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

Posts tagged “lust and love

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


The Honey Trap: How Beauty Can Lead Us Astray

OFF-stars-back

My first two marriages were initiated and founded on beauty. In two very different ways, I was drawn in by the stunning good looks of both women, to the point of overlooking a number of warning signs that things might not go as planned. And it’s probably not their good looks that drive their lives, they weren’t like model-types, but they were, and still are, quite good-looking. I was captivated by that beauty in a way that was unhealthy. I am trying to educate my way out of this trap, but it’s not easy.

It is very easy to get way ahead of the relationship when the chemistry is hot. It is easy to overlook incompatibilities and misses when the lust factor is overriding your brain.

Walking along the lake-side trail this morning I was fascinated by the tremendous variety of women walking by, running by, laughing by, and just going on about their business, with little or no notice of me. But I noticed them. I always notice. It’s sort of the animal part of my brain, I think. I’m not lusting after then, just observing.

And some of the things I’m attracted to are sort of amazing to me. Take the new trend in athletic tops for women. I love all the fancy crisscrossing straps, the bright colors, the mixes and matches of sports bra, top, and skin. I love it. I am fascinated by it. And you can see the designers are into it as well. The variety in color, shape, and sparkle is amazing. And it has very little to do with the beauty, but it has a lot to do with the attraction.

Scent is another indicator that is often overlooked. But when a beautiful (from what I can see) woman passes by running past me and she leaves a slight scent of eucalyptus or mint I’m intrigued in an even deeper way. It’s an odd thing, the lingering scent of a woman as she runs away from you. The metaphor is too close to reality.

When I ran into the high school friend who would later become my wife, she came in and hugged me rather easily. It was a happy greeting for both of us. “So you’re married?” “No,” she said, “Divorced.” “Me too!” I rejoined with a bit too much enthusiasm. And we were connected and fascinated into the next rounds of courtship. But her hug left a touch of her perfume on my neck. And the rest of the day I could not get away from it. I didn’t want to. But I was also sort of mesmerized by the way she stayed with me for the rest of the day. Like a smile. Just another signal of something, desire perhaps.

I am full of desire. And when I don’t have an object for my affection (a relationship) I project that romance on to everyone who passes by. It’s a hunger that is slightly unhealthy, but when observed and checked, pretty harmless. But I notice my own hunger, and observe my silly misconnections. For example, the amazing runner who passes by, with all the signs of “YES” when caught up to at the water stop, I see she is very different from the front. It’s the face and eyes that hold so much of the soul, the chemistry information. And even that, the chemistry, the spark, is a trap.

I know I am an excitable boy. I know my projections, my love poems, my illusions, are my own. This woman cannot fulfill my hopes and dreams.

And what I mean by trap is this: it is very easy to get way ahead of the relationship when the chemistry is hot. It is easy to overlook incompatibilities and misses when the lust factor is overriding your brain. And the further you go down the sexual connection before establishing the friendship connection, the deeper you get into the trap of beauty. The heat and lust and beauty drive our animal instincts, and we find satisfaction of many of our needs in that simple animal connection. Yes, this is true. BUT… There is so much more necessary for a relationship to work. The compatibility and friendship can be overwhelmed by the rush to bed.

So when I find myself projecting too heavily at the backs a pretty runners in LuLuLemon matching tops, glistening with energy and effort, I laugh at myself and my mystical imaginings. Beauty is a big part of the equation, for me. But the beauty aspect must be tempered with all the other aspects of the relationship. I’m lucky, I am getting to experience some of that craving with a woman, today, who is really wanting to go slow.

It’s a good thing, this slowness. I know I am an excitable boy. I know my projections, my love poems, my illusions, are my own. This woman cannot fulfill my hopes and dreams. I have to fill those for myself. She can, however, become a treasured companion, all in good time. I don’t know the pace of things. I don’t know what dating should look like.

I really don’t know what the word LOVE means. But I know what it feels like. That’s not good enough. Pacing the relationship, regardless of the attraction and chemistry, even sexual heat, is the only way I can think of to temper the beauty trap. Because as we age the beauty changes, and our love and affection should only grow deeper. That’s the hope, anyway. The process of learning the other person’s rhythm and habits is a process. Jumping into “RELATIONSHIP” too fast is also a dangerous trap. I want it. But I know it’s not what makes for clarity and understanding.

I want to know. I feel it, but I need to know what our time together is like. And what’s the only way for this understanding? Time.

I like to say, time is on our side. We should not be in a hurry. It’s like a mantra for me. But it’s a mantra that I’m using to try to slow myself and my big romantic heart down. I could lose myself again, and miss the disconnects that ultimately derailed both my marriages. And whether I get married again or not, is not even relevant. All I have is this time, this moment, and today I am happily plodding along, in spite of the beauty trap, and learning at a slower pace, how our lives MIGHT fit together. And man, is it too early to start thinking about that. Really.

