass, my porcupine. I could suffer a few quills. I mean, how often do we get chemistry and compatibility? (That’s a rhetorical question, because I would have to answer, “once.”)

While beautiful and successful, she was unwilling to emerge from the glass cocoon for more much more than a day.

And it wasn’t as if the issues were building for me, or that they were piling up. I was pretty flexible when it came to missed expectations. The misses did not feel like jabs with a pointy quill. But, early on, I was unaware of of the poison. I could feel it, I could tell things were not quite right as we rolled on deep into the summer together. But I continued to check my inventory, my gauges and test results, and things seemed okay on my end. But I wasn’t listening to the spiky feeling in my chest every time she fired off an I’m-upset-type email or text.

Text is the devil. Data is not in the details when it comes to texting. Once the dataset heads towards the red warning numbers, you need to cut the text and find a physical examination opportunity. Love cannot be fathomed remotely or virtually.

However, let the data show, that texts of uncertain emotional origin can indicate the present of a long-lasting poison in the research. If we choose to ignore the inner warnings, the entire results may be worthless. Skewing the data for our emotional satisfaction is never a winning strategy, not in science nor in love relationships.

And how weird to hit the first mentions of “love” while things were receding in connectivity. The reactivity was still high. And as I mentioned before, the sexual yum was still craveable. But I was beginning to taint my own research.

The poison was beginning to take hold deep inside, and something while numbing, was also identifying itself as MY OWN ADDICTION. Crap. Her intelligence, beauty, and joy in the bedroom, was not enough to mask the pain of the jarring WTF-moments. And that numbness, my slowness, my non-urgent response, was a tell. The poison had numbed my defenses. My research was toasted. I was unhealthily hooked. And I knew it. I knew it months ago. I was altering my data, erasing data inputs, and praying for some stability to the mix.

But when she demonstrates her fuckedupness, she strikes out with defensive and destructive slashes that can either be seen for what they are, red flags, or be overlooked or sublimated for some other purpose.

Of course these things don’t mix. Bad chemistry, mixed with great chemistry, still has a tendency to explode. And the minor explosions kept happening. And the deeper the numbness the less I reacted, the more comfortable I became with the disconnect and the spikes. If you looked at the emotional reactivity, like a lie detector or Richter scale, you’d see, little earthquakes all along. From the first minor blip, after the first major night together, the indications were there all along. And as I erased the spikes in my mind, I was stuck with more poison jabs and I became more complacent. But I couldn’t pull my head up out of the now-drugged, data.

But as the sexual connections found some breathing room between them, as single parents can often experience, some of the other drug, the anesthesia, was also wearing off. I began to sober up just enough to sense the error in my judgement. As I felt into what was showing in the daily reports, I was starting to piece together my own self-deception. I was the skew. I was the bad data set. Her quills and issues had been showing quite brightly all along. She even pointed them out to me, with her warnings.

But I was bigger than any objections. She was just scared.

Um… No. She was still under her glass bell. While beautiful and successful, she was unwilling to emerge from the glass cocoon for more much more than a day. And part of the glass around her continued to become more obvious. And my attempts at access became more volatile and dangerous.

Okay, let me cut the crap. Metaphor free explanation: she’s way fucked up. She admits to being way fucked up. But when she demonstrates her fuckedupness, she strikes out with defensive and destructive slashes that can either be seen for what they are, red flags, or be overlooked or sublimated for some other purpose. I loved sex and play with her. I loved her brilliant mind. I was so addicted to the first chemical romance that I was willing to die for the cause. Bad idea.

END.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

< back to On Dating Again

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references:

image: cut out. queralt, creative commons usage


dark woundings of my own

OFF-dark-mermaid

[from a second wave – poetry]

the precision in a glass of wine
loosening the tongue just enough
to truthfully expose the inner heart
the pumping seething heart
rich red with healthy passion
or black blue with choked off pain
i cannot stand in your way
nor cushion your deep slide this time
my target is moving now
released by your trigger finger
and slippery anger-joke-anger
mad, just kidding, is still mad
and opening the door
date-night door, as well
with “i’m mad” is a sure sign
as sure as the slight slur
almost imperceptible, almost passable
but the message uncoiled and venomous
was unfiltered this time, by feints and jests
and the bile poured on the floor between us
what could’ve caused the flood
releasing pent-up frustrations and …
what
a deathly release from being loved
a striking to keep from feeling
a fear greater than being loved
a fear of loving and losing again

