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

love

i am i

iami-jmac[from strange horizons poems]

i don’t think i have made my case very well
either that or i’m not who i think i am
maybe a little of both
maybe you can’t see me
the me i am becoming
that’s the trick
we see who we want each other to be
we imagine who we’d like to be close to
and we just don’t know
from a distance we see
eyes
smiles
hair
figure
but nothing about the inside
unless you can look for that with your heart
i think i sense a person’s energy
their joy is either ON or OFF
mixed states are too ambiguous
i know who i am
i know what i’m putting out
but
i learn all the time
that i have a very limited understanding
of who i present myself as
what i’m putting out to the world in my mind
is different to what people (women) are receiving
maybe i think too much
maybe i talk too much
one thing i know
i think too much
so
today
release and relax
i am
i
alone
happy
transmitting on all channels
joy

12-10-14

image: the author performing in dec. 2014


afternoon fires

OFF-water[from strange horizons poems]

there’s everything to love about a woman
and also plenty to fear
but let’s not get derailed
this is a love poem
where i try and find the word(s)
to describe the perfect
place
where i rest my head
on her chest
and breathe in
all that is woman
all that i can swallow
in gulps and gasps
but wait… that’s not it exactly
see… i’m taking a break
regrouping
reconfiguring myself
and still…
she walks in
sits at the counter of the coffee shop
and is magnificent
and
everything
even more arousing
than the potent brews being dispensed
that’s what i’m longing, pining, whining…
that’s what i’d like in my life again
just not now
some how neither of us are ready

and i’ve switched to water this afternoon
anyway

11-5-14


Everyone Loses In Divorce – What We Can Never Get Back

OFF-my-kids

A few gaps in my kids education are due to my divorce. A few are due to my bout with depression, while struggling to recover from job loss and mid-life disorientation following 9-11.

And tonight, for no reason, I’m wishing I could just tussle their hair and tell them that I love them.

One of the sad symbols of my loss was my old toolbox. And what leaving it behind meant for both me and my son, who should’ve been building forts and projects with me by his side. And as we’ve gone along in the fractured mode, there are huge gaps in my knowledge and relationship with my kids. It’s something you don’t really understand until you’re well into the process. Or maybe you do understand, and that’s part of the huge sadness of divorce.

When I pick up my kids from school on Thursday it will have been seven days since I saw them, hugged the, really got to check-in with them. There are so many moments that are missing. So much information and growth they experience in the custodial home, and they return to me as slightly different, slightly more mature individuals. I too am changing. We all do the best we can.

But the gaps… the gaps are maddening.

My ex-wife gave me a handful of photos last week. All scenes that I had no recollection of, of course, because I was not at the beach trip. I was not a part of that biographical memory of theirs. Even when you try to show up for every event, and give them all the attention they can stand, after divorce there are still the maddening gaps.

Like my son learning to shave is mustache shadow with a women’s razor. What? A cat my daughter is holding, that I’d never met.

I have a lot of gaps in my relationship with my dad. After the divorce he chose to exit the scene, for the most part. He curled up into his alcoholic choice and married another drinker. I never wanted to go over to his house with his new wife. I learned not to get in the car with him. Ever.

We’ve got texting. We used to have Facetime. But things are busier. And the routine check-in is about all I can expect.

Of course, my kids have nothing like that, with me. And my ex-wife and I have done everything we could to keep any disagreements between us not color the relationships with our kids. And that’s fine. We’re doing a good job of it. And still… Still I am not getting enough time with my kids. And I am sure they are not getting enough time with me. We’re all fine. Everything is wonderful, except for the gaps.

And now they are both in middle school. 4.5 more years and my son is off. The gaps are beginning to add up. I am certain they don’t know much about me. I try to share everything I’m doing, but they don’t really have the time. They’ve got homework, music, sports, friends. It’s fine. It’s my problem. I get it. I’m riffing here, a bit, but I’m ever more aware of the missed days. And tonight, for no reason, I’m wishing I could just tussle their hair and tell them that I love them.

We’ve got texting. We used to have Facetime. But things are busier.  And the routine check-in is about all I can expect.

