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

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

OFF-e-lady

 

Conducting a rigorous self-examination to help determine my own readiness for dating.

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Let’s talk about joy for a second. How do you recognize it? When you see a joyful person do you gravitate towards them? Certainly we can spot the absence of joy a mile away. Steer clear of the hottie in the black dress with the angry eyes and enhanced frown. She’s packing heat of a variety we’re much too familiar with from our 11 years of marriage, six of them happy.

As a divorced adult, we have been freed of all (most) of those constraints. Now, instead of suffering through the bad times, we can just move on. When a few too many red flags come up early in a relationship, it’s OK, at this stage in our lives to just say, “Later. And good luck.”

When you are still reeling from the collapse of your marriage, you might be ready for some free love, but the completion of the work needed to actually enjoy it is still a few months or years down the road.

The closer we get to our own innate joy (even when alone) the more we are able to recognize the same joy in others. And it’s a process—we don’t emerge from divorce happy and hopeful. We might think we are, we might hit the ground (dating sites) running, for example, but most likely the divorce process, the recovery from divorce, will take a number of years. I’m sorry to break that news to you if you’re just emerging from an unhappy marriage, but relationships, even starting out, take work. And when you are still reeling from the collapse of your marriage, you might be ready for some free love, but the completion of the work needed to actually enjoy it is still a few months or years down the road.

♦◊♦

For me, it was indeed, several years before I was ready (am ready) to enter into a joyful relationship. Before that time, I was interested in a relationship, but I was not bringing a full and healthy person to the table, so to speak. I was showing up, smiling as much as possible, and telling my happy tales, but I wasn’t able to fake it ’til I made it. I just wasn’t very good at covering up the real emotions that were still wrestling within me. It’s OK. It was actually better for me NOT to get what I wanted. It was necessary for me to spend some time alone, to sort through my regrets and triumphs and decide from a balanced perspective, what I was looking for in “next.”

So, maybe by examining and sharing some of the joyful things I look for in a woman, I can better understand my motivations, and you can better understand the male sex impulse that is often troublesome and misguided. But first, let’s get one thing straight: I am not an apologist for men and their bad habits. I am a thinking and feeling man in search of my next relationship. I’m not clear on what exactly that means, and I am clear that I don’t know. But I do know what I will and will not tolerate in my search for Ms. Lovejoy.

Here are five signs I’ve identified that the man you are looking at is more of a fractured soul than he is letting on.

ONE: He’s too positive.

Everything is great! My kids are great! My ex is great! And my, you are great too! I’m so happy I could sing the Pharrell song all day long. I’m the most positive person most of my friends have ever met. I just radiate positive energy. “You can feel it, right?” Stand back from Mr. Yes. I’ve been this dude. And while I do profess to have a very positive and happy outlook on life, I know that I can overdo it. I once floundered in a lopsided dating experience, because I was so damn positive I was going to be able to shift it from the friend-zone to something more intimate. I was wrong. But even the woman mentioned, “You’re one of the most positive people I’ve ever met.” Yeah sure, I thought, just kiss me then. We never really kissed. And after a few months, I woke up and smelled the coffee. She was not ready for any relationship beyond just holding hands and a sweet peck on the lips at the end of a snuggly evening. Fine, but that’s not what I was looking for. It too me a while to get beyond being so UP. But when I sense it in someone else now, I put up some more awareness filters and look to see if it’s covering up something that’s deeper and unresolved. For me, it wasn’t really about unresolved issues, but I did let a distant dating relationship go on for a long time, thinking my yes-mind was going to convince her to sleep with me. Nope. When the person is too happy, move along.

We are learning. We have no idea what life is supposed to be like after divorce. And dating and relationship building are things we last thought about in our twenties.

TWO: He’s too accommodating.

“Oh sure, we can reschedule,” I texted her for the third time in a month. We’d not been able to work out the first “hello” date. Each time there was some event that came up. And all of them about an hour before we were scheduled to meet. I was accommodating even after the third, “I can’t meet this morning. Sorry.” But I was too accommodating perhaps, and denying that she was giving me all the signs she was not ready at all for a date. When it’s too easy to move the date, you might be looking at someone who’s desperate. Even though she was resetting and I was being accommodating, I was ignoring my own over-accommodating tendencies. And I realize, just as I’m writing this, that she’s a disaster waiting to happen. If she’s reset three times, and within an hour of our meeting … Why do I think she’s going to be a different person in actual relationship. Um … Oops. I’m too accommodating sometimes. I need to move on from this one.

