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

marriage

Zen and the Art of Lovemaking – Won’t Save Your Marriage

OFF-tattoo

I was heartbroken to learn that great sex was not the answer to a long-lasting marriage. I have no idea what makes that possible, and now that I’m on the other side of that wall (divorced) I’m wondering if I’ll ever go back to being married. I mean… What’s the point?

I’ve been a sex enthusiast since a very young age. I don’t know where I got the idea, but once I had the idea I worked like a mad man to learn more, and this was long before I ever had the opportunity to touch a girl, much less a woman. You see, when I was 10-years-old I bought Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask, at a convenience store on the way back from a beach trip. My mom and her friend were in the front seat, and the whole way back from Corpus Christi I was hiding my precious and my book. I can only imagine the smile on the clerk’s face when he rang me out, two moms sitting in the idling car. I don’t know where I hid the book when I walked back to the car. I must’ve bought a slurpee. It was not a pre-meditated act. I saw the book and seized the opportunity.

Turned out the sex bible of the 70’s was a gateway drug, and I soon graduated to harder drugs. And I should probably confess, I’m addicted. I love sex. And not in the Sex Addicts Anonymous kind of way, I know how to stop. (grin) I just don’t want to. Ever.

I must’ve been huddled down pretty low and faked being asleep most of the way back as I entered the world of oral sex, masturbation, and the idea that IT IS ALL OKAY. I was a sexually liberated 10-year-old in a matter of hours on that road trip home.

And our initial chemistry and passion was high. Sure mine might have been a bit more obsessive, and bit higher, but she was matching me stroke for stroke in the beginning.

Of course I had to wait a bit before experimenting on live subjects. And so I practiced on myself, and in my mind. Again, I’m not sure what the compulsion was, maybe I should talk to my therapist about it. Sure, I was starved for my dad’s love, but gosh.

And into middle school I was the fountain of knowledge for my uneducated male friends. I made  up stories. But mostly shared what I knew thus far, and I shared my Playboy collection. And in about seventh grade girls were no longer untouchable, but it took a while longer before I got to actually touch one. And after that I was hopelessly hooked. And something in my early education led me to the goal of pleasing the woman first. I’d get mine later. (See: She Comes First) I was just that interested. It was like science or mysticism. Women, the great mystery.

At 27, I got married to a fiery Basque woman. Small and hot. Dark skinned, dark curly locks, and a rocket body that initially gave me a lot of new experience. Once married, however, things changed, so dramatically I was shocked. I won’t go too far into it, but she had been sexually abused. As she felt more and more comfortable in the marriage, and she started going to therapy, the demons of that past began to creep into our sex life. Before long, sex became a very difficult balancing act. And it was harder still because she was so beautiful. I had thought I was getting a great package deal when I married her, but the skeletons soon came out and wrecked our sex life and ultimately our marriage. I learned at this time that sex could be a lure that was covering up much deeper issues. I was out-of-town when she filed for divorce and the papers were served to me at work when I returned. Harsh. I count my blessings that we had never contemplated kids.

I walked around wounded and hungry for a several years after that. I had a few girlfriends, but nothing that lasted. I was so needy and empty. I had no idea what I wanted, in life or in a future relationship. The sex drive was still alive and well, but the means were less available, and my wounding prevented me from being a very avid pursuer.

Then an old high school crush walked back into my life and our paths quickly entwined. Again, I was mesmerized by her beauty. Her smile, her fit body, her easy-going chatter. We were dating within a few months and living together within the year. I remember early on, as we were leaving the coffee shop where we re-met, she turned and said to me, with a sly smile, “I just got back on the pill.” Thrillsville.

And our initial chemistry and passion was high. Sure mine might have been a bit more obsessive, and bit higher, but she was matching me stroke for stroke in the beginning. And we started talking about unprotected sex while we were on our honeymoon in France. More thrills. All warm fuzzies, fantastic momentum and affection… AND…

What I know is I was starving to death for affection from a beautiful woman who was lying right beside me. And there was very little I could do about it.

Our son was born. And for a few months we cooled, of course, as our lives were melted and reformed around this new priority. But soon our sexual activity came back online, a bit less, but still very healthy and honest. Of course, we wanted a second child, and within a year she was pregnant again. Good times. Sex with a pregnant woman is highly erotic, even if infrequent. She was more beautiful than I could ever have imagined. I fell in love with her every day, repeatedly. We were happy.

I’ve covered a lot of the disruption in our marriage in other posts, but the part that I didn’t see coming, at this point was how her sexual drive was about to take a nose dive. Sure, postpartum hangovers and all that, but several years after our daughter was born, we were not having sex very often at all. I was not sure what had happened, and I wanted to find our previous connection again. And for a period of about six weeks we had a miracle rekindling. I got a vasectomy. Affirming both our intentions of now enjoying an unfettered sex life. And for the weeks following the surgery, we had a project together. A sex project. I had to have 30 ejaculations before I could be tested for the efficacy of the vasectomy. And like jack rabbits my wife was into it. We did it in the shower. She would do me at the drop of a hat. And I was pretty easy in those days. And we chalked up the wins and headed back to the doctor’s office for my test and BOOM we were cleared for take off. What happened however was more like a grounding.

Over the next few months our rabid sexual pairings became fewer and fewer. The problem in my mind was she didn’t want to have sex any more. The problem in her eyes, as she expressed it at the time was chores, and money, and kids, and house cleaning, and stress, and tiredness. There was nothing really that I could do. I could try and ask in different ways. I could try and pick up the house between the weekly maid visits. I could try and earn more money and put more money in the bank. However, nothing seemed to work.

It’s possible that her sex drive was goal oriented. We used to joke about it. That when she had the chart and the goal she was very hot for sex. But after that, even she admitted, she liked sex, but it wasn’t really all that essential to her happiness or feeling of connectedness.And again, I can’t know what all was going through her head, but what I noticed was she would go weeks without expressing a single romantic desire. And if I didn’t howl or plead for affection, she was okay to just live that way. It was not part of her essential need. And maybe that’s a Love Language thing. And maybe it was the natural level of sexual desire returning to normal after the missions had been accomplished. I don’t know.

What I know is I was starving to death for affection from a beautiful woman who was lying right beside me. And there was very little I could do about it. And it wasn’t about the quality of the sex, as I’ve said before, I was dedicated to getting her off first. Perhaps it was the routine we got into. Or perhaps, as she expressed occasionally, it was just too much effort. She did have a more difficult time reaching climax, but I was always up for the challenge. And maybe when a woman gets tired, something about sex becomes a chore more than a pleasure. It never was for me. Never has been. I’m still fascinated by it. I’m still studying. And, holy cow, now I’m being given a chance to experience new women.

So divorce hasn’t really been the worst thing that ever happened to me. But the end of sexual joy in my marriage was certainly up there with the big disappointments of my first 50 years of life.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

back to The Hard Stuff

related posts:

references:

image: back, lucas cobb, creative commons usage


Negativity and Isolation: Branching Out To Avoid Breaking Up

the time bombs in your marriageDr. Jed Diamond wrote an interesting post on The Good Men Project today that triggered this post. 5 Time Bombs Set To Go Off in Your Relationship Unless You Act Now

Here are the 5 Time Bombs according to Dr. Diamond:

  1. Our social networks are getting narrower.
  2. We’ve increasingly put all our “emotional-support eggs” in a single basket.
  3. We are expecting more and more from our spouses in meeting more of our needs.
  4. Our brain’s negativity bias causes us to over-emphasize the negatives in our partner.
  5. Our brains are Velcro for the negative, but Teflon for the positive.

Can you recognize some of these behaviors in your relationships? Let’s take them apart for a second.

Our social networks
In our personal lives and our work lives we are becoming more isolated. Sitting in front of a computer screen or texting is not really social. You can communicate that way, but going social, getting personal with someone requires face-to-face communication. Eye contact and physical touch go a long way to unlocking our deep feelings and giving us deeper connections. Who do you share your issues with? Do you have one or several friends you can go deep with? In most cases that number is very small. And there can be problems if the only person you can reveal yourself to is your spouse. It’s hard to complain and get advice from your spouse, especially if the issues are between the two of you. Recommendation: Broaden your network of face-to-face friends who can hear your problems without reacting to them.

It’s easy to see the things your spouse is not doing right. You can point the finger at her for not wanting sex as much as you do, and she can point it back at you for not paying attention to the chores and repairs that need doing.

All of our “emotional eggs” in our spouses basket
Closely related to the first one. Your spouse can be your best friend and most trusted confidant, but you need others. And there are some things that are better worked out with someone other than your spouse. Recommendation: If you don’t have other deep friends you might consider a counselor or minister of your church. You need someone other than your spouse to get things off your chest.

Expecting our spouses to meet all of our needs
And we of course expect more than just the ability to talk about deep subjects and disagreements. We need to talk about things like kids, bills, chores, sex, planning, money. Sometimes the blur of hard subjects can mute the positive things. If you spend 80% of your time working things out, you’re not got going to have much energy or compassion for getting close. Even closeness requires energy. And if the hard stuff hasn’t caused you both to request a break, then you might be able to spend some time making love. But that’s a long “if.” Recommendation: Get help where you can. Put your bills on autopay. Hire a housekeeper if you can afford it. Getting some of your needs (non-sexual of course) met outside of your marriage may go along way towards bringing the good energy back in to your marriage.

We have a negativity bias
It’s easy to see the things your spouse is not doing right. You can point the finger at her for not wanting sex as much as you do, and she can point it back at you for not paying attention to the chores and repairs that need doing. Recommendation: Affirmations of your spouse can go along way towards reminding you what you love about them. Giving appreciations when you first get back together is easy and a great way to restart the connection on a positive note.

It’s all about biasing towards the positive and finding ways to discharge the negative. You can release a lot of the resentment and anger away from your primary relationship.

Velcro for the negative, teflon for the positive
Often it’s the feelings of anger and resentment that get stored up and kept deep in our secret heart. It is harder to release these kinds of feelings. (Again, this is a place where a counselor or confidant can help grately.) So we tend to stick those hurtful feelings deep inside, trying to bury them. But this never works and they fester until they come out in some indirect way. And positive feelings often feel fleeting, especially if they are small moments within the storm of life. We can hold on to the positive with some practice, but it’s harder to store. Recommendation: Find ways to release the anger and resentment, either dealing with the issues directly or talking to a counselor. And learn to bias your responses to life in a positive light. Find the things you are happy about and bring them up more often. Give thanks and affirmations freely and to everyone you meet. (Not in a trite way. Example: “Sweetheart, I love the way you made breakfast for the kids and let me sleep an extra hour. Thank you.”)

It’s all about biasing towards the positive and finding ways to discharge the negative. You can release a lot of the resentment and anger away from your primary relationship. While your spouse may be the trigger for the anger, the depth of the feeling is probably related to events and hurts that are much older. Often our deep rage is related to our family of origin and what behaviors we learned or were hurt by as kids. And here’s a key: Our spouses cannot heal us. The healing is up to us. And often it is best to get that support and growth strategies outside our marriage.

It doesn’t always work. We fail, we get angry, we let the shit fly. And if we can’t redirect enough of the struggle away from the heart of our love, we might end up in divorce. The best we can do in this circumstance is to continue to try and forgive and move on. And even more important now, the affirmation of your ex-partner as a good parent, and accentuating the positive goes a long way towards showing your kids how relationships work. Even when you are no longer married, the issues are the same. Stay on the positive side. And if you need help, get it, from someone other than your spouse or ex.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

back to On Dating section

Related posts:

Reference: 5 Time Bombs Set To Go Off in Your Relationship Unless You Act Now – Dr. Jed Diamond

image: love bomb, karl norling, creative commons usage


Three Loves: Eros, Filial, Agape

OFF-snakeI’ve been trying to create a lover from thin air. Using all my conjuring powers, all my musical and romantic tricks to summon the next great lover. And… I’m not sure I have been doing it right. I learned something this morning as I revved forward into a peaceful Sunday morning, alone.

At church I was listening and not listening to the sermon. I had not been in over a year. But I did love this preacher and this feeling of home that was comfort and solace in my past joys and pains. But for brief moments I was trolling. I was scanning the entire church for attractive women. WHAT?

Sid, was giving a sermon on love. WHAT? Maybe it was time to give my search a rest and listen. Maybe this morning was no random occurrence. And in my somewhat mixed state I listened and scanned. But I became aware of the frivolousness of my longing. The type-a searching, that had produced ZERO ecstatic partners, may not be serving me. What if I relaxed. Sat back. And grooved on being present and lovable. Loveable even to myself.

