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

online dating

The Promise in a Thumbnail; Online Dating Hits and Misses

onlinedatinglies

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Respectfully,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Seven Signs of a Healthy Post-Divorce Relationship

OFF-healthycoupling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: friend wedding, jessie clockwork, creative commons usage


don’t tell me how it ends

[from a second wave – poetry]

OFF-smashi close my eyes
hoping not to notice
the numbing sadness
overtaking my momentum
not this time i say
i’m detached and calm
cool and moving forward

except we were so close
well, except
for the fears
and slips in judgement
and chemical release
that held us to the breast

letting me down
closing my eyes
don’t tell me how it ends
i’m just beginning

7-8-14

 

image: smash, anthony topper, creative commons usage


Walking Away from the Wreckage

OFF-nightout

Love poems and reassurances are not enough. Breaking through someone else’s issues is not for a partner, lover, or friend. It can be, but it’s got to be a willingness to change and grow that fuels the rebirth. This would be no rebirth.

When she kept saying, “You want something else.” I kept feeling how fantastic she was, how much I could hold the relationship even as she fluttered away every week or so. And as we moved up towards and even passed my longest post-divorce dating milestone, she continued to toss molotov cocktails into my heart space. I don’t think she was doing it on purpose, but I do note that it always happened after a particularly close day/night together. The closer we got the more incendiary the love bombs she would hurl.

They both told me, “We don’t talk about you.” But it seemed that when the wine flowed, apparently the juicy tidbits were just too juicy to withhold.

Somewhere in my heart I knew it was a matter of time. Somehow, I thought, by the fifteenth breakup soliloquy or so, she would wear me down. I mean, I knew how capable I was of sustaining the fantasy, projecting the “okayness” of our time together, but I was also working to heal the part of me that wanted to be the hero, to be the bigger partner, to see and look out for obstacles. I could not anticipate the reasons for her breakup messages, but I could learn to do better at not responding, at not accepting what she was saying. But was that healthy? At some point, even if the chemistry and fascination quotients are high, don’t you have to walk away from the wreckage, before the next crash takes you down with it?

There was this one mitigating factor that kept finding it’s way into the equation, an unexpected antagonist. It was the one person who could draw the connections between the two of us. The one woman I had dated since divorce. The person I considered a confidant. I was wrong about that. In fact, she sort of got us together by inviting us to the same party. She then, however, counseled us both that we were not right for each other. And that’s where things got a little squishy.

We were all friends then, it seemed. And as the new woman and I began to spend time together, we both kept checking in with our mutual friend for advice, ideas, confirmations, and references. And as things went, most reports were stellar. I mean, she wouldn’t have continued for more than a week if our friend had told her really bad things about me.

But then they’d have a girls night and low and behold, my sweetheart would get strangely quiet. The first time it took about a week to cipher out what had happened, what disconnect had occurred between us. But the disconnect turned out to be something GF#1 shared with her. What?

They both told me, “We don’t talk about you.” But it seemed that when the wine flowed, apparently the juicy tidbits were just too juicy to withhold.

First it was discovered that I had “depression.” And the new sweetheart was confused as to why I hadn’t told her about it, especially since I had shared it with our friend. Of course, the friend mentioned it casually. But the implications were dark indeed. How had I shared it with her and not here in my present relationship yet? Um, we had a very different relationship.

She liked to joke about “I guess it’s time to break up now.” Ha ha. I’d text back, “Yep, I guess I’ll have to go fire up my OK Cupid profile again.”

We got through it and we laughed it off. There were a few more breakups that were not related to our mutual friend, and then another night out and another strained silence appeared.

This time in a moment of honest debauchery a text message had been shared. A message from the earliest weeks of this new relationship. I was confiding in my friend about the woman who was breaking up with me because she was scared. And I was the devil, and our relationship was just not going to work. “We are too different.” And the pattern of getting the text or email effectively ending our relationship repeated again. At this point I was a bit irritated, but I laughed it off and attempted to put the context around the text that had been shared. I wondered again, why our “friend” had shared such a sensitive piece of our confidential correspondence.

We’ve ebbed and flowed through many panics. Sometimes it would be a love poem that I shared that would completely trip her out, “I can’t be that woman.” Or something I did or didn’t do. And sometimes even in our playful banter the raw underbelly of fear and hurt would peek out.

She liked to joke about “I guess it’s time to break up now.” Ha ha. I’d text back, “Yep, I guess I’ll have to go fire up my OK Cupid profile again.” And that was too painful for her and she would register her hurt. “You’ve gotten mean.” What?

Okay, so I learned that responding to her joking breakups with any indication that I’d move right along should that happen, were too terrifying. We agreed to not joke about either issue again. And then I made a declaration of the summer by shutting down my profiles. In my mind, it was a show of color, since she had been freaked out that I might be flirting with other women. I thought I’d show her that I wasn’t by closing my exit.

And in that moment, I also asked, “And you can’t break up with me for the Summer, either. Unless it’s something horrible, and we know that won’t happen.”

And somehow this idea worked for both of us. She admitted that it made her feel good. And we moved along with the baggage behind us, and the future ahead, looking controlled and casual, but hopeful.

Guess what?

Nine days later, Girls Night Out, final round. This time the issue was unrecoverable. The sharing by our friend was so casual and devastating that there would be no return.

I wondered, as I was trying to argue my side via text messages, what our friend’s purpose was? Was she protecting her friend? Was she angry at us for being happy? Was there some wounding that she was still acting out with me for not being the relationship she had hoped for?

I was weary of the struggle to prove… Something. What? That relationships were worthy efforts? That I was honest?

And then I imagined all the things our friend could, over time, share “in inebriated confidence” that would take our relationship down. And I saw that she could go really deep, if she wanted. And since they were high school friends, my chances were very low that I could continue to negotiate surrender and rebuilding over and over again. It was exhausting. And unfortunately, familiar. The crisis. OMG! And I’m digging myself out of some perceived wrong. That’s how my marriage descended into hell. There was always something wrong.

I would not recover this time. I went down with the flaming plane. I let the friend know what she had done, was “3-for-3 in inappropriate sharing.” She was sorry. She apologized. And my GF#2 became EX#2.

I guess now they have each other again. They can swap stories now at a deeper level. And I don’t have place at the table defend myself. But I was weary of the struggle to prove… Something. What? That relationships were worthy efforts? That I was honest?

No, I was really trying to convince her, to create in her, the lover that I so desired. I was willing to grow a bigger heart, to stretch my boundaries and relax my grip on the idea of “girlfriend” or “relationship.” But I was getting tired of being kicked to the curb, like Fred Flintstone, every week or so tossed out the window with a, “We are just two very different people.”

I don’t know, I don’t think it was on purpose. I don’t think it was either of them was conspiring to break us up. Our friend providing the ammo for some reason, my sweetheart using the new issue to support her fears.

You’re right, girls. It probably wouldn’t have worked. But I am so sorry this beautiful opportunity was smashed. I need some rest and a reset. Thanks for the love poems, and the amazing journey through relationship #2. (Sad face.)

I don’t walk away from this one unscathed. I was gaining confidence and joy in my time with her. And now I have, most likely, lost both of my friends: two friends who have seen inside my deepest parts, post-divorce. I guess it’s time to rest before I get back up again. I am very sad.

Namasté.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

[Note: this post is not written to either of them, though I suspect they will read it and be outraged. I guess this is my outrage.]

And if I could actually write what I feel, it would be closer to this poem: don’t tell me how it ends

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image: girls hanging out, flavio, creative commons usage


Perils of Dating a Relationship Blogger, Especially If You Know

OFF-kissbye

When she broke up with me the first time, I wasn’t sure if she knew about my blogs. And I wrote about the experience. She contacted me and said that what I had written was very honest and accurate, but not very flattering. She didn’t ask me to take it down. And eventually we continued dating.

She vowed to not read this blog. I know I would not be able to keep away if I knew she was pouring out pieces of her heart and soul. It’s too tempting.

She let me know that my love poems really tripped her out. “I don’t want to hold all that expectation for you. That’s not me.”

Her objections to my love poems, however were more troubling. As our relationship continued, I continued to express my desire, hopes, fantasies, and ultimately my sole-created projections.

And as much as I tried to explain to her that the love poem was an art form, and though she had been the inspiration for the passion and fury of the expression, I often lifted off into some altered state where I was writing to the gods. The love poem to end all love poems. The best love poem, ever. Still it freaked her out. So I learned not to share them. And she continued to profess not to read the blog.

But she read the blog and broke up with me several times over the next month. Still, I understand.

I can’t imagine what it would be like if the tables were turned. Well, in fact, I sort of can, a woman I dated for a while is also a blogger. And it’s a bit voyueristic. But we’re no longer involved, so it’s cool.

Anyway, the one time before that I dated someone who knew about the blog it didn’t go so well. I told her that I would not blog about us. And we proceeded to implode rather quickly, but I couldn’t write about it. It was my promise.

Moving on towards the present moment, I can understand the temptation to read the words of the person you are in a relationship with. In fact, it’s hard for me to imagine that I wouldn’t read the entire tome back to front, just to get oriented.

But rather than learn and explore with me, this woman tended to defend or take offense to much of my writing. And that was a bummer. She would miss the entire point of a post, to share her take on where I got it all wrong. Um, excuse me? Which part did I get wrong? The part where I didn’t agree with you?

Her objections to my love poems, however were more troubling. As our relationship continued, I continued to express my desire, hopes, fantasies, and ultimately my sole-created projections. I am aware that poems and even some posts are simply projections of what I want. She was not so easy to convince that not every single line was about. her. So she stopped reading the love poems too, and I learned not to send them to her. But that’s a bit of a problem right?

It makes me very sad to have invested so much heart and time into this wonderful startup, and yet have it fail.

It’s as if this blog is a loaded gun, pointed directly at our relationship. And if I am already unable to share what I’m thinking, dreaming, and hoping for… Well, that says something about how the relationship was going to progress, unless something amazing changed. And I know waiting for the other person to change is a big problem. (see: Waiting for the Other Person to Change)

Okay, so things aren’t going to change. And my poems and posts are going to freak her out… forever. That’s no way to be. And she’s now let me know, once again, that she’s not right for me. At this point, I am inclined to accept her protestation.

It makes me very sad to have invested so much heart and time into this wonderful startup, and yet have it fail. And now she can read this blog freely as I stumble to learn and move on from the experience of loving someone fully again.

Here’s how the story ends: Walking Away from the Wreckage

Here’s how it felt when it ended: don’t tell me how it ends < a poem

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Taking a Break from Online Dating: Offline for the Summer

OFF-offline

It’s an exciting moment, being able to take your profiles down because there IS someone you want to be with. Without giving away any information, I am excited to tell you that the last series of love poems has been inspired by an actual woman. (go figure) And while I am putting the finishing touches on my Dating After Divorce book, I am happy, I tell you, happy happy happy to be working on the rest of the issues about relationship, and not just seeking someone who’s interested back. (In a funny synchronicity: her perfume is “happy” and our song is “happy” and we seem to be happy.)

And while I did not find this woman via online dating, it was the online dating that brought things to a head, so to speak. END.

I’m going to live this one, and take a break from blogging about this real-time relationship. Maybe a poem or two, but in respect for both of us, and to show that my intentions are deeper than some sort of sexual hunt, I’ll take the “issues” offline as well.

Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 12.36.51 PM

It’s so easy to get things mixed up when the communications are online. In much the same way that texts and emails can be misconstrued, online is no way to grow trust and closeness. And of course, she knows about this blog, though she says she will refrain from reading it. How do you write about dating/sex/hunger/infinite desire for someone, when that someone is in the picture? You can’t. I can’t.

