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

Posts tagged “dating with kids

Dating a Divorced Parent: How Can We All Stay Connected?

OFF-kidsculpture

We’ve got some connections to make in this world of relationships, parenting, and divorce.

Point One: Divorced parents are still parents.

If we (as a couple) can focus on our relationship and let the co-parenting relationship exist in a parallel universe, with different laws of physics and gravity, we’ll do fine.

A divorced dad is still a dad. (I’m relating this to dads, as that is the only role I know. Please substitute mom if you’re reading this from that perspective.) Even though our relationship has changed, I’m still “tha dad.”

Why it’s important to remember.

  • Schools will often communicate and support the single mother in ways that are very different than the single father.
  • Single dads may not have cheated, messed up, been an alcoholic, or done awful things to cause the divorce.
  • Dads have a very different experience of divorce. Even when hurting, disconnected, depressed, angry… A dad is still important in his kids lives.
  • Single dads are made fun of in the media and even in our daily lives about things that are hard. It’s true, we don’t know how to braid our daughter’s hair (until we’ve been taught) and we’re less competent at making school lunches from time to time.
  • Single dads often shoulder a disproportionate amount of the financial burden and are usually required to find new living quarters. The money issues alone are enough to hinder a strong person.

Point Two: Divorce is very different if you have kids.

I have been through two marriages and two divorces. The first one, which I rarely reference, I consider a mistake. A mistake I learned a lot from, but a mistake nonetheless. No kids were ever on the planning horizon and I’m grateful that I bypassed that lifetime connection with this woman. When you divorce without children, it is hard, but the process has an end. I have not spoken to my first ex wife for years, and once Apple released the option to block a contact she was vanquished from her random “Hey how are you?” communications as well. Good. I am happy to not to orbit her in any way.

With children, you’ve got an entirely different set of circumstances. Sometimes I’d love an escape option, when she’s being dramatic or unreasonable, from my perspective. But she is never going away. And in all fairness, our time together was filled with loving attempts at being married with children. I was no Al Bundy, and she was less Peg than I occasionally claim, but we didn’t make it as married parents. So we are divorced parents.

In my current relationship, with a woman who’s had no children but was married for 17 years, we have a very different experience of life. She likes my kids, she loves my fatherhood role, but she doesn’t need my kids in the same way I do. I understand that. That’s our relationship that we get to focus on, when the kids are with us and when they are gone.

You can’t walk away from your kids and thus you never get to fully walk away from the other parent. This point cannot be stressed enough. Every mean thing you say or do towards them, comes back ten fold, just when you least expect it. You may not think so at this moment, you may be angry, you may be fighting about something, but… Your kids are non-negotiable connections.

Get over your issues with your coparent.

Us divorced parents can really benefit from an unattached, unreactive, partners. A partner who sides with us under any circumstance.

We still have plenty of issues to work through. I wish we didn’t, I wish she weren’t so dramatic when she tries to get her way, but that’s the way it is. That’s the way she’s probably going to be for the rest of our lives together. Perhaps she needs to be this way when I seem so disconnected or unresponsive. I get it. We are stuck in this relationship with one another. Our kids will need both of us for the rest of their lives.

We’ve done a great job of keeping the money issues separate from our parenting issues. We don’t agree on some things. We’d both like things to be different than they are. But we’ve learned to put the kids first and negotiate about their lives and their needs with a holistic perspective. We can fight about other stuff, but when it comes to them, we’re a team.

Parents are parents. Make sure you treat each parent, married or unmarried, with the same respect and courtesy.

Divorces with children are more entangled. If you’re dating a divorced parent you don’t have to understand all the weirdness of their relationship with the ex-partner and children. You don’t even have to love their kids or understand why things between them, the kids, and their former partner may occasionally feel like a an inside joke that you’re not a part of. The relationship between you and the divorced parent is a common variety configuration these days. If we (as a couple) can focus on our relationship and let the co-parenting relationship exist in a parallel universe, with different laws of physics and gravity, we’ll do fine. We can focus on the we, and when we are expanded with my kids, we can focus on the we as coaches and cheerleaders of these wonderful kids.

Divorced parents are dealing with a lot of changes. And if you are lucky enough to be in a relationship with one of these kid-attached folks the blessing you can bring to the equation is to stand slightly outside of the odd divorced-family dynamic and maintain a supportive closeness with your partner. Us divorced parents can really benefit from an unattached, unreactive, partners. A partner who sides with us under any circumstance.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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After Divorce w/ Kids: You Won’t Believe How Good It Can Get

OFF-coupledacing

Off as in wacky. Off as in when you don’t have your kids after divorce. Off as in batshit crazy. What is an OFF Parent?