The words from a song by the band Bush kept running through my head.

Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breath out…

So, there was one woman. She was familiar. She had been part of the church for at least 5 years. She had joined as a recently divorced mom with a three-year-old daughter. She was beautiful.

Eros: is often thought of as the love of sex. But it’s much more than sexual. It’s the fire, the passion, the drive to create. And noticing that much of my eros, or erotic energy was focused on finding a partner, I could understand how that energy was being funneled away from the other creative passions. In my attempts to create the lover I wanted, to woo in a certain way that the other person becomes inflamed at the same level, was draining some of my resources and some of my beauty with all the effort.

It was not her. I was too intent on looking for someone. Perhaps I was too intent on “creating” someone who loved me back. But my impatience could lead me to a lot of unnecessary churn.

In fact, I want to let go and present myself a bit more low-key and wait for some of the flame to come from the other person. I wanted patience. Even in the heat and rush of passion I did not want to be the 90% generator of the flames. I would not create my lover. My lover needed to come fully created and meet me on the field. Anything else, was beginning to feel like pushing the river.

Filial Love: family, community, connectedness. This was the love I was being washed in, sitting alone with friends. Sometimes, in the darkness, even this filial love is not enough, and we’d rather stay in our quiet, dark, boxes and suffer alone. But just knowing that our family was out there, that our filial ties were strong even when we were all silent… Today I felt the family I had been missing. And the love from the family of origin that I had never gotten as a child.

Agape Love: the flat-out powerful love of the creator, however you care to imagine her. God, Jesus, Mohammed… Native American gods. All part of the whole. The GOD of gods. However you chose to believe, however you chose to be amazed, that was the god of Agape. And while it could be sustaining, it was not nourishing in the same way as the first two. And certainly not as filling and energetic as the first one, Erotic.

So if I am running around, poetry-ing, wooing, sending love letters to someone who I hope to awaken, perhaps I am draining some of the essence that I could be using elsewhere, if I just relaxed into the process. Time is the key. Time is everything. And timing is important too.

Let’s look at the woman in the congregation. She was obviously attractive to me and known to me. She was the only sexually attractive person in the congregation of about 120 people. And that’s it. We caught each other’s eye several times. I flirted in my mind, and tried to return to the message Sid was delivering. I had mixed results. But I did learn something.

  1. I found 1-person-out-of-120 people sexually attractive.
  2. Her physical beauty was what drew my attention in, as I was scanning.
  3. What I knew about her, other than her initial introduction to the church, was nothing. She was alone today, but that’s all I could tell.
  4. She smiled at me. Or was she smiling in my direction? Hard to know.

If I had been determined and focused on finding a partner I might have stayed after church and initiated a conversation with her. I didn’t.

This one attractive person was amazing, and the revelation of my above-average tastes was also revealing.

I do understand the commitment, beyond all measure, to continue the search for love and loving within the entire arc of our relationship.

It was not her. I was too intent on looking for someone. Perhaps I was too intent on “creating” someone who loved me back. But my impatience could lead me to a lot of unnecessary churn.

I learned something from what Sid said about marriage today and the line of the marriage vow, the part about “until death do us part.” It seems so archaic today. Do we really believe in marriage, or that vow, with today’s marriage statistics?

What I learned, or heard at least, was that this vow was more about commitment. Could we commit to wanting and working towards a love that would last. That we could put ourselves all in, and vow to do whatever it takes to keep the relationship and love growing, in spite of setbacks both personal, financial, and physical? Could we say YES to the full thrust of the LOVE we were being asked to participate in?

It’s food for thought. I don’t know about marriage. I don’t know what the ring and the vows mean today, in my life. But I do understand the commitment, beyond all measure, to continue the search for love and loving within the entire arc of our relationship. Where it will all lead, that is more of a mystery. But when she shows up before me, and says, “YES,” I won’t hesitate. I will know. But I can’t go out questing for her. I can’t write poems to capture her. I cannot make her into the lover I imagine.

Trying is not fair to either of us.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

Related posts:

Resources:

image: snake, hand, bokeh, james lee, creative commons usage


Easier To Be Quiet

the off parent - being quiet

I know it would be easier for everyone if I would just shut up about my divorce. We’ve rehashed all the problems, all my perceived injustices, all the ways I’ve been wronged. I know I keep telling the same story, over and over. I know, I hear you.

And I won’t shut up. Sorry.

The beautiful thing about anger, that I did not know until I had unleashed some of it… Anger is healing and powerful.

In my marriage I learned to cope. I learned to nurture myself in the absence of love. I self-regulated and made due with less and less affection. But the education, the pattern that I learned about what love looked like didn’t begin with my ex-y. Nope, I learned how to be disinterested and disconnected from my parents, just as you probably did. I mean, they were the only examples we had. And boy did I learn how not to do a marriage. But of course, my images and imaginings were done by the time I was 8. It was all over by then, for my mom and dad. And everything else I thought I knew, I made up.

We are not ready for the changes of marriage. And we are certainly in no way prepared for parenting. It changes everything.

In my marriage, the changes were too much. We lost touch with one another and learned to be quiet even when we should be shouting at the top of our lungs, “This is hurting me.”

Anger was a form of control in my family of origin. My father would rule his house with rage and yelling. And we would hide, tremble, and obey. But this is no way to behave. But what it did to our range of acceptable emotions, was to limit our own access to anger. What it did for me was teach me to be agreeable, at all cost. To even lie if it meant I could avoid a fight.

But in a healthy relationship we need to fight. We need to have access to our full-range of emotion. And when I started getting angry about what wasn’t working, I learned that it was okay. Of course, my ex-y would’ve loved me to stay in the submissive mode, I started to draw boundaries for the first time in my marriage. I started expressing what wasn’t working. I started to express my anger at being ignored emotionally and physically. And I demanded a change.

Of course the change I was hoping for would’ve come in the form of realigning our marriage, and what I got was an exit request. But I was no longer willing to just be quiet.

So sure, I could shut up about the divorce, the depression, and the anger. And it would be a whole lot easier on all of us. But the beautiful thing about anger, that I did not know until I had unleashed some of it… Anger is healing and powerful.

Anger does not have to be abusive or rageful. Anger can be a consistent request for love and affection. Anger can be a demand for the other partner in a relationship to wake up and relearn how to express joy. Anger gave me back my balls, so I could express what I really needed in my marriage.

I am still embracing my ability to ask for what I need, to seek truth and connectedness, and to find another person who expresses themselves easily through physical affection.

Try as I might, I was not able to call my ex-y back into love with me. Perhaps things had gone to far by the time I started fighting for my rights as a lover and husband. Perhaps my attempts to ravage my beautiful wife were no longer welcome. But I did not give up. I did not back down. I was no longer willing to masterbate alone all the time and wonder why she never had a sexual impulse. There I said it. I wanted to have sex and for some reason she didn’t.

And it wasn’t the typical dude grabbing at his woman daily for gratification. It was not a rutting sex I was after. I genuinely needed to feel skin-on-skin contact. I needed to affirm my warmth and closeness with my lover. I needed to be a lover and to reignite the lover in her.

I lost that negotiation. And ultimately I lost my marriage and the full-access to my kids. Bummer. But I was not willing to just be quiet and bear the coldness and aloneness that my marriage had become. And while she ultimately was the person who asked for a divorce, I was the one who had finally begun speaking up. And even in the face of her divorce request, I was certain I was fighting for my marriage. I wasn’t. I was fighting for what I wanted my marriage to return to, or what I’d hoped my marriage would become.

It’s not easier to be quiet, actually. It’s devastating not to speak your truth and be embraced. It’s debilitating to ask again and again for affection and be given all number of reasons that it’s not the right moment, or that I didn’t ask in the right way. I was starving to death while lying next to the one person who could nourish me.

Well, fortunately I learned my lesson. And I am still embracing my ability to ask for what I need, to seek truth and connectedness, and to find another person who expresses themselves easily through physical affection. It’s simple when you both crave the same Love Language. It’s a stretch and a negotiation if you don’t. But it’s never easier, in the long run, to be quiet.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to The Hard Stuff index

related posts:

Resources:

image: lovers, alice313, creative commons usage

+++ for a moment of comic relief


Beyond the Rush of Love, Is the Test of Time

We seek a connection, a rush, a hit of passion. We search for our next relationship, sometimes in a wounded state, sometimes strong and confident. The process is the same. In starts and fits we meet people, we check out the chemistry, the attraction, and then we evaluate their potential as a partner. And as we spend time together we lean into the connections we find, the affinities we try to cultivate and highlight. And the red flags we try to evaluate and either dispel or bring up for discussion. A few too many red flags and they are out.

And if we’re lucky we continue down the courting road towards whatever is next. And depending on our desire and openness we progress on to the big R, relationship. And sometimes we find ourselves afraid to explore that road for long without fear kicking in. What’s that fear about?

It can’t all be euphoria and bright stars. If there is zero conflict and only bliss, there is something amis.

Part of the fear for me, is the knowledge that my desire and romantic goggles will cloud my clear thinking and I will be blind-sided by some fatal flaw in the relationship or the other person, or even our fractured match.

A flip-side to that fear is the one that says, Oh my, what if it continues to grow and build and feel great? What if it’s mutual? And that too has a fear base. Going too far and too fast into a relationship that ultimately has the power to destroy your hard-won recovery.

So we balance our feelings between the two extremes, walking together down the old road of becoming familiar with each other’s habits, quirks, and even their fears. And if we’re lucky, if we’ve done our self-care homework and are coming from a healthy and stable place within ourselves, we can parse the various emotions that come flooding up from the highs and lows of this journey.

It can’t all be euphoria and bright stars. If there is zero conflict and only bliss, there is something amis. And you can be assured that the opium of your bliss will give way to the hangover at some point and the real “other” person will show up. And it’s hard to remember that the courting phase also puts each of us on our best behavior, whereas when we become more and more close we start to let a few of our skeletons out. On accident, for example, if we snore or something. And unconsciously as we project past hurts and memories onto this new relationship. Either way, if you have zero conflict you’d better dig into that, because a healthy fight, or healthy disagreement is essential to success for the long haul. You’ve got to be able to disagree and not freak out when you find things that don’t gel.

Okay, so let’s say all of this is working. And let’s imagine you’re several months down the treacherous road, you’ve weathered an argument or two, maybe even seen and worked through a few red flags. And it’s still feeling good. What then?

Then comes the biggest fear, in my opinion. What if you do everything right and explore all skeletons and mismatches and something still starts to go off. Maybe in a year, maybe in 5 years. How do you keep a relationship healthy? How do you still develop passion for a person you’ve been exploring with for years? What’s the key to sustained and loving relationships?

The breakdown of my marriage and thus family was the hardest moment I have yet to experience in my life.

Because, after all this work to get where you are, to even come close to finding a compatible partner, the worst thing imaginable is the death of that passion or compassion for the other person. How did it happen in your previous relationships? What was the fracture that started the breakdown in the relationship? Was it a specific event?

In my experience so far, part of the hesitation and “go slow” impulses comes from a healthy respect for this potential let down. I don’t want to get deep with someone if I’m likely to get hurt. And in the early months of the relationship, I can assure you there is still enough novelty and newness, the excitement for discovery, that fuels a distorted view of reality. It’s okay to go slow. The main goal being communication and understanding how you and your partner cope under pressure. It can’t all be paradise and nectar.

In my real marriage (my first marriage was a  trial run) I was still madly in love with my partner who had begun to look elsewhere for that connection. There was no physical infidelity, but a few big slips of the emotional variety. And through it all we both struggled to recapture, reframe, and reform our relationship. And ultimately, even as I was optimistic and willing for repair, the other person decided divorce would be the better course of action for us.

That was the real death of my relationship, learning that my then-wife had been to see an attorney to see what divorce looked like, to explore options.

I hope never to experience that free fall drop again in my life. I’d rather stay alone, or at least casual and superficial. The breakdown of my marriage and thus family was the hardest moment I have yet to experience in my life. As I rebuild my life, and rebuild my trust for another person, the fall is one of those skeletons that I have to keep expressing and being honest about. And if we stay in the present moment, and keep our connection, we’re on the way towards building a bridge over past hurts and fears and towards what each of us is ultimately looking for: a lifelong cheerleader and partner. Someone who can see the hurts, and quirks and still love you through them.