i can’t survive this poison
i’ve seen too clearly the trajectory of loss
disappointment and un. met. expectations.
i survived this song long ago
so long, i no longer want to do the dance
around the venomous tongue
the wounded and striking viper
i won’t go back to charming
starring with glassy eyes, praying
playing the flute
hoping for a long and happy life
i failed my snake charming class
and burned the books
branded with my F
but released from that prison
of dangerous shadows and unknown traps
i am released and recovering
from dark woundings of my own
i won’t take on more
hurt
no matter
what the
love
provided

now

or

then

8-1-2014

image: models dive 25 meters, bejamin von wong, creative commons usage


Deal Breakers, Red Flags, and Hand Grenades: Relationship Building 101

OFF-mermaid-split

There are a number of red flags (issues) when you’re dating relationship begins to move towards a Relationship. Here are 8 indicators and warning lights to keep you on your toes when you are evaluating a potential match. Once the dating has gone beyond the 4 – 6 dates and you are beginning to get really comfortable with each other, this is when the deeper relationship issues might begin to creep out of the closet, like old skeletons.

Walk away from the burning building slowly and without panic. You didn’t cause the fire, and you certainly can cure the fire starter.

Learn from your previous mistakes in dating or marriage. You probably have well-learned responses to some of these issues, that worked for you in the past. Listen to what this person is saying and what they are doing. And then make your own decisions about the viability of the relationship. If you want a relationship it will take work. With too many of these issues still in-play, you might not want to put in the effort and relentless bridgebuilding it takes to maintain a wobbly fit. “But it feels so good, sometimes.” I can hear myself say it. Damn. I’m sorry about that. Listen. Evaluate. And when things keep showing up for repair, consider mending your fishing gear.

1. You’ve got to figure out the collective goal. Where are you going? Not the timing or the plan to get there, but you need to make sure you are on the same page.

2. Dealing with disappointments and conflicts. So, let’s say you’ve got a “date” planned and all the preparations have been made, anticipation anticipated… And something happens, and you can’t make the date. Of course there are hurt feelings, and of course there are repairs to be made. Can you make them? Can you move on and reset for the next “date” or does this first miss become a harbinger of dramas yet to come?

3. Kids and Parenting and All That. Okay, so what if the kid eats like an animal when you are with your potential? Not bad manners, but exaggerated bad manners? Eating habits that embarrass you a bit when the waiter comes by? That could be an issue in the long run. How your friend parents can tell a lot about their level of maturity. The health of their relationship with the child, and the ex. All of these things factor into the bargain. If their parenting rules and regulations are out-of-bounds, well, consider what it indicates. (I’m not a psychologist and I don’t play one on my blog.)

It’s best to bless former date, wish them well, and step back into the fishing boat.

4. Flexibility. How good is this person at adapting to different situations, different levels of affection, and even the spaces in-between that are bound to happen? How is the silence between you? Do you begin to wonder what is wrong when they get quiet? Does their texting drop from 5 a day to 0? Or 10 a day to 1? If you get the sinking feeling, you might listen to that. You might be right. You know how intuition served you well in your previous marriage? Well your holy-crap-whats-wrong-now radar might still be on high alert, but that doesn’t mean you can discount the warning blips and pings.

5. Fights Fair, Stay Present, Doesn’t Generalize. I now that’s a lot. But goodness grief, we’re adults, mid-life adults, we should know how to fight fair. Disappointments and disagreements come and go, but the second the potential whips out the “I just don’t think we’re going to work out.” Or, “You’re always blowing me off. It’s always about what you want to do.” Listen for “always” that’s the word of choice for generalizations. Try and stop them when they come up. “Are you trying to say that I’m always late?” for example, if you are late for the first time and it causes a ruckus. Arguments don’t need to escalate into shouting matches. “I’m mad with you” doesn’t have to turn into “Maybe it’s just too difficult for two single parents to be in a relationship.” Wow, really. That’s pretty much an ultimatum. An ending statement. You might hear the “Get the hell out of dodge” message and move on.

The close woman, the smart and smiling woman, needs to go back to her isolation, and you, need to continue your quest for healthy and happy potential dates.

6. Stays Positive and Works Towards a Solution. Too many times we’ve been the caretaker. Listen for the needy, the wounded, the moaning. And then decide if you’re ready for another relationship where you are trying to take care of the wounded or explosive partner. “You always try to say I’m the one with the problems,” when shouted at high volume, sort of makes its own point, don’t you think?

7. The Grass on Your Side of the Fence. If you want a relationship, even in the face of signs in the first six items, you’re in fairly deep. Tread lightly. Perhaps you are one of those, “Grass is actually pretty green right here, honey–come look.” people. Be careful, you’re leaning into a dark forest if things continue to be rough. Sure you REALLY DIG this person, and sure you’re willing to go for 110% effort, but watch your overly optimistic attitude when things keep spinning into difficulties.