There are plenty of things to write about. I am hopeful that my “dating” quest is over for a bit. What’s next, who knows. The point is “something” is next and it’s happening now.

I appreciate the love and support of the readers here, and I will continue writing, but with a slightly different angle. The next chapter is in the opening months. Stay present. Go slow. Be honest. And trust that the time will take care of itself. There is no hurry.

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Screen Shot 2014-06-26 at 3.02.59 PM


The Malleable Trajectory of Desire in Online Dating

OFF-spicegirlsOnline dating is a weird phenomenon that has changed many of the rules we once knew to hold true for relationships. And one of the amazing aspects is the real estate like show of women and their profiles, likes, desires, must haves, and in the case of OK Cupid, maybe even their kinky fantasies. Outside of online pornography, never before have so many women been displayed online in photos and bullet points.

And in several discussions with friends about “dating” the superficial elements came up in two very different ways.

First Conversation: I was discussing this process with a woman who has never tried online dating, “and never will.”  Okay. “I just think it’s so wrong to judge someone on their looks alone. You might be missing the perfect woman for you, because she doesn’t meet some criteria that’s just about her looks.”

“Yes,” I agreed, “That’s true.”

“I think it’s wrong, and superficial, and I can’t believe you buy into it.”

“Okay, so let’s say you did, buy into it. And you had to weed down say 2,000 potential matches. What criteria would you use? How would you go about picking from that list?”

She was quiet.

“Because, you have to admit there’s got to be some physical attraction.”

“Of course,” she said. “But that’s so little of what goes into an actual relationship.”

I agreed. “You are right, but, without that spark of desire, there’s not much chance of moving on to the relationship part.”

“I know,” she agreed. “But it seems wrong to be judging these women from pictures. Like cattle, or things. It’s demeaning.”

“How would you go about solving the issue? How would you make choices and actually pick someone to approach?”

She was almost angry, at this point, “I wouldn’t. I would never do it.”

Okay, we were obviously not going to reach agreement on this one. Let’s move on.

Some are quick to accept the meeting idea and the plans are easily set. Some are allusive and won’t respond directly to an offer for a meeting. They’d rather chit chat for awhile.

Second Conversation: “I’ve got this great person for you. She’s amazing. But she didn’t want someone with young kids.”

“Sure, what’s her user name?”

“Well, don’t you want to hear about her? Call me on the phone.”

“Just give me her user name.”

“I mean, she was amazing, and she does the same thing you do. She was really hot, and sexy. And I gave her your website address and she said to send you her information.”

“She’s a bit older than my tastes.”

“Oh.”

Initially I laughed, but then I was kind of sad for this friend. Women of our own age are VERY attractive. And in my spectrum of desire, even more desirable than younger or fitter models. But the next revelation was more insightful for me. She didn’t want to date me, even though the chemistry between us was good, she even admitted that. But she didn’t want someone with younger kids. Her’s were out of the house. Mine were 11 and 13. Okay, same bias.

He didn’t want someone who was that old. She didn’t want someone who was younger, but had younger kids. Two misses in one transaction. Both a bit misguided and superficial, but ultimately we have to build some criteria for picking and choosing what it is we want next in a relationship, or date.

+++

In the online dating world I maintain profiles on two different sites. And now, after a few weeks back online, I have culled the list on one site to about 3 profiles, and this was from about 150 women. And on the second, more popular and paid site, I have gone from 1,234 matches to about 10.

And as the process goes, you wander through various permutations of physical courting, either “Hey let’s grab coffee” or “Hey, I’m into Game of Thrones too.” And the dance proceeds from there.

Some are quick to accept the meeting idea and the plans are easily set. Some are allusive and won’t respond directly to an offer for a meeting. They’d rather chit chat for awhile. It is possible that their dance cards are full and they are spacing you out a bit on their calendar, or they might not be that interested, but interested enough not to blow you off. It’s a hard thing to determine.

Either way, what you do in the dance, is try to get a meeting so you can both lay eyes on one another. Photos lie. And they sometimes lie big.

And as a romantic, I can get drawn into a photograph and begin to imagine connections that simply are not there when we meet. So for me, it’s best to set the date and chill the fk out. And from what I’ve found, most women like this approach as well. If you get too chatty, or too friendly, the throw up a red flag and either time you out, or drop you from their potentials list.

And while she was attractive and funny when we met, there were plenty of things that didn’t work out for me. I’m not sure how she felt, but it was a quick read for me.

So you set the date and you meet. Then things go from fantasy based on photographs to fantasy based on a physical meeting. Still fantasy. And here’s the amazing thing, your ideas of desire change dramatically based on the photos or profile highlights. And this too is pure fantasy, and yet these fantasies give us insight into turn-ons and turn-offs in our own hopeful quest.

For example, there is a woman in my small pond of desirable women who is an avid soccer player. She’s uber-fit, has a magnetic smile in her photos, and is sporting an interesting tattoo on her tan and strong arm. She is the meander type. We’ve been chatting and emailing for weeks. For awhile she was sick. For another week she was just starting a new job and wasn’t available. Now it’s the World Cup, and she’s just busy. When I ask her about availability, she says she’s gone on some dates, but hasn’t kissed the right frog yet.

But there’s nothing I have been able to do (chatting about soccer, world cup, which coffee shops she likes) to tip her over the edge of meeting me face-to-face. Even so, my fantastic mind has wrapped several times around this type of woman. Self-described tomboy, athletic, young, vigorous, likes to hang and drink with the boys. And in my malleable mind, I begin forming a life with her: short-form fantasy only, I’m not trying to write our history, just imagining dating, kissing, making love, not really planning our lives together. And for me, this woman still scores a very high number in my desirable book.

Another example is a women who seems a bit bookish in her photos. But a smile to knock you out. She was quick to accept an offer to meet and we agreed on a music club/coffee bar nearby. And for the few days before we met, we exchanged emails and eventually texts about things. She was funny, witty, and had a great sense of humor. And in her photos I was able to stretch out my imagination into something resembling desire, but… And here’s the but… I could see in her photos that there was the possibility of my fantasy being less grounded in reality. Nothing major, but some subtle hints that the top profile photo was an extraordinary moment, and not a view into the day-to-day woman I was going to meet.

If a girl is interested she will take the date offer. If she’s mildly interested she might string you on a bit. If she’s not interested she won’t respond to anything you say or do.

And while she was attractive and funny when we met, there were plenty of things that didn’t work out for me. I’m not sure how she felt, but it was a quick read for me. Something about that gut instinct. It really wasn’t anything in particular. She was cute, funny, talkative. She had two kids and seemed to have her relationship to her ex-husband sorted out. But, sadly, it was a no for me.

Even when we think we know what we want, until we see her and hear her and begin to understand her, we’re projecting a fantasy of what we want her to be. And neither of these women were what I expected. And I’m still waiting to get an acceptance from the soccer-babe. I’m guessing I’m just outside of her desirable scale and she’s postponing out of courtesy, and not wanting to piss me off.

What I’ve learned: If a girl is interested she will take the date offer. If she’s mildly interested she might string you on a bit. If she’s not interested she won’t respond to anything you say or do.

Either way, my imagination is strong and while my list is fairly short on both sites, there are a few new women per week that show up. And the expectation is that they too are looking for some level of a relationship. And thus we go on projecting, hoping, and molding our concepts of what we want to match up the profiles that appear attractive to us on little more than a pretty photo and a few touch points of interest.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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In Defense of Dalliance

dalliance - the off parent

Why so serious?

My thoughts are changing on this subject. I’d have to say, initially, as a single man, re-entering the dating pool after 12 years as a married man, I was seeking my next “relationship.”

“I don’t understand casual sex,” I said to a life coach friend. “Try it,” she said. “There are plenty of women who would be into it with you. And unless you try it, you’ll never know if you like it.”

What I heard at that time was casual sex is okay, but not for me. Today, I’m not so sure I understand my motivations for marriage (SEE What’s This About: Marriage?) much less a serious relationship. Okay, scratch that last sentence. I’d like to think I could hear an attractive woman talking about her lovers and not cringe a little bit. She was sexually attractive to me, for sure, but in more of an animal (sexual needs) kind of way. I wasn’t interested in dating her, only screwing her. And I wasn’t actually making any moves or giving any indications that this was where I wanted to go with the conversation. And we didn’t.

Still, what’s all this attachment to single-mate-for-life shit? It hasn’t worked out for me very well. And of course, I take that back, I have two great kids… and an ex-wife or two. But entering into those marriages I was saying YES PLEASE to the life-long commitment. But… Why?

Marriage was the path for me and my ex-wife, that we saw necessary to the progress and process of having children together. We both wanted kids. We both wanted marriage as a way to get kids. We got divorced when the relationship pain outweighed the relationship advantage.

How will I know if I like casual sex if I don’t try it? I’m still wondering this.

Take the last three online “hello” dates. Two of them were very attractive and obviously sexually active. And if I interpreted the signals right, eventually we would get to sex, if things progressed along the normal trajectories. And even the answers in OK Cupid are pretty clear. How soon after dating would you initiate sex? a. right away, b. 1 – 3 dates; c. 3 – 5 dates; d. 6 or more dates; e. I’m not interested in sex at all.

My sexual projections of what sex might be like with that smile, those eyes, those breasts, are just like you might imagine most men are. And then something stops me.

I THINK I’m a 3 – 5 dates kind of a guy. But I’ve also answered “Would you have sex on a first date?” with an unqualified yes.

Umm… Right. In theory. Back in college I think I did this twice. Once when I was drinking heavily and once when I tried the drug ecstasy while in New Mexico. Both times were about as sexually fulfilling as masturbation. And with porn these days, masturbation is often the easier answer. No after sex conversations. No messy breakups. No STD threats.

So what in the world would have to happen for my casual sex, let’s go ahead and jump in the sack, response to be triggered? And if triggered, would the impulse be worth the repercussions?

  • What would have to happen:
  • Beautiful
  • Intoxicating chemistry
  • Mental acuity and banter
  • Eyes that shine like diamonds
  • A roaring heat in my chest (a fantasy of love, perhaps)
  • Some intangible magic

Something extraordinary would have to happen for me to want to sleep with a woman within 24 hours of meeting her. I’m not saying my body wouldn’t rise to the occasion, and my libido doesn’t rage at the thought of a beautiful woman in or out of mensa. It does. And my sexual projections of what sex might be like with that smile, those eyes, those breasts, are just like you might imagine most men are.

And then something stops me.

I’ve had a few sexual relationships since I’ve been divorced. Most of them have been pleasant. Many of them I did not want to repeat after once or twice, for various reasons. And I keep coming back to the driving force in my relationship past, find a good woman and develop a lasting relationship with her. This simplifies a lot of our energy. And for me, gives me an emotional and sexual base from which to launch off into my other emotional and creative passions.

I’m wired this way, I’m afraid.

My sexual brain is different. Unbridled and wild sex with multiple women always sounds like a good idea, to my smaller head. I used to imagine that I would’ve loved living in the sixties time of free love. And yet, now in this post-divorce life, I’m sort of in that position again. The online dating profile seems to be attracting women. And some of the women I find attractive as well. And …

The thought of my beloved being ravaged by someone else would give me a real heart attack. And I do want a beloved again.

So what happens when my sexual energies light up? And if the woman is of the same mind, what happens when things do progress, and we do start “relating?” So far, I have not been able to detach the part of my heart that begins mapping ideas of how we should/will/might be together for the long-term.

I’m dialing this back at the moment. I’m learning to live in the touch/taste present. And I’m reeling back thoughts of marriage and “what’s next.” But I’m not on a dating frenzy. Given a stable of available and sexually attractive women, I think I would find the ONE and drop the others.