Sincerely

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: stars on her back, the author, july 3, 2014, creative commons usage allowed


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

on dating again - the off parent - first date

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

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

How does the optimist (me) temper their momentum?

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

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

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

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

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

Okay. That’s no so bad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What if it doesn’t work?”

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Beyond the Rush of Love, Is the Test of Time

We seek a connection, a rush, a hit of passion. We search for our next relationship, sometimes in a wounded state, sometimes strong and confident. The process is the same. In starts and fits we meet people, we check out the chemistry, the attraction, and then we evaluate their potential as a partner. And as we spend time together we lean into the connections we find, the affinities we try to cultivate and highlight. And the red flags we try to evaluate and either dispel or bring up for discussion. A few too many red flags and they are out.

And if we’re lucky we continue down the courting road towards whatever is next. And depending on our desire and openness we progress on to the big R, relationship. And sometimes we find ourselves afraid to explore that road for long without fear kicking in. What’s that fear about?

It can’t all be euphoria and bright stars. If there is zero conflict and only bliss, there is something amis.

Part of the fear for me, is the knowledge that my desire and romantic goggles will cloud my clear thinking and I will be blind-sided by some fatal flaw in the relationship or the other person, or even our fractured match.

A flip-side to that fear is the one that says, Oh my, what if it continues to grow and build and feel great? What if it’s mutual? And that too has a fear base. Going too far and too fast into a relationship that ultimately has the power to destroy your hard-won recovery.

So we balance our feelings between the two extremes, walking together down the old road of becoming familiar with each other’s habits, quirks, and even their fears. And if we’re lucky, if we’ve done our self-care homework and are coming from a healthy and stable place within ourselves, we can parse the various emotions that come flooding up from the highs and lows of this journey.

It can’t all be euphoria and bright stars. If there is zero conflict and only bliss, there is something amis. And you can be assured that the opium of your bliss will give way to the hangover at some point and the real “other” person will show up. And it’s hard to remember that the courting phase also puts each of us on our best behavior, whereas when we become more and more close we start to let a few of our skeletons out. On accident, for example, if we snore or something. And unconsciously as we project past hurts and memories onto this new relationship. Either way, if you have zero conflict you’d better dig into that, because a healthy fight, or healthy disagreement is essential to success for the long haul. You’ve got to be able to disagree and not freak out when you find things that don’t gel.

Okay, so let’s say all of this is working. And let’s imagine you’re several months down the treacherous road, you’ve weathered an argument or two, maybe even seen and worked through a few red flags. And it’s still feeling good. What then?

Then comes the biggest fear, in my opinion. What if you do everything right and explore all skeletons and mismatches and something still starts to go off. Maybe in a year, maybe in 5 years. How do you keep a relationship healthy? How do you still develop passion for a person you’ve been exploring with for years? What’s the key to sustained and loving relationships?

The breakdown of my marriage and thus family was the hardest moment I have yet to experience in my life.

Because, after all this work to get where you are, to even come close to finding a compatible partner, the worst thing imaginable is the death of that passion or compassion for the other person. How did it happen in your previous relationships? What was the fracture that started the breakdown in the relationship? Was it a specific event?

In my experience so far, part of the hesitation and “go slow” impulses comes from a healthy respect for this potential let down. I don’t want to get deep with someone if I’m likely to get hurt. And in the early months of the relationship, I can assure you there is still enough novelty and newness, the excitement for discovery, that fuels a distorted view of reality. It’s okay to go slow. The main goal being communication and understanding how you and your partner cope under pressure. It can’t all be paradise and nectar.

In my real marriage (my first marriage was a  trial run) I was still madly in love with my partner who had begun to look elsewhere for that connection. There was no physical infidelity, but a few big slips of the emotional variety. And through it all we both struggled to recapture, reframe, and reform our relationship. And ultimately, even as I was optimistic and willing for repair, the other person decided divorce would be the better course of action for us.

That was the real death of my relationship, learning that my then-wife had been to see an attorney to see what divorce looked like, to explore options.

I hope never to experience that free fall drop again in my life. I’d rather stay alone, or at least casual and superficial. The breakdown of my marriage and thus family was the hardest moment I have yet to experience in my life. As I rebuild my life, and rebuild my trust for another person, the fall is one of those skeletons that I have to keep expressing and being honest about. And if we stay in the present moment, and keep our connection, we’re on the way towards building a bridge over past hurts and fears and towards what each of us is ultimately looking for: a lifelong cheerleader and partner. Someone who can see the hurts, and quirks and still love you through them.

It’s a long road just to find a person who’s willing to even venture down the relationship journey at all. So how do we build a new connection without allowing the fear or euphoria blind us to the real relationship? Again, it’s about staying in the present moment. You don’t have to plan or fear commitment when you are just getting to know someone. You don’t have to protect yourself if you stay in the “now” and just enjoy the process and the high of a new relationship.

Look for ways to see through the haze of lust, or the fog of fear, to recognize when things are working, or things are really not working. It takes time. There is no hurry.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: Anastasia Fursova, creative commons usage