And the gaps… I’m sorry for the gaps.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

back to Single Parenting

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image: kids away, the author, 2014 all rights reserved


halfway home

streaming-poem-fragment

[from a second wave – poetry]

word after word word word
letter shapes textures and
sound sound sound
and you here
and you not here
and you
streaming stream of consciousness
of prayer song or song
that sing sings through my veins
at the mind map a have drawn of you
of the yes/no/maybe we are becoming
and the pause
at wait
and release
expectations and exhalations
and meeting you
halfway there
halfway house
half the way home

10-24-14

 


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

OFF-headless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

back to On Dating Again

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image: headless hunter, jd hancock, creative commons usage


Fall of the House of Dad

OFF-gnomehouse

I’ve written about this before. I’d like to recap and bring some structure and organization to the story of my house struggles and my depression surrounding the crushing effects of the divorce on my personal and financial stability.

In divorce the man often is the parent who is asked to leave the house, and leave the rest of the family as undisturbed as possible. I get it. We are trying to lessen the impact of the divorce on the kids. But… What about the dad? As they continued on in some sort of “daddy’s on a business trip” mode, I was immediately homeless and alone. Um, it is quite different.

And one of the first challenges, if money is an issue, is establishing a new home, a place where you can begin being a dad again. How long it takes to reestablish this residence depends a lot on your mental state of mind and your employment situation. In my case both were significantly damaged. I moved into my sister’s spare bedroom. And this might have been a saving grace. I was not ready to be alone alone. When I was “off” I had my sister and her two kids to keep me company. My story became, “And I didn’t need to be alone. I was so lucky.”

But I tried to keep my joy and wits about me as well.

My divorce was finalized in August of 2010 and my next full-time job came along in December of that year. I appeared to land on my feet at a fairly high-profile and well-paying gig. Immediately I started looking for a place to live. I knew with the way credit works that I needed to establish myself as a home owner as quickly as possible. And in February I found a smallish house in a neighborhood a lot less expensive that our family home, but within my kid’s school district. And in March we launched the “gnome house” chapter of our lives. My kids were in 4th and 6th grade at this time, and my house was actually closer to my son’s middle school than their mom’s home. It was a short-lived victory.

In July of that first year, my employer changed their entire business model and eliminated my position after six months. Now, I could give into my mom and sister’s evaluation that I jumped to early, but I knew that my options for buying were going to be much harder without the big job. I was glad I had a home, but I collapsed into a summer of hardship as I struggled to find work again. At the same time, my kids and I had a great summer. We swam in the nearby lake, we played basketball and soccer in the twilight of the summer evenings, when the Texas heat gave way. We had an adventure together. And for all intents and purposes we were happy in our little house. On the days (most of them) when they were not with me I thrashed and struggled with my life and the impending loss of my newly established home.

When school started up again, things began to fall apart for me.

And the strains of money began to show up in discussions with my ex-wife.

We struggled on, I continued to profess my intention of getting caught back up with the child support that was set during the divorce at my “big corporate job” rate. She started feeling the pressure of the cash call as well, and there is no blame here. She was a very responsible money manager. In her mind she was doing what she felt was necessary. I was doing what I thought was necessary as well. I remember an email exchange between us where she said, “You seem to think that your mortgage and expenses are more important that your responsibility to your children. I don’t understand that.”

Um… My response was this, “I think we knew this was going to be hard. And I think dad deserves a place to live and a food and electricity to provide a place for himself and his kids, when he has them. I will get caught up on the child support, and I assure you I am not spending any discretionary money. I have no discretionary money. I am working to find a job so I can keep my house and resume full payments to you.”

At this point I was just irregular. When things got really bad is when I actually missed a full payment. Her emails became more hostile. And our “conversations” devolved into sometime resembling this exchange. ME: “I think we should talk about the kids summer plans.” HER: “When will you have the next payment?” ME: “Um… I don’t know. I have some prospects, but nothing has come through.” HER: Silence. And that’s how the communications between us, that had been positive and kid-focused, got off track. And things went down hill fast after she started refusing to discuss anything with me that didn’t involve a payment date and plan from me.

And then things were forever changed. She filed her cause with the Attorney General’s office. And we were suddenly in a legal battle again and I went from struggling and working and not making enough money to a “deadbeat dad.”  But that wasn’t enough. I was also now nearing default on my mortgage. I again pleaded with her to give me some options. She began her new response, “I signed an agreement with the AG’s office not to negotiate about money with you.” END OF DISCUSSION.

As the last year began to close it became clear that she was blocking my attempts to file restructuring bankruptcy to try and keep the Gnome House. I looked to my mom for some financial support, but she really hadn’t like the house from the beginning. Fuck. I was out of options and in newly threatening weekly letters from the AG’s office. It was time to sell. And without a full-time big corporate job I didn’t have the income to even look for a place to “move to.” And so at 51 years old I was heading back under the roof of my mom. The shame was palpable, but what were my options?