I know some people can be wired differently. And I know that my inclinations once I was released from my sad marriage finish, was to be a philandering mad man. Didn’t happen. And chances are, it’s not ever going to happen. Again, who knows, perhaps I’ll be surprised. But the one time in my college years that I “dated” two women at the same time, things didn’t end so well. And even while things were working out, I wasn’t all that honest with either one of them.

I don’t know how I could ever be in an OPEN relationship. The thought of my beloved being ravaged by someone else would give me a real heart attack. And I do want a beloved again.

Maybe if I keep things on the surface, or don’t find a willing partner of that quality, I could entertain the idea of taking on another lover at the same time. But they’d have to know about each other, and that’s a bit more complicated. My wiring not’s that flexible after all.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Getting Angry, Reaching Forgiveness, and Moving On After Divorce

OFF-happy-sadIt’s been four years and counting since my divorce began. It was finalized in August, but by this time I had left the house for the last time. And while many things have remained the same, and the relationship with my ex is centered around the kids now, and not so much about our relationship, there are still things that can trigger a painful memory, or feeling of loss. Today was one of those times, when dropping the kids bags off at my old house, and seeing a book on the kitchen counter was enough to spark a bit of WTF?

The book, Passionate Marriage: Keeping Love and Intimacy Alive in Committed Relationships, made me laugh at first. Then made me say, WTF? Then sort of made me feel bad for my ex who must be trying this time to form a healthy relationship with her 2+ year boyfriend. But the book sort of ticked me off. I’m not exactly sure why. But the basic reaction was, “YEAH, that’s a good one!”

But after the knee jerk jerkishness passed I was a bit saddened by the idea.

  1. That my ex would buy and read this book now, rather than when it could’ve had an impact on her marriage
  2. That my ex must be struggling with how to light up the passion with her bf
  3. She must be hopeful of marriage, and getting it right this time.
  4. And if she’d stayed IN this marriage, we would be working together to keep things passionate. As it was, I was the only one who seemed to think there was a problem.

How can I still be bitter about her decision to exit our marriage? Well, it’s easy when you see the impact it has had on our kids and their ideas of stability and family. Sure, perhaps their perspectives are now more in alignment with reality, things change, love fades, and even divorce can rearrange things for the better, eventually, but it’s gonna hurt real bad first.

Something had been lost. Through the toil and tear of our relationship and the struggle of life, we had (she had) begun to shut down her passion.

Okay, so that’s not a lot. And I’d have to say I am more grateful today that I am no longer in a passion-starved marriage. I am enjoying the first benefits of singlehood again, and feeling fairly strong about my capabilities as a lover, potential mate, and even husband again. IF that’s where we go. I am certainly also learning to question my need for that marriage. Today, I’m even asking questions about monogamy. I mean, what’s the point? Couldn’t we get a lot more energy and excitement by changing partners every once in a while?

Of course, that’s not the way it worked for me. That’s not the way I was wired. Today, I don’t know. But I was fully committed to my marriage, and this woman now reading a book called Passionate Marriage. I was never doubting my desire or steadfast resolve. However, the truth is, I was unhappy.

They say the sign of a codependant relationship is how powerfully you wait and work for the other person to change. It doesn’t work out. Some of the things I was beginning to howl about:

  • Lack of affection
  • Lack of touch of any kind
  • Lack of sex
  • Lack of financial partnership in the earning part of the business we had together

I learned, towards the end, when I withdrew my overbearing touch-love-joy energy from the relationship there was nothing left. There was zero energy coming back. And when the vacuum was created, what I hoped would happen, she would wake up to the loss of playful affection and come back with some energy and affection of her own, didn’t happen at all. All that happened was the void of any feeling in our marriage was so clear, that even though I fought FOR the marriage over the next several months, I also knew I would not settle for anything less than a rejuvenated and passionate wife.

I have to thank my ex-wife for the release. My own desires and unmet needs were causing me great pain. And that pain was probably not going to be met by her.

Something had been lost. Through the toil and tear of our relationship and the struggle of life, we had (she had) begun to shut down her passion. And while things in our relationship began with a lot of passion and touch and yes, sex, it was virtually a one-way street during the last year of our marriage. I was always asking, and always providing the way and the caress and the casual kisses. She was doing something else, had different priorities, was withdrawing emotionally from our marriage.

As a divorced and emotionally available single parent here are a few of the things I am finding again

  • Affection (If they don’t dig you, don’t do it. If they can’t hold you and comfort you, don’t do it.)
  • The Love Language of Touch (Sure you can be with someone of a different language, but it’s always going to be a compromise.)
  • Sex that is open and fun (Healthy sex is an amazing thing. A woman who knows what she likes is another level beyond that. A woman who can teach me some things, and WOW.)
  • Financial partnering doesn’t come into play for a while, but it might in the long-run
  • Pure friendship (Do you like being with the person? Do they engage your mind and your imagination?)
  • Comparing notes on the experience of single parenting
  • Desirability (There are women out there who find me attractive, who are not looking for rail-thin men in their 30’s or even 40’s. (I’m 51!)
  • Mature women are more emotionally available, and more sexually open, and birth control is a non-issue. (Woohoo!)

And with all those wonderful aspects of my new lease on life, I have to thank my ex-wife for the release. My own desires and unmet needs were causing me great pain. And that pain was probably not going to be met by her, unless she changed dramatically. And whatever caused her to change in the first place, was probably not a quick fix, and certainly not something a book or counseling session was going to alleviate.

And with that, today, I give thanks to my ex-wife for actually having the balls to ask for a divorce. I would’ve limped along limp for the next several years, maybe forever, imagining, “This is as good as it gets.”

Well, it’s not. Things do get better. And the process of forgiveness and release is a continuous one. You don’t wake up one day and you’re healed, done, finished with your ex-partner. If you have kids, that road is going to go on for a long time. And you will need the other parent from time to time and the best way to become a good co-parent is to heal yourself and move on. You will have good days, and fuck you days, but as long as you keep returning to the process of release and move on, you will continue up the spiral of healing that leads to your next life. The post-divorce life that holds great riches.

Good luck.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: happy, sad, mad, glad, kate ter haar, creative commons usage


Online Dating Undercover Revelations: OK Cupid (Pt. 2)

OFF-lovers

Let’s dig a little deeper into OK Cupid’s DNA, and what we’re looking for when we go online to find a “partner” a “hookup” or “a relationship to last the rest of my life.” (Start here: Online Dating Undercover Revelations: OK Cupid (Pt. 1) )

They offer a little “What’s my best picture” service that delivers some interesting feedback about the demographics and the types of women who find your pictures attractive. Well, it’s not a very scientific process, as most of my raters were in their early 20’s, and pretty far from my desired demographic. But the data is fun anyway, and heck, they picked my main profile picture for me, so that’s good. Here are my top three photos and the fuzzy data that goes with them.

attractiveness demographics from OK Cupid

click to view larger version

So in my demographic of 31+ girls (eh hm: women, thanks) here are my big winners. These are my rater’s self-identified types. I’m glad conservative and stoner fell right off my map all together.

Artists
Nerd < maybe
Liberal
Free Spirit
Deviant

If you find it’s working. That might be even more frightening, for both of you. What if… So don’t go there. Slow down. 

And sure enough the picture of me as a parent (with daughter) doesn’t even register with the 18 – 22 yo girls. Okay, fine, so the man as an artist appeals to my demographic. Fine.

But it all really boils down to who I’m interested in. And I’d say my top types are in alignment with my tastes, so we’ll go with that photo for now. And let’s see how it’s worked so far, in my two weeks back on the site.

OKC reports I get about 5 views a week. Hmm… That sucks. I’ve been sending out emails and “Hellos.” Again, I’m guessing a lot of women are using the A-List paid option to NOT show up in my visitors list. Oh well.

So let’s see if I’ve gotten any responses via email. messages on OK Cupid

Yep, a few have responded. And a couple I’ve gotten to texting with. That’s a higher form of intimacy, because it requires the exchange of phone numbers. I don’t think you’d give a creep your phone number. And it usually takes a bit of emailing first to establish a mutual appreciation. And then you move to the quick and telling text exchanges. You can tell a lot about someone’s self-expression. How do they respond to jokes? Are they playful? Are they friendly? Are they tech-savvy?

One of the best reality checks I’ve come up with for online dating is to send a real-time selfie. If the person on the other end is overly self-conscious they won’t be able to send one back. They’ll send something else or ignore your request all together. The selfie is the lowest common denominator of glamour shots. If they radiate in a selfie, you have pretty good odds that their profile photography isn’t photoshopped or glammed into unreality.

And really that’s all we’re trying to establish at this point. Is this person real? Are they authentic in their behavior (texting and responding) and their appearance (if you can get a selfie)?

And next can you move it to an in-person meeting? How smooth is that transaction? Time and place? Do they reset the date several times? Do the postpone? Often it has been my experience that a postponement (even if they say they are sick) really means they are having second thoughts. Or they have started up with someone else and are hedging their bets. The longer the postponement, the more likely it will not happen at all. And that’s okay, you don’t want someone who’s sort of in and sort of out.

The most frustrating near-miss is the one with someone who’s not sure what they are looking for. If they are on a dating site, shouldn’t they be interested in a relationship? Or is the R-word scary? Maybe they really just want to “date.”

And one of the things we can be sure of, none of us has the answers. What does dating after divorce, or dating as a single parent look like?

There are a few controls built-in that help buffer the startup process, in my opinion. If we both have kids and ex’s in town, we will be navigating a fairly complex scheduling process. And you can get a feel very quickly if it’s going to be easy to negotiate or a pain in the ass. If it’s really hard to find the time to get together, it’s probably not a fit. Or perhaps the other person is scared to get in a Relationship. No problem, move on.

Here’s what you want, regardless of what you call it.

  • Time together.
  • Both people making efforts to come up with solutions to the scheduling issues.
  • Laughter and easy-going conversation.
  • Fascination beyond the physical attraction.
  • Sexual chemistry.
  • Emotionally and mentally stable, as far as you can tell.
  • Deals with changes and uncertainty easily.
  • Joy.

And in my estimation those qualities in ONE PERSON are hard to find. Don’t rush through it, if you’ve started to make a match. Slow. Keep building on the friendship. (Does that sound cliché? It might, but really, you get over the “let’s just have sex” part of relating to someone pretty quickly. And I’m pretty sure most women would not be okay with every date night having us say, “Let’s just stay in and do it. I’ll bring Chinese.” It doesn’t work that way in the long-term, and it shouldn’t be your focus in the short-term.)

If you get too far ahead of yourself, thinking about pairing up, or how they would do as a step-parent, you might need to take a time out. This is no longer a race against time, it’s a race with time. You’ve got limited time. You need to make the most of the opportunities you do have to meet and greet. If there are a lot of signals that “this is not working very easily” you might consider resetting expectations and going back to the dating pool.

Do you know what’s enough for you? I know my ideas change all the time. But I keep coming back to the smile, the joy, and the friendship.

BUT…

If you find it’s working. That might be even more frightening, for both of you. What if… So don’t go there. Slow down. Take it easy. Enjoy each other’s company, in and most importantly out of bed. And then just bask in the time you do find to be together. And see how flexible you can be with the idiosyncrasies of life as a single parent. There is a long way to go before you need to begin planning.

So don’t set your expectations too far in the future. Stay in the moment and see how compatible you are, how close your friendship can become. See, for me, part of the problem is I was drawn in and captured by the beauty and sex thing before I really got a deep understanding of the person I was committing too. Don’t make the same mistake again. There’s no hurry to move into the next stages, and in fact, just mentioning them might freak both of you out. When you hear yourself talking about (enter your freak out here: moving in, marriage, step-parenting) just take a deep breath and drop back into the moment, into the presence of this cool person, who happens, if things go well, to think you’re cool too.