8. When you get really close, watch out. Often insecure people will sabotage things just when there is the time or moment for even more closeness. Say you’ve had a date planned for weeks, and you’re finally to the big evening. THEN, surprisingly (or is it?) some minor miscommunication blows the whole thing into an issue. Suddenly, and without much warning (if you’ve been ignoring the earlier steps and signs), the whole date/weekend/trip is off. And of course, you’ve screwed it all up. Just when this person is feeling the most comfortable, if they are afraid of closeness, they will toss a hand grenade into the mix just to see how you react. It’s like an acid test. “Oh you’re really digging me, well see how you handle this little love bomb.”

And sometimes you really do have to cut bait and go fishing again. The close woman, the smart and smiling woman, needs to go back to her isolation, and you, need to continue your quest for healthy and happy potential dates. All this wallowing in the issues is too hard and too soon. When the big bombs show up early, even if the chemistry and sexual heat are there, beware of the hand grenades and land mines. You can’t prepare for them or sniff them out. But sometimes, your old “husband’s in trouble” alarms will still tip you off to what’s in progress.

Walk away from the burning building slowly and without panic. You didn’t cause the fire, and you certainly can cure the fire starter. It’s best to bless former date, wish them well, and step back into the fishing boat. Sadly, sometimes, even with a ton of potential, there’s just nothing else to be done.

[Funny note: So mermaids kill men when they take them under, right? I guess some nice ones saved me as well. Interesting metaphor for relationships.]

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

see the poem of the night: dark woundings of my own

< back to On Dating Again index

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image: mermaid, +gAbY+, creative commons usage


17 Simple Ways to Say “I Love You”

OFF-bathSometimes it’s the little things that have the most impact. In relationships today, we are so pressed for time and often so exhausted, that the littlest things might be the turning point to lift our spirits. Here are 17 little things that can make a difference in your significant relationship(s).

It’s the little things that signal how much you care. 

It’s not what you say it’s what you do, is a phrase I’ve heard a lot in my past relationships, often as a battering ram to let me know things are not going well.

Texting is the modern love letter.

1. The Wakeup Message – “Good morning, sunshine. I know your presentation will kick ass.” The wakeup message is great for establishing a relationship-like rapport with someone, even before you’ve established a relationship. Just a simple “Thinking of you.” can brighten someone’s morning and give them warm thoughts that might lead to warmer acts later in the day.

2. The Little Flirt – “I can’t stop thinking about our makeout session last night.” Put that smile back on their face with a reminder of how good things went last time. Let them know you still have them on your mind. And give a simple nudge towards “next time” without mentioning it.

3. The Cheerleader Text – “You are going to rock those exams today.” Most of what we do for others is to provide a positive cheering section. When you know your partner is heading into a tough day, give them the little pocket vibration a few minutes before their event to let them know you’re with them in spirit.

4. Random Non-sequitur – Or Inside Joke – “Running shoes are sexy.” These are little bridges of connection that you begin to make with things that are important to the other person, running for example. And even if you may not share those passions you can high-five your friend on their enthusiasms.

5. Can I Get Anything For You? – “I’m at Costco, do you need anything?” Ah, the single parent’s dream. Remember when splitting the grocery duties were part of the plan? A good friend can easily offer to pick up some Costco bulk items. It’s a true sign of caring.

6. Fueling Desires – Often as single parents the actual time we get to be together alone is spaced by a lot of time apart. But you can heat up the flames of desire, just by letting the other person know something sexy is on you mind. “I’m kissing the back of your neck, in my mind.”

7. The Tuck In Message – “Good night, sweetie.” Ah, the last thing you think of at night is them. As you’re drifting off to sleep, let them know you will likely dream of them.

Actions Speak Louder Than Texts

8. Bring Random Goodies – The special food from the bakery across town can be just the thing to comfort a difficult day.

9. I’ve Got Dinner – Just let them know they can relax after work, you’ve got it covered. No cooking, no dishes, no effort. You’ll do it all.

10. A Peppermint Footrub – There is nothing more sensual than a good footrub with a special minty lotion. Sure, it may be a gateway to rubbing other things, but start with the feet.

11. Can I Give You a Massage? – Oh boy. One of the most exciting ways to give while receiving. I love giving massages. Depending on the intimacy between you, these can be clothed and casual or oily and wild. Again, it’s best to start these as non-sexual. And if the other person is tired, it’s best to stay there. Let them move things forward if they’re feeling it. Get into the touch and sight of their body. A feast for the eyes and hands.

12. Doing What They Like To Do – Even if you don’t like to run, it’s good form to go on a run from time to time, just to show your collaborative and supportive stripes. Or walk and run with them. Always offer.