So in March of this year, 2014, I sold my home and moved in to my mom’s house. OUCH. My mom and I laughed through the situation with a phrase, “Well, it beats living under a bridge.” Yes, it does. But it didn’t have to go this way.

Some where in the divorce she had lost all compassion for me. When my house was being threatened by foreclosure she pressed the entire issue, her issue, to the AG’s office, thus obstructing any potential remedy I might seek. And in the loss, my kids and my mom and I have gotten very close. And it’s funny, they have better rooms and better meals than they ever had at my house. In my haste to reestablish a homestead and a place for me to be dad, I had chosen a house that has some fundamental issues. (No dishwasher, a septic system, and only one kid bedroom.)

At this moment I’m in a converted single-car garage in the middle of a rich neighborhood. It’s not bad. I’m not thrashing. But it’s hard. I have no privacy, no place to even think of establishing a relationship. And what’s the first warning sign anyway? Someone with money troubles, or god-forbid, no home.

In the divorce I am certain we were both doing the best we could. In the blindingly sad negotiations I agreed to giving up my request for 50/50 parenting, and I accepted the financial responsibility that would lock me into the big corporate track for the duration of the agreement. (Until my last child reached 18.) But what I didn’t know is that in all this “good will” negotiations that my soon-to-be-ex-wife would press the entire thing onto the state’s attorneys.

She did it with little more than a reference to “looking after the children’s interests.” Um, sure, maybe, if I was doing something that demonstrated I was trying to skip out on my child support payments. That’s when you go to the AG’s office! Not as a normal course of business. And when my home was threatened is the moment, I think, that you get real about the situation, you show some compassion for your co-parent, and you pause.

In divorce, you are still in a financial coupling. When I lost my job we all suffered. But that’s not the moment to file against your former partner. I do think she’s still mad at me, the same anger that infected our marriage. I’m not sure how that happens, or how someone dissipates it on their own. It takes work. And in a recent kid-focused therapy session her rage surfaced again, and I was again seeing the woman who I gladly release. I don’t need to be in any kind of relationship with someone who harbors such vitriol. And so we drop down into a logistics-and-money relationship. Sad. But maybe that’s more accurate. That’s kind of how the marriage had become as well.

We carry on. We do better. We keep going.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent – still in transition
@theoffparent

image: the gnome house, march 2011, the author, cc


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

back to On Dating Again

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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


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

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

Screen Shot 2014-09-11 at 6.49.12 PM

click to hear the podcast

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent


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


My Casual Sex Experience – First Lesson

OFF-hotdate

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

OFF-crossfit

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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image: crossfit dallas central, adrian valenzuela, creative commons usage


When Did Our Halos Lose Their Sparkle? A Marriage Comes Apart

OFF-couple-ocean

When you met your partner you were wearing your halo. That’s the little glow that allows us to overlook faults, blemishes, and even malfunctions. The good news is the halo is what attracted you both enough to get married. And maybe the glow lasted long enough for you to have kids. That’s awesome. That’s how it was for me and the mother of my two kids as well. But something changed over time. It’s a common story. Almost cliché, but perhaps more like a historical myth. It’s a myth because it’s such a universal truth that they wrote a bunch of stories about it.

This is the story of how my girlfriend and I went from lovers, to parents, to ex-partners.

When we met I was damaged from my previous disastrous marriage, and a business opportunity that was collapsing out from under me. But I was also displaying my superpowers: music, writing, and poetry. In fact, I re-introduced myself to my future wife with a poem. We’d known each other in high school, and the Easter morning we met I ran back up the hill to my house and scratched out a love poem. She had inspired everything. She had blown the fear and dust off my halo and allowed me to bring it back into the light.

When your lover’s ecstasies and artistic celebrations are no longer musical to your ears, it’s time to move on.

And we were living together six months later and talking about kids. We were older, we needed to decide pretty soon or be childless. So we were a bit rushed, but it didn’t feel that way. It felt like magic. AND it felt like we were being responsible adults. We measured each other against our ideals and goals. And somehow the halos kept showing up as valid, shiny, and inviting. We had hooked each other deeply, and within two years we had our first child, a smashing baby boy. All was right with the world.

Well, not exactly perfect, but the halos (and glow provided by them) were still in place.

And if I count back to the days of our courtship, and look at my actions and passions I see an artist, singing with a band, playing at local clubs a few nights a month, writing poetry and short stories, and refactoring my career due to the collapse of my employer from the UK. I was still shining, and I was in flux, working to figure out this business of money and creativity. It’s the typical artist’s life struggle.