THREE: He’s too eager to listen.

“Women really want you to listen.” It’s advice you’re going to get from both men and women when you start dating again. And the premise is correct. Listening is something we’ve become less and less adept at over the years, and with the increasing pace of life and technological interruptions. So slowing down and paying attention to what the other person is saying, IS important. But it can be over done. When the listening is too animated, too connected, you need to gauge whether someone is being attentive for their own needs or as a strategy. I listened like a therapist. I listened to women complain about their marriages. I listened to them talk about how great their kids were. I even listened to their funny online dating stories. And I listened too much, and too long, when I should’ve ended the “going nowhere” date. But I didn’t. I was trained to listen to women. Almost as a technique to satisfy my marriage, a counseling recommendation, “Just listen. Quit trying to respond before you’ve heard what she’s saying.” Yes, that’s true in relationship, but in a dating, and early dating situation, you need to listen, but do it lightly. When I catch myself listening for overtones and hints, I try to stop. I try to just listen lightly, respond naturally, and just have a conversation. I am not a therapist. And when I listen hard, like I am a therapist, I am really just trying to get you to love me, or to trust me, or to sleep with me.

FOUR: He’s touchy-feely.

I’m a hugger and a toucher. It’s my love language. I express myself through touch. And I feel most loved when I’m being touched. So if I go in for the arm brush too early, be aware that I’m feeling you out for your touchy-feely level. And if I’m too touchy I might be showing my own emptiness or hunger. You might not be ready to be devoured. Are you responsive? Do you recoil when I touch you? (We’re talking first dates here, so either way it’s OK, but it’s giving me a lot of information.) Do you touch me back? Do you lean into the touch? I can tell a lot from a first intentional touch on your shoulder. Sure, I am illustrating a point, but I’m trying to sense out your touchy-feely scale. Are you a 10 like me? Or does touch/hugging/kissing/sex come with deeper reservations? I admit this is a learned technique. And when I touch you, it IS casual, but I am looking for clues to how you will react later on. I’m not doing it in a creepy or manipulative way, but you need to know I’m doing it. And if you are a touchy-feely person as well, we’re going to hit it off wonderfully. If you’re touch-adverse, I’m guessing you’ll give off these clues fairly quickly.

FIVE:  He makes smoldering eye contact.

When I was in my early, and very passionate, months of trying to date, I tried to convey my seriousness and earnestness with my dark and smoldering eyes. I wasn’t trying to affect them. I was just peering out of very emotional eyes and I wanted you to see and notice how sensitive I was. How deeply I felt things that you were saying. And how deeply I wanted to drink you in. That hunger is evident in the eyes. My pools of reflection were deep, and I thought I was showing my deep feeling. What I was doing was using my “honest feelings” as a way to hook you. I’m not sure how well it worked, but it didn’t ever really result in the date I was looking for. But I was deep, deep, I’m telling you. When you see an infinite and sensitive soul in your date, you might sit back a bit and see how desperate that searching feeling gets. Being a pussycat, I never pounced with this dark killer instinct, but I knew I was not 100% ready for what I might get had I leapt into the frenzy from this wounded place.

♦◊♦

What’s the Solution?

Now, most of these things are not tactics. They are simply how I am in real life, only exaggerated about 10X. I do have deep and sensitive eyes, but I shouldn’t really be lasering you with them on the first date. When I’m doing that I’m too hungry, I’m too aggressive, I am too enthusiastically in pursuit of you. And asking me to back off is going to give me the signal and information I’m looking for anyway. When the chemistry is right between us, it’s possible that these clues, or tells, are going to resonate between us. That’s happened a couple of times. And while none of them turned into the long-term relationship I am ultimately seeking, I learned a lot from every experience.

And really, that’s the message I want to get across. We are learning. We have no idea what life is supposed to be like after divorce. And dating and relationship building are things we last thought about in our twenties. The world has changed quite a bit. And our expectations and what we will and will not tolerate have changed quite a bit as well. I am aware of my tendencies towards obsession or over-thinking. When I am free of these habits I am more confident that I am actually ready to try for a relationship again.