13. Giving Them the Night Off – How can you take care of all the chores for one night? Can you give them a girl’s night out? Alone time build up desire, so make sure they get some so they can desire to see your smiling face even more next time.

14. The Tiny Gifts – A single flower, a bag of their favorite tangerines, a new essential oil massage oil. All these things show how you’re constantly thinking of them, and you want to appreciate them.

15. A Love Poem – So you’re not Shakespeare. But putting down a few words of affection, in random order, without syntax or reason, is a good sign of advanced expression of love. Sometimes it’s the two words that don’t belong together more than the three words “i love you” that unlocks a deeper expression. Try it. Read some love poems to help get you along your way. (See: Rumi and Neruda)

16. The Scented Bubble Bath – “Can I draw you a bath?” Again the best way to show affection is the caring things you can do that have no ulterior motives. If your partner is aroused by the candles and warm water they can initiate your participation. They might also like you to scrub their back and then leave them to soak.

17. Radiant Joy – Just let them know how much joy they bring into your life, not by doing anything, but just in being. And of course, being with you. Appreciations are the love drug of choice, we can never have enough appreciation.

It’s the little things that signal to another person how much you care about them. Sure the big things are more important, but it’s the little things that get you there. Even in the early stages of a relationship you can build the loving feeling by gifting the other person with some of these ideas. Share your appreciation and you’re likely to get some appreciation in return.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

Please share your additional little love ideas in the comments.

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image: relax, janet ramsten, creative commons usage


My Divorce: A Searching and Fearless Moral Inventory

OFF-flyingchild

Step 4 of AA: Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

Today is a day of reflection. I am examining what I’m doing here on The Off Parent. Assessing the damage and progress of my self-observation, self-obsession, self-centered divorce blog. Let’s see if we can get to the heart of the matter.

  1. Strive to cut deep into the pain and healing of divorce recovery.
  2. Express anger and hurt without blaming the other person.
  3. Eliminate cynicism.
  4. Always go for the truth, my truth, the painful truth.
  5. Protect the innocent through anonymity and discretion.
  6. Write for my own personal journey and healing, if there is a reader that’s fine, but I am not writing for anyone but myself.
  7. Lift my psychology out of the hurt and sadness of depression and towards the healing and recovery for all the members of my family.
  8. Do no harm.
  9. Take on no more shame.
  10. Leave this discussion behind in favor of the next love and romance in my life.

Those are my goals. I’m not sure if I hit the mark with 100% of what is left here, but that was (is) my intention. I have progressed from a confused and angry soon-to-be-ex-husband to a hopeful and romantic single father. That’s the ultimate goal, and for that I give thanks.

Writing is therapy.

I hope you find love along your journey through whatever challenges you are facing. We can live through this shit together. And I will continue to light the way along my path so that you might learn from my trespasses and mistakes.

For me, when I write down an experience, I begin to understand it in new ways. I find common threads with other experiences in my life. I hear echoes of past hurts. I recognise the hopeful little boy who survived a crappy divorce and has now grown into a divorce and family of my own. And here on these pages, sometimes, I process the hard stuff, I leave behind puddles of blood and anger that I no longer need. I am discarding these stories as fast as I can write them. Discharging the energy they might still hold on my emotional life, by putting down the bones of truth, as I remember it.

I am not writing for you.

I am glad you are here. I have gotten a lot of support and love through the four years that I have been writing this blog. I have been amazed by some of the comments, troubled by some of the misunderstandings, and encouraged to keep digging for gold. Digging for the heart of joy that is still inside that needs encouragement to hope and dream of loving again.

And I have found the language for that love again. I am writing aspirational love poems. There are still a few divorce poems, but for the most part, this blog has transformed from angry/divorce/rant to relationship/love/discovery. Sure, there will always be flares of anger and sadness when managing the ongoing life of a single parent, but there are also great wins and joys that I am determined to celebrate here, right along side the struggle.

Next Steps

As I continue to change and challenge myself in the coming years, I hope this blog will continue to evolve with me. As I do find that next relationship, I hope that I can write with care and tenderness as “we” this woman and I, journey down the next road of our lives together. Or maybe that will be a different blog. I don’t know. And I’m not trying to get too far ahead of myself, here, or in my relationships.

As I grow and parent this blog will still be the rally point for my emotional triumphs and struggles. And as I struggle with depression, or employment difficulties, I will also try to pull back the armor and release the dragons that still loom ahead for me.

In all cases, I thank you for coming along for the journey thus far. I encourage you to start with the INDEX and read chronologically from the beginning. Or jump to any subject or thread that interests you at this time in your life. And if you have a comment, I value the feedback of my readers more than you can imagine. So tell me.

I hope you find love along your journey through whatever challenges you are facing. We can live through this shit together. And I will continue to light the way along my path so that you might learn from my trespasses and mistakes.

