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

Posts tagged “single parents

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

back to Single Parenting

More posts from the Single Parenting section:

image: the author in chicago with sweatheart, creative commons usage


It’s the Quiet Time, the Alone Time, the Empty Spaces

OFF-lasskiss

When you’re happily married you think life is all set. Then you have kids and the world gets even bigger and brighter. Then some tough times come along and muck up the happily ever after. And after much hand wringing, and arguments the money is settled, the housing is decided upon, and dad (that’s me) is out on his own, to fend for himself, in the world of being a single dad with normal custody, that is to say, about 30%.

Some days I roll along like a happy man, a single dad working the program, doing his best. Other days, I fall below the “joy” quotient and I would really rather chill in my bed, watch movies, surf the net, and withdraw from all the activity. The holidays are some of the hardest times, for some reason.  And today, when I delivered my kids to my old house, my wife’s house, I was a bit bereft. Lonely. Aimless. Sad.

As the emotional aspects of our relationship got more complicated, the sex simply dried up completely.

It’s not that there was anything that happened. In fact, just the opposite. My life is feeling pretty sweet, considering. But today, as I was getting back in my car, backing out of my old driveway, with no particular place to go, I felt the punch. A light poke in the solar plexus. A minor ache, that continued to echo though my body the rest of the afternoon. It’s the little things that get you.

Like little places you pass that remind you of a good moment. And we had a lot of good moments, before we had all the bad moments. And today, eating lunch, I pulled into a place, not on purpose, that was one of the last good times I remember with my ex. She was working nearby, over six years ago, and we made plans to meet for lunch. It was in this golden moment, right after I’d had my vasectomy, when we were trying to score the 40 ejaculates before we could have the well-earned unprotected sex. And for a month, my wife rediscovered her libido, or something. She joked that it was more about hitting the goal. I was thrilled for the renewal and imagined the sex ahead would be even better.

After divorce, you count back in your head, sometimes, the moments when you knew things were great, and the moments when you first sensed that things were spiraling out of control, in the wrong direction. And the little moments of magic can pop up, like today, and re-trigger the old hurt. And who, knows, maybe there was part of me that wanted to lean into the ache that was already taking root in my chest.

This last moment flashed before me today, as I was eating at this funky little Mexican restaurant, and there was pang of sadness, a worry, will I ever have another moment, another love so good? The moment strikes at the heart of what ultimately blew us apart, and so this little scene of playful joy is not important, except for the feeling I still get when I remember it. We were happy, joyful in our quest for liberated sex again…

In good old days, this one time, we met at this restaurant, and in the parking lot around to the side, my wife gave me a quickie blow job, in the most silly and playful way. We were like kids, getting away with something terribly forbidden. Today, the flicker of that moment, showed two people playing at sex, enjoying the raucous play, and getting away with a little secret in the middle of the work day.

I guess the deeper part of the ache is the lack of spontaneous or playful sex I’ve had in the years since that peak. When the condoms came off the sex continued at ever slowing pace. It seems the “goal” really was part of the fun for my then-wife. I tried to rekindle whatever I could from my end, but things continued to fade. She became less willing to even be close, much less have sex.

We all have to work on our sexual communication. If it gets off, we need to chat about it. If it REALLY get’s off, we need to bring it front-and-center in therapy.

Sex is not everything, but it’s important. As our sex life continued to fade, I continued to be the interested party who was given the challenge to “ask differently” and “keep the house clean” and “pay all the bills.” It was as if there were a string of conditions for intimacy that became more of an alchemical mixture rather than anything I could predict or influence. Why is it, that this stereotype is so common? Men continue to want sex. Women, as we now know, get bored within monogamous relationships. Um, no shit. Men do to, it’s just we’re more willing to work on the monotony with more intention.

In the last year of my marriage, I am certain we could easily go for a month at a stretch without having sex. And it’s not that I wasn’t asking, cajoling, seeing if she wanted a massage. Her switch flipped off and stayed off. There was not much I could do about it. As I was making lists of things I could do to entice her, she was becoming more distant.

In a recent post by a friend, on what to get your husband for Christmas, I was saddened that the tone, even from this psychologist, was so one-sided. Here’s the list.

  1. Oral Sex
  2. Regular Sex
  3. Some Other Sexual Thing…
  4. Appreciation
  5. Love
  6. Wear a Santa Hat and Nothing Else

This is a common theme. The “how sex used to be” theme. In a Facebook post Dr. Psych Mom poses a theoretical question from a reader.