As I have begun to reemerge as a happy dad I have paid careful attention to who deserved my “off” time.

Divorce sucks. And in the end, divorce may have been the most liberating and creative thing that ever happened in my life. I have certainly been transformed in many unexpected ways. And the decision of my then-wife that wrecked and the reshuffled my family life, might have been the event that set me in motion towards the next true love of my life.

But getting from married with children to divorced with children to dating with children to whatever-you-want-to-call-next with children… Well, that’s the tricky part about being an off parent. I’m here to offer hope.

I’ve been through:

  • major depression
  • financial disaster
  • dickish ex-wife moves set to hurt me
  • complete loss of my identity and home
  • rebuilding and reassessing
  • creative rebirth
  • establishing relationships with my kids during *my* time
  • losing a best friend and partner in planning and future visions

Through all of it, things get a bit rough. Things might even get so bleak that you consider dark and harsh alternatives. Hope is hard to come by at times.

And I arrived at:

  • creative freedom
  • effortless and inspired writing about my experience
  • creating my own parenting style, not burdened by my ex’s OCD
  • establishing father-son and father-daughter bonds in the time that I did have
  • a rested state of living (naps whenever I wanted, instead of a fight)
  • redefining *my* needs and passions
  • exploring and learning from what went wrong
  • setting sail for a new kind of relationship
  • finding the love of my life

I’ve been married twice. And I can tell you the divorce from both of those relationships was difficult. With kids, however, you never fully get divorced from your co-parent. And as I have begun to reemerge as a happy dad I have paid careful attention to who deserved my “off” time. I went through a few test relationships, learned some powerful lessons along the way, and arrived here: madly, passionately, and freely in love with a new woman, a partner unlike any I have ever imagined. Better. Stronger. More passionate. Much more compassionate.

The second love of my life took over 52 years to arrive. We had been looking for each other for 5 – 7 years. And when we connected the sparks flew, the inhibitions evaporated, and our hearts began to sing in harmony, the big “Yes” from within minutes of our first kiss.

“That was the most auspicious beginning I’ve ever experienced,” I said to her a few days after we’d spent the first weekend together.

My kids, as important as ever, will be building new connections with the WE, rather than just me, Dad.

The exhilaration has not stopped. The continuous effort on both of our parts to find the time, find the space, and find the way to connect both in an out of the bedroom. And of course, the sex is amazing. And how could I have imagined, as my known world was collapsing, that I would be having the absolute best sex of my life at 52? And more sex than I’ve ever had? How could this be possible?

When you embrace the loss of your marriage, you can begin healing yourself and reestablishing your relationships with your children and yourself. As you burn through the pain and frustrations, you may find yourself stronger and more self-assured. You may find yourself unwilling to settle for half-ass. And with the compressed amount of time you have, you will value both the ON parent time and the OFF parent time.

Today I begin a new journey with my girlfriend. (That term seems so weak compared to what we have established.) Today we begin building OUR relationship WITH and AROUND my kids. The parenting plan I defined with my then-wife spelled out a 6-month waiting period before introducing the kids to a partner.

The new relationship is between her and me. My kids, as important as ever, will be building new connections with the WE, rather than just the me, Dad. She won’t ever be Mom, but she can bring a new idea in to their young lives.

In the next 4 years of my son’s life, and the next 6 years of my daughter’s life, I can show them what a healthy and happy relationship looks like. The last time they saw my then-wife and I in respectful partnership was when they were about 5 and 7 years old. What a gift I imagine in this new, re-envisioned partnership, with the next love of my life.

The more amazing thing about finding love again, is when you find the flow of energy and affirmations is easily expressed by both partners. In my marriage I was the “emotional” partner. My then-wife was more logical and excel/task/budget based. This new connection is stronger and more pure than anything I’ve experienced in my life. (I know this sounds like puppy love, and I’m not afraid to admit we are still in the honeymoon glow.)

Where we go from here is together and up as a newly formed family unit. The three of us now have a co-pilot. I now have a collaborative partner to reason things out, to make joint-decisions, and to reflect on the demands and requests of my ex-wife. Not to mention, the most exciting partnership I’ve known.

Today, I have it all. I’m still rebuilding. My kids are still adjusting. Perhaps we will be readjusting our entire lives from the fracture that changed everything. Today, at this moment, I can say, “For the better.” By a long shot.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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The Sensual and the Sexual: Dating After Divorce

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

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

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

And I am part of that tribe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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What’s This About: Marriage?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I don’t know.”

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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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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