She was also an artist. She was a painter. She was a writer and singer. And she was shining in all her mysterious ways. And I danced beside her as a cheerleader and sponsor. Before we had kids, we often parted on Saturday and Sunday after breakfast, to head to our studios. “I’ll call you when I’m winding down,” she’d say. And we went off in our respected and revered directions to create. And it was part of what made us tick. We had each other and we had the commitment to the craft. We were artists in love.

And then our son shattered all previous illusions and re-mapped our lives to a new beat. His beat. His house. His rules and wants and needs. And our dreams melded with his dreams. And we stuttered on in our creative pursuits, but we were changed. Our son had become our favorite song to sing. Or lives with him were so much more rich than our lives off in our separate studios, alone. We were never alone again.

My musical studio moved from the second bedroom to the third bedroom to give our son his space. And we were a happy unit. And my then-wife was still deeply involved in her art, and the art of mothering. She created paintings and poems in-between feedings and naps and late night insomnias. We were deeply invested in our little ship of fools.

On we rowed, with the newest adventure yet to begin, a second child was readying in the womb and we began to alter our paths for her arrival as well. And the love hurricane number two came in the November directly after 9-11. It was a time of universal unrest, confusion, depression, and economic free fall. Our happy little unit hit a mass of stormy waves. My consulting practice froze completely. And just at this time, our daughter, at her first sonogram demonstrated some signs of a rare medical condition. We began weekly trips to the neonatal surgeon in hopes of keeping her viable until she was big enough to be born.

On she came, amidst the struggle and depression in our lives, and the lives of all of our country. On she travelled, through dooms of love, and sonograms of crisis, and she was born even more healthy than an average baby. She was amazing. We were whole again. Still in the midst of a crisis, personal and economic, but whole as a family again. She had arrived. We sailed and rowed as best we could. All was not well, but all was moving forward out of the darkest storm clouds.

No one can take charge of your energy, your sleep, your emotional balance. That is 100% up to you.

I remember writing a song for her, even before she was born. Transparent Heart. It was about her immanent arrival and our frequent trips to look in at her with hope and fear and sonograms. I was also writing love songs to my wife and son. And poems to try and capture some of the moments. And their mom was still artistically activated too. She was putting up poems and short stories. And that Christmas I bought her an amazing easel that could fit in our bedroom, since the kid’s rooms were now fully utilized. And I moved my music gear into the garage.

Artist’s in love, with kids and jobs and a house. What could be better?

Somewhere along the way, in the midst of all of this struggle, we began to show our stress in unkind ways. We had some difficulties with money and we fought each other rather than the problem. We had chores and payments and kid care that wore on our artistic time. And we began to fray at the seams a bit.

I’m not sure how it shifted for good, but there was a moment, after a particularly stressful period, where my art (music, writing, time in the studio) had somehow become resented by my partner. It wasn’t that she didn’t have access to the same materials and time that I did. It was more about our DNA, and the hopefulness or hopelessness that came up during times of great stress. See, somewhere along the way, she began to see my creative ambitions as a threat. I can only imagine that her fear was that I would have some kind of success and I would abandon my career and my sweet family life to attempt rockstar status. That was never my plan. I never spoke of it. But she somehow started making my music (playing live, rehearsing, even recording in our garage) an enemy of the state. How my music became a threat to her safety I don’t know. But I hear, from other artists that this is a common issue.

What I didn’t understand, however, was how her art began to fall away from her life. Again, this is an individual journey, and if an artist is not fully committed, the “art” can become more of a hobby and not a life path. I cannot stop creating. I cannot silence the music that I hear in my head. And I make sacrifices to be able to keep working on my craft. But these sacrifices were not at the expense of the family. At least I didn’t see it that way. I took my music into the garage and into the night after the kids (and often the wife) were asleep. I worked my songs into the wee hours of the night, even when I had a day job to return to at 8:30 am. And I was the morning champion for the family as well. I was up and making breakfast before anyone else in the house was conscious. It was a chore I gained energy and joy from.

And in my artistic craft I tried to capture some of these moments as well. I was satisfied as an artist, that my ultimate life’s work was not going to be interrupted by my art, but supplemented by my loving family, in life ideas and passions. I would eventually get my appreciations. But it might be when I was in my 80’s. That was not a problem. I labored on, with love and intention.