For now, that’s as far as I’ve gotten. I like you. I like hanging out with you. And that’s enough.

Do you know what’s enough for you? I know my ideas change all the time. But I keep coming back to the smile, the joy, and the friendship.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Sex is Fun: Should You Settle for Apathetic Sex?

sex is fun[Disclaimer: This post is not about my experiences with any women, past, present or future. All examples/stories are fictitious and made up in my twisted little mind.]

Sex should be fun. And after divorce, for whatever reason you got divorced, you’ve got a new lease on your sex life. What might have become routine or mundane sex can now be awakened again. Sex can be exhilarating again. Touching someone for the first time, should be a thrill. And perhaps in your marriage, touching your partner became a bit of a chore, or (for me) a navigation through a conditional minefield that often resulted in a fight rather than sex.

FIRST LAW OF DATING AFTER DIVORCE: Don’t take your show on the road until you’ve gotten through the bitterness, anger, and sadness of your divorce.

If you know your love language is TOUCH, you’ve got to get this straight: sex is one of the ways we feel connected, loved, included. Sex isn’t the only way. We’re the one’s always reaching out to brush our partner’s back as we pass through a room. It IS more about touch than sex, but if sex goes off the table, so goes the healthy feelings of love for the Touch-person. I am a touch person. My wife is a “do things for me” person. And while we made it long enough to have two wonderful kids, we couldn’t navigate the end game of love and sex beyond the parenting duties. Some things became more important than sex. The term TTFS became a joke for a while, but then it became a curse. (TTFS: too tired for sex.)

Well, if that’s where you find yourself, entering the new kingdom of adult sex, welcome. We’ve got a lot of things to learn and a lot of new potential partners to meet. Again, it’s not all about sex, but a lot of it is about sex. At least initially, sex is what drives us men so hard to seek a partner. It’s kinda hard-wired. Like our animal DNA trying to find a way to spread in any means possible.

Of course, adult, post-divorce sex, for me has nothing to do with procreation and everything to do with … Well, we’re still exploring what the goals are in my self-talk, but we do agree that sex should be fun. Sex as a chore, or sex without joy isn’t sex at all. It’s something else. It’s what we don’t want. Yuck.

So where are we? We’re recently out of a long-term relationship. (4-years for me today) We’re starving for touch. (Me, a touch-focused person.) And we’ve done a lot of work at healing ourselves post-divorce. (If you haven’t done your “work” to get through your divorce sadness and anger, you’re likely to act out, or repeat the same situation again. Do the work. Get yourself healthy before you get back in the game of love and sex.) So what are our options?

  1. Meeting people at social gatherings (churches, athletic events, school events, bars, live music clubs)
  2. Meeting people through friends (I don’t know why, but people don’t think of introducing their single friends very much.
  3. Meeting people through networking (old friends, high-school sweethearts, Facebook connections, reunions)
  4. Meeting people through the net (Online dating, online dating, online hookups, online sex, hookup apps)
  5. Not meeting people and staying home watching movies or porn. (ACK! This can work for a bit, but you need to get back out there if you’re going to get your needs met.

FIRST LAW OF DATING AFTER DIVORCE: Don’t take your show on the road until you’ve gotten through the bitterness, anger, and sadness of your divorce.

Most of those options are fine, but only #4 gives you any real power to take the matter into your own hands. So let’s look at the couple of types of online dating sites available and discuss the pros and cons of each.

Plain old Dating Sites (This group has your best potential of resulting in a relationship, if that’s what you want.)

  • OK Cupid – one of the big daddy’s of online dating. It’s free, there are a lot of potential mates, and their questions are deep and extensive. Sometimes you can learn way too much before you ever meet the person, using OKC.
  • eHarmony – the “we know best” dating site. I hated it because there was no browsing. eH sets you up with matches. And those are the only people you can contact or even look at. No thanks.
  • Match.com – sort of like OK Cupid but you pay to get on. What I’ve noticed recently is there are a lot more women in my age group and women in my tribe on Match. You will know what I’m talking about when you spend anytime on these sites.
  • Plenty-of-Fish – Another big free site. I set up a profile years ago, but didn’t find any initial hits when I started.

Of all of these, I have been happy with OKC (my only relationship was initiated on OKC) and Match.com. You’ll find what you like and what you don’t. And there are tons more. See what floats your boat.

Sex with experienced partners is a blast. Get this, they are probably hungry for sex too. But don’t jump in to fast, sex with a less-than-stable person can really mess up your simple life.

Hookup Sites (Um, these are mostly spam sites with people trying to generate money through porn or pay-per-view video sex chat. Not my cup of tea. But you might be curious, so check them out.

  • Adult Friend Finder (The motherload of “Maybe get laid tonight” sites) Free to join, pay to make contact. But make sure you spend a bit of time looking before you pay. You’ll notice most of the profiles are way to good to be true, and they’re not. 20-yo hotties do not look for men 40 – 60 yo. Nope. They are going to ask you to view their private show, or private set of pictures, or something… “You don’t need a credit card or anything to join, come see me there…” Nope, don’t do it. Ever. It’s bullshit.
  • Fling (there are a billion of these spin-offs and half the ads on AFF are to other dating/hookup-tonight sites.) These are all spam-tastic sites. They will start mailing you 10 – 15 matches an hour. Women willing to hookup with you today. BUT you’ll have to pay for the privilege of reading their email, where they will invite you to view their pictures on…
  • Tender (the App that seems to have caught on in the younger groups) Use your Facebook friends and friends of friends to find attractive potentials and if they find you attractive too you can communicate. It’s never worked for me, keeps timing out when it tries to establish my Facebook connection. Oh well.

There are tons of new sites and apps daily for whatever kink you’re into. But most of them are revenue generators and could care less if YOU get lucky. And most of the profiles are either fake or made by professional performers who would like to perform for you in some way or another.

Cheating Sites

  • AshleyMadison (Yep, there’s a dating site for people in committed relationships who want some on the side) If you’re cool with the idea, go for it. You’re going to pay to read any emails from anyone. And you’ll be emailed to death with “Likes” and “Collect $ Emails” from lots of women. But you pay to get access to chat, or email, or often to even see a single picture. Um, yeah, forget about it.

I’m sure there are other cheating sites, and probably cheating apps, but that’s way off the path in my book. If you want to hookup for a night do it. If you’re married or in a committed relationship and have that urge, take matters into your own hands and forget about it. It’s not worth it.

Apathetic sex is what got me here. When sex became more of a chore than a joy our marriage was winding down. The two were inextricably entwined in my book.

Okay, so let’s say you’ve found some matches on the legit dating sites, you’ve had a few dates, and …

Sex with experienced partners is a blast. Get this, they are probably hungry for sex too. But don’t jump in to fast, sex with a less-than-stable person can really mess up your simple life. The stories I’ve heard… Not good. So don’t jump in the sack too fast, even if you want to, it’s best to get a picture of the potential partner over a few dates and even a few disappointments. You’ll learn a lot. And maybe even start to have a real attraction to the person rather than just the sex appeal. But on to the sex.

Yes please. With partners your own age (and new women, who you’ve never slept with, who are not your partner over the last 11 years, who are excited and as revved up about sex as you are) you may be in for a treat. These folks SHOULD know what they want. They should have ideas about sex and pleasure and connecting. And if you’re lucky you’ll both be amazed and fascinated with the passion and power of having sex with someone new. I’m sure it’s a drug. I’m also sure people get addicted to the rush of new sex, new love, new partners. I don’t think that’s me, but it is a thrill either way, to see a new body disrobed and ready before you.

Hopefully, you have some idea of what makes you tick as well. And if the dance party goes well, perhaps you make it on to the post-coital date where you really begin to evaluate the person as a potential mate. Or not. That mate-thing is up to you. I know a friend who’s into sex with as many partners as possible. When the commitment things comes up, he’s gone. Not my idea of intimacy, but he seems satisfied with his high.

Apathetic sex is what got me here. When sex became more of a chore than a joy our marriage was winding down. The two were inextricably entwined in my book. My ex, with a different love language, was happy with infrequent sex. I was dying.

I’m not dying now. I’m not drowning in sex juices either. That’s not my way. I think I’m a serial monogamist. If that involves dating, or coupling, or marriage, I have no idea. And the good thing is, I don’t have to decide until I have to decide. I haven’t gotten close to marriage, but I have had one girlfriend. And whatever that means, I’m open to having another. [BTW: this is not an advertisement for me or my dating profile. (grin)]

Good sex to you all out there. Do what feels good. Walk away from what hurts or seems inappropriate. With divorce on the rise, we’re growing in numbers, and that’s good for all of us.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Burn the Maps! Do You Think You Know About Dating After Divorce?

Burn the Maps - the off parent

Do I repeat myself? Then I repeat myself. I am large. I contain multitudes. — Walt Whitman

So much of this blog has been about trying to figure things out. Figure myself out (wants, desires, depressions, ecstasies), to figure out my divorce (what happened, how to get over it, and how to move on in a healthy way), to figure out single parenting as a dad, and ultimately, where we find ourselves (me) today, dating and the mechanics of desire, relationship, coupling, or not coupling. And this much is clear. I have no idea what I’m talking about.

It’s like trying to write about being a parent if you have never had kids. Or imagining what it will be like when you’re married, before you’ve ever experienced it. And I believe I’m on a similar precipice. I THINK I want the next relationship. But it’s only because that’s what I know, that’s what I think I’m comfortable with. “I’m good in relationship,” I like to say to myself, and occasional dates. I’m looking for that again.

Pause. Relax. Enjoy the process. There is no hurry. Really. Get this. There. Is. No. Hurry.

But am I? Or is it just what’s familiar? I was married the first time for seven years. Then single and sad for a couple of years and married again for eleven years. So since I was 27 years old, I’ve spent most of my time married. So I kinda know what that was like. And both experiences were eye-opening and transformational. And it’s my natural tendency to want to get back in that couple-mode again. At least I think so.

As I am embarking on this more recent path of discovering myself in “dating” mode I’m not sure I have all the information or tools. I certainly don’t know what my optimal date would look like, though I’m trying to construct maps. I’m doing my reading, planning, and sketching thing, and trying to figure it out. But the real answer is this: There is no figuring it out.

I simply don’t know. And all the posts leading up to this moment, this awareness, are theoretical meanderings of a man who thinks he wants to be back in “relationship.” And they are all lies. Because I can’t know. I can’t imagine. I am trying to write the symphony to the next love of my life without having met her. How do I know where to begin? How can I dream her up, if she’s not revealed herself to me? Quite simply, I can’t.

Here’s what I can do.

Pause. Relax. Enjoy the process. There is no hurry. Really. Get this. There. Is. No. Hurry.

And I can keep imagining my treasure maps, but I have to be willing to be swept away by the unknown and unexplainable. I think that’s what love is. OH BOY, I used the L word. When and how does *that* come into it?

I’ve learned that the spark comes from the eyes, the smile, and the intelligence inside. If there is joy, it usually shows through the eyes.

What I do know is this. Present moment exploration is the only way to go. Present moment conversations and discussions. Present moment dating. Present moment sex, if it presents itself. ANNNNDDDD STOP. That’s it. Stop. Stay with the “touch” part. Stay with the conversation about current events. Stay with the fascination about the person in front of you, and not the idea you have.

I do a lot of projecting. (Hello! Have you been reading this blog long?) And often that projection process is misleading both to myself and the potential date. I write love poems. And occasionally those love poems are inspired by actual events in my life, a kiss, a missed opportunity, a chance meeting with an old flame. But they are no more real than my maps of the “next relationship” or finding “The ONE.” Bunk. All bunk.

