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

Posts tagged “dating again

The Coffee Date Fail

Ah, the coffee date. It was a beautiful morning, I was hopeful and ready for coffee and conversation with a new woman. A woman I’d courted online for several weeks. A woman who inspired some sense of sexual interest in her online profile and then actually responded to one of my emails. The day and the meeting was set. It felt like a winning morning.

Nothing happened.

It’s my fault, perhaps. I don’t know that I’m really INTO IT. I mean, I know I don’t like being alone, and I’d like to start “building” a new relationship, but I’m simply not gung-ho about it. I think you’ve really got to bring a lot of energy and optimism to this dating process. If you’re just “meh” about the process, then you will get “meh” in return.

This date was okay. She was attractive. She was interesting. She was not interested in me. The disconnection was obvious. The chemistry was off from the first introduction inside the coffee shop when we first spotted each other. There were no outward signs of dissatisfaction. She was dressed nicely, looked fit and happy. She was chatting with a friend when I came in. I introduced myself and shook his hand too. Then I got my coffee and went outside and waited for her to fetch her fancy coffee.

I think I was already leaning out rather than leaning in on the introduction. I’m not sure what triggered it. I was happy to sit and talk for 30 minutes or so, but we were just killing the appropriate amount of time. We both agreed that being alone was working for us and we had trepidation about bringing someone into our lives. And we both had our doubts about how online dating might provide some realistic opportunities.

She mentioned how many men she met did not match up with their profiles. “Well, how am I doing compared to mine?” I asked. She paused. I was looking for some feedback. Was there something in my profile that I projected that didn’t show up at this coffee? “Your profile was pretty sparse,” she said, after considering it. She was talking about the words. I was interested in the pictures. I think that’s what we key on. I know that’s what I key on. Are they cute? (At 55 do women still want to be referred to as “cute?”)

The mass of women on OK Cupid and Match.com are not cute. And the ones that are usually ten years younger than me. And the few, this woman was one, who are my age and seem cute-enough for a closer look, are far and few in between. I don’t even visit the sites anymore. It’s the same faces. The same few women who ignore my emails. And more swiping through hundreds of sad profiles.

What are we doing? Is the reach of our online connection worth the disconnect of our emotional system? There was nothing in our profiles that prepared us for our coffee today. Neither of us felt it. That was obvious. But we’d decided to take the time and the risk to actually meet in person. And I wasn’t sad leaving the coffee shop. In some ways, I’m sure, I was relieved. Those next steps towards “dating” and building a relationship are so complex and time-consuming. I’m happy as I am right now.

The sky started misting as I was driving home. The fall air pushed in the cracked windows and lifted my spirits a bit. It was likely to be a rainy weekend. No tennis. Plenty of work. And no relationshiping. Okay, I’m resigned to that. Maybe next week I’ll open up the dating sites again and see if I can lure another woman into a conversation.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

image: blue bottle coffee, creative commons usage


Uh Oh, She’s Not Perfect, Not Even Close… Pitfalls of Dating Again After Divorce

I’ve got a friend who is probably the coolest guy I know. But he’s not finding the woman of his dreams. And it’s not that he’s not out there, he is. But I think the issue might be his unreal expectations he sets for how their relationship will start.

He’s a bit of a prima donna. A hard nut to crack. And you’re either going to love him or grow tired of him very quickly. (Example: he might jump your shit for being 5 minutes late, then later the same day, be 30 minutes late himself, without a peep.)

He’s hypercritical of his dates from the very start and yet can’t understand why he hasn’t met his match.

Okay, here’s what I’d like to say to my friend.

  1. The woman of my dreams did not come fully wrapped with a bow on her. There are still things we’re working on. But we’re madly in love, and compassionately seeking a better connection on a daily basis.
  2. A deal killer, what I thought might be a deal killer, is actually an opportunity for discovery and exploration.
  3. She drinks. I vowed off drinking years ago. I should write her off. But I didn’t and the issue was really mine not hers.
  4. She’s never had kids. Sure there are some tight moments when my kids act out a bit and she can’t understand why I don’t lash out at them. (They might trash the kitchen a bit too often, but we’re working on it.)
  5. She’s pretty self-centered. Again, this could easily be a deal killer in many ways, but I understand. She’s amazingly pretty. She’s delightfully orgasmic. She’s probably never had to work to hard at investing and exploring life with another person, not to mention three people. (I’ve got two kids that are part of the package.)
  6. She doesn’t have one of my primary desires: she doesn’t play tennis. But she’s a sport and will get out there and hit balls and promise to get better. And she’s so fit, she’s getting good pretty quickly.