But somewhere along the way, my art became a source of stress between us. My music was a distraction in her eyes. Maybe I would work more and make more money if I didn’t stay up all night writing songs. I can’t believe that’s what she really believed, but some how she had construed the thing she feel in love with, when we met, into an activity that threatened her livelihood.

So in our life struggle, our path from lovers to parents to ex-partners we lost sight of the things that we fell in love with.

As artists in love, both partners have to keep up their end of the bargain. I wasn’t skipping out on my chores, or my kid duties, or my financial obligations. And I was encouraging her to continue to find the time to paint. “But I’m so tired,” she said, often. Again, this might be a sign that I wasn’t doing enough. But it wasn’t. I was doing everything to the best of my ability. I worked hard. I cleaned the dishes, mowed the lawn, put the kids to bath, bed, and beyond. And still she was tired. Perhaps there was some other cause of this ennui.

As our halos began to tarnish and remain more hidden than shared, she stopped hearing my love songs. She missed the love poems I left around for her. Rather than finding the juice and thrill in my passionate expression of love for her, she would’ve preferred another kitchen pass so she could get to sleep early.

No one can take charge of your energy, your sleep, your emotional balance. That is 100% up to you. You might get help from a partner, or counseling to learn better ways to build your life force back up. But no one can give it to you. And no one can take it away from you either.

So in our life struggle, our path from lovers to parents to ex-partners we lost sight of the things that we fell in love with. The halos were still there. But we had averted our eyes, or complained to the point where it was safer to keep the gifts and epiphanies to ourselves rather than share them with the one person we should be able to share them with. When my best love song was no longer a welcome sound to my lover, my time was limited. There was no way back. No poem, song, or successful financial enterprise was going to bring her back. She was gone. Gone inside somewhere, where she needed (needs) to work more of her life struggle out. Perhaps her artist will re-emerge at some point. Who knows, I’m not part of her circle of friends, perhaps she’s painting and writing up a storm.

When your lover’s ecstasies and artistic celebrations are no longer musical to your ears, it’s time to move on. That’s what she did. And that’s where we are…

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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essential rumi

[from a second wave – poetry]

curl up around me
lover, brother, friend
my beloved
let us stay like this
in prayer
in communion
for what is love
but an expression of prayer
what is your beauty
but a gift
and affirmation
of human desire
and reverence
of all things
and breaths
and kisses
and breasts
beating
and aching
towards
one another
and
god

8-17-14

prana-back

image: back, lucas cobb, creative commons usage


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

OFF-e-lady

 

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

back to On Dating Again

related posts:

image: bliss dance, rulenumberone2, creative commons usage


goodnight and go

[from a second wave – poetry]

every snapshot in my mind
of your beautiful smile
the voice that rubs a warm spot
in my chest
i am fascinated
in tow by heartstrings
un-before discovered
played now
like some fine symphony
bowed or plucked strummed
and ringing with joy

8-7-14

image: imogen heap, promo photo, creative commons usage

Screen Shot 2014-08-07 at 12.15.32 PM


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

related posts:

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.

related posts:

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


wet

OFF-surfer

[from a second wave – poetry]

let’s get wet
and forget about the consequences
flood our senses
with cinnamon and scars

each inhale of you
i take another step
towards some cliff
of exhilaration

in the sun
your glisten
happy laugh
and arch of your back

this maybe the only moment
nothing before or after
can touch our now
nothing

but

now

and

you

7-19-14


Sex: Men vs. Women… Wait, That’s the Wrong Approach

OFF-fk

When the intimacy dries up completely, it’s more about the relationship than it is about the animals in the relationship.

One of my posts on The Good Men Project got a very interesting comment from an articulate and intelligent woman. She was clearly trying to figure out the parts of her relationship (and sexual) experience in marriage. And I hear this a lot, about the fundamental differences between men and women when it comes to sex and sexual appetites. But let’s clear a few misconceptions up. There has been a lot of new science recently that shows women are just as interested in sex, and historically have not always been as repressed as they are today. I’ll get to that in a second, but here is my response to Erin’s comment. You can go read her full comment here on the GMP, but I think you’ll get the idea from my response.

Hmmm… You make a few assumptions that I don’t necessarily agree with, Erin.

1. Sex is about not disappointing your partner. Hmmm. I don’t think that’s the point. Sex should be a mutually desired part of any relationship. I don’t agree with all this stuff about monogamy becoming boring over time. After 11 years of marriage I was never bored or uninspired by my then-wife. Ever.