It’s a long road just to find a person who’s willing to even venture down the relationship journey at all. So how do we build a new connection without allowing the fear or euphoria blind us to the real relationship? Again, it’s about staying in the present moment. You don’t have to plan or fear commitment when you are just getting to know someone. You don’t have to protect yourself if you stay in the “now” and just enjoy the process and the high of a new relationship.

Look for ways to see through the haze of lust, or the fog of fear, to recognize when things are working, or things are really not working. It takes time. There is no hurry.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to On Dating Again index

related Posts:

resources:

image: Anastasia Fursova, creative commons usage


Our Sexual Brain and the Lies It Tells Us

OFF-torsoAt the base of the relationships between men and women, is the animal nature. The physiology and biology that propelled us out of the caves and into the stars is still really about hormones, chemicals in the brain, and our unquenchable desire to further our genetic lines. Even as evolved as we think we are, chemicals like testosterone and dopamine really more of our energy and motivation than we’d like to think.

I’ve been exploring my own fixation on youth and fitness and how that is largely driven by these same procreative, base needs. And how as a somewhat evolved male homosapien, I have some control over the more ape-like ancestral rushes that occasionally course through me. And today I hit on an example that might clarify a bit more of my own self-examination around these urges vs. what I really want.

Today I was playing tennis with my 11 yo daughter. I have been teaching her how to play. And today on the court I was sitting back and watching her practice serves. On the court next to us was an older woman who, though sightly more robust than my partnering preference, was doing a fine job of beating the pants off her male partner. At this same time, just outside the fence behind my daughter, a young coed, walking her dog, strolled by looking quite fit, but perhaps a bit young to be of interest other than an observation of her beauty.

Every flash of cleavage, every picture on the web, all the titillation around me would give stir to my ape-chemistry and I would derive a little motivational boost.

Seeing these three women at the same time, I got it in a flash. My animal brain and body was attracted to the coed. My love and parenting body was happily enjoying my daughter’s physical practice. And my mind, unencumbered by sexual fantasy, was also fascinated and interest in the woman playing tennis.

The sirens of sex.

I don’t have to give in to the sexual chemistry. And one thing I know about myself, when I’m getting some of my sexual needs met, my sublimated sexual energy is much less powerful. And I’ve been trying to understand some of this dynamic in myself as I’m trying to imagine and conjure up my next relationship.

Before I was paired up, as a boyfriend or a married man, I was a bit more like a wild animal. Every flash of cleavage, every picture on the web, all the titillation around me would give stir to my ape-chemistry and I would derive a little motivational boost. It wasn’t that I wanted to mate with each of the objects of desire, but there was some shortage in my life, some lack. Perhaps my ape-brain was looking for a mate. My evolved-brain was a bit more capable of parsing out the desire part from the sex part, and I was usually able to leave the potential mate unmolested.

But something cool happened when I got matted up. (And I am certain this is different for each man and woman — as we all have different histories and hoped-for futures.) When I was IN relationship, I no longer scanned the savannah for sex. While I could see an attractive young athlete and say, “Wow.” I no longer had any desire to pursue sex or children or even gawking at her.

That’s how I knew, in my evolved self, the GF#1 was not the IT girl for me. Even as I was in relationship with her, and committed to her, my ape-related drive was not satisfied. Even though I had a relationship with an attractive woman, my chemistry was not settled. I did not feel completed.

I knew when I was married that I was SET. I did not desire another woman, ever. I did not roam or roar for anyone else. But when the sexual connection was severed I roared like a wounded animal and fell into a long period of rebuilding.

I know that’s a bad metaphor. But something in my DNA likes to be mated. And when it is complete, or solid, I no longer cruise the herd looking for something fresh, new, and young. When I was married, even as things were going south, there was never a moment when I considered pursuing sex with another woman. I simply did not want anything, sexually, other than what I had. So, like an animal, when the sex when south too, I began to express my rage and sadness and loss.

It’s interesting to note, as a creature of chemistry and instinct, we are also driven by motivation, safely, and happiness. But, I am certain that part of my happiness was related to the sex and the chemicals it produced, the safety and trust it expressed, that when lost, I began to wonder for the first time about the viability of my relationship.

I never looked outside the marriage for that connection. And even after divorced I maintained a fairly celibate life as I knew my sexual-brain could get me into a lot of trouble when it was flooded with so much sadness, anger, and appetite.

I had never been adored like I was adored by GF#1. She was fearless, close, and spoke “touch” as her love language as well. I tried to get a clue about my sexual ennui over the three months of our relationship, and in the end agreed to release her back to the wild so she could find the roar for her that was as strong as her roar for me.

Today I connected a tiny bit more of my history and chemistry. And I identified the Sexual Sirens that are all around me, and saw for the first time how different they were to me, depending on my relationship status. If I was mated and getting regular sex. I could care less for their siren song. If I was alone, like a lone lion, I was eager to catch thrill and quick to give chase.

I knew when I was married that I was SET. I did not desire another woman, ever. I did not roam or roar for anyone else. But when the sexual connection was severed I roared like a wounded animal and fell into a long period of rebuilding.

Along those lines, then, my thinking is, when I’m sorting out and evaluating my next relationship, I will listen to the clues in my body and my brain that are either satisfied or hungry to guide a part of my understanding of the animal fit. There’s a lot more to a RELATIONSHIP than fit or chemistry, but boy, when those things go off there’s a lot of roaring to do.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to On Dating Again index

related posts:

resources:

image: thigh high, lucy naughton, creative commons usage


The New Rules of Sex: Frequency, Fun, and Fantasy

sexy couple, new sex

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping sexual communication open throughout the entire relationship is critical.

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

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

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

Woo Hoo!

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to On Dating Again index

related posts:

resources:

image: sexy couple, creative commons usage

reference:


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

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

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

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

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

“What’s important is, do we want to spend time together? Do we like being together? And then, for me, is this a possible relationship.”

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

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

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

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

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

She seemed a bit unconvinced.

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

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

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

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

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

I’m ever hopeful.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to On Dating Again index

related posts:

resources:

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


What’s This About: Marriage?

creative commons usage: marriageWould you do it again? What’s the point? Is it symbolism or security you seek? I don’t know, but I’m willing to ask myself the questions about why I would ever want to get married again.

It came up in a recent discussion. “I don’t think I’ll ever do that again,” she said.

I noticed my reaction. “Hmm. I wonder what that’s about.” But I quickly turned the observation inward to try and parse out what I would want from marriage. Let’s see…

  1. I already have kids, so it is not about them or having a mom.
  2. I did love the ring. I loved what it symbolized. I cried the first time I took it off. I was a proud husband.
  3. Financially there are some advantages.
  4. Security. (Hmm. This is the hardest one.)

In the end, the marriage did not provide any security within my relationship. I mean, perhaps she would have decided to seek greener pastures sooner had it not been for the legal and financial wranglings that were required to divorce me. But from my side, perhaps I was a bit blind-sided by my unrealistic trust in the “marriage” part of our relationship.

So what kind of trust could be won from getting married again? Would it make our bond any more secure?

The woman I was chatting with responded to my financial comment by asking, “Is that really something you considered when getting married?”

“No,” I said, “But I would have to consider it a reason now. I mean we both have kids, so it wouldn’t be about them.”

And here we are, at the crux of the matter. Would MARRIAGE, the ring, the ceremony, the step-kid thing, give either of us more security? I don’t know. Is it part of my plan? Perhaps, but it is certainly not something I think of in the early months of a relationship. Although she did catch me saying, “If a relationship doesn’t have the potential of going long-term, then I’m not really interested.”

“What does that even mean, long-term,” she asked, with a sly smile.

“I don’t know.”

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to On Dating Again index

related posts:

resources:

image: creative commons usage: marriage day, sami ben gharbia


The Divorce Whisperer

the divorce whispererDoes the divorce of someone near us cause us to consider divorce as a viable option? Did my divorce encourage my ex-y’s best friend to leave her husband too? The green grass thing… Yeah. Not so much!

Here’s what I want you to know about divorce, especially when you have kids: IT SUCKS.

All this positivism I preach here. All this self-improvement, dating, love poem bullshit is really just my new part-time job, since I have all this time on my hands. It might have been harder to write a love poem to my ex-y when we were still married, but I was trying. Love songs? Check. Love letters? Check. Love advances, requests, seductions, pleadings? Check.

There was a survey I found before our divorce process was in full-swing, that showed a majority of divorced couples reported 3 and 5 years later, that they WERE NOT HAPPIER after their divorce. Hmm. Something is out of whack here.

Top Reasons Not To Get A Divorce

  1. The kids, the kids, the kids.
  2. Money gets even crazier. And even harder to talk about.
  3. Your best friend is still there, they are just scared and angry. Work through that and…
  4. The shared history is hard to come-by and impossible to erase.
  5. Finding true-connected love is a long shot.
But happier? As in happy? I don’t think so. I had the belief that the ex-y and I could regain our initial joy again.

Maybe things have gotten hard. I mean really hard. Maybe sex happens once or twice a year. Maybe the loving feeling was lost and now you’ve got more of the tolerant roommate vibe going. Maybe you’re craving something to liven up your life, to wake your ass up.

All that shit is workable. You, waking your own ass up is all that is required.

Oh wait… There is the other person too.

Top Reasons To Get A Divorce

  1. You are waiting, have been waiting, continue to wait, for the other person to change.
  2. Things have gotten abusive.
  3. The kids are suffering under the lack of joy and love in the house.
  4. Infidelity.

I remember having a friend come over for dinner with the ex-y and me, while we were deep in the discontentment part. And this loving guy, who’d just recently split from his live-together relationship of 17 years, was going on and on about this new younger woman he was dating. And the amazing chemistry (mostly about sex) that he was getting from being with someone “so new” and “so fresh” and “amazingly creative.”

I felt like a cuckold. My then-wife was in some sort of freeze out period going on two months, and I sat at the table listening to my friend’s joy and enthusiasm, thinking, “I am in hell. This is what hell must feel like.”

See I still adored my wife at that time. But her attention, her passions, and her vibrancy had moved elsewhere. I could understand at that moment, why someone might choose to leave a marriage in search of greener bushes. But, even then and there, I knew in my heart that my friend’s joy was not where I wanted to go. I was still determined to work it out with my then-wife. I adored her. I needed her. I ached with the raw absence of affection that my friend’s descriptions pointed out, so clearly.

So, at that time, I dug in deeper. I began to express my dissatisfaction with our relationship. I started telling my then-wife that I needed things to change. “I need to be let out of the box of isolation.”

I’m not sure how differently men and women are wired, but I learned about Love Languages pretty late in the game. And my language (touch) was not the same as the ex-y’s (do something for me). And to be starved of touch, even the little touches, was unbearable. And I got more clear on that miss in my life, and I wanted to reinvent my relationship with my wife.

There was very little I could do to get her to unpack and reinvest in loving me and keeping our marriage alive. I was no longer a priority for her.

The problem was, I guess, she didn’t want to change. While I was feeling solid in my marriage enough to question the relationship, she was already thinking about leaving. She was seeing the answer outside the marriage. I was still trying to create and revive the marriage I wanted from the sad house we had created.

What I know from Al-anon, you cannot be waiting on the other person to change. The only change you can affect is your own. I had to work on myself and my commitment. I had to invest time in my happiness and not count on the other person to make me happy.

But without cuddling, hugging, and simple touch, I was starving to death, right there in bed, next to a woman I still considered my “match.”

Over the course of the next several months I began to get more and more vocal about my dissatisfaction. And what I learned as we entered the end-game of our marriage: both partners have to want to continue. My ex-y’s heart had already been packed away for the next opportunity at love. There was very little I could do to get her to unpack and reinvest in loving me and keeping our marriage alive. I was no longer a priority for her. The priority was figuring out her options and making a decision about when and how to leave the marriage.

In my mind, I was coming from a place of confidence and commitment. I wanted this marriage. I wanted my family. I loved my house, my life, my wife. And I was confident that my joy and hard work would re-warm her heart, and we would see bright days again. I was wrong.

Today, looking back, three years later, I ask myself, “Am I happier now? Am I better off?”

Two hard questions. I’ll take the easy one first. Am I better off? HELL NO. The financial hell is partially a result of our divorce. Now we’re trying to afford two houses, cause we’re certainly not going to live together, and the economics are hurting us both. We are floundering. We will find higher ground, but at the moment, I haven’t been in a lower place financially. And still…

Am I happier now? This one is much harder to parse.