Final note: Why why why write about this painful stuff? My kids were 5 and 7 when my then-wife decided for all of us that she was done with this marriage and wanted to move on to some other configuration. We’re still reeling from the fallout. Not all of it has been bad, but all of it has been transformative. I give thanks that she had the courage to step into the unknown and make the choice she thought was right for her and thus for all of us. Whatever the motivation or past, we are now a family in divorce. We have commitments and connections that will never cease between all of us. And in my attempts to heal myself I hope to continue to be a positive influence in my kids and ex’s lives. We’re in this together. Let’s evolve to a higher discussion.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

related posts:

references: The 12-Steps of AA – wikipedia

image: practice, fabio bruna, creative commons usage


Dating A Divorced Dad: We Might Be Good For Each Other

OFF-kissme

This isn’t a mating call post, but more a look at some of the ways divorced dads are cool, flexible, and likely to understand divorced moms.

FIRST: Let’s compare notes on our kids. We’ve got our priorities straight. Our kids come first, our dates come second. Got it? Good. I don’t think any single parents will ever need to debate this. Now, dates without kids, or even parents who’s kids are long out of the nest, might present a bit more of a problem. There is an imbalance of time. I do spend more time with my kids than with my date. But, that’s only while we’re getting to know each other. But let’s stop right there and not get ahead of ourselves. We are talking about dating, after all.

So if this partner has their act together, even after a divorce, they’re probably pretty flexible and understanding when it comes to compromise and negotiating wants and needs.

SECOND: Let’s compare notes on our exes. I can lend a sympathetic ear to your stories about your dickish-ex. No problem, I’ve go my ex-y who can be a handful from time to time. I’m likely to take your side in any debate. And if you just need a sounding board, I’m here to say, “Wow, he really is a dick.”

THIRD: Let’s just say sex was getting less and less frequent and a bit less fun towards the end of my marriage. So, to say I’m hungry would be a bit of an understatement. Attentive might be a better word. I am so ready to make you feel good. Sure, we can get to me in a minute, but let’s just enjoy you for the moment.

FOURTH: By this time, even with a divorce and child support, we should have the money thing dialed in. Sure, there may be some setbacks (heck, I’m in the middle of the biggest one of my adult life right now, but…) along the money trail, but a partner with some history probably has found a way to make a living.

FIFTH: A well-balanced partner with kids and an ex has learned to get rid of the drama and strife. Divorce is one of the biggest stress potentials of our adult lives. So if this partner has their act together, even after a divorce, they’re probably pretty flexible and understanding when it comes to compromise and negotiating wants and needs. An unbalanced divorced parent is pretty easy to identify as well. Listen. Are they complaining about their ex? Do they have more drama than most people? If so you can move right along. But if your divorced partner still has a healthy sense of humor, they are likely to have a positive approach to navigating the path of developing a relationship.

If we can build our alignment of priorities around our kids health and happiness, then we can both relax when we are able to find time alone as a couple.

SIXTH: We’re going to understand if you’re too tired for the dinner and dancing plans. So you want to curl up on the couch, watch a romantic comedy and order chinese food? Sure, we get it. We’ll even rub your feet during the movie.

Relationships are not easy. But a divorced dad has a lot of experience under his belt that might come in handy as you too are dealing with parenting and dickish-ex issues. I’m pretty certain my next relationship will be with a divorced mom.

If we can build our alignment of priorities around our kids health and happiness, then we can both relax when we are able to find time alone as a couple. Perhaps that scarcity of time can build and sustain some of the honeymoon phase of the courtship. There is something quite motivating about sexual hunger for someone you are getting to know. Use that energy, prioritize your parenting, and have some fun. After all, we’re still talking about dating, we’re not going to get married or anything. (see What’s This About: Marriage?)

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: always kiss me goodnight, courtney carmody, creative commons usage


5 Wonderful and Unexpected Benefits of Being a Serial Monogamist

OFF-monogamist

When did monogamy become a negative term? Today a Google search of that term brings up a lot of snarky posts about things like “unable to spend any time alone” and “your friends forget exactly who you are dating.” What? It means something completely different to me and most of the people I hang out with, and when we talk about relationships, most of us are looking for some form of serial monogamy. Maybe it’s a generational thing. Perhaps the millennials are more interested in gratification and hooking up. I’m not sure where that leads them, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the right direction for me.

I’ve tried being a casual dater. Post-divorce I had ideas that I would go out and become a serial dater. I was ready to sow some unshackled seeds. But, it didn’t happen. In fact, given the opportunity to kiss a pretty woman several months ago on a first date, I didn’t. She was confused. I wasn’t.