And yet… All very useful in self-revelation. I AM learning more about my desires. I am learning how to deconstruct my wants and desires and see which ones serve me and which ones I can leave behind. I’ve learned some really valuable lessons along the way, but they are not maps, they are notes.

I’ve learned that much of the programming I received about beauty came from pornographic magazines. But even when I was ten I was reading Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask, so I’ve been studying women and sex and pleasure for a while.

I can only imagine… And for now that’s all I’ve got. And these maps, which I will gladly set alight in her flame.

I’ve broken the idea, for myself, that youth is beauty. And what I’ve discovered is youth is more about the animal need to procreate and breed with the most attractive and available woman. And get this, women in their 20’s who are uber-fit and good-looking, will appear to be perfect mates, to my reptilian brain. And yet, I’m not interested in procreation, or having sex with 20-year-olds or really even 30-year-olds.

I’ve learned that the spark comes from the eyes, the smile, and the intelligence inside. If there is joy, it usually shows through the eyes. And if there’s deep intelligence, I find I’m more turned on than any physical attribute. Except of course the smile. And the joy.

I’ve learned that I don’t have much experience in dating after divorce. We are much different than we were “back in the day.” And our parameters and needs are very different. And our boundaries and priorities are very different as well. AND we won’t put up with much bullshit before we call a foul and move on.

I’ve learned that the real sparks are very hard to find. And valuing that connection is often more important than any idea or roadmap I’ve ever made up.

And finally I’ve learned that working on myself if the best strategy for finding who’s “next” for me. And that includes this writing (self-examination), exercise (health and self-care), and putting myself out there as “available.”

While I don’t like first dates, they are a necessary evil if you are going to date. [What does that word even mean? Date?] And I don’t like online dating. But I find it another necessary evil, like looking for a needle in a haystack. Looking for the spark to set the haystack on fire.

And really that’s what I’m looking for, the fire. To feel the burn and intoxication again. This time with some tethers to the ground (and sobriety of my past experiences). But for the fire to come and burn my maps, I have to start with the spark. And since I’ve only seen a few sparks in the last four years, I know the journey ahead may be longer than I want. (I guess it already has been. *Grin* )

And, here I will repeat myself again, I am excited and terrified about the transformation that will occur when SHE shows up. And yet I am pushing towards her, calling her in, writing love poems to “HER.”

I can only imagine… And for now that’s all I’ve got. And these maps, which I will gladly set alight in her flame.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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For inspiration read this: Dating Don’ts for the Single Mom – from SingleParentingIsHard

image: screen grab from Republica video below.

+++ And though I say, “Baby, I’m ready to go,” I have no idea what that looks like.


Online Dating Undercover Revelations: OK Cupid (Pt. 1)

Online Dating: OK Cupid

I did something odd the other day. I paid to be an A-Lister on the free dating site OKCupid. And boy did I learn a few things that I’m now going to share with you. The first thing the A-list does for you on OKC is allow you to narrow your searches by a few more criteria.

a-list search criteria on ok cupid

and if we use the Attractiveness criteria we get this:

ok cupid attractiveness

Now I’m guessing this has to do with the star ratings that people have given the women over time. And my list dwindled dramatically when I uplifted my search to include 5-star women only. I wonder am I a four or five? Or three? Ack.  And the difference between 4+ and 5 was very little. And actually after you’ve done the work of eliminating the “no-ways” from your searches by hiding them, I came up with about 20 potential matches. And of those I had to eliminate half of them for being out-of-my-league or too-pretty to be “realistic.” (See All Types post)

And what about body-type criteria. Here’s my selection, if I used it.

ok cupid body-types

You’d have to wonder about a woman who ranked herself as “used up.” And “jacked” is even a bit cocky for me, and I’m cocky. And what’s the difference in self-awareness in a woman who claims to be Skinny vs. Thin vs. Fit. (Oh, I’d add Fit to my criteria.)

And one of the other criteria offers an interesting twist on the selection process. Let’s say you’re looking for someone who is okay with casual sex, well, you can search for women who’ve answered the casual sex question of your choice. How’s that for dialing it in?

searching for casual sex

And then there’s the stealth browsing mode that offers this screen when you visit someone’s profile.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 11.49.16 AM

that changes when you okay the visit

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 11.49.26 AM

I was wondering how I sent out so many hellos that got not only no response but not even a visit to my profile. It seems that women are much more selective about letting us know they visited. I know that’s where I start when I open OKC. And there has been very little action, even though I sent “hellos” to all 20 – 10 = 10 women who came up in my advanced search. And one woman actually responded at all. We’re meeting for a glass of wine tomorrow.

And that’s really it, that’s the point. Once you’ve secured the “date” let it go. Don’t spend too much energy or time scoping her out, or flirting via messages or texts. It’s often so much fantasy, that it’s waisted until you’ve met. Soooo many times I’ve generated a lot of enthusiasm and interest via message only to find there was ZERO chemistry. So leave your romantic aspirations until you’ve actually met. And when you get a “maybe” you should know it’s really a polite no. When it’s a yes, there shouldn’t be any hesitation at asking “What’s next?” If there’s resistance or apprehension, it’s a no. Move on.

The one thing I’ve come to understand about online dating is this. At least the women on the sites are claiming to be ready for a relationship. And if they’ve expressed some things that feel mutually exciting, cool. But meeting is an entirely different adventure. I exchanged a message with a woman who claimed it only took 4 minutes to know if there was chemistry. She was responding to something I wrote on my profile. And sure enough we’re going to grab our 4 minutes at the end of this weekend. “2 minutes for you and 2 minutes for me,” she said. I like her spunk.

So when you get the okay, let’s meet on X day at X time, give it a rest. Any thing else is too desperate. I’m not sure how it feels from the woman’s side, but anytime I’ve laid any more groundwork after the date was accepted, was wasted energy. Since I’ve had exactly THREE matches total in FOUR years since my divorce.

A friend asked me, “If you like relationships so much, why only three in four years?”

“I was getting my shit together first. I knew I wasn’t healthy and ready for a relationship. I wanted a rescue. And that’s not what I really need. I need a partner.”

Carry on, jump in and get your feet wet. And when she/he says yes, then go meet them. That’s when the sparks can fly. Everything before that is logistics and poetry.

Next, for Part 2, I’m going to dig into OK Cupid’s evaluation of my pictures and share their deep metrics on which pictures appeal to which age groups and types of women. All fun stuff. All fantasy.

New: Online Dating Undercover Revelations: OK Cupid (Pt. 2)

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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All Kinds of Women and the Sparks of Desire

OFF-lady

I spend more time thinking about dating and kissing than I actually get to date or kiss. It’s okay, it’s highly motivational. Today walking around the lake and watching the running, walking, and jogging girls, I was observing the things I found attractive.

It was the same sort of experience a few weeks ago when I turned my OK Cupid profile back on, just to check in. Just to remember how many women there are in the world looking for a partner. AND how few of them are within my range of desire. I know it’s my issue.

Looking over hundreds and hundreds of women you begin to make some assumptions on a dating site. Here are a few of my observations:

  1. Too pretty – never going to give me the time of day
  2. Too homely – not interested in those with lack of flair or confidence, please no more bathroom mirror shots, ever
  3. Too much makeup or glamour shots – never been my style
  4. Too young – I’m attracted to the younger women, but I’m not sure we’d have a lot in common
  5. Too many drink-in-hand shots – drinking is fine, but you don’t have to prove it, or flaunt it, might indicate a problem
  6. Too sporty – I also love fitness, but obsessive running, or talking all the time about your trainer… well, do it, but you don’t need to over do it
  7. Too religious – again, my bias, but I don’t have anything against religion, but you might not lead with it

And watching the athletic people exercising around the lake I made a few more observations:

  1. The uber-fit are often running with the uber-fit. Those amazing abs must be attracted to other amazing abs. I’d rather not spend so much time running.
  2. Women with baby strollers are beautiful, and of course YOUNG.
  3. We’re all walking and running to make our bodies more attractive or more healthy. Nice to see, and nice to have the energy and motivation to participate.
  4. My range of desire seems to be greater when the woman is exercising, or is it because I can see the whole body?
  5. Something about exercise shows energy and determination. That’s attractive.
  6. Some women look at you and look away. Some smile. Some never look up, as if afraid.
  7. As women pass by running, I notice the twist of their body, how they’re moving, their ratio (are they h/w proportionate), and did I get a whiff of their perfume? Too much perfume is a turn off, but just the right (essential oil-ish) scent is really good.

What would happen if a woman came along who was within my attractive range and was interested in a relationship? I guess I would get the opportunity to feel the pressure that I occasionally put on “dates.” I’m not sure what’s ahead, but I’m interested in finding out how I learn and grow in my next relationship, with a partner who wants a relationship.

Then sparks will fly.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Dating After Divorce – Kindle/Nook Available

Today we’re pre-publishing the Dating After Divorce book on Kindle and Nook. Take The Off Parent with you in an easy to read format. And receive free updates when more material is added.

Visit the NIBL Store of The Off Parent

From the Intro:
This is not a manual, but a single man’s experience of reentering the dating scene after 11-years of marriage. The challenges of being a single parent and trying to find energy and time to go “out on a date” is often daunting. And sometimes it didn’t seem worth it. Maybe I would be alone from here on out. Well, at least I have wonderful kids.

Dating After Divorce (when I get your receipt I will email you the file for your Kindle or Nook)

KINDLE VERSION 9.95 US


+++

 

Dating After Divorce
NOOK/iBOOK VERSION 9.95 US



Little Turnoffs: On a First Date with a Woman

bad date issues - the off parent

A reader of my 5 First Date Tips for Women asked a cool question and I thought I’d take a run at the little things that make men go “nu uh.”

Have you done a post on what signs/signals a woman gives in the first few dates, or things she might say or do, that make you say, ‘nu uh’ ? Of course it’s different for everyone, but curious what makes your interest wane. And I don’t mean the big stuff, necessarily, like her being racist or something similar…just the little things that make you shut down.

A. She’s late: Variation: She’s late and keeps making excuses, or is overly apologetic when she does arrive. Immediate KO Variation: She’s late and making excuses because clearly she is one of the most disorganized people you’ve ever met.

Bottom line: Don’t be late. There’s no excuse. If you don’t know where you’re meeting, say so, get directions, plan ahead, get there early. Getting to the date early gives you a chance to pick the table, your seat, and get a feel for the location before your potential arrives. If you get behind, a car wreck causing massive traffic jams, don’t make a big deal about it. Offer to reschedule if it looks like you’re going to be more than 10 minutes late. If you’re potential is still interested, then say you’re sorry once and move on.

B. She’s Got No Game: She’s got very little to talk about besides work, working out, and reality tv shows. What excites you? What are you planning when you’re not just working out? Are killer abs your highest goal? If there are no areas of interest that overlap, we’re going to cool down really fast. Listen to what I’m talking about and see if you can join in. I’m doing the same when you’re talking.

Stay present and honest. A lot of information is processed between two people on their first date. Timing, speech patterns, body language, scent, eye contact…

C. She’s Distracted: If you’re checking your phone we’re done, unless you are on-call as a brain surgeon. If you can’t maintain eye contact, because you’re so interested in what’s going on around us, there’s a problem. You don’t have to get googly-eyed at me, but make sure I know you’re listening and joining in the conversation.

D. She’s Not Over Her Last Relationship: Eventually we’re going to get to our stories. If we’re the same age it’s likely we’ve been divorced and have kids. And we do want to know what happened, but ease us into the tragic tale. Resentment and anger at your ex is a huge red flag. I’m not interested in being a stand-in for your unfinished business. Hopefully you and you’re ex have made the kids a priority and are going on about your lives without obsessing on each other’s faults.