Emotionally, I am much happier than I had been in the last two years of my marriage. What changed that turned the whole enterprise sour, I don’t know exactly, but it had a lot to do with money. And when you are tossed into the void of alone time following divorce, you’ve either got to figure out that relationship with yourself again or rush to try and fill that void with another relationship, as my ex-y did. I have been thriving in the alone time. UM… After I got over being terribly depressed. But today, I’d say, inspite of the financial crisis that is looming, I am happier than I remember being for a long time. Ever? No. But I’m happy.

Happier as a parent? Sure. Now, my kids get a fully-focused dad. When they are with me, it’s a bit like vacation-dad, but that’s more about the imbalance of time, rather than my approach to being dad. I am back to my joyous-self. And my kids see this. They tell me how happy I am, how they notice my joy, all the time. And I am rubbing off on them. I think their balance is pretty good. They are both a bit freaked out by any type of conflict (the ex-y and I didn’t really fight, so they don’t have very good examples) but good and smart kids, making their way in this new two-house reality.

But happier? As in happy? I don’t think so. I had the belief that the ex-y and I could regain our initial joy again. I still had glimpses of it. And I still desperately wanted to be with her. (Note: I don’t want to be with her any more, but this is due mostly to the ongoing damage she continues to hurl in my direction.)

I believed until the day she revealed that she had already consulted a lawyer, that I was fighting to SAVE MY MARRIAGE. I didn’t know the other half of my marriage had already left.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to The Hard Stuff pages

related posts:

resources:

image used via creative commons: girls whispering


A Fool and His Money Soon Go Separate Ways

my angry ex-wifeI’ve shied away from the big money post before. But on my “getting healthier” walk today I heard a song that made me sort of rethink: WTF?

Let me see if I’ve got this right.

When we met my ex-y was living in a rental house (really living with her boyfriend at the time, but I didn’t know this until later). She had a great job, and seemed to be making plenty of money. (Or should I say, money didn’t seem to be an issue in her life.)

At that same time, I was living in a pretty swanky condo downtown (thanks mostly to my father’s estate) and working full-time at my own consulting and marketing business. (Pretty much what I’m doing now.)

When we began talking mating and offspring we both agreed on a couple of things:

  1. Mom should get to spend more time in the early years with the babies
  2. Mom would probably have to work part-time, eventually, since we wanted to live in a really nice neighborhood
  3. Dad would work full-time and do whatever it takes to make #1 and #2 happen
  4. We were in this equally, equitably.
  5. We made a great team together.
Maybe she was having a mid-life crisis at that moment. But in this very cash-starved moment in our history together, she was thinking about going into a new field. Okay. And she was casting around for what to do next. Fine.

For the most part, we were growing our family to plan, when 9-11 happened and changed the world for all of us.

In our little universe, which consisted of a one-year-old son, we had some cushion. But the fall of so many of our norms was  hard to recover from. (I guess I’ve also shied away from telling the longer story of my depression… Hmm.)

So here’s what happened to me, personally.

  • My long-time client transitioned all of their business to a new company the August before 9-11.
  • In my rebuilding plans I had scored several new clients, both real estate developers. The day after 9-11 all of my income, 100% of it, froze. My income went to zero.
  • My mental wheels began to come off about nine months in, though I did manage to land a few new clients in the new post 9-11 era.
  • Finally, with the upcoming birth of my daughter becoming more and more medically complicated, I snapped. Something broke inside of me, and I no longer assumed that things were going to be okay. I broke down.

This breakdown took the form of me turning down a very stressful, but lucrative opportunity that my then-wife had helped secure. And I didn’t back out very gracefully. I freaked out of it. “I can’t do it. I can’t give them the presentation.”

Over the course of the next several years, my emotional sobriety was mixed. I had good months, good runs at work, and then I would go pop and drop back into the pit of despair. The good news is my pre-marital condo sold for a very nice nest egg. The bad news is, while this was taking place, we were burning through that nest egg at a pretty alarming rate.

Here’s where things got a little weird. And here’s where the money part of my marriage really came into question for me.

While we had agreed that Mom would get to stay at home with the kiddos as much as possible, I began to see how dependant we had become on MY income. Rather than beginning the process of collaborative work search, WE had somehow both become overly focused on me and my ability to earn enough for our new family of four.

Now, I’m not blaming her for this perspective. But it got a little absurd. And the depth of it, with 20-20 reviewing capabilities, goes deeper than I realised while I was married.

Okay, so back to pre-marital imbalance. I’m a home owner with some money in the bank. She is not. No worries, we’re in this for the long haul.

The thing that really became obvious, wasn’t obvious until she decided she wanted a divorce.

About six months before the shit hit the fan, the financial shit was still hitting the fan. As we were struggling to make a couple of mortgage payments, I ended up selling 10k of my music equipment to make ends meet. We were stressed out to the max about money. And “I thought” both of us were working together to find work to support our family.

Maybe she was having a mid-life crisis at that moment. But in this very cash-starved moment in our history together, she was thinking about going into a new field. Okay. And she was casting around for what to do next. Fine.

Thankfully, the Thanksgiving before our divorce, I got an amazing job offer that started up immediately. We were saved. Kind of.

The YEAR that we were struggling, the YEAR that I sold two guitars I’d owned for 15+ years to make our mortgage payment, the YEAR that she was mad at my about 90% of the time, was the YEAR that she lost money?

As I began that path of “hi honey, I’m home” fatherhood again, and she was still “searching” something was different. The money was not enough. She was still extremely angry. And really seemed to be directing that anger at me. When the change happened from stress and anxiety to actual focused anger at me, as the problem, I don’t know. But it was palpable. She woke up angry.

Maybe she was mad that she was still having to look for a job at all. I don’t know. I tried asking, but it was fruitless. She was just angry. And when she got angry, she also closed off 100% of the intimacy. I guess that’s natural. You can’t really make love to someone if you’re angry with them. But months would go by, and I’d be the only one seemly noticing that we were not having sex. Like EVER.

So, she was mad. Woke up mad. Went to bed mad. Just mad.

Eventually this got me a bit angry back and I started looking at the dynamics of our relationship. Here I was working the “good job” again, providing the money and insurance for her to continue her search for meaning in work, and things were not getting any less stressful between us. What the fuck?

As we moved through the holidays and through January, my job continued to be stressful, and her work search continued to be fruitless. And while the idea of coming home to a happy family and a meal on the stove was kinda cliché, I was hoping for some of the fruits of my labor to be affection.

In February I began voicing my dissatisfaction with the status quo. And while I was primarily talking about our physical closeness and her obvious anger and angry outbursts at me, I was also talking about  something more fundamental. In all this angry venting at me, I was beginning to get angry back. I started asking about her job prospects. I started asking about sex. I started asking about dinner when I got home.

And we were having to get our taxes together around this time. And I pushed the final hunting and gathering of the documents on her. I, after all, was working a job that was beginning to kick my ass more than I liked. But I was gung-ho, and we were doing soooo much better, financially.

Then a mini-crisis happened, just in this fragile time, as I’m beginning to stand up for what I needed. I got fired. A wrongful termination suit was brought against my former friend, because I was fired for someone else’s mistake, clear as day. But it broke the final ounce of trust and hope for my ex-y. SHE WAS DONE.

Here I was working the “good job” again, providing the money and insurance for her to continue her search for meaning in work, and things were not getting any less stressful between us.

I was not done, I was certain this break would provide a pivot point for us to get back on even footing. For us to finally broach in therapy what was happening in our sexual relationship. But I was the only willing party, at that point. She was finished.

Then two amazing things happened in rapid succession. 1. She found a job. (Like magic.) and 2. She showed me the tax return documents for the previous year, and she actually had a negative contribution to the family budget for the year.

BOOM.

The YEAR that we were struggling, the YEAR that I sold two guitars I’d owned for 15+ years to make our mortgage payment, the YEAR that she was mad at my about 90% of the time, was the YEAR that she lost money?

How amazing that the minute she decided she wanted a divorce, her motivation for finding work changed dramatically. Or maybe it was just the marketplace. You tell me.

Anyway, in the divorce, while I chose not to fight about any of the money, I think she came out pretty well. She’s got the house. She’s got the child support income. (When I get caught back up.) And she’s got the kids a large percentage of the time.

I wonder if she’s still mad at me. Or if, now, she’s found something else to be angry about.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to The Hard Stuff pages

related posts:

resources:


Check Engine Light: How Long Until Repairs Are Forced By a Breakdown?

check engine light

The summer is done, the kids are clicking right along in their new classes, and even my work seems to be okay. But the service engine soon light keeps coming on. And it’s more than a metaphor. While I am on the positive side of the divorce, and growing stronger by the minute, some of my fundamentals are still damaged.

First fail: I am not making enough money. I’m behind on my mortgage, trying to avoid bankruptcy through additional work and applying for full-time jobs. And the work is coming. Two new clients and a former client are all asking for more hours. That’s good, but it’s still “coming.”

Second fail: I’m still not doing a very good job of keeping the dishes done or the house picked up. It’s easy when there’s no one to entertain (I even used this as a way to keep me from pursuing a sexual relationship, last month) to let things go a bit. But I’m not doing the greatest job of setting an example for my kids. I can do better.

The breakdown happened in my marriage. The continued breakdowns were facilitated by our relationship that began to spin out of control at some point.

Third fail: Inspection and Registration stickers are both expired on my car. And I have a ticket out there someone waiting for me. That damn “service engine soon” light means there’s something wrong, and that something will prevent them from giving me a healthy inspection sticker until it’s fixed. Sure this is how the system is supposed to work, but … GRRR.

So at what point does the system (me) simply breakdown?

There was a moment, during the darkest part of my marriage, when my then-wife said to me. “There is no rescue coming. We are it. There is nobody else.” At that moment we were still in the collaborative mode of fighting against the economic struggles caused by 9-11 and my subsequent depression, that brought my earning power, as a consultant, down in a hurry.

Is there a reset button? What’s the reset for me? Fall apart again?

In fact, even as I face the most difficult financial time of my life, where my back is pressed against the proverbial wall, I’m feeling stronger than ever. October has begun, healthcare might be more affordable for me and my family, and I’m ramping up towards my birthday in November, when my powers of strength and imagination tend to peak.

The breakdown happened in my marriage. The continued breakdowns were facilitated by our relationship that began to spin out of control at some point. And while the financial fight before me is high, I raise my cup of coffee every morning at 6 am and laugh at the day. I am alive. I am happy. I am thriving. And I WILL FIX THE CAR, when I have the cash.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to The Hard Stuff pages

related posts:

resources:


Her Lover When We Met

old loversIt’s an odd feeling when you pass the old lover of your ex-wife. The guy she was living with when you reconnected with your high school friend. “It’s just lunch,” we said, but our hearts were moving much quicker than our bodies or circumstances could accommodate. But I didn’t know she was living with someone. Dating, sure, but like moved in, and sleeping there, hardly at her apartment? I did not know this until much later.

I passed him yesterday evening in the grocery store. I’m not sure he recognized me, but the flash in my mind was clear.

I understand now, a bit more, how women often have to qualify “lunch” if they accept it. Or help. Or consulting. While I did not expect anything to develop, just in that two or three lunches, and everything was above-board. We hugged at the end, like friends, like when we met again at the coffee shop. But my energies were in dire need of a connection. And I can’t speak for her, but I would bet money, she was not telling him that she was eating lunch with an old friend from high school. See. Because I learned years later, when we were married, that she did these kind of things.

A number of times she would have lunch with her previous husband. I guess it didn’t ever occur to her to say, “Hey I’m going to lunch with XXX.” And on the flip side, it never occurred to me NOT to tell her when my ex called or wanted to do coffee. It never occurred to me not to be upfront with who I was having lunch with.

Then, during an awfully low period, my then-wife, lunched with another man. A younger man who was attractive and very interested in some kind of relationship with my then-wife. She thought nothing of joining him for lunch, showing him our local library where he could chill and get a free cup of coffee. But I’ve already dealt with this episode. (See: Cheating Hearts, Cheating Minds)

So when this much-older-now guy passed me in the store I thought, just for a second, you poor bastard. Of course, today, I was ultimately referring to myself.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

Resources:


Marriage and Money: A Fairy Tale

stay at home mom dreamsMaybe I seemed rich to the first two women who became my wives. Perhaps my downtown condo, and simple lifestyle appeared to be something other than it was. I had/have potential, yes, but the real world has a way of changing the game on you, frequently and with indiscriminate outcomes. Maybe the fairy tale went something like this:

  1. Marry a fine gentleman of money.
  2. Have children in a nice house in a top school district.
  3. Stay home and work on parenting and yoga.
  4. Hire weekly housekeeper and part-time nanny.
  5. Live happily ever after.