I’d like to tell my friend to ease up on the “ideal woman” for a minute. Take some of the flawed candidates and take the time to get to know them. If you’re only looking for thin 10s you’re going to have to stand in line with the other suitors. I know it’s what you think you want. I know it’s a must have. But can’t you see it’s killing your opportunity for kinda nice and…

Dating takes time, I get it. I’d rather be working on one of my creative projects than going out on a “first date” with anyone. And it takes time to weed through the fake profiles on Match.com to actually get a real girl who’s interested in meeting for coffee. And there will be set backs. So far, one woman and I have missed our window three times. But she keeps coming back and I keep coming back and eventually we’ll meet in the middle somewhere. I don’t think she’s the one, but I’m willing to see what she’s like. I know she’s tall, thin, and beautiful.

So, dating again really takes a new mindset. Define what is perfect for you, then dial it back by 80% and let the 20% of unknown be a surprise left for you to discover. I remember my first girlfriend after getting a divorce. I made a joke about “my next girlfriend will definitely have a tattoo” and boy was I surprised. It was a huge lion on her stomach. It kinda stared at me, so I wasn’t a huge fan, but my little whimsical thought came true. So, rather than praying and thinking of the Victoria’s Secret model, put your attention to something beyond physical attraction. You’ll be better served in the long run, and you will probably meet women who are a little bit more realistic about what they are looking for in a relationship as well.

Take care, and if you need someone to talk to about dating, divorce, or depression check out my coaching page.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

@theoffparent

image: salsa, creative commons usage


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

OFF-headless

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Get Healthy Before Dating: Avoiding Vengeance Dating Syndrome

OFF-legs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Slow your roll.”

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: lust, soffie hicks, creative commons usage


Seven Signs of a Healthy Post-Divorce Relationship

OFF-healthycoupling

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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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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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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Sex, Love, and Relationships: Dating Is A Bit Like Space Travel

space station flyover, creative commons usageDating is not my favorite thing. I like relationship. Of course you have to go through a period of dating to get to know someone, and see if there is a mutual adoration and physical/emotional fit. And sex too.

I have only had one relationship in the three-plus years since my divorce, and I’d have to say I learned some things that I had never known about myself. I also got to feel what it would be like if I were with someone who shared my love language. AMAZING.

There was one component missing from that three-month journey. For the first month I tried to understand what was going on with my sexual desire, because here was a beautiful woman who was admittedly crushing on me. In the second month I addressed things more directly, and tried to awaken some sexual chemistry between us. I mean, how could I not be… I mean what did that say about me? Was I in need of some kind of Viagra, at my age, for the first time in my life? Well, masturbation was still working, to some extent, so I learned it probably wasn’t that. In the third month I came to realise, that as much as she adored me, I wanted to adore her back. It was a circuit that was incomplete. She was amazing, and she deserved someone who could appreciate that in all it’s facets. Sadly, I was not that person.

And an interesting thing happened when we broke up. I realised how much I did love her, but I wasn’t right for her. We had breakfast the next morning, after “the call,” and I could truly see what an amazing friendship we had developed over the course of our courtship. There were no hard feelings. Perhaps a twinge of sadness for both of us. But we are still strong friends who encourage each other along our journey. Just knowing someone is out there who is thinking about you, is a cool thing.

And the messages came back in spurts and then long periods of silence. There were definite “yes” readings as well as “I’m crazy, back off” warnings.

A few months back I had a different kind of relationship. As my first relationship was about adoration, my second relationship was about sexual chemistry. It was a fiery six month build up that had us both riled up before we ever had our first date. We had met over a year earlier, but things had begun to warm up between us on Facebook. She had gotten divorced. She simply said, “Hi.” And the dialogue/courtship began.

And on paper (or should I say, in the virtual world of texting and emails) we were a fit. And though I was not clear how old she was, she was a reach for a much more fit and sexual partner. It was sexual attraction first, we will figure the rest out as we go along.

Well, when we finally went on a date, it was sweet and touchy-feely and exciting. She was unafraid to tell me how she wanted to kiss me later via text. And the stage was set for our next rendezvous.