E. She Doesn’t Light Up: I know it’s a lot to ask, but if you’re interested show it. You don’t have to bubble, but letting me know you’re happy, or excited is good. Giving me some indications early on, that you’re leaning-in to the idea is a good form of encouragement. And that’s what we’re really trying to do here, encourage the other person to be interested in us. If you appear bored, you’re showing me we’re a miss before we’ve even gotten started. And that’s okay, but it’s better if you just say it. Chemistry is something that is either there or it isn’t. But please don’t pretend it’s okay when you’d rather be brushing your teeth.

F. She Doesn’t Ask “What’s Next?”: So things have gone well on both sides, as far as I can tell. And we’re wrapping up. Please let me know if you’re interested in doing it again. That awkward moment, “Um, so… What are you doing this weekend?” is awkward on both sides. But a simple “What’s next,” can break the ice and make for a very easy conversation about timing and availability. Show you’re interested by initiating the conversation. Traditionally it’s up to the man, but we can both try and give the YES or NO signals more clearly.

There are very few nights you have to date, and fewer when you have the energy to do it. So let’s make the most of it.

Dating as an adult has a lot of advantages. For the most part, you don’t need the other person. Your identity is not invested in if they like you or not. You’re independently established and can pick and choose where to put your energy. If you’re interested in finding a partner, some of that energy should be spent dating.

There are disadvantages too. You’ve got kids and a complex schedule. There are very few nights you have to date, and fewer when you have the energy to do it. So let’s make the most of it. The simplest, quickest path to a yes or a no is best for everyone involved. You don’t have to be rude. You don’t need to gawk when their online dating profile photos don’t seem to match who you’re sitting with, by a long shot. But don’t say, “Okay, well, let’s do it again” when you mean, “Not a chance.”

Stay present and honest. A lot of information is processed between two people on their first date. Timing, speech patterns, body language, scent, eye contact, etc. Make sure you’re giving out the right signals, and hopefully I will make my feelings known as well. When we don’t have enough time, efficiency is our best ally.

We can do better, so, let’s do better.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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The Sensual and the Sexual: Dating After Divorce

OFF-desktopsexy

You’ve got time. You might have kids. Find the places in your schedules to spend time together.

Sex for men has been documented to be more about hormones and animal instincts than about love. And the mass media industry would have you believing that as well. We are driven by testosterone and orgasm, and we seem to have a much higher need for sexual release. Of course, recent studies have shown that women are just as sexual, but their chemistry is different, and our modern social inhibitions keep most women less predatory about sex. The example given is that a man in heat would head out to the bars to try to find a willing partner. A woman would like to do that, but usually ends up heading across the street for more batteries.

I am well aware of my naturally derived drive towards sex. Sometimes I’m too aware of it. And I’m kind of irritated when the “low-t” ads come on the radio talking about “men over 30.” But that’s where we are as a species. The man must remain aroused and predatory and most of all be able to perform the ritual at a moments notice, or at least within 30-minutes of taking a Viagra.

And I am part of that tribe.

Find the places in your schedules to spend time together. Some of it having animal sex. Most of it teasing out the mutual affection that will last long after the glow of the orgasm or the thrill of the chase.

But there’s another system of heat that is less organically derived and more about fantasy and projection, more mental. The sensual brain is, in my opinion, the biggest drive for me. The animal brain can provide the inspiration and energy for hunting a mate. But the brain not only provides the wooing ideas, but also the means and methods for actually pursuing and attracting a willing mate. (This is a different process than the nightclub one-night feast. For me, beyond a few years in college, that concept has lost ALL of its allure.)

While I have had limited sexual experience since getting divorced 4 years ago, I know that while the animal hormones might get me into the hunt, the erotic and sensual can take me to the finish line. If there is physical beauty but no mental acuity, I’m less electrified. But if the chemistry starts with the animal–“Hey, whoooo is that?”–it get’s multiplied exponentially by the witty banter and confident responses of a smart mate.

Beyond the immediate arousal of attraction, for me, a lot of romantic foreplay has to be involved. I’m not saying I couldn’t get aroused and pounce without thinking. I’m just not wired that way these days. The testosterone is there, but the sensual brain craves a more nuanced and erotic chase.

Even when I make sexual statements, “I want you.” I am exploring the more erotic possibilities in my mind and hoping the potential partner rises to the occasion. If it were all about grunts and erections, as our bodies and hormones alone reach towards procreation, things might be different. But the brain as a sexual organ, especially in women, cannot be overlooked.

A pursuit happens in several stages. 1. Physical attraction; 2. Banter; 3. Interest; 4. Sexy banter; 5. Sensual arousal; 6. Mutual affection; 7. Lights-on sex.

As long as you’re enjoying the hunt, why speed up, and potentially blow past, the intoxicating high of sexual and sensual arousal?

When the sequence gets too far out of whack, for me, the process can get short-circuited. And with online dating stage #1 can be tricky at best. Photos lie. Even written profiles and “interests” lie. And too much time on 2 through 5 before a physical sniff test, can be delusional and painfully misleading.

If you are lucky to get the sequence right from sexual energy to sensual arousal then you have lift-off. There are still a lot of miles to cover if the coupling becomes Coupling, but that’s fine. As older, divorced, adults, a lot of the pressure to hurry into a relationship in order to procreate is gone. And after divorce, especially, there will most-likely be a healthy caution about moving into a relationship. What’s the hurry? As long as you’re enjoying the hunt, why speed up, and potentially blow past, the intoxicating high of sexual and sensual arousal?

You’ve got time. You might have kids. Find the places in your schedules to spend time together. Some of it having animal sex. Most of it teasing out the mutual affection that will last long after the glow of the orgasm or the thrill of the chase.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Divorced and Dating Again: What’s the Worst That Could Happen?

on dating again - the off parent - first date

It’s a common strategy, to imagine the worst that could happen and plan that escape route, as you are hoping to relieve pressure about the risks you are taking in the present. And while I think it’s a fine defensive strategy, it sort of leans into the failure. And for the most part I like to lean into the win. Both sides have their advantages.

I am sure that I suffer from the optimist’s dilemma. Yes, I know I am overly optimistic. And I use that positivity to drive myself forward even in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. It works for me. Sometimes. And other times it is my blind side. Even today, I am overly optimistic about a lot of things. I know I am unrealistically projecting my *happy* on things that might not go as I hope.

How does the optimist (me) temper their momentum?

Right alongside that train of thought is the overly-up perspective that fears no risk, pushes the positive, and presses on in spite of the warnings or signals coming from their partner.

And I’m not saying the what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen plan is more or less accurate. But both approaches angle the outcomes, even slightly, towards their expected or predicted outcomes. I’m not talking about “you create your reality” here. I’m talking about leaning in. Holding back. Or thrusting forward with too much gusto and wreaking havoc with enthusiasm.

I understand both approaches. I am consciously trying to dial back my forceful will towards winning and listen to the flip side. And, my hope is, that in this tempered view I can arc towards the middle ground, and middling success, rather than a spectacular victory or crushing defeat.

I have frequently let my rosy perspective set me on course with failure. I’ve overshot relationships in the first days of courting. I’ve held on to business proposals and opportunities that were a sure thing right into the poor house. And I’m not happy about that. I’m positive about it. I’m certain that I can fix it. But am I?

In the trajectory that my “worst” friend imagines, let’s say, we start up a relationship, have a good period of time, and then move on. Looking back, years later, we still look back fondly on this period, when things were new, fresh, and full of passion.

Okay. That’s no so bad.

In the internal dialogue going on in my brain at that very moment, I’m saying, “Yeah but…”

And of course that’s not really the worst. But it’s the descending arc of a relationship that doesn’t quite make the cut. We know what that’s like, right? We’re here–single adults imagining their next future–because things didn’t work out. The “worst” arc happened in our life. And we view things a bit more “realistically.” Right?

Right alongside that train of thought is the overly-up perspective that fears no risk, pushes the positive, and presses on in spite of the warnings or signals coming from their partner. [Um… Me.] And it’s hard to hear “what if things don’t work out.” It puts a damper on our flame. And we love the flame.

I have to under stand that I am blazing right through the “You scare the shit out of me,” so that I don’t have to feel it.

When the “we’re never going to make it” voice came into the discussion I jumped directly to, “of course we will, we’re perfect for each other, we can do this.” But I missed an opportunity to hear what was being said. I rolled right over the signals coming from the potential partner, who was clearly saying, “You scare the shit out of me.”

And I was also saying the same thing. “Wait! What? If you say we’re not right for each other, then what’s all this blood rushing through my heart about, what’s all this energy and passion?” And glossing right over a deeper feeling, “You scare the shit out of me.”

So there is a way to meet in the middle. I can learn [am learning] to temper my steamroller of love. I can, I promise I can. But I need to listen to the “Wait!” I have to acknowledge the fear inside of me that still recalls the taste of tail feathers and loss. I have to under stand that I am blazing right through the “You scare the shit out of me,” so that I don’t have to feel it. Get it? So that I don’t have to feel my fear. My own what’s-the-worst-that-could-happen. My flip side is to ignore any signals or ideas that don’t match up to my what’s-the-best-that-could-happen fantasy.

What? Wait, I’m a massively feeling individual. I mean, that’s what I’ve been saying here on this blog all along. I’m always open with my feelings. Sure. Try me. Ask me anything.

“What if it doesn’t work?”

“Oh… Heh heh… Forget that. Try another one.”

There is only one way forward for either of us. Stay in the present moment. Don’t look too far ahead, you are just predicting what you cannot know. Don’t give the voices (both fears and dreams) in your head too much credit, they are ghosts of past relationships, and patterns that might need to be discarded.

How can we stay focused on the person in front of us, while all of this rushing thinking is going along inside, in opposite directions, even as we are staring into each other’s eyes? How can we do it?

Here comes the cliché. I use the serenity prayer. And then I try to come back to the present. I listen to the sound of the other person’s voice as I’m trying to understand their perspective. I attempt to look at both sides (even though it’s hard for me to hear the breakup potential for any reason) and then let them dissolve. The future is the unknown. And the edge of the unknown, where we stand at any given moment, can be terrifying, exhilarating, and is actually unknown. We don’t know.

You simply cannot know what’s going to happen in the next moment. You can only know the present. The touch, smell, sound of your partner. Sure there are logistics, plans, budgets, chores, pains, and ecstasies ahead as you wind down the road of “whatever.” But at this moment, if you listen, if you stop the chattering brain, you might hear…

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: first date, emily hildebrand, creative commons usage
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Browsable Women: The Three Hells of Online Dating

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

1. Pornography

2. Mass media and cheesecake photos.

3. Online dating.

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

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

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

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

Yesterday I spent most of my time hitting the HIDE button on profiles that could not possibly have been accurately returned by my search results. I was left with 20 smiling faces.

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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


More Sexual Signals, Online Dating Thoughts & Self-Observations

google beauty - resultsOkay, I’m starting to dig a bit deeper into what “attractive” means to me. And even observing men as HOT or NOT and trying to understand even my own scale of what’s important or not. (No, I’m not considering a sexual re-orientation, but merely noticing what I think women might be noticing.)

My own self-image is somewhat mixed, and perhaps it’s time for a hard look at what the disconnect was with my most recent heightened-and-potential partner. (see The Taste of Tail Feathers Again)

First and foremost, even in my own self-assessment, there is a lot more than the physical body in determining my desire and desirability. Let me see if I can distill the non-physical attractions–FOR ME.

1. Enthusiasm – Energy
If you act your age, we’re probably not a good fit. Sure AGE is just a number, but I can count on one had the people I graduated from high school with who still share the same joie de vivre as I do. It’s not about getting older. It’s about giving up on the dreams and goals of becoming a rockstar, perhaps, or a rocket scientist. Bring the energy and joy and I will not even notice wrinkling and other signs of our age.