1. Keeping Everything Honest

Sex is great, sex is important, but sex means very little when there is no relationship involved.

I tried “dating” two women at the same time in college. It didn’t end well. You see, no matter how you do it, you’re always going to be telling the other person what you’ve been doing the next time you get together. And if you’ve just had a wiz bang time with the “other” person, how are you going to reconcile that? My buddy, KP, confesses to being a casual dater with no intention of settling down, or even slowing down. He’s a model of vigor and sexual enthusiasm. But he’s also a bit sad. I saw how his life changed and his attitude lightened up when a woman nailed him down and claimed him for her own. It was good for him. I can’t keep secrets very well. I can keep quiet, I suppose, in order to get something that I want. But sex and dating is not the answer for me. I’m up for a relationship. Maybe even a Relationship.

2. All Available Time

I’ve got my kids nearly half the time. That doesn’t leave a whole heck of a lot of time for dating. And that’s okay with me. My priority is my kids and their well-being. I can’t imagine a situation where a date would get in the way of my parenting, or prevent me from responding to a text or call from them within a few minutes. I would love a relationship, but I have a great relationship with my kids. I can wait on the lover, until the right lover comes along.

3. Cutting Away the Distractions

If a woman doesn’t have long-term potential, I’m not all that interested in spending time with her. I’ve said it over and over again. It’s not that I am making long-term designs on a woman in the first months of a relationship. But if she’s not long-term material, I’m not really interested in putting a lot of energy or effort in to the relationship. I’ve passed up a lot of opportunities for sex, but that’s not really what I’m after either.

4. Focus on My Goals

I’ve got some rebuilding to do. I’m still recovering from my divorce in some ways (mainly financial) and I am taking steps to deal with my unfinished business. How could I really be 100% available for what’s next, when I’m not there myself. I am working on new financial goals. I am writing up a storm, though I know poetry and self-revelatory recovery books won’t provide a roof over my head. It’s best if I keep my focus on the aspects of my life that I am still trying to change or evolve. If I were too serious about the dating thing, or the finding the next long-term relationship, I would be taking focus and attention off the things I really need to get done.

5. My Kids Are Growing Up

At 11 and 13 I don’t have a huge amount of time left before both my kids are heading out into the world without me. And as a single parent, I already don’t get enough time with them. While I’m happy to explore relationships with other women, my real priority is my kids. Plain and simple: my dad duties come before my dick duties. And I put a significant amount of energy into doing Dad right. That’s my priority.

Being a happy dad is the most important role in my present life. If that’s ultimately attractive to another woman, awesome.

All that being said, I crave a relationship with another woman. I’d relish the moment that I find that connection again. I am happy moseying along, in the current mode. I’m okay with dating and keeping things simple, if that’s what it takes to keep the other person around. I’m really okay with that. And I’m not going out to try to find my next hookup. Sex is great, sex is important, but sex means very little when there is no relationship involved.

So yes, I’m a serial monogamist, but it’s not because I always have to be in a relationship. It is not because I cannot stand being alone. Nope, I’m a serial monogamist because I’m hoping to find the next relationship at some point. And that point in the future is very flexible in terms of time, and even in terms of what the person or the relationship looks and feels like. We know love when we feel it. I want love again from another woman. Until then I’ve got more than enough love for and from my kids.

Being a happy dad is the most important role in my present life. If that’s ultimately attractive to another woman, awesome. Until then, if you’re interested in checking things out, let’s go have a cup of coffee and see if anything sparks.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: l-system, exey panteleeve, creative commons usage


The Promise in a Thumbnail; Online Dating Hits and Misses

onlinedatinglies

The online dating profile, a mystery, a fantasy novel, a pulp fiction romance. Whatever the profile is, it’s not reality. In looking for love online, you’ve got a lot of obstacles. And getting a handle on the bullshit detection is a good start.

  1. Even the unattractive and obese can score a cute photo every now and then.
  2. Photos from 15 years ago may not be an accurate representation of the current state of affairs. You would hope that people would clearly label the “when I was younger” photos, but they don’t.
  3. The one photo profile. Um, why don’t you have some other photos of your gorgeous self?
  4. The “just checking this out” profile. Usually with only a few sentences about themselves and a couple photos. Variation: a friend put this up for me.
  5. The scammer account. Too cute. Way too young to be hitting on me. Has an age range that’s a bit odd. (example: female 32, seeks males 45 – 70)
  6. No profile photo. “Ask her for her photos.” Um, no.
  7. Sunglasses make for alluring photos, but they’re not very accurate.

As long as you know you are creating the fantasy when you look an online dating profile you’ll be okay. You are filling in the blanks and missing information in your head. And most likely you are filling it in on the positive side. Often that’s not the correct data at all. If a person is 1. ready for a relationship and 2. honest, you won’t have to go fishing for too much information.