Something always changes. And when the plans were reset in both marriages, the “stay and home and live the life” part didn’t work out as planned. I had hopes. I had means, during various periods in my life. I still have promise and opportunity. To hone in on the mother of my children, there was never any resistance to working. In fact, for much of the early stages of our relationship she made more money than me. (Yay!) And we had a coordinated idea of how we would finance the children and give her the “stay at home” life, as much as possible. We both agreed, we would like one of us (Mom) to meet the bus when the kids began going to school. And when they were infants, well, of course she would stay at home with them. That’s how we imagined it.

The fact that my dad died of a 4th heart attack and cancer at the age of 55 is not lost on me. But my dad had problems. Mistakes I learned from. Fears I’ve recoiled from. And a devastating divorce I have striven not to repeat.

For the most part, the birthing and getting to school-aged progeny worked. There were some tumbles, mainly 9-11, but we soldiered through, as a family. And reached the “meet them at the bus” stage without too much damage to our credit scores. But the dream (examples set by so many lucky wives in our upscale neighborhood) was not fully realised.

She did have to return to part-time work. We still maintained the nanny and housekeeper, but mid-day yoga classes would have to wait. (Bummer.) And I was bummed. I thought that the dream I saw paraded in the HEB and at our kid’s schools, the cars, the house, the fit-happy-zen wife, was supposed to be within my earnings. I needed to earn a bit more.

So I travelled the big corporate route, to seek relief, for my suffering and the suffering of my family. But even that wasn’t fulfilling the dream. Sure 20-hrs a week beats 50+ with a 2-hour daily commute, but it wasn’t a competition, it was a cooperation. Still, the dream was suffering. I was suffering. I think the wife was suffering. My suffering had to do with my childhood and my father’s extraordinary success. And through many gross legal stories, 15 years after his death, my inheritance was null and void. But I grew up in the most famous house in our town. While things were never very happy there, the outside world must’ve thought we were living the high life.

While I was hammering away and being hammered from both the job and the wife, she was actually losing money? Tough times, yes, but perhaps her encouragement of my career had just a twinge of self-motivation behind it.

Aspire as I might, I won’t likely achieve the financial riches my father accomplished by the time he was 40. The fact that he died of a 4th heart attack and cancer at the age of 55 is also not lost on me. But my dad had problems. Mistakes I learned from. Fears I’ve recoiled from. And a devastating divorce I have striven not to repeat.

Back to me and the ex-y. So, things change. The big corporate job (which had be getting grayer and fatter by the week) went through a major contraction in anticipation of the 2009-2010 financial collapse.

While I saw this as a golden moment to redefine our lifestyles and priorities, my then wife, was panicked. And the road ahead WAS hard. But I imagined that together we would survive and ultimately thrive again. Of course, the economy was hard for everyone, not just us. And the job market was fragmented and getting more ageist by the year. What had been an asset (we’re hiring you for some of your wisdom) became a badge of failure.

I was heading towards 50 and interviewing with 30 year olds. My gray hair had to go. And on the financial front, things didn’t work out as planned there either. The ex-y was fired just days after the big corporate layoff was announced. The good news: my fat corporate job provided for 6-months at full-pay, with benefits, and 70% of my annual bonus. The bad news: with the ex-y out of work that windfall would be eaten away in three months.

Okay, so the work was set out for us. And it was hard. COBRA payments for child insurance are very high. Occasionally we were paying almost as much for our mortgage. And the job hunt was challenging. At one point, nearing a crisis, I sold most of my music equipment to make a couple of mortgage payments. (It was bit like O’Henry’s story, but I wouldn’t know that until later.) Dark times.

And then another fat corporate job came through, for me. This time with even more promise and excitement than before. The ex-y went through some kind of mid-life work reassessment and fished around for multiple job ideas, considered going back to school to learn coding. I shipped off to San Francisco on my first day on the job, to meet the creative team I would be joining. The relief didn’t really come soon enough.

The ex-y was fighting with me on the phone, during my second day in San Francisco. She was demanding to know when the insurance would kickin, when I would get my first full check, and why I had put the room on my credit card. Sure, she was feeling the heat. And sure, she had been paying the bills over the previous six months, while looking for herself and satisfying work. (That’s what we all want, isn’t it, “satisfying work?”) B

ut the proof came out later, something I was unaware of, being focused on breadwinning and not the daily bread. When we pulled the information together for the last year of our joint tax return she actually had a negative contribution to the family budget. WHAT? While I was hammering away and being hammered from both the job and the wife, she was actually losing money?

Tough times, yes, but perhaps her encouragement of my career had just a twinge of self-motivation behind it. See, if I would just get that big corporate job again, we could return to normal, “meet the bus after school” part-time livin. Except that’s not what happened.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

An earlier run at the Stay At Home Mom story

Note: After an early morning chat with my talky therapist, I’ve come up with a catch phrase to frame the renewed attitude of detachment from my ex-y and her future struggles. “Oh, I’m sorry that didn’t work out for you.” It’s more compassion than I ever got from her while I was struggling, and certainly more than I got yesterday. I guess I have to consider the worst outcome and at least have that in mind. I suppose she could have me thrown in jail for not giving her the money I don’t have. I’m already skating above bankruptcy and just trying to keep a roof over my head and the heads of my children. But I suppose she might do it.

< back to The Hard Stuff pages

related posts:

resources:

And a wonderful song about it all from Blur, Country House.

country house from blur

click for video


What You Took Away; What I Get To Remember

OFF-father-daughter

The privilege of walking into my daughter’s room just now and giving her a hug and a kiss, is something I never thought I would lose, in my lifetime. But divorce changes all that. Sure, the relationship had been deteriorating for years or months, even if I’m not the one who asked for the divorce, or consulted a lawyer. BUT… You took my kids from me, effective immediately, no discussion. The minute you walk out of the marital home, you’re life changes forever.

Three summers ago I stepped out of MY house for the last time. It became, “Your mom’s house,” from then on. And I knew that I would not be good in the house alone, so I left it without fighting. The kids needed some security in this amazingly unsecure world we were thrusting on them. There was a cover story, “That Dad was sick and taking some time off at Aunt A’s house.” But it was done. There was no returning or repair for that summer of despair.

I don’t take a single moment with my kids for granted. I am transformed when they are around. I cook. I rouse. I wrestle.

The happy thing I have to report is this Summer, while trying and destabilizing at times, has been the best Summer yet. The closest I came to being depressed was struggling with a sore throat that took over a week to heal. And I was kind of ready for the down time. I’d been running and jumping pretty fast all summer.

And in our routine, Summer means I get my kids on Thursdays AND Fridays every week. (It helps the ex-y with the child care bills, and gives me an extra day of kid time.

I was chatting with another dad the other morning. We were waiting for our daughters to get inside the gym where they were counselors at a gymnastics camp. He said, “It doesn’t matter if they are off playing games, something about knowing they are in the house, is comforting.”

One of the most spiritual moments in my life was the first couple times I stood in my newborn child’s room and watched them sleep. Something about those moments affirm why we are here, and why we as adults keep working so hard to provide a better life, even when things get really hard. In those earliest parenting bedside prayer and answer sessions I felt, somehow, that the life I would provide for my kids would be less traumatic than my own.

And today I understand it more than ever. I don’t take a single moment with my kids for granted. I am transformed when they are around. I cook. I rouse. I wrestle. I take them on errands, I walk down to the lake and swim. I listen to their stories. I tell a few of my own. And while their mom is missing, it feels nearly complete. It’s the closeness and the joy I take in holding hands, or putting a hand on my son’s shoulder while he shows me his latest computer game creation.

I am Dad.

When my father walked out of the family home (as my mom tells it, she had given him an ultimatum about his drinking, and he chose the booze over us.) everything went to shit. Christmases suddenly became very sparse and un-festive. And he really withdrew further into drinking and eventually married a woman, a much younger woman, who liked to drink as much as he did. But the end result was my happy/unhappy home was dumped out and crushed and my father vanished into his own dark pit.

In the beginning moments of the divorce I did not know if is was possible to remain friendly. And even as we struggle a bit with money issues (now divorced) I know we are both doing the best we can.

We had visits. I went to dinner at his house once a week. But he was bitter. And his bitterness inflamed his drinking. And my mom and I had to develop a communication system about how I could call her to come get me when my dad was too drunk to drive. I remember sitting on the floor of his living room, watching Ba Ba Black Sheep together. He was remarried and the Mexican house keeper made the most amazing chopped up french fries for dinner.

And we tried talking about stuff. But he was heading towards oblivion most of the nights, and since he didn’t have to cook, it was easy for him to slip into the comfort of his pouring and adoring wife.

The last time I recall spending a Thursday evening over there, I was in 8th grade. He came home a bit early so we all decided to swim in their pool. I was thrilled he was going into the pool. It almost never happened.

And in the horseplay that seemed so rare and exciting my father grabbed me and started holding me under water. I’m sure he was euphoric with both drink and exercise, but he didn’t let go. And in a final effort to free myself I kicked him in the balls and swam away from him as he released me. I called my mom and went home without having dinner.

And that touch is something I know will never happen with my kids. I’m not a bitter divorcé. In fact, I’m framing myself as a single parent for now. And I do occasionally wrestle and horseplay with my son who enters 7th grade in a few days. And the thing I know, even in my loneliness and feelings of separation when they are gone, is that I am a great father. And I will continue to be a positive and loving force in their lives as long as I live.

I can see the benefits of my divorce from time to time too. I have time to restart my live performances as a musician. I am rarely exhausted. I am learning to cook. But that moment, every so often, that comes up when they are not under my roof, that wish to return to the quiet newborn’s room and know that things are going to be okay, I don’t forget or ignore that moment either. I am grateful my ex-y and I have done such a good job at pulling our marriage apart while remaining good co-parents.

In the beginning moments of the divorce I did not know if is was possible to remain friendly. And even as we struggle a bit with money issues (now divorced) I know we are both doing the best we can. And our children together are thriving, even with two homes.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to The Hard Stuff pages

related posts:

resources:

image: i love my father as the stars, yvette, creative commons usage


Last Good Moment Before the Storm: Rockstar Fantasy Camp

the last good day

It may have been the last good day of my marriage. Though I can see from my weight that I was stressed beyond belief. And it was only a few months later that I sold the prized Strat I was playing, along with several thousand dollars worth of music gear, that seemed to be saying, GROW UP, get a real job, forget this hobby of yours.

We pulled up out of the debt crisis and I landed a job just before Christmas, that put us back in the black for a few short months.

This was the last time my band played live. And it was the first time in 4 or so years. Of course I had given up the rock star dream many years ago, but the dream-fragments linger long. And what I am learning now, is my passion to write, sing, and perform live music is a CORE piece of my happiness.

As I was struggling to understand my parents hateful divorce and my dad’s drift even further away from us kids, and further into alcoholism, I turned to Lou Reed and the Ramones to express my anger. But something else was happening in the basement room that became my “studio.” I was learning how powerful music could be in my life. I have never mentally left that tiny room-of-my-own where I played Lou Reed’s Vicious, over and over and over with various friends holding down whatever instrumental duties they could muster.

Ears ringing we would emerge dazed, but somewhat empowered, by our ability to make a cacophony of notes organize into the semblance of a song. The first SONG I wrote was just before I checked into a mental hospital for a bit of aberrant behavior in my teens. It became an anthem, even for my friends who supported and stood by me during this difficult period. It was called The Shoal Creek Blues. (The name of the kid’s ward was Shoal Creek.) The second song I wrote was a bit more direct.

You’re gonna die, you’re gonna die
Like an animal

While the first one captured the ennui I was experiencing the summer my life came apart, the first time. The second one captured the anger I felt at how things were not going according to any plan I was offered growing up.

I can almost recall the melody to the first one. And I can sing “Die Like An Animal” right now, though I’ve never recorded either of them.

As I was selling my musical instruments to make a couple mortgage payments, and the ex-y and I were looking at “options” I now know that her total contributed income that year, after deducting expenses, was LESS THAN ZERO.

So, can I infer from that, that the money stress that was killing our marriage, was MY FAULT? Or, now in hindsight, can I see that she was hammering me to get it together, and “looking for a job” herself, but the selling of my musical gear was… (I’ll leave that thought right there.)