2. Positivism
I loved being asked by a potential partner, this summer, “Are you always this positive?” If you’ve got anger issues or cynicism you might work on that before working the dating scene. Unless you’re happy with that approach to life. I think we’ve got our own path in life, and regardless of the challenges and setbacks, we either grow and move forward or we give up. Don’t give up. You’re attitude, even about your ex, colors your life. Make sure you’re the one that exemplifies positivism.

3. Joy
A smile can set a thousand armies into battle, the same goes for hearts. You need to find your smile and share it. And this is partially physical, but it’s not about teeth. (Of course, if you have teeth problems, you might have those checked out. OK Cupid’s survey on immediate touch points for both men and women when evaluating the attractiveness of the other sex was TEETH. What? I know.)

4. Self-confidence
Whatever your shape or attractiveness, you need to deal with it and LOVE IT. If you don’t love yourself (YES, just as you are right now, not 20 lbs lighter) that dissonance is going to come through. Even in online profiles you can tell the people who are not prepared to stand in a bright room and take their clothes off. Even with 20 lbs I’d like to lose, I’ve got an OKAY vibe about myself. And maybe that’s a problem as I reach for someone at a much higher fitness level, or maybe it’s not.

Folks will date UP, or reach for a higher category, but won’t often reach down to a lower level of fitness.

Now let’s check in with the physical attractiveness for a second. What are the signals that I look for in a woman? What’s intangible? What’s negotiable? What’s a deal killer?

Let’s start with fitness and thinness, as this seems to be an obsession. (And I’m not claiming to be immune to the mass marketing of ultra-thin beauty.) [Of course, the rest of the story here, and in our thin-obsessed media, is that thin is NOT healthy. Ultra-thin, even less so. Many of the things, besides Photoshop, those women go through to look like that, even with Photoshop. It’s unhealthy.] Let’s look at OKCupid’s fitness classes.

  • Rather not say
  • Thin
  • Overweight
  • Skinny
  • Average
  • Fit
  • Athletic
  • Jacked
  • A little extra
  • Curvy
  • Full-figured
  • Used up

Wow, that’s quite a range. I wonder what the difference between Thin and Skinny is? Or Fit vs Athletic? So let’s do a little test. Where would you place yourself? First: honestly where do you fall? Second: what are you going to use on your profile? Third: do you have aspirations to a different category all together?

I’ll go. First: Overweight (or A little extra, but I’m going with Overweight); Second: on my profile, my sales pitch, Athletic (I do have a football player build, have always, since I was a kid.); Third: where I’d like to be FIT. And for me that means getting a clearer view of my abs, and not just when I’m sucking in my gut. And actually, I’d rather not have to suck in my gut anyway.

So, here’s an observation I’m noticing. Folks will date UP, or reach for a higher category then they believe themselves to be, but won’t often reach down to someone in a very different attractiveness category, or in this case, level of fitness.

But for me, that’s only part of the answer. For me it’s a ratio thing, when it comes to fitness and body type. I will admit to be enamored by the ultra-thin. But I’m not so sure this is who I will end up with. In fact, I don’t believe the ultra-thin are into the athletic-build. They probably like ultra-thin guys.  I don’t know what this is about. I’m not all that into six-pack abs on a woman, but I don’t mind a bit of definition on the belly. But I do actually like a belly. My wife was most attractive to me after she had our kids and was a bit more curvy. I’m sure there would’ve been a limit to my flexibility if she had grown into a new category, but she didn’t.

Of course, then comes the real work of scoping out compatibility. I haven’t even gotten to start on that yet. All this stuff I’ve been writing… It’s mostly theoretical.

And that opens the discussion about what is MY real category. In my mind, with all my positivism and self-confidence engaged I am easily “a few extra pounds” but in REALITY, I’m Overweight. ACK. That sucks. And perhaps when I court the affection of a “thin” or “fit” woman I’m simply asking them to leap down a category or TWO to join my loving heart and brilliant mind. And that might be a stretch. But my limits aren’t that rigid. At least I don’t think they are. Maybe they are.

Let’s gather a few more data points. When seeing a woman from a distance (say a few aisles away in the grocery store) my animal brain begins to do some rudimentary calculations. And here’s how I think it goes. 1. Ratio: is something way out of proportion? 2. Hair style, color. 3. Clothing style, colors, type of clothes.

Then as we get closer the smile and facial beauty take over. But from a distance, MY range is pretty wide. At least that’s how I perceive it. Sitting just inside a Whole Foods about 65% of the women, in this distant assessment, would meet up with my criteria of attractive. (Again, this is more animal and hardwired, than actually evaluation.) BUT then, as we get closer and I begin to scan smiles, eyes, skin color, and overall radiance, my WOW rating drops to about 20%. From there all but 5% would fall into the ASPIRATIONAL rather than RATIONAL category. Oh, so we’re talking 5% of 65%. That’s a low number. (Something like 3 women out of a hundred.) And this is Whole Foods, after all, where the beautiful people hang out. And again, this is just attractiveness.

One of the things I’ve learned from online dating, is to recognize my signals more easily. It’s a bit like house shopping online. You need the curb appeal first before even starting to look at the details. Same with online dating profiles. If someone’s picture is odd, or obscure, or sad, it’s easy to click the hide button. A good portion of my time on OKC is spent hiding the definite NOs. At this point, what’s the risk. The problem with online dating is there are too many people to weed through. Too many houses with keystone windows or Tuscan architecture, neither of which are in my taste range.

Of course, then comes the real work of scoping out compatibility. I haven’t even gotten to start on that yet. All this stuff I’ve been writing… It’s mostly theoretical. I’m ready for the 0.35% woman to come and burn my maps. Within reason, mind you. I’ve learned what torching your plans for infatuation and physical beauty can get you. Two beautiful kids, maybe, but into trouble after that.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: screengrab after Googling “beauty”


The Taste of Tail Feathers Again

cowgirlOh online dating, I (heart) you. Oh wait, this was Facebook.

I’m not sure if I have an accurate picture of myself or my desired match. I mean, most times I think I have a pretty good handle on it. And then someone comes along and resets the markers and my own understanding has to be reevaluated. But I am learning, I think. Let’s recount a recent “Oh yeah” for me that seemingly has become a near miss.

First me. Let’s see. I think I’ve set out my parameters pretty well. And the fact that she connected with me through my other 100% positive parenting blog, and through my post on what a single dad wants in his next relationship, well, let’s just say my best foot was forward on the mechanics of dating. (But I still have really had only one post-divorce experience, so far, so I realise I don’t have all that much actual information.)

And after she requested a “friend” on Facebook, citing mutual friends (25) and at least something that she must’ve seen in my public profile, we jumped into a fun banter. So she wrote a nice, “Hey we should be friends, since we’re…” And it was a wonderful jolt to wake up on Dia de los Muertos with a very attractive princess (Halloween costume) saying she’d read my single-dad post and wanted to be friends.

Of course I accepted the friend request. And then the romantic madness ensued. (Mostly driven by me, but that’s okay, writing is what I do.)

So, in this current situation… I simply wait it out, right? Any signal from me would be over-reaching? Seems to weird not to say “hello” today, but I think she needs to feel like she’s in control.

Letting the banter run wild we chatted on FB over the course of the entire day. And things, on my end, could not have gone better. The more we chatted the more we seemed to have things in common. A quick wit and quick qwerty-fingers. It was a thrill. Like a first date. Almost. From her side she said very encouraging things. And at one point asked, “Even if we hate each other once we meet, can we still be friends on Facebook, I would hate to lose this banter.”

She got it. But… She was also getting it. Somewhere along this path I was letting my heart get involved. Even knowing the romance was pure fantasy, what a thrill to find a mutual attraction of the minds that seemed to expand and continue over the course of an entire day. And even after negotiating a Saturday afternoon meetup, I was hungry for her. Uh oh.

But I have learned a bit about this before. So I did my thing. I read. Wrote. And social media-ed. And since I had my kids that night, I didn’t have too much time to dig into her profile before taking my kids to breakfast in the morning and delivering them to their mom’s house and it was off to the “coffee date,” meet up, first face-to-face encounter. I kept my calm about me. Sat by the front of the cool coffee shop and waited.

Now, here’s where I’m going to reveal some of my vulnerabilities. She came in and said “Hi.” We did the simple hug. And she was going to order something to drink. In that first few moments, watching her at the counter ordering coffee, I observed myself taking her all in. Jeans and comfy shoes, very nice lines, well within my happy  zone. I was struck by how easily I qualified her by her appearance. I liked the look of her right away.

And when she came to the table, and we chatted for two hours, I was no less intrigued and fascinated. Again I was trying to observe my reactions in a more objective way. She had amazing eyes of blue, something I noticed immediately in her photographs. And a wicked smile, that I kept sort of staring at, imagining, going there. (Oops.) And her shirt and the shape of her neck as it entered the simple thermal shirt. Yep, my brain said, she’s in.

And while I was trying to show my most charming side, I’m not sure I was getting the pickup or resonance I was hoping for. I am still not sure, but I could almost feel her first scan when I stood up to greet her. Again, I’m making this up, but I felt like she took me in from running shoes, to shorts, to black t-shirt and then to my smile, all in the course of 30 seconds. And maybe that was all it took, maybe she was/is playing demure. But here’s what happened next…

We headed out to the cars, saying goodbye and such. And rather than the “what’s next” vibe, I got, “Well, I’d like to hear your song, sometime.”

I think the message was clear. At some very early moment in our meeting, I did not meet some parameter of hers.

It wasn’t the BINGO I was hoping for. And I am certain I was aglow. In reviewing my own behavior and expectations, I was at the top of my form. Maybe my form didn’t meet her expectations or projections from our Facebook romance. Maybe it’s as simple as that.

All systems go, all hearts and minds engaged, and you meet and nothing. (groan)

But, playing it cool, I wanted to make sure I was not over-thinking. I didn’t really have a roadmap for what it would look like if she were 100% aflame as well. But that’s what I was hoping for. I don’t think that’s what happened.

A couple of hours later I pinged her on Facebook just checking in.

“Just let me know, and do you want to get together tomorrow sometime?”

Her response took 3 hours and it was kind of obtuse. As if she didn’t understand what I was saying. A very different voice from the engaging romantic she had cooked up in my mind during our first 24-hours as FB friends. Okay, no worries, perhaps she’s being conservative. Perhaps she doesn’t know what to expect either.

I switched gears in my response the next day. “So do you get your son today or tomorrow?”

And this response was even more off. “Tomorrow, but I’m going to rest today.”

And this time, for the sake of clarity and brevity I went direct. “So… That’s kinda “meh”. Am I getting that right?”

She seemed to misunderstand. “Meh?”

“I was trying to get a read on if you were interested in getting together again. Perhaps I’m being dense. I enjoyed your company yesterday and would like to see you again, if desire and time allows. No hurry.”

And here’s where the mystery begins and ends. “I would definitely really love to be friends and then see what goes from there.”

And I dropped the thread with an affirmation of this sentiment. But that’s not what I was looking for. The responses had become hours in return. When we were flirting the responses were fast and flighty. So…

I think the message was clear. At some very early moment in our meeting, I did not meet some parameter of hers. All that built up energy and romantic charge didn’t offset or live up to whatever she had hoped I would look like.

I went to the well on this one and asked GF #1 about it.

“So, in this current situation… I simply wait it out, right? Any signal from me would be over-reaching? Seems to weird not to say “hello” today, but I think she needs to feel like she’s in control. She initially reached out to me. If she was “meh” then she won’t. If she was “maybe” then she will. But I think I have responded to her favorable statement, and now I drop the line and let her run until she realizes she’s missing me in the same way she was missing someone before I ever showed up. Is that right? Would you feel pressured if your spark followed up too quickly?”