Look for how this person articulates their desires. What are they looking for?

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 8.43.51 AMBad signs:

  • “I love to travel.”
  • “Just want to have fun.”
  • Every photo has a drink in hand.
  • Glamour photos.
  • The one photo that sticks out as “WOW-SHE’S-AMAZING.”
  • The one photo that sticks out, “What? How is this the same woman?”
  • Hyper-athletic. Too many mentions of “working out.”

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 8.18.57 AMGood signs:

  • “Intimacy.”
  • “Honesty.”
  • “One core relationship.”
  • “Low drama.”
  • Mentions a healthy relationship with the ex-partner.
  • Semi-athletic.
The goal in online dating is to minimise the false positives and set dates with the authentic potentials.

The goal in online dating is to minimise the false positives and set dates with the authentic potentials. That’s easier said than done. And culling down from 1,000+ matches can be a bit of a challenge. So you have to start somewhere. Find a couple of things that are really important to you. (My current desire is tennis. If I could find a tennis-playing girlfriend, I think I’d be a long way towards compatibility.)

Then if you find a potential you are interested in, go ahead and say hello. I have found that casual and funny is better than direct. You don’t need to ask for the date right off the bat. Mention a few things that you have in common, flatter them a bit (You’re very cute.) and see what their response is.

  • No response is a response.
  • A casual and playful response is a good sign.
  • A form-letter response is not so good. (Thank you.)
  • An engaging response with lots of information can be a good and bad thing. On the good side, they are probably very attracted to your “profile.” On the bad side, they may be trying too hard, because they are not getting enough dates, or their dates are not going well.

If someone is genuinely interested you should both be able to establish some rapport within 4 or 5 messages. And when the idea of meeting for coffee or wine is floated by either party, the other person accepts and you both agree on a time and place. This is great. Now, the temptation is to continue the conversation, learn more, keep being charming. But that’s a mistake.

Here is the goal of online dating: set the date without too much effort or build up.

We all know the deal. If it was a HIT we are probably both thinking “What’s next.” If you get a “What’s next” before leaving the first date, you’re well on your way to trying a real date.

Once you have the date set to meet face-to-face the rest is distraction. Get this straight: you can tell very little about the physical chemistry from online profiles or even electronic flirting. While it might be fun to rev each other up before you meet, it is really a waste of time. And the real danger is setting up these great expectations and then not feeling the chemistry at all. So then what do you do? You may have had a bit of fun, but you’ve used up a lot of energy, even flirting takes time and energy, and come up empty-handed.

Online dating is not a full-time job. If you are too hungry, too available, and always online the available partners might notice this. If you are too persistent and focused on getting a date, that might be an indication of a problem.

The best approach is simple hello flirting. Gut checking the profile for reality. See if their emails or texts are also witty and fun. And then set the date and move on in your search and in your mind. You’ve got the date. There is really nothing else to do before you meet in person. You can confirm the date the day before. It’s easy to provide a phone number (texting is okay) before the date “In case something comes up.”

And then chill out and see what develops when you meet. Getting to excited or too involved with a virtual date has never worked out for me. Never. But then I haven’t had very many hits with the in-person meetings. And the handful of women who were just my style weren’t quite interested. They may not have said as much, but they didn’t ask for the next date either.

If there’s no chemistry, don’t make a big deal about it. Enjoy the conversation and make your exit. You can send them a note about “Not quite a match for me” but it’s not necessary. We all know the deal. If it was a HIT we are probably both thinking “What’s next.” If you get a “What’s next” before leaving the first date, you’re well on your way to trying a real date. Good luck.

Respectfully,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

< back to On Dating Again

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image: a montage of online dating, the writer


Five Ways to Avoid Bad Sex

OFF-hotsex

When you are trying to have a kid, sex is ALWAYS an option. Once you have kids, sex is ALWAYS a negotiation.

Awhile back a woman asked me, “So what makes for bad sex?” It was an interesting question, and I hadn’t really thought much about it, but the concept has sort of haunted me. While I imagine that I’m pretty conscious in my sexual encounters, I’m certain there are times when I am a less-than-great lover. What makes for disconnected sex? By looking at some of these turn offs, perhaps it is possible to become more conscious when they are happening and try to steer the passion back towards the shore.

The Five Habits of Bad Sex

1. TDTF (too drunk to frack)

Alcohol and other mind altering substances can be fun for a bit. They can unleash the animal passions and loosen the inhibitions. BUT… they are not a key to great sex. If you require altered states to get aroused there might be a bit more at play. Of course, these changes can loosen the grip of some of the bad habits below, but if drinking is the gateway to sex, every single time, there might be a problem and a pattern that is being established that will lead to other destructive behaviors. A margarita and wild sex every now and then is fine. Three glasses of wine every night before rutting is not.