2. Men are just men and need sex, women can either comply or risk losing their man. Um… Well, some of that is true. But sex can come in many forms. Intercourse is not always the best option for either partner. And it’s true the male of the species has a more dominate drive, fueled by higher levels of testosterone. But both partners should want to be intimate, at least occasionally. Your milage may vary.

3. Sex is not about maintaining monogamy. And men will not necessarily go wandering sexually if they are not getting sex in their marriage. Just as not all women grow bored with sex after being married for a while. It’s simply the average story. But we’re not average, are we?

4. Men deal with the exact same thing, from the other side of the bed. Being constantly rejected for intimacy is hard to handle. I got creative with my requests. I had unspoken attempts. I had happy and playful attempts. I had lustful and passionate pleas. When nothing (and I mean nothing) worked, we were dealing with something other than a difference in libido.

+++

I could tell when she was closed down and when we were close, and some well-thought-out touches and supportive words were often all it took to get her to open up and tell me what was bugging her.

So let’s take as an assumption that men and women desire closeness and affection with the same intensity. And for men, often this affection is driven by the sexual drive inherent in our higher levels of testosterone and our natural hunter instinct. This is biological. BUT… That’s not the whole story, and it’s definitely not the answer for our differences in sexual desire, or desire for frequency of sex. It is part of the story, but in my opinion, not the most important part. Hear me out.

Sex is about hormones and release. Sure. I can agree with that, from an animal perspective. When we were beasts we conquered dinner on the hunt and we conquered women back at home, partially as reward for our prowess and success as a provider. Well, dear women and men, the modern era is much different. The concept of the hungry and sexually frustrated male is convenient, but not all that helpful in navigating or negotiating an equitable balance in touch and intimacy, both sexual and non-sexual.

If we put the imbalance idea on hold just for a second, let’s assume that both partners desire closeness and this involves cuddling, kissing, holding hands, and sexual interactions. If we start with the idea that both partners desire closeness, we can start solving for how to get that closeness, regardless of if it involves intercourse.

What started happening in my marriage to curb our intimacy (and this was just as much about casual touch and holding) was my then-wife began distancing herself physically and emotionally from me. As she got activated by something, anger, fear, frustration, overwhelm, exhaustion, she would withdraw rather than engage. Now, I do understand how any intimate interaction has the potential to become sexual, but that was not the issue. For me, I would’ve been happy with snuggling. But the threat of sex may have kept her from even asking for that simple nurturing.

When I get scared or sad I feel closer and more supported by a gentle touch. That connection, even a hand on my neck, shows me (in some animal – dog-like perhaps) that she is near, she cares, and she is available. Available not for sex but for hearing and supporting me whatever I’m going through.

Sex opens you up to another individual in a human way, that is very different from our Neanderthal ancestors. Some of us are still stuck in the model of that old hunter/conqueror vs breeding partner/reward dynamic.

I can see how in many relationships that are based on much more base, caveman-like, relationships that even a hand on the neck might signal, “hey let’s have sex” but this wasn’t how our 9 – 10 years of closeness had developed. I was as fulfilled by a hug, sometimes, as a good roll under the sheets.

But something emotional was beginning to happen in my marriage that was more fundamental. It was not about sex. It was about being seen and being honest.

If you have sex in a full and open way, you begin to see deeply into the other person’s nature. (I’m not talking woo woo here.) You begin to feel more connected and in my case, you crave that connection, that transparency. I could tell when she was closed down and when we were close, and some well-thought-out touches and supportive words were often all it took to get her to open up and tell me what was bugging her. And most of the time this was not about sex. I was sincerely opening my heart to hers to hear what was hurting her or freaking her out. And more often than not, in the earlier stages of our marriage, it was about external things, or someone else who had done something hurtful.

But… As we began to experience more stress in our marriage, due in large part to the financial collapse of everyone’s economy including ours, she began to avoid being close. If she got scared she would often withdraw. When I had energy and passion for her I would frequently seek her out and dig in my heels until she let me in and told me what was going on. This was the equivalent of a housekeeper making sure nothing was getting swept under the rug. And this type of closeness rarely evolved into sex. It was not about sex, it was about closeness and intimacy.

After a while, however, as things continued to slide, she was harder to reach. And she began to express uncontrollable anger, that would pop out from time to time as a “fuck you.” It was shocking the first time she just blurted it out. The second and third time I had the impression she was bottling up so much anger and rage (in her mind it was 100% about me) that she could no longer contain it in her isolation. But she was so withdrawn that I couldn’t talk her down either.