GF #1 said that her gut-read was cautious rather than “friend zone” but she liked the idea of letting her line run.

So that’s where I am. I’ll invite her to coffee today.

What I learned.

  1. I am a powerful romantic and do enjoy the flight of romance that can happen via online connections.
  2. I have pretty distinct evaluation criteria that can only be decided in-person.
  3. Too much pre-roll romance wastes a lot of energy if there’s not a match.
  4. My disappointment at feeling the match and not having it reciprocated, is still hard.
  5. Less fantasy, less striving, more walking and playing music.
  6. Move along.

Update: After finishing a nice long walk I had a few additional observations on my most recent fishing expedition. I got some jazz from the connection, generated two poems from it, and got to feel my heart get all big again. Nice. I also got a bit of a hangover when the resonance did not match what I was hoping for. And now… I’m waiting for her FB response? Um, no. That’s the miss. While I did offer coffee today, my guess is her response will be lukewarm. And unless I press the date, it probably won’t happen. Sad, but true. A waste of energy? Not really. A new learning? In theory, but we’ll see the next time a princess shows up at my door. Moving forward, onward, and upward. You’ve got to turn over a lot of rocks to find the diamond, I guess. And of the three YES-vibes I got upon meeting a first date, this was the furthest I’d gone down the projection path, with all the mutual banter between us. Perhaps I should’ve focused more on my work that day, or the song that was trying to be born. Either way, I’m not unhappy with the results, just disappointed at yet one more grab and miss. But at least the promise of a YES is still out there.

Poem upon getting her hello on FB: arriving at any time (I shared this one with her,” a poem is a poem, you know.”)
Poem upon sensing the miss or possible caution: let’s pretend nothing sparked (I did not share this one, directly)

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: a random capture off the web


A Little Sex Talk About Dating Divorced Moms

[This post was written as a response to a post on the Divorced Moms blog called Divorced Sex – Getting Back In the Game and for some reason my comment was never posted and my account seems to have been deleted… Hmmm. Is it something I said?]

dating divorced momsSingle Dad Seeking Divorced Moms.

We’re adults now. Sex is serious. If it’s not, and you run closer to Samantha from Sex in the City, the safety rules definitely apply.

Sex with an Ex. Um, I hope you’re talking about ex-BFs and not the ex-husband. If you really want to get some confusing reverberations going in your mind and body, sleeping with your recently divorced partner would be just about the best/worst way to do it. But I’m gonna skip this one, for me, the ex-wife is off limits even for fantasy. There is no amount of … I don’t really need to qualify this.

Online Dating: Is not really dating. It’s only dating when you finally meet in-person. Everything else, all the lead-up is romantic BS, more like poetry than real-life. And I’m as guilty as anyone of fueling engagement before ever setting eyes on the actual person. Nobody can really live up to those expectations you created in your mind. Online dating is really for meeting in-person. The “online” part is filled with false projections, both intentional and accidental.

Sexting? Is that even a thing? Really? Flirting via text goes right up there with online dating. Same filters apply. Everything else is porn. And porn has it’s place. It’s safe, quick, and easy. And one odd point stands out in your post, “how you’d feel if you were the spouse finding out about online indiscretions.” I’m thinking this is mixed up. Because if you’re divorced, you don’t have a spouse. And if you’re talking about sexting with a married man, you’ve got a whole additional layer of baggage that goes beyond the scope of your post. So let’s say Sexting = BS, behave accordingly. Porn = Have Fun, but it doesn’t really get us closer to sex, does it?

Casual Relationship Sex – Or “Third Date Sex.” Well, I don’t know about those milestones, but I do know the first time a woman wanted to spend the night at my house it was a bit a mind-warp. And it ended up being a three-month relationship. But I wasn’t ready for the sleepover for a while. And as far as third-date and IN, I’m not a big fan. I like the idea, occasionally, but I think way too much spiritual and emotional stuff gets stirred up for me to have “casual” sex with someone I’ve met within the week. And sure, first date sex sounds about as appealing as getting drunk and explaining why you did it, as in NOT.

We’re adults now. Sex is serious. If it’s not, and you run closer to Samantha from Sex in the City, the safety rules definitely apply. But I’d suggest you deal with the hunger and drive towards sex first, and wait until you meet a man who has some potential as a partner before rushing into bed.

That’s just me, of course, but I think we all need to be talking about sex more openly. It’s still hard to talk about, so thank you for providing the dialogue.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Dating Tips for Modern Adults: Texts, Facebook, Profiles, Phonecalls

dating tips for the modern adultIt’s a lot more complex trying to figure out relationships these days, then it was before I met my ex-y. Today things like Facebook and text messages go for communications. And the signals can come from all directions. You’ve got to be a communications savvy person, or get lost. Or refuse to go “online” for your romantic prospecting. But if you’re not willing to up your online game, you’re going to be at a disadvantage.

These days phone calls are almost archaic. The dates I’ve set up over the last three years have involved only a handful of phone calls. Some never progress off the initial dating site. Others will give you a phone number as a back up, but won’t ever respond to texts. And then others…

It’s easy to get swept up in the joy of messaging as well. I’ve had a number of startup relationships that were amazing in text and not-so-much in person. And that too, is one of the problems with online dating. There is a lot of intensity and fantasy you can give into before you ever look into the other person’s eyes. There’s even a question on OK Cupid’s massive question database, “Do you think you can fall in love without ever meeting someone in person?” Really?

Let’s pull that idea apart for a second.

  1. Photos are not very good indicators of what a person really looks like. If they are using really old photos they could be 50 lbs heavier in real life. (It’s happened to me three times, so far. You want to ask, “Um, that photo… When was that taken?”)
  2. Romantic articulation is not a good indicator of a chemistry match. It’s a good indicator of a romantic writer.
  3. The imagination can run wild with #1 and #2. The let down can be shocking.

I have a new strategy (as of my last online dating date, two nights ago) get the texts going. And then trade selfies. This has only snipped one escalating online flirtation, but it was immediate. There is very little manipulation you can do to a selfie in most circumstances. And you want to get the raw story before committing to a date.

And dates take time. They can be fun or uncomfortable. But they are distractions, at some point, if you keep finding yourself sitting across from “what was I thinking?” more than a few times. You need to refine your criteria a bit.

Here are a couple informal tips I’ve learned so far.

  1. If there’s only one photo – they are probably hiding something.
  2. Look at all the photos. There’s usually that one photo that’s a bit more real, less romantic, than the others. You can sometimes see through the mirage of great photography in that one photo. (I only learned this after the fact. I’d go out on a date and come back home and ask “what did I miss?”)
  3. If they don’t have kids, they’re never going to understand me and mine.
  4. Look for something magical. One thing that you can really get into about the person. (Not a pretty smile.) What they do or profess to love that you also love. See if you can tease a few more details about that “concept” in your conversations via txt, email, or whatever.
  5. Pretty smiles are amazing. But they are not a complete package.
  6. Go ahead and say what you’re looking for in a relationship on your profile. I have it out there. “I’m looking for extraordinary.” I don’t want a half-charged woman. I’m not low-power or low-maintenance. I want brilliance.
  7. Keep plenty of time to yourself. If you are going out on dates in order to not be alone, you might look at that. You’ve got to keep refining what you want love to do, building the relationship without yourself, BEFORE you get in another relationship. Your goal should be to build on those things, not just a sexy connection.

There are a lot of ways to communicate online. If you really like this person in initial conversations, but it’s hard finding the time to date, you can ask to be “friends” on Facebook. (Another source of great REAL photos.) And don’t discount Facebook as a potential dating pool as well. Much more touchy on Facebook, to seek dates, but when there is a connection it’s easy to get a feel for what this person is into by looking at their Facebook wall. I’m happy to share mine early. I’m not trying to hide who I am. My Facebook profile is 100% public.

And it’s quite okay for them to unfriend you when they decide you’re not a fit. Don’t be offended. It’s not about picking up more Facebook friends. It’s about trying to establish a communications system between the two of you.

And finally: DON’T DATE ON FACEBOOK. Sharing your “new boyfriend” is very embarrassing when you have to go back and delete all their pictures. And those “first Ikea purchase together” photos just seem sad when you’ve known the person for two weeks. Leave your Relationship Status on Facebook as “make selection.” Nobody needs to be trolling you for dating. And you don’t need to be broadcasting to them or anyone else when you go from “In Relationship with Sandy” to “It’s Complicated” to “Single.” It embarrasses your friends for you. Just don’t do it. (Unless you’re in your twenties, then perhaps, everyone is doing it. I don’t know much about that demographic.)

It’s wild enough out there. You need to get your communications strategy in place. And then if the other person has a different pace or different style you can figure out how to adjust.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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The Woman Who Slept With Pitbulls

pitbull rescue girlShe wasn’t the first woman I’d made love to, but she was the first woman who seemed to have potential. She appeared to have her act together, and I loved her petite body. (See the beginning of the story here: Racing Into Love & Right Through the Exit)

This woman had a thing for her two pit bulls. Things at my house, seemed fairly normal, the one dog and the cat were well-behaved. At her house, the dogs ran the show. And these were some muscular dogs.

I liked them. I learned more about pitbulls in the first few hours at her house than I’d ever known about pitbulls. But it was a bit weird when they took over the bed. Sure, I like it when my little terrier cuddles up beside me in the bed, but these dogs were her sleeping companions. And there was barely enough room to squeeze in with them. And if push came to shove, it was also clear who would be injured first.

The dogs were the first sign that things might not be right in my new little love fantasy. The next sign was when we disagreed about something and she flipped right out. I think the topic was TV or reading, is one better than the other. (See she had an unabashedly heavy addiction for reality television. I even added a blurb about “if you’re really into tv” to my online dating profile after this experience.) She expressed it this way, “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

I was trying to say that reading was more engaging, might lead to more creative inspiration for the reader. She was simply furious. I’m not sure if she was mad that I was disagreeing with her, or if it was about her tv addiction, or maybe that her dogs really started liking me. At one point, as this first argument progressed she went upstairs in a huff. (Fury might be a better word for it.) And the male dog didn’t follow her. He stayed on the couch with his head on my lap. At one point she came down and got him.

Um… Red flag #1.

She proceeded to ratchet the argument up over the next hour or so, even though I was still trying to figure out what we were arguing about. And eventually I left. We were planning on spending the weekend together, maybe that’s what was freaking her out, and this was a way to make sure that didn’t happen. After the anger that followed me out the door, we both needed some cooling off time. This was… say… weekend number two, mind you, pretty dang early in a courtship to start blasting the other person.

We took a few days. Texted and emailed. And when Friday came around again, we made plans to have dinner. I was hopeful that the storm had passed. The email repairs, while mostly on my part, seemed to have settled things back into a cordial connection.

As dinner progressed things seemed to be a little tense, but workable. I was really interested in “relating” again after dinner. We were close to my house and perhaps…

She was talking about her grad school program and how much it was costing her trying to finish her degree. And then she said something that surprised me. “Yeah, those fucking research assistants and their grants.” I guess she was taking out a loan to get through school.

I paused. “Um, can I ask you a question?”

See already looked mad.

“So are you really angry that those people got grants. Or are you playing a sour grapes joke on me?” I thought she might have been making an odd joke. The tone of her statement was so exaggerated.

She froze and glared. I knew at that second, she had not been joking.

“I’m sorry. Did I just piss you off?”

She glared.

“I was thinking you were making a joke.”

“Do I look like I’m joking?”

Red flag #2. And we’re done.

She got into her car without really saying good-bye and unfriended me on Facebook about 15 minutes later. She also hide her profile from me on OK Cupid. Wow.

Beware the grad student who sleeps with pit bulls.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

image via creative commons use – pampered pitbull

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