Be aware of your seeking patterns and when they are out of balance, or overblown, you might dial back your intensity a bit and examine what’s going on for you. In my case, when I find I’m hyper-extending any of my dating super powers, I try and spend some time not dating, so I can recenter on my goals and needs. With a date in sight, and the potential for sexual intimacy, I’m less able to make rational and self-centered decisions.

When I am clear, I can make rational and appropriate decisions. When the chemistry is ON but the warning signs are also shining bright, I can walk away from the temptation. I don’t want surface relationships. I want whole relationships. Or a single whole relationship, that’s my ultimate goal, one relationship. But I’ve got a long way to go before settling down. And I promise I won’t settle for less than awesome.

When you’re dating again after divorce you’ve got to remember to remain a bit more self-centered. You’re not in this next relationship to compromise. You’re in it for the win. Sure, we’re going to fail, we’re going to make mistakes. But knowing where we play games, or where we accentuate our own desires, the better we can adjust and get more real about what and who we want to be with next.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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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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5 First-Date Tips for Women

first date tips for womenDating is the wave of the future for us newly single folks. And as we enter the dating stream later in life there are plenty of new things to learn. Most of us, haven’t been dating for quite some time. And we have to polish up our routine as well as our hair, clothes, and fitness. Here are 5 YES TIPS for women who are interested in perking and keeping the interest of a man. (These are my thoughts – your mileage may vary.)

1. If there’s an attraction, let us know it.
When my first partner after divorce said, “You’re a lot cuter than your profile,” during the first 15 minutes of our date, I knew I was fitting some criteria she had in her mind. Yay! It’s so rare to find that chemistry. When it’s there, don’t be shy, just say it. “You’re pretty cute,” is all it takes.

2. If we’re going into the friend folder, let us know it.
The most disappointing thing is being led to think there is a connection by a date who says, “Well, let’s get together again,” but really doesn’t mean it. If you don’t want to, say it. Or don’t pretend like you do. Let us down easy. And if you’re not into the conversation of the thing, maybe you can send an email via OKCupid or whatever site you use, to say, thanks but no thanks. It’s so nice to have closure. But don’t fake it, if you don’t feel it.

3. If there’s something you’d like to do together, say it.
Finding common ground can be one the hardest things to establish early on. Saying “Into live music” on your dating profile, but not knowing any where to go, or any band to go see, is a real miss. If you’re into something, and it’s something you enjoy doing, see if we might not do it together. Just ask, “Do you play tennis?” (Or whatever it is.) That’s an opening for us to join with you, “No, but I’d love to.”

4. If you’re having a good time, laugh, touch our arm, show it.
See how much you can make us laugh. Laughing and smiling gives us all the benefit of good vibes. Are you funny, playful, spontaneous? Show it. If you’re real side is quirky, but you’re playing it straight, you’re cheating us both of an opportunity to connect. Touching is a powerful signal. Even a light pat demonstrating some point, is a moment of contact that can start the imagination rolling.

5. If you want to see us again, I mean really, just say it.
“What’s next?”  Is the most magical phrase in the first date wrap up. If you’re interested in seeing the person again, don’t wait for the man to come up with the courage to ask, just say it. Ask. “Are you doing anything Friday” is a great one, too.

Looking for clues: Where you meet, what time, what kind of place, for drinks or coffee… all plays a part in setting the stage and tone for a first date. Consider going for a walk around a park rather than drinking, you’ll tend to get a clearer read if you’re exercising. Look at their body language. Notice their eyes, are they looking at you, or distracted.

6. Bonus Tip: If you want a kiss, tilt your head, close in, give us clear signals.
The first kiss is a critical moment. If you’re into kissing, and think the guy is cute, go for it. What have you got to lose. If he’s a lousy kisser you can avoid the future heartache of finding that out on the 5th date. If he’s hot and your water begins boiling with a kiss, you might be on to something rare: a connection.

What have I missed? Let me know in the comments and I’ll include them here or in a future post. From my perspective, it goes without saying that a man should abide by these same rules. Think how much simpler it would be if we just said and shared what we were really feeling.

Keep it real out there, and keep on going.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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This post was inspired by Tamara’s Post: 5 Dating Mistakes Women Make. | Tamara Star | Daily Transformations

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