In some ways maybe she was avoiding sex too. But I think the sex we had was so open and opening she was avoiding sex in order to not be revealed. Whatever she was afraid of or angry about was so frightening she didn’t want me to open her up. She didn’t want to tell me what was really going on. And in the end she really didn’t want to tell me she was consulting an attorney and trying to figure out her best options in asking for a divorce.

So sure, she was withdrawn and withholding of sex at this late stage. But it wasn’t about sex. It was about the closeness that often opened us both up to each other’s deep feelings. She didn’t want to share her hurt and pain. She didn’t want to tell me she was actually considering divorce and not just randomly shouting curses as me. She was so far gone she didn’t want me to see into her at all.

Sex opens you up to another individual in a human way, that is very different from our Neanderthal ancestors. Some of us are still stuck in the model of that old hunter/conqueror vs breeding partner/reward dynamic. That no longer holds true, if you are consciously coupling and relating with all of your intelligence. I do know that some relationships are not based on honesty and sharing, and I’ve seen examples of the caveman mentality too often to count. But that’s not us. That’s no you. That should not be your default understanding of the man vs. woman equation.

And it’s not the way it should be with sex. Sure we men want sex more often. And it is the woman who is the gatekeeper to her own body and the gift of that intimacy. When the intimacy dries up completely, it’s more about the relationship than it is about the animals in the relationship.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

reference: Good Sex: Or Five Ways to Avoid Bad Sex – The Good Men Project

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image: fk, marina caprara, creative commons usage


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


Seven Signs of a Healthy Post-Divorce Relationship

OFF-healthycoupling

Divorce is hard. Dating after divorce is tricky too, and I’ve found some things I think are good indicators of how whole a person is, and how ready they are for a healthy relationship. Sure, your dating profile says something like, “Let’s be friends first and see where that takes us.” But most people I meet are really hoping that friendship takes us to the next wave of affection. I think we are mostly looking to me found and appreciated by another person, while having the opportunity to appreciate them back. We want to become the most fantastic cheerleader for their hopes and dreams and we expect that positive affirmation in return.

We don’t need a relationship. We want one. We are fine alone. We have found our own way out of the desert of depression and despair. And now, standing strong and alone again, we are ready to dip our toes into the idea of being loved and loving again. It is a huge risk. And some people can’t get over it. Their divorce is still too painful, or their relationship with their ex is still too volatile. They are really not ready for a relationship.

If, however you begin to think your shit is sufficiently together to date again, some new boundaries are in order. And here is what I’ve found to be the indicators of a healthy start.

You are going to be spending a lot of time with this person, out of the bedroom doing other things, and you’d be better of seeing if your “out of the sack” experience is good too.

1. The relationship with the ex is business-like and drama-free.

If your potential partner is still dramatically engaged or enraged at their ex partner, watch out. You are likely to take some of the “stand-in” damage for the anger that needs a place to dissipate. Irritation and conflict can always arise. But pay attention to how this person deals with these setbacks or conflicts. It’s likely this is how any future conflict with you might evolve, as well. Are they able to articulate what the problem is? Can they negotiate a solution and then let it go? The emotional baggage from divorce is huge. And it’s tough to get through all the processing that needs to happen before we can cut it loose and be free of the burden of our ex.

2. The other person puts their kids ahead of the relationship.

In my experience, I find a potential partner who has had kids (they can be older or younger than mine) is more likely to be accepting and accommodating of my relationship to my kids. When my kids call, they come first. Sure, it’s an interruption, and sure it puts the “special friend” in a secondary role, but it’s clear to me that my kids emotional and physical well-being is much more important than me having a girlfriend. At least at this point in my life, while they are still in school, and still very much under my influence. I have a deep respect for my role model as a dad, and as a man. I am showing both my daughter and my son how a man acts in the world. Even under duress, I am showing how I can remain calm, and make strong and positive decisions. And always, my kids come first. Especially in the early stages of a new relationship.

You’d think that if someone is dating again that they are ready for a relationship. But that’s often not the case.

3. In meeting the kids, there are no major hangups or obvious attachment issues.

Divorce traumatizes all of the family members. And often this trauma causes us to revert to old and unhealthy defense mechanisms. And of course, as a divorced, and now-single parent, I am going to do everything I can to take care of my kids needs. BUT… this has to be carefully done. I have seen both men and women who were WAY to enmeshed with their children. Maybe the kid was a brat who was completely undisciplined. Or perhaps the child was overly shy and withdrawn, folding themselves into the parent. At younger ages some of this behavior is acceptable. But as the child ages, and reaches the end of elementary school they should not need to be coddled or babied, because the other parent is trying to make up for some loss. The single parent cannot make up for the divorce. But everyone survives and moves on. Both the kids and the parents need to return to healthy boundaries and healthy communication styles, so that everyone can grow up, and let go of the stigma and shame of the divorce.