Then we hit it off. And it was a blur. I simply didn’t want to get out of bed and do anything else. We connected deeply in our desirous and unfilled centers. As we spent more time together, however, the differences also showed up. Lifestyle choices. Verbal acuity. What had been sort of open in the virtual world, was less easy in-person. (this poem captures a bit of the spirit: it’s just desire)

What I realized, pretty quickly, is while the sexual hunger and connection was hot, the rest of the relationship was not much of a WIN for either of us. It’s fine to sit quietly together and admire how fantastic the other person looks bra-less in a tank top. But there were not a lot of points of connection in our interests. I backed out as gracefully as I could.

But the emotional fallout was much more damaging than I was prepared for. Having ridden the high of the build and release of having this beautiful woman in my bed, I was devastated when it turned out that it was a fling and not the connection I was seeking. And there was one major wrinkle. She was a blog reader, she might even be reading this now. And one of the promises I gave her as we walked openly into a relationship, is that I would not blog about us while we were trying to figure it out. Turns out I didn’t feel comfortable blogging about/to her at all. I went dark and silent.

And dark silence is where I crumble and burn. Combine the chemical rush of the high and subsequent fall with the coming of the Christmas holidays, and my inability to write about what was going on, and it was a bad combo for me. I suffered in silence.

And I contemplated reconnecting with her. I contemplated reconnecting with my first and only girlfriend so far. And I did nothing. And I fell apart.

As I pulled my dating profiles off the web and contemplated my navel for a bit, I met a woman at a NYE party who held an amazing attraction. She was a tennis player, so that was a first, and a fantasy. But I didn’t pursue any connection as I knew I was unavailable and wounded. And I knew all hell was still in the process of breaking loose in my personal and financial life. So I admired her and retreated into my cave of silence.

And I stumbled along and went through my next transformation and started to pick up the pieces of my life alone.

A few weeks ago I had started using a tennis cardio workout as part of my physical and mental healing process. And after the 2nd class I realised I was thinking about the tennis player from NYE. Of course it was a long shot, and it was initially about tennis, but I sent her a message via a mutual friend. Her response was positive and immediate. We connected via txts and the flirting went off the charts.

How fun is that? A casual reach out that produces a willing and excitable potential.

And I began to notice the things that changed in my attitude and hopefulness about women in general. Just a little attention from this very attractive woman was enough to awaken my heart to the “idea” that I could have another relationship. And it seemed there was some of that process going on for her too.

And I noticed too that my heart and mind were beginning to accelerate towards her, like a spaceship being pulled in by the gravity of a large planet. And as I opened to her potential I also sent messages of all types, like some sort of electronic scan. It is amazing how much information we can exchange in a short period of time. And while txting might get a bad rap, there is something wonderful in the considered response. As a writer, I thrive there. And I listen with more intent perhaps than I should.

There are huge amounts of time that are simply waiting. And I can do a better job of allowing the “wait” to be peaceful and less demanding.

So as my life force and positive energy began to accelerate in her direction I also pulled down my defense shields. Even as I professed my ability and comfort with going slow, I was finding my daily thoughts starting to draw strength from my imagination of her and our potential. Of course, there was very little information to go on, so I pressed on all channels. I sent txts. We sent emails. I shared my music.

And the messages came back in spurts and then long periods of silence. There were definite “yes” readings as well as “I’m crazy, back off” warnings. I logged all of them, but I tended to put emphasis on the positive ones. And I leaned in to the gravity and allowed my romantic aspirations begin to color my vision.

Today, it’s over. I have overshot the landing and catapulted right out of her orbit on to some unknown destination. The benefit I have is momentum and hopefulness. She shared and showed me how I could light up again. She also reflected back my obsessive and overwhelming transmissions. I used her pull to attempt a crash landing and bypass all the “dating” and “going slow” that might be more prudent and less dangerous.

So as I speed away from another “potential” I am trying to be aware of the great things I learned. And most of all, I hope to make use of the momentum her gravity and ultimate slingshot has provided for the path ahead.

I need to remember that space travel takes a lot of time. There are huge amounts of time that are simply waiting. And I can do a better job of allowing the “wait” to be peaceful and less demanding. And perhaps even less draining if I don’t expend so much energy communicating and listening.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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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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