2. TTTF (too tired to frack)

Yep, we’ve all done it. We’re about to fall over exhausted but something triggers our sexual appetite. Our lover comes in dressed to the nines, or perhaps sweating from a run, and we are turned on. Our physical and mental bodies are low on energy, but the sexual opportunity brings some life to the situation. And we’re in, trying to please the other person and perhaps please ourselves and just as things are ramping up, we lose our spark. For men this can mean losing your erection, even if you are enjoying the sex tremendously. For a woman… well, I have not idea, what that feels like, please enlighten me in the comments, if you’d like to share.

3. MEGO (my eyes glaze over) – “Are you done yet?”

Connected sex is what I’m after and what drives my fulfilling feelings. I get closeness from sex. I get relaxation and bonding from sex.

Apathetic sex is a killer. And it may not start out that way. It may be that moment, that opening for sex you’ve both been waiting for, and you are going about the task in a happy and healthy way… And something changes. It could be a combination of any of these other habits, or it could be something else, but what happens is your mind is distracted and you are no longer paying attention to your partner, or even yourself. Sex is mechanical and you’d just as soon it be over. (I know the first time this happened in my now-defunct marriage I was devastated. I had never noticed it before, if it had happened. I could see in her eyes that she was thinking about something else, and was simply waiting for me to finish.)

4. Hyper-focus on the orgasm. – “Did you come?”

Then the flip side of #3, is the “Hey, you didn’t come, let’s get you too.” And while this can be awesome, often it leads to this odd state of performance. Where you are trying to orgasm, partially to have an orgasm, and partially to fulfill your partners need for you to come. Let me tell you, for me, as a man, orgasm is awesome, but your orgasm is better. Yes I’d love to come, but if I hear you having a great time, I’m pretty fulfilled. And when the “focus” becomes my orgasm rather than the playful interchange of sex and passion, then I’m as likely to lose my erection as if I were being interviewed for a porn movie. Let’s play at sex, let’s not focus on either persons orgasm, and have fun. If we both orgasm, awesome. If we don’t awesome. If we can keep it about connecting instead of coming we are well on our way to compatibility.

5. Distractions and chores. – “Oh shit, look at that cobweb in the corner of the ceiling.”

Noticing the pile of laundry in the closet during sex and wondering how you’re going to get it done before the weekend is over, is a sexual killer. Once the mind is focused on other things, bills and chores being the most prevalent in my experience, there is no way to keep the connection. Once our focus shifts from looking into our partner’s eyes we begin to lose our charge. If I’m worried about an upcoming work deadline it can be hard for me to stay focused. I might be able to “get” you, but I’m probably not going to orgasm. If that’s okay, let’s go. If it’s a session of love-making you want, we might wait until the emotional connection is engaged.

Sex, for me, is about connection. There is pleasure involved, and the pleasure must go both ways. But for me, the pleasure is simply in the act of lovemaking, or screwing if we’re in an animal state.  When the connection is lost, for whatever reason, the sex becomes routine or functional. Sex should not be functional.

As men and women, we are in this dance together. Sex has many different flavors and colors. What get’s your passions heated? What turns them off?

There’s this myth that a man needs to orgasm every so often because his hormones or testosterone levels reach critical mass. It’s a myth. I’m sure a lot of men would like to foster the belief in this, and keep the mythology going so they can have more frequent sex. But your hormones don’t build up for release, they build up for the purpose of procreation. Your body wants to follow Darwin’s theory and continue their genetic line. You want to have sex, as an animal, for the purposes of having progeny. While this is a function of our mammalian brain, we’re a bit beyond that as humans.

If it is just sexual release I need, a discharge of my hormones, that’s easy enough to take care of myself. If I can rope my partner into thinking it’s part of my maleness and she should help, well, that’s a bit manipulative. It’s like when you are trying to have a kid, sex is ALWAYS an option. Once you have kids, sex is ALWAYS a negotiation.

Connected sex is what I’m after and what drives my fulfilling feelings. I get closeness from sex. I get relaxation and bonding from sex. And with my wiring (my Love Language is touch) sex or “skin time” is important. But skin time can be cuddling. Or hugging and kissing on the couch.

What ways have you found that sex becomes disconnected? I am learning, and hoping to provide a tiny glimpse into my unique male mammalian thought processes, and I’d love to hear from you about your perspectives. As men and women, we are in this dance together. Sex has many different flavors and colors. What get’s your passions heated? What turns them off? Please let me know, the comments are always open. (grin)

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: a sensual poem should start here, karoly czifra, creative commons usage