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

Posts tagged “dating a single parent

Opposites Attract: Pheasants and Porcupines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

END.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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5 Wonderful and Unexpected Benefits of Being a Serial Monogamist

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

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

1. Keeping Everything Honest

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

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

2. All Available Time

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

3. Cutting Away the Distractions

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

4. Focus on My Goals

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

5. My Kids Are Growing Up

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Seven Signs of a Healthy Post-Divorce Relationship

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

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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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