So after the hardest economic period of my marriage (because we had burned through any money from the sale of my condo – owned before marriage) I finally landed a job with a company that seemed ready to finally fulfill some of my economic promise, and reward me for the hard work I had been doing trying to launch this social media consulting thing for three years. So after that…

I was in San Francisco the first week of my hire. I was amazed that things had happened so fast, but I’d gotten a competing offer from Dell and this new company snatched me up and whisked me off to CA to introduce me and get me oriented to my new team. It seemed like a win to me.

The ex-y was also relieved, but her response was very different. Within 24-hours of hitting San Francisco we were fighting about money. And she was hammering me about when the new insurance would kick in so we could stop paying COBRA (from my last job) on the insurance for the family.

No honeymoon. No celebration. Just “where’s the fucking money?” At least that’s how it felt. Of course she was in a more feral position. She was probably feeling backed into a corner with me, the now “sometimes reliable” breadwinner. And IF she had been looking for work, that had not turned out as easy as she imagined it would. She hadn’t submitted a resume since right after college.

Well, things at the new SF company were not as they had been presented. It was hard. Not only was my then-wife giving me hell, my new manager, the Creative Director of this “life saving” job, had indeed approved my HIRE, but he was not happy about it. Apparently I had been strong-armed onboard by the new CMO-CTO a former colleague at Dell.

He was uncooperative from the moment my plan was delayed in LA en-route to SF. And things went from hello to fuck you pretty quickly. Still, I felt, under the wing of my former colleague and the head of this company’s social media division, I would weather any asshole’s diabolical plan.

In the meantime, things at home did not lighten up. I recall a phone conversation I had with the ex-y a few days after I’d arrived in SF.

“You should come to San Francisco and meet everyone. We could have a second honeymoon. My mom said she’d take the kids.”

“We can’t afford it.”

“We can figure that out. We need some together time. We need some vacation.”

“It would not be a vacation to me. It would be insanity.”

There you go. Two very different approaches to life. On a collision course through marriage to hit the iceberg. Well, I did not see it. She was drawing maps to the lifeboats.

Still, that summer before I had demanded, again on the promise of a NEW CONTRACT GIG that was paying me well.

“I’d like to go play the California festival this summer. They’ve asked me.”

“We can’t really afford that.”

“And I’d like you and the kids to come with me.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

I’m not sure if it was or was not a good idea, but my daughter still remembers seeing me live on stage doing my thing. And we swam and swam in the pool, and went to Legoland. For me, it was a lifetime achievement. I’m not sure what the ex-y was calculating or thinking about when she didn’t join us in the pool. But I’d have to say, it was the last great moment, even as she was disconnecting from me and my rocket ship of a dream, and occasional free fall when the experimental engines failed.

I believe, that’s part of life. Rocketing when you have reliable employment and fuel and momentum. Recovery and rebuilding when you don’t.

During the last refueling stop, after this trip to California, when she had “amazingly” still not found a job and the SURE THING CONTRACT company had actually fired the woman who got me the gig… Free fall.

But freefall with wonderful memories and family moments. Free fall with just a touch of rock star. Free fall with a family and woman I still loved madly.

When the ex-y made the decision that the escape pod was her best option, she got a job in a matter of weeks. She manufactured a job, created a position, and enabled her release from my capsule. Of course, I wasn’t really to figure any of this out until the SF job fell apart and she said she wanted a divorce in the same two weeks.

And really, it’s only with this writing that I’m putting the picture together with a bow around it. She was not happy with my dreams. She didn’t want to honeymoon in SF, even if “my mom said she’d take the kids and it’s only going to cost $550.” She was already on the “where is the emergency stop button” path.

I’m happy to say, I’m gearing up for my NEXT live gig in two months. The festival I played in California is now coming to my hometown. I accepted the offer to play. As they say in the Blue Brothers. “We’re getting the band back together.”

I am looking for a new co-pilot, however. (grin)

Here’s my band playing in 2009. The song was written during this rough period, about depression and acceptance. It’s “just another day.” Nothing to get too worked up about, or to down about. Just weather the storm and keep going. It was actually written after a comment the ex-y made about living with depression.

I’d prefer to live without it. (grin) But when it’s here, you just do the best you can, stay close (the part the ex-y could never handle) and know “that it always gets better.”

It DOES always get better. If you’re dealing with depression, post-divorce, pre-divorce, or not relationship related. Please seek help. You can get to the other side of the storm. It’s JUST ANOTHER DAY.

Sincerely

The Off Parent

Resources:

The Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change
The courage to change the things I can
And the wisdom to know the difference.

 


The Beginning of the End: Losing Touch In My Marriage

OFF-losingtouchI found this text file today, that represents the last straw in my marriage. I remember the moment quite well. I was working a new job, making good money, and was preparing for the Friday drive home on a snowy January evening. I was meaning to type up a quick, I don’t like you but I love you, note. What happened next is MY SIDE of the story for why we got divorced. This was the tipping point for ME.

(I have left the lowercase and lack of punctuation as it was written in the email – I have corrected the spelling and removed any identifying names.)

+++

i am mad at you… i’m trying to get through it… forgive my slowness…
i say we’re doing well, you say we’re bouncing checks
i say, i’m making 100k, you say you’re making 2k per month
i say I recognize my accelerated mode, yellow flagging myself
you say, yes but… there’s more…

yes there is more… always more…

bottom line: my love is never-ending for you, you are more beautiful to me today than any time in the past, I can see you with a vibrancy as I am buzzing over here at P o L. but, I am tired of always being the one to hold the overview perspective, always the one to suggest parties, beach trips, cars, whatever… and have you… say, and I know you will agree that you are tired of this role as well, so this is what we are working on… no, we’re not safe, the house is not clean enough, we don’t have the money for that, we have other priorities. I am tired of holding the line when I am angry or in disagreement, when you seemingly let them fly when and where you see them, without regard for where I’m at or what impact it might have.

The other night as I was reading in bed, hoping that you would be returning from the snake room, you patted my head. The hard part was how good it felt.

What I realized standing next to you in the closet this morning, i don’t like you very much. I am holding some shit, and for that I am sorry. So rather than speaking my mind, I mozy on to the office and work. Rather than complaining when you say you are going to come out of the kids room and watch a movie, I blow it off, throw it in the canyon for a later day.

I guess the later day has come. I am negative. I am not happy. I am not giving you the wrapper that I would like to. You suggest the beach via email a few days ago and my first thought is, “yeah right.” Glad it was your suggestion and not mine.

Well, that signals to me that I am off. What I am off about is something that feels like an imbalance. I am enthusiastic about therapy and what we began to hit on this week.

I don’t feel like I’m better than you or that I am doing it right and you are wrong. I don’t.

But I feel like you have some critical eye that is telling me what I am doing wrong, how I am not meeting YOUR expectations on several levels, and even when I come up and self-proclaim my own warning card, rather than join, you say, but wait… there’s more. Well, that’s what we’re doing, I guess. The more part.

What a learned over the next few days and then weeks was: if I didn’t generate the love language in our house it simply did not exist.

I am sorry for my negativity. I am focusing in on the kids. I am irritable when you talk out loud because I think you are telling me something to do. I am short with you. And I’m happy in C’s room. (I guess you know that one, eh?)

I hope you can see that this is a love letter and not a bitch session. AS I WRITE THIS I AM FEELING VERY SAD.

I do not want to be on the receiving end of so many “you shoulds.”

Here’s the most telling example I can come up with. The other night as I was reading in bed, hoping that you would be returning from the snake room, you patted my head. The hard part was how good it felt. I don’t think our outward expression of genuine amusement and love of the other is very balanced. I am certain you are expressing that with J and C in spades. Me… well, it’s complicated.

And wrapping up, so I can come home, SEX. (I can see your expression changing in my mind…)

I add sex to your list of chores for the weekend. You feel like I am taking a pot shot at you. So you add, Looking for the when, where, how… Okay, so do ever have the thought… “horny”

You have expressed in the past that you do in fact have these thoughts.

So do you ever wonder when, where, how… or is that my department, like taking out the trash or switching lightbulbs? (that came across more harsh than I wanted) Nonetheless, I am harsh right now. I could care less about architecting the clean house, no kids, right mood, structure that it often requires to have sex together. So you know what, I’m having sex alone. Bummer.

Are you having sex?

+++

(The text exchange I initiated in bed, weeks later, was a continuation of this inquiry: Are You Having Sex, Because I’m Not)

The moment I knew I was in serious trouble, was as I was typing up this note. And as I began to get overwhelmed by the feelings of frustration and sadness. It had taken me a week to sort through those magical feelings above “you patted my head.” She also leaned down and said to me, “I love you.”

I was stunned. I was confused. I was out of my body for a minute trying to figure out what was happening. And I didn’t really connect with the message, but the feeling in my body was somewhere between exhilaration and terror.

As I was writing this note home, as a pre-amble to our weekend, I realized that her actions of genuine affection towards me were almost nonexistent. The amazement I felt was how alien it was for her to be touching me and telling me she loved me. The extreme sadness that poured out of me as I was writing this pivot letter, was how much it hurt to know how little she appreciated me for me. She liked the money, the chores, the great dad with the kids, but for me… She had very little affection.

We were established on our opposite sides of the bed. And while I was reaching over I was getting an ice cold response.

It was at this very moment that I began to test my assumption. If I didn’t over-generate the affection in the marriage where would we be. What a learned over the next few days and then weeks was: if I didn’t generate the love language in our house it simply did not exist. I don’t think it had always been like this. I’m not sure when she reversed engines away from me, but it was probably about the time she confessed in couples therapy that she didn’t really love me any more.

Both times (in therapy and writing this note) I wept openly for the loss. My center was caving in and it crushed my hopefulness.

After this letter and the subsequent observations I began to express my dissatisfaction. As I ended this email, I began my exploration of why she didn’t want to have sex with me. Why she never expressed appreciation. Even when I was doing it all the time. And being the best and brightest I could be every single day as I woke up.

We were established on our opposite sides of the bed. And while I was reaching over I was getting an ice cold response. But I was waking up to that painful reality. And I was voicing my anger at how things were playing out. I was bucking against the reins that had been put over OUR passion.

I would not win. But I would no longer be quiet and settle for such a lack in my life.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to The Hard Stuff pages

related posts:

resources:

Image: Susan Benarcik’s Losing Touch

 


Breaking Up and Getting Over It: Someday We’ll Know

creative commons useage http://www.flickr.com/photos/34864643@N00/4649142787Tonight was one of those nights when you see your ex, and you think, “Thank god I have been released.”

It’s not that she’s suddenly become unattractive. Or that she’s doing a bad job at being a co-parent. (Hammering me for money is another thing altogether.) But there’s a hardness that I hadn’t noticed before. She’s gotten too thin. And kinda mean looking. (This is not meant to be a rag, sorry.)

She also looks very professional, and I am grateful that she seems to be thriving in her current job. As we no longer combine forces, she no longer has my sympathies, but I respect her hard work. She’s always been a dedicated worker.

But tonight, watching our son perform in orchestra, I was glad she came to sit next to me and then decided, “I need to be closer where I can see,” to move towards the front. I had a nice side view of her intense face. She was staring into her phone. (Seems to have become more and more the mode for her.) Perhaps she was exchanging chats with her lover. Perhaps racy emails with her girlfriends. Who knows. But what I saw was a complete disinterest in what we were doing at the school. It was a check box. A task that needed to be completed at the end of the school year, like so many other tasks. And it was the last event that was keeping her from her night with her lover, before a weekend where SHE HAS THE KIDS.

It really must be odd, and I don’t know the feeling, of wanting to be elsewhere when your kids are around.

I should have been the one working late, not her. If I had been a better provider, she wouldn’t have to work so hard.

My daughter said something tonight, about how there was never any food in the house. “L the babysitter always goes to the store for dinner stuff, and there’s never any left overs.” Now, my daughter, who was saying this, has a tendency to be dramatic. But she was sharing a glimpse into the life that my ex-y has constructed.

I know it well. When she got on the work train, while we were married, there were many times when it was assumed I would feed, read, and put the kids to bed. I was being her “wife.” Well, I was grateful again, that she was employed. And I would do whatever I could to make a nice house, a nice leftover plate for her, and a bunch of smiling (from bed) kids for her to return home to.

And, god knows, there were even more times when she was performing this type of 100% parenting for me, while I was working late. But there was some different tone about the entire thing.