“Why his wife last 69ed before they had kids, 12 years ago. Then i can answer, with solemnity:

My friend, there is probably no amount of doing the chores that is going to get you that again. It’s one of those things that women only do when they are young and uninhibited, like dyeing their hair purple, or dancing on top of the bar.

Now if you took care of the kids for an entire weekend while she visited the friend with whom she used to dye her hair purple and dance on top of the bar….. then maybe.

No promises.”

But that’s the point. I was doing the extra things. I was offering her “girl’s night out.” I was taking care of putting the kids to bed so she could get in the mood. Except, more often than not, she was falling asleep or working on a project when I came out of the kid’s room.

We all have to work on our sexual communication. If it gets off, we need to chat about it. If it REALLY get’s off, we need to bring it front-and-center in therapy. Somehow I was letting our sexual disconnect be “okay.” We went to therapy, but we were usually dealing with some “crisis” that I didn’t really see as a crisis. And I’m sure, that was the problem. I wanted closeness, and maybe even sex. She wanted all the worries and struggles of the day to be gone.

Sure men have an easier time getting turned on, and women take some warming up. But women also have to be open to suggestion, or it’s a non-starter no matter how you phrase it, or what technique you use to rub her feet. Needless to say, it wasn’t the sex that caused us to get a divorce, but the loss of sexual connection sure indicated that something had gotten out of balance. Unfortunately I was never able to regain that balance with my then-wife. And as the emotional aspects of our relationship got more complicated, the sex simply dried up completely.

So dear, Dr. Psych, what is a man in a committed relationship, who *IS* doing all the extra things and still getting the cold shoulder supposed to do? Move on?

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

This posts continues here: Sexy Sex and the Other Two Kinds of Romantic Relationship

back to The Hard Stuff

reference: What To Get Your Husband For Christmas. And None of The Suggestions Are From Brookstone – Dr. Psych Mom

related posts:

image: kiss, martin neuhof, creative commons usage


Blended Family Mating Call; Or How Do You Find a Sane Single Mom?

trying to date a single momI’m in this dating thing to win. Part-time of course, the other 38% of my time I’m a single dad.

I didn’t really start this blog with the intention of turning it into a romance, dating, and love poem blog. Things have kind of evolved that way. I’m not sure it’s perfect, but it does capture the whole of me, the OFF parent, both when I’m “off” (without kids) and when I’m “on” (single-dad). But it’s not really an opening line, “I write a fairly successful divorce blog.” Um, no. I don’t think I tell them that for a long time.

But it’s one of the things I do. I write to get this transition down on paper. Some forensics: what the fk happened to the relationship I thought was going to be my respite and resting place forever? And some aspirational: love poetry trying to give voice to the romantic in my soul that is still stretching towards ecstasy. The lover in me that refuses to give up one item on my wish list just to get rid of loneliness. Nope. I’ll wait.

There was an immediate chemistry between us, as the party progressed we kept finding ourselves paired up and chatting. She was married. But she was also a bit flirty, a bit open, and very sexy.

I’ll seek. I’ll sing. I’ll write poems. And I’ll improve my roll, as it were, with the dates I do go on. But most of all, I’ll stay true to the things I am learning about my true desire and my true nature. And EVEN WHEN THINGS FEEL GREAT, as they did with “almost mythical” GF #1, I won’t stop until the final equation, the final circuit is complete.

I demand a stellar partner. And I will remain alone until we find each other.

Meanwhile, on planet Earth, the process of dating, re-dating, re-framing my OKCupid profile, continues. And while I took most of the summer off to work on myself, to ramp my musical performance engine back up, and to give my dating ambition a rest… I’m hungry.

Two years ago: Enter single mom of two young kids. Much younger than mine. Am I ready to be in a relationship with someone who has a three-year-old? (Um, wait… I’m getting ahead of myself.)

This single mom was not single when we met at a friend’s birthday party. There was an immediate chemistry between us, as the party progressed we kept finding ourselves paired up and chatting. She was married. But she was also a bit flirty, a bit open, and very sexy. I kept my intentions pure and when the evening ended I made the, “we should connect on Facebook” play. And she eventually came around to it after a few asks. Again… She was married.

Two months ago: A random LIKE on one of her Facebook pictures elicited a “Hey, what are you doing?” And in a matter of days I learn she’s divorced, and might like to grab a cup of coffee or drink sometime.

BINGO! The light goes on in my head. Sexy. CHECK. Chemistry. CHECK. Intelligent and engaging conversation. CHECK. And now she’s not married any more. And then this happens, over and over and over:

“Hey, how’s it going?”