4. Conversations about divorce, parenting, or relationships are not tense.

In early stages of a relationship, most of the time you want to hear, “What happened?” And this opportunity to share your story and hear the divorce story of the other person, is a great time to listen for their repose. How have they accepted their own responsibility for the divorce. Even if the divorce was the result of some infidelity, have they been able to move beyond the anger? The best approach to the ex is to live and let be. Focus on the kids. Walking away from a marriage is hard work, and the way someone tells their divorce story is important. Listen.

5. Clarity of intention and honest expression of affection and desire.

You’d think that if someone is dating again that they are ready for a relationship. But that’s often not the case. You’d even imagine, that someone who puts up a dating profile online, and who talks about what they want in their next relationship, probably has some intention of being in a relationship. BUT, you might be wrong. I have been on quite a few dates where the woman had no idea what they wanted. I had one woman, who I connected with and had just spent nearly two hours talking to, tell me in the parking lot as she was getting into her car, “I can tell you at least three reasons I’m not right for you.” She didn’t, but she said she knew she had no real idea of what she wanted in a relationship. If you’re dating, be clear on if you want to “date” or have a relationship. I’ve heard that some people are into casual dating and casual sex. That’s never worked for me, but if that’s your thing, make sure that’s what the other person is saying as well. If the person cannot give  you a good idea of what they are looking for, how their next relationship might look or feel, they may not be ready to be in a relationship. And if you can’t articulate what you are looking for, if your vague, or simply lonely, you might want to keep working on yourself, and your approach to relationships before jumping right back into one.

Relationships are fun. And now that we have our kids, and our independence, we can be more intentional and clear about what we want in our next relationship.

6. Alcohol or tv are not constant sources of entertainment or escape.

Drinking together can be fun, but it shouldn’t be a lifestyle choice, unless you are both into it. If the person doesn’t really open up until a glass of wine or two, you might be rubbing up against someone who has a hard time expressing themselves. In moderation, as a celebration lifter, a few drinks on the weekend are no problem. But if it’s every single night, and the glass of whatever becomes like the cup of coffee in the morning, a necessary lubricant, there is probably an issue there. And I’ve seen TV become the same sort of numbing or escaping addiction. I went on a few dates with a woman who professed an addiction to reality TV shows. She also turned around and fought with me about the virtues of TV overall, and how TV was no less interactive than reading a book or playing a game with someone. Um…. Yeah.  Escapism should not be a common theme. You want clear and present as the normal relating condition between you and another consenting adult.

7. Affection that moves into sexual relations doesn’t change the overall tone of the friendship.

Of course, you’d like to be friends first. And if the chemistry is working, there may be a pull towards the bedroom. But of course you need to know that if you are looking for a relationship, sex, while important, is not the most important aspect of a relationship. You are going to be spending a lot of time with this person, out of the bedroom doing other things, and you’d be better of seeing if your “out of the sack” experience is good too. Don’t get me wrong, a good sexual chemistry is a powerful motivator. But don’t let the sex cloud your understanding of who the person is, and what other things you like to do together. You can’t screw all the time.

And initiation of sex shouldn’t cause major shifts in the relationship. You’re friendship should still remain a focus in all of the stages of a relationship. Perhaps that’s part of what led us to divorce, we stopped dating our partners and began to take them for granted. We stopped cheerleading and became more of a negotiator, or even antagonist.

Listen to yourself as you talk about the relationship as well. When you are describing your relationship to a friend, notice the words you use. How do you describe this new interest? What are the highlights that you are proud to share about this person?

And listen as you talk to this person as well. Are you open and free with your expressions of affection or desire? Can you say what you need? Are you holding back, or withholding some information for fear of upsetting the other person? All of these are clues that the relating part of the relationship might still need some exploration.

Relationships are fun. And now that we have our kids, and our independence, we can be more intentional and clear about what we want in our next relationship. It doesn’t have to be about marriage, but can be more about learning to love and feel loved again. Take your time. Be intentional with your time, attention, and actions. And if things don’t feel right, move along. If you’re not in a hurry, there are plenty of fish in the sea, and plenty of time to find one that’s just right. Or at least better than what you’ve done before.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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