For me, it was more acceptable. Like the man at work, the wife at home making dinner. While I spent a number of years at a large corporation, it was a lot easier for her to work less than full-time, and spend a lot of extra time with the kids, at their school, doing projects at home.

When she was working late, by contrast, it was kind of dramatic. Like there was some great urgency that was keeping her at the office. And some sense that it was quite unfair for her to have to be working so hard.

WAIT A MINUTE!

That was MY INTERNAL VOICE saying those things. It’s dawning on me — right this very minute — the resentment I was feeling was not about her attitude, it was about mine! WTF? Seriously? I should have been the one working late, not her. If I had been a better provider, she wouldn’t have to work so hard.

Maybe she played into my shame, a little. I don’t know. But I can now see this was MY SHIT not hers.

In the discussions with women, of our age, about who they are meeting in their dating lives, what I get is that most people our age are cynical and bitter.

I’m wondering if my scoffing at her taut looks tonight is also a product of my shame. I’m asking myself, “Sour grapes?’

I don’t think so. BUT, she was the best thing I’d ever had up to that point. She stayed with me through the toughest times in both our lives. And then she gave up on me.

No, for that I won’t be forgiving her. For the release from a sexless and joyless marriage, I have to thank her. I won’t be putting up with that again either. Ever.

And that’s the wonderful thing about the story. Even if I don’t know the ending, what I do know is the possibility is out there. GF #1 showed me what it feels like to really be adored. I CAN HAVE THAT AGAIN. And I actually deserve it.

In the discussions with women, of our age, about who they are meeting in their dating lives, what I get is that most people our age are cynical and bitter. I am always complemented on my POSITIVE ATTITUDE. “You’re so positive.” or “So much positive energy.”

It’s not exactly the same thing as irresistible, but I’ll take positive right now. And that’s the side I’m showing my kids.

The ex-y also asked me if I would let the kids know about the money shortage as well. As if she needed me to fess up to my own contribution to whatever struggles they were having about “stuff.” I spoke to them tonight about my current situation. I said we could not go to the BBQ place for dinner, because I didn’t have the money for it, and I had plenty of food at home.

“Why don’t you have any money?” my son asked. It was just a point-blank question, no real emotional inflection.

“I have three clients that owe me money right now. And it’s not like I don’t have any money, it’s just that when things get low, I really don’t spend money on stuff like eating out, when I have food at home.”

That satisfied both of them. My daughter, who has become somewhat obsessed with Starbucks, was quiet.

I am positive. I am certain I will continue to dig out of the financial hole the divorce and my subsequent low-times wreaked on me. All systems are go, the work is ahead, the clients are happy. (Affirmation: no low-times this summer.)

And I am positive I will find a more compatible mate. Now that we have this kid thing sorted out, there is only the relationship between me and this new person to sort out. I don’t need anything from them but adoration and the opportunity to adore them back.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to The Hard Stuff pages

related posts:

resources:

image: creative commons usage – medusa

+++

Someday We’ll Know – The New Radicals


Love and War; It’s all Here – Seeking Love and Peace

Love and War, Love and PeaceA contrast and comparison of the two most powerful letters I’ve written this year.

1. Love letter to the silent “woman with potential.” (partial) Responding to an email she sent me about why she hasn’t been able to see me over the last two weeks.

+++

Sweet [woman’s name], (i like the sound of that)

I completely understand.
If the moment is casual and easy and without expectations, maybe it would be easier to just include me in an activity you’re already going to do. No prep or primp, just “hey J I’m going for a walk at 2, wanna go?” (Imagining some of the resistance is merely the additional effort required to include someone else, someone who’s “checkin you out.” But that’s an easy one to interrupt, right? Just time together, that’s my goal. Intentionality is useful in many situations, but here, I’m easy and free of expectations.
And me:
1. I can be more invitive (invite-y), but I feel this adds pressure rather than enticement. And thus patience and peace of mind is my repose.
2. Thrilled with the idea of [woman’s name].
3. Happy.
4. Intentional when it makes sense.
At the moment it appears it doesn’t fit. That’s okay. I can imagine you are frazzled and adding ONE MORE FKIN THING, even if that thing is magically delicious, is too much.
Here I AM. As long as it’s okay for me to ping you every now and then to check-in, I can mind my own mind. And when there is an opening on your end for more… Well…
Final thought: I loved, love, will love, getting your messages in the future and I will respond in kind.

+++

2. Declaration of Independence from the Ex-y’s continuing drama about money.

+++

Money.

What I can tell you.
1. You are going to get every penny you are owed. Any language from you about “collecting” or “enforcement” now makes me laugh rather than get mad. It’s absurd. Maybe it’s your dad speaking, but there is no DEFAULT on my child support.
2. If there is a perception, from the kids that money is flowing, it’s a misperception, maybe due to my joy in life at the moment.
3. After my mortgage and base necessities, you and the kids are my first priority.
4. Work is good. And it does look like I will get several new pieces of business that should speed up my catchup.
5. A month that I am able to afford a house keeper is a good month. But that $100 has no bearing on your payments.
6. I am not spending ANY money on myself, after food, shelter and internet.
What I cannot tell you.
1. Timing or schedule of my payments through the summer. I simply don’t have the information myself.
2. Exact amounts you can expect through the summer.
If you have doubts about me ever getting caught up those are based on fear and not reality. I will do my best to inform you of when money is coming in, and what portion of every income event you can count on. But until the check is in my hand from my other clients, I will not guess at dates and schedules.
There will come a day when the money and schedule are easy and predictable. I am working towards that with 100% of my efforts.
That’s the best I can do.

+++

Maybe I could do more, better, try harder, but I don’t think so.

The real story is that my life is good. In spite of being in arrears with Wells Fargo and the ex-y. I am working plenty. I am landing new business. I am keeping my head out of the gutter of depression around the pressure of money and lack of money.

Here’s the rub.

When we were married I worked as a freelance consultant for years. I was successful and then 9-11 took the prosperity right out of my self-employment. What ultimately forced me to seek FTE (full-time employee) status was 1. the need for my family to have robust healthcare coverage; 2. the ex-y’s unwillingness to get a full-time full-pay job herself. Of course in the early part of our kids lives, that was by design, but towards the end of our marriage, it almost felt like defiance. Case in point, the last full year of our marriage she actually had a negative income after taxes and expenses were taken out. How’s that for escalating the stress levels. Of course, the party line, was it was me with the “employment” problem.

Now, however, in divorce, the ex-y must have full-time employment. And with that comes the opportunity to put the kid’s healthcare on her policy. Still bill it to me, but the access to healthcare, that “these days” still requires a FTE status to acquire. As a result, the opportunity to become a self-employed consultant is possible for me again. She really doesn’t have any say about that.

I would’ve liked to have provided enough financially for her not to work at all while the kids were in elementary school. We did the best we could and she averaged 15 – 30 hours a week for a good portion of that time. But as the kids got older, the expectation was that she would start contributing to the overall household growth again.

And the most amazing thing. When she decided she wanted to divorce me, she created a job with a firm that was owned by some personal friends. When she was required to work, she was very good at it. And when her desire required her to go to FTE status, it was a quick and decisive event.

Today, when I’m working my flexible schedule, I wonder how it would be easier if we (my child support) were not paying on two houses. How we might have both enjoyed a more flexible lifestyle had we stayed together.

That was not the choice we made. And today she is the FTE. And while I am paying the healthcare costs, and the equivalent of two mortgages, (and I will get caught up) she is still in some sort of crisis about money. Seems like this was a pattern in our marriage too. She was in crisis about something most of the time.

I am not.

And yet the contrast could not be more obvious.

She: has 30K or more in her retirement accounts, little or no credit card debt, and equity in the marital home in the neighborhood of 50k – 70k.

Me: spent all of my retirement savings to live and gain access to home ownership again, have no credit cards and bad credit, am behind of my mortgage.

Yet still. I am very happy and optimistic that I am pulling out of this. And I am trying to reassure her, just as I did when we were married, that there will be enough. “We’re gonna be fine.”

And she is stressed to the max, thrashing against me for money, and convinced I am the answer and cause of her distress.

I can maintain my neutrality. I can try and respond with kindness rather than anger. I will continue to focus on the happiness and wellbeing of my kids. The happiness and well-being of my ex-y was not something I could manage then, and I certainly cannot manage it now. The good news is, now I don’t have to.

UPDATE: How do you think my message went over? To deaf ears. More saber rattling, more demands for a plan or a schedule. Okay, so I’m putting the ex-y in the bill pile with Wells Fargo. And I’m taking the emotion out of my response.

“Talk to the hand. You’ll get it as soon as I get it. I’ll let you know in real time as I know more.”

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to The Hard Stuff pages

related posts:

resources:


Little Ecstasies In the Afternoon

divorce and the little ecstasiesI’m coming upon a realisation about why naps are so powerful. They are a bit like orgasm. There is a moment when your body feels like breaking and then you give in, clear the schedule, open the flood gates and let yourself go. Even in the middle of the day. There aren’t too many things like a nap that you can do for yourself to create this little ecstasy. (chocolate, masturbation, maybe a great shot of liquor)

Of course we long for the big ecstasies, when possible. Making love is often the most accessible of those. I remember when the ex-y and I knew that we’d cleared an hour out of the day for love-making, how excited I would be. Showering for the event. Anticipating in a Pavlovian way, in an almost tastable way.

Today I have little ecstasies. It’s okay. And on the days I don’t find the time, make the time, to nap, I’m a bit more dependent on coffee and type-a drive. But why wouldn’t you want a nap? Maybe it keeps you up late at night.

And in your relationship why wouldn’t you want a big or little ecstasy? What things would prevent you from wanting unlimited amounts of chocolate, if they could some how make it non-fattening and good for you?

I guess routine can set in, even boredom. Noticing for the first time that your lover is bored is quite a wakeup call. Noticing it with your wife is a much deeper transgression. Maybe it’s different for men and women. Maybe there are things a woman would like even more than to be made love to. Maybe there are things that sound better than a nap on a sunny afternoon wrapped around your lover.

But I can’t think of any.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

Resources:

ecstasy defined


The Hierarchy of Needs: Sex and the Hookup Culture

At the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, comes the things we need for survival. Things I associate with that are food, shelter, water, sleep. I was surprised when a friend shared with me that sex was indeed part of the base needs. What?

Sex and the Hookup Culture

So what is it about sex is the required for our survival? Aside from procreation.

Today a post on The Atlantic about our youth’s “Hookup Culture” caught my attention and my comment. Here’s what I wrote on the subject of sex and hooking up.

+++

Very nice summary of two trains of thought and your own place somewhere in the middle. Thank you for your honesty and clarity in your own pride and prejudice.

I think HBO’s GIRLS has the current generations MO down pretty close. Of course, I’m on the outside looking in, but the show’s currency can’t be argued.

So where is SEX in our growth trajectory as humans? It’s pretty a base-level need according to Mazlow’s Hierarchy. So we’ve all got to come to terms with it. Some earlier, I was a freshman in high school (home from prep school on Christmas break) when I lost my virginity to a girl a grade ahead of me, who came out and said, during the memorable event, that she was unable to achieve orgasm so “Just enjoy yourself.” I did. But it was sort of sad.

And jump cut to today, I just turned 50 and I’m single again for the first time in 12 years, I’ve got two kids, and… guess what? Sex and dating are no easier now then they were back in college. Well, let me take that back. It’s a lot easier establishing my priorities and boundaries and trying to understand what I will or won’t put up with in a relationship, but… the sex? Well, as Thomas Moore says in The Soul of Sex, “sex is one of the last mysteries left to us.” And as a mystery it has the power to drop us back into the sacred mind.

So sex is sacred and should not be taken for granted. Yes. AND. And sex can be casual and fun, and without dire consequences. I’m saying this from my 50-year-old perspective, but I’m pretty sure the good and bad sex happens with and without the sacred shroud we put around it.

You didn’t have sex until later in you life and your married, and are happily married to the woman who got your cherry. CONGRATS. I’m recovered from a second marriage that I wanted to last a lifetime, and now I’m back on the playing field, trying to rediscover what dating in the 2010’s looks like.

It’s a mystery. And sex can be both sacred and casual. The head games you put around it are up to you. And what do YOU think of Lena Dunham and Company’s generation now opus? Accurate? Over dramatized? For one thing, they get the mundane of sex up front and center so we can learn from their mistakes. At least we can hope to learn from their mistakes and our own.

+++

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to On Dating Again index

References:

Resources:

 


Whole Adults Dating Again: Knowing Ourselves, Knowing What We Won’t Compromise

OFF-closelips

Last night I had the pleasure of eating dinner with an old friend from out of town and his new girlfriend. When he texted me that he was in town he said, “Down here with new girlfriend. Recently divorced but all good.” I was surprised but not all that surprised. Seems like this divorce thing is going around. And my friends and I are in the 7 – 11 year itch period where the rubber meets the road. So he was divorced and already travelling with his “new girlfriend.” Wow. Good for him.

So how can we enter into a new kind of relationship, now knowing what we know about ourselves? How will the mistakes of our past reframe what is and is not acceptable in our next relationship.

It was great to see my friend and his delightful new partner. She too is the survivor of divorce, with two kids who are a bit younger than my friend and I. We had a very interesting discussion about what we were doing with our lives.

You see, in addition to catching up with my friend, who I hadn’t spent time with in over two years, we were also catching up as a group of recently divorced people. I took the opportunity to explore some ideas I’d been kicking around.

Here’s what seems to ring true for all of us.

  1. We start marriage with a set of assumptions and a set of ideals.
  2. Over time, as we add mortgages, kids, and health insurance to the equation, we begin a long process of adaption and compromise.
  3. If we continue to compromise away from our true selves, we will eventually get depressed or angry. We will start looking for a way back to something more vibrant, more authentic. We want to get back to sometime more like the ME I remember.
  4. Divorce happens. Initialized by one of the party, and then the transformation begins.
  5. In the process of divorce recovery we either 1. jump right back into another relationship, failing to examine or learn from what failed in the previous one; OR 2. we take some time to rediscover our solo-selves.
  6. As somewhat activated solo-selves we are now able to reclaim our artistic passions, our authentic aspirations, our alone-wants and our alone-desires.
  7. In imagining and testing the concept of dating and relating to another adult human, we have new “non-negotiables” as part of our needs.
  8. We do not want to re-enter the path of compromise if it means a collapse of this newly rediscovered self.
  9. We are forced to create something new.

As the three of us talked about our dreams for ourselves, we were careful to listen to the other person’s dreams. I was sounding out, and exploring my friend’s musical aspirations. I wanted to hear about his new symphonic ideas. I was interested in the part of himself that he was rediscovering and re-establishing. And his new girlfriend was clearly in that same camp. She too was an artist. She had vision and drive. She wanted the musician in my friend to reignite and come alive.

So how can we enter into a new kind of relationship, now, with what we know about ourselves? How will the mistakes of our past reframe what is and is not acceptable in our next relationship. And ultimately, can we create a Relationship 3.0 that keeps our goals and ambitions as creative individuals at the forefront of the mix WHILE we are also negotiating the togetherness that we also want.

So in defining and finding a next relationship, what time am I willing to be flexible on and what time am I going to keep just for myself?

I am curious how much of relationship is about sex for me. And if sex was more a function of several “dates” perhaps I would not need a relationship so much. I don’t think that’s it. I KNOW there is much more about relationships than sex. And I know, recently, that sex without the deeper connection is much more like masterbation. But it is interesting to pull apart all the aspects of a potential relationship and see which parts of it are valuable, and which parts are limiting.

At the moment I am limitless. I am alone, yes, but I am the sole determiner of what I am doing tonight. (Well, I have my kids this weekend, so not tonight…) And then I can ask, and what am I willing to give up to be WITH someone. What would “tonight” look like if there were another person waiting in the wings to spend time with me.

Often in the early months of my courtship with the ex-y we would have breakfast on a weekend and make plans to get back together in the early evening. And off we would go to our separate artist studios. (For the most part, art is a solo endeavor.) These were some of our happiest times.

When she let the work and compromise of our relationship kill her artistic dream she became small and resentful of mine. I have never stopped trying to write songs, or poems and stories. It takes time. And for sure, time away from the relationship.

So in defining and finding a next relationship, what time am I willing to be flexible on and what time am I going to keep just for myself?

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to On Dating Again index

related posts:

Resources:

image: Lujuria/Lust, Gabriel S. Delgado C., creative commons usage


Asking Her, “Are You Having Sex? Because I’m Not.”

woman through the window - geddes

i am mad at you… i’m trying to get through it… forgive my slowness…
i say we’re doing well, you say we’re bouncing checks
i say, i’m making 100k, you say you’re making 2k per month
i say I recognize my accelerated mode, yellow flagging myself
you say, yes but… there’s more…

yes there is more… always more…

Bottom line: my love is never ending for you, you are more beautiful to me today than any time in the past, I can see you with a vibrancy as I am buzzing over here at P o L. but, I am tired of always being the one to hold the overview perspective, always the one to suggest parties, beach trips, cars, whatever… and have you… say, and I know you will agree that you are tired of this role as well, so this is what we are working on… no, we’re not safe, the house is not clean enough, we don’t have the money for that, we have other priorities. I am tired of holding the line when I am angry or in disagreement, when you seemingly let them fly when and where you see them, without regard for where I’m at or what impact it might have.

I hope you can see that this is a love letter and not a bitch session. AS I WRITE THIS I AM FEELING VERY SAD.

What I realized standing next to you in the closet this morning, i don’t like you very much. I am holding some shit, and for that I am sorry. So rather than speaking my mind, I mozy on to the office and work. Rather than complaining when you say you are going to come out of the kids room and watch a movie, I blow it off, throw it in the canyon for a later day.

I guess the later day has come. I am negative. I am not happy. I am not giving you the wrapper that I would like to. You suggest the beach via email a few days ago and my first thought is, “yeah right.” Glad it was your suggestion and not mine.

Well, that signals to me that I am off. What I am off about is something that feels like an imbalance. I am enthusiastic about Rich’s and what we began to hit on this week. (Sorry the date didn’t hit my work calendar.)

I don’t feel like I’m better than you or that I am doing it right and you are wrong. I don’t.

But I feel like you have some critical eye that is telling me what I am doing wrong, how I am not meeting YOUR expectations on several levels, and even when I come up and self-proclaim my own warning, card, rather than join, you say, but wait… there’s more. Well, that’s what we’re doing, I guess. The more part.

I am sorry for my negativity. I am focusing in on the kids. I am irritable when you talk out loud because I think you are telling me something to do. I am short with you. And I’m happy in {Daughter’s} room. (I guess you know that one, eh?)

I hope you can see that this is a love letter and not a bitch session. AS I WRITE THIS I AM FEELING VERY SAD.

I do not want to be on the receiving end of so many “you shoulds.”

So you know what, I’m having sex alone. Bummer. Are you having sex?

Here’s the most telling example I can come up with. The other night as I was reading in bed, hoping that you would be returning from the snake room, you patted my head. The hard part was how good it felt. I don’t think our outward expression of genuine amazement and love of the other is very balanced. I am certain you are expressing that with Jason and Claire in spades. Me… well, it’s complicated.

And wrapping up, so I can come home, SEX. (I can see your expression changing in my mind…)

I add sex to your list of chores for the weekend. You feel like I am taking a pot shot at you. So you add, Looking for the when, where, how… Okay, so do ever have the thought… “horny”

You have expressed in the past that you do in fact have these thoughts.

So do you ever wonder when, where, how… or is that my department, like taking out the trash or switching lightbulbs? (that came across more harsh than I wanted) Nonetheless, I am harsh right now. I could care less about architecting the clean house, no kids, right mood, structure that it often requires to have sex together. So you know what, I’m having sex alone. Bummer.

Are you having sex?

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

Note: This was the turning point for me… I was writing this as an email to my wife, trying to understand what was happening between us. My thought was I was working to expose myself, and illuminate the gap so that we could work on it. What ended up happening, I began to express my dissatisfaction in the marriage. And while she was the one who ask for the divorce, I was demanding a change in the status quo. Somehow I had NOT made my satisfaction a priority. But with the release of this email, I was declaring that I would NOT. SHUT. UP. About what was hurting me.

related posts:

resources:

image: a perfect vacuum, jeremy geddis, creative commons usage


Cheating Hearts, Cheating Minds

an angry woman - the off parentI don’t think I ever caught her cheating on me. I’m going to assume that she told me the truth about things when confronted. But, without taking her clothes off, there was a moment, a very painful moment, that I can now see was really an affair. It didn’t wreck our marriage, but it put a huge hole in my trust. And when things got difficult it was occasionally hard for me to not imagine she was seeing him, or someone, for lunch again.

After all, she was in a relationship when we ran into each other again. And she took some lunches and even a date with me before calling it off with me, so she could go figure if she was IN or OUT with the other guy.

IF I had owned that this behavior was a problem, I MIGHT have avoided the marriage and divorce all together. That of course, is not the way things worked out. She called me about six weeks after asking for a “moment of silence” and simply said, “We’re done.” My first question, “What are you doing tonight? Wanna go over to a friend’s and watch a movie with us?” “Sure.” Swoon. Remove brain from cranium and move to other head. Again, water under the bridge, but looking back, to uncover my mistakes, this was the biggest one. IF she was willing to have lunches with ME, while still living with HIM… (I didn’t really know the status of their relationship at the time.) I just don’t think that was very CLEAR. For the other guy or me.

Jump cut about 4 years later and we’re married with a child in the crib. Wow. A wonderful life.

It was from a younger man, who she had recently started working with as part of a freelance team. He was thanking her for sharing the local library with him as a place for coffee and respite within our community.

And then we were unjustly interrupted, like everyone else, by the prosperity ending 911 tragedy. The comfy lifestyle and happy home became a source of stress and “oh my goodness.” And unfortunately, my self-employment viability came crashing to the ground as my clients all FROZE all business. I struggled. I got depressed. I got on medication. I hated life. I loved my wife and kid. But I was suddenly not sure how I was going to support them or the lifestyle I had hoped to accomplish at this point in my life.

So we soldiered along and the second child was born into this rough world. We got what we wanted, a boy AND a girl. Happy bouncing babies. Not so happy and bouncing parents.

One day, during this “rough patch” I came home and pulled up a browser on her computer. We always used whatever computer was on the desk at the time. (this was before universal wifi everywhere) And her gmail account was open. Nonchalantly, I noticed some spam in her inbox, and as I was the gatekeeper, I clicked on one of the spammy messages.

It was not spam.

It was from a younger man, who she had recently started working with as part of a freelance team. He was thanking her for sharing the local library with him as a place for coffee and respite within our community. He was talking to her about “dealing with your husband’s depression” and “let’s do it again soon.”

In my fragile mental state I almost cracked. I can see how this kind of thing would make people go mad. At that point I was not all that comfortable with my anger, so I turned it inward and go sad. And fat. And what hope I had was lost to my wrong-headed fantasies about their tryst.

I did tell her and she apologized and said she saw how this would hurt me and that she would stop. She claimed to be unaware of how it “might have affected me” since she was innocent of any real transgression, but she would abide by my wishes and not see this guy for lunches any more. And she would tell him as well.

I am getting clearer and clearer in my request for a relationship.  And ultimately I am attempting to learn about my heart, my communication styles, and my needs.

But the wound was slow to heal for me. She seemed to move right along, except when I would bring it up in counseling. But even then, it wasn’t anything all that important, other than how I perceived it. She said. I’m certain she understood how it hurt me, as I expressed this fairly well. But she was unwilling to really dig into what had made her share intimate details of our lives with a stranger. How she would turn to him for comfort rather than explore the pain with me. We were already in therapy. What was she doing with THAT time?

I took screenshots of all of the messages and put them away somewhere. But later, as I was purging my own pain and guilt, I deleted them. I would not want to look back on them now. But this experience does allow me to reflect on several things.

  1. My ex-y was having honesty issues, even with me, when we met.
  2. While she wasn’t very expressive of her emotions, they did exist.
  3. The warning flare around her intention in going to lunch with me while living with another man, should have been a deal killer. But she was/is very beautiful. I fell for her charms and did not listen to the concerns I should have been hearing.

It reminds me a little bit of the woman, who more recently stopped responding with positive reinforcements when I asked her to do things. Truth is, she liked to drink. And though I occasionally have a glass of wine or a beer, it’s not part of my normal day. Giving up alcohol for Lent would be trivial, not a hardship. (ice cream would be hard)

I am getting clearer and clearer in my request for a relationship. And I am honing my listening skills. And ultimately I am attempting to learn about my heart, my communication styles, and my needs. THEN, and only after I have some clarity for myself, am I open to having a new relationship enter my life. The one I am ready for.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to The Hard Stuff pages

related posts:

resources:

image via creative commons: how to make an angry face out of someone’s body