Me, “Great. How’s your afternoon going?”

“Crazy busy.”

Me, “How about  a cup of coffee later?”

“Can’t, sitter just called in sick.”

Over and over and over.

I understand a couple of things from this ongoing (we still have not met face-to-face in the two months we’ve been pinging back and forth on Facebook) reconnect and lack of connection.

  1. Early stages of divorce are filled with all kinds of crazy emotions, crazy scheduling nightmares, asshole ex-parents, and all the other stuff that goes along with resetting and formulating every detail of your parenting life.
  2. Full-time working mom’s have a lot of responsibility. And their children come first.
  3. This particular mom might not have it all together yet.
  4. For some reason, even after two years, we are still drawn to each other.

Now, I’m also concerned about my own reactions to this woman’s advances and CONTINUAL disappointing outcomes.

  1. I’m still engaged even after she’s left me waiting for the text or call that would coordinate our “walk” or “glass of wine” or “going out after work.” Why am I still even listening to her?
  2. She shows up as a bit of a party girl on FB. (Maybe everyone does.) And she’s trying to reestablish her “liveliness” and “fun” via pictures.
  3. I’m SO flexible and accommodating that I’m going to get trampled by her lack of follow-through or any consideration of what she’s agreed to.

Here’s the most recent example, from last weekend.

Saturday morning, 10:30 am: She asks, “Hey what are you doing today?”

“About to go for a walk. What great weather. How about you?”

“Dropping off some tickets to a friend.”

I get it, single mom’s are busy. Newly divorced people have got their schedules and priorities on their kids. AND I’m a sucker for a pretty lady and will cuckold myself repeatedly if I think it might be fun.

We chat for a bit and she calls on the phone. It is great to hear her voice again. We fall into a familiar cadence, just like we did at the party. It’s a little bit exhilarating. She’s going to call me back in about 30 minutes and we’re going to meet for a walk around the lake.

She doesn’t call. I’m ready to walk and I pause to wait for her call.

Not wanting to be the aggressor, or be too pushy, I give her an hour and a half before I text her phone.

“Did you get roped in?”

“You know me so well,” comes her quick reply. Then nothing again for hours. I refrain from begging.

By late afternoon I finally text her again. “What’s up?”

“Spent too much time with my friend, and ran some errands, what’s up with you?”

Maybe I misinterpreted her initial text and our phone call that included plans. Maybe I should point it out and be done with her. But I don’t. I let it roll on by.

A few hours later she asks if I’m going to watch the football game. I engage without enthusiasm. I’m heading to a friend’s house for a game night. She closes with, “I’m having a some friends over here, we’re watching the game. A little girl time.”

Done. I’m done.

We exchange a few texts the next day and again I pawn myself and ask for coffee.

“Can’t. Taking kids to park.”

I get it, single mom’s are busy. Newly divorced people have got their schedules and priorities on their kids. AND I’m a sucker for a pretty lady and will cuckold myself repeatedly if I think it might be fun.

Okay, that’s a bit harsh on myself, I’m not overly obsessed with this woman. She’s still showing up like a pretty butterfly. But I’m not sure what she’s after. Maybe I’m a “potential” that’s nice for her to have in her pocket. And maybe she’s the same for me.

For now, we do the dance, I’ll continue to answer any openings with an offer and perhaps in another two months we’ll meet up. But I’m not counting on it. She’s like a siren, calling me to shore. I’m not sure she’s really a resting place for my weary and romantic head, but it beats having no muses for amusement.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

< back to On Dating Again index

related posts:

resources:


The Language of Divorce – Like a Stranger In a Strange Land

graffiti of the heartTo GROK is to know, consume, and “become one” something. The concept comes from Robert Heinlien’s Stranger in a Strange Land. In the book a Christ-like man has returned to Earth in the very distant future. And while this man can indeed do miracles and does appear to many to be the return of the Christian Jesus Christ, the ultramodern society cannot quite embrace his proof. In the end this uber-Christ is killed. And in a bazaar “final supper” his followers boil him into a soup and eat him. By finally Groking him, they are knowing and becoming him.

The language of divorce had the same effect on me. I was disoriented and unprepared to begin talking about my ex-wife. There was none of the newly-married fascination that comes with referring to someone as “my wife.” Do you refer to her by her name? Do you call her my ex? Or my ex-wife? Or on good days, “the mother or my children?” I actually prefer “their mom.”

Sometimes it is good to say “my fucking ex.” The words have power.

And terms like Standard Possession Order and Non-custodial Parent become new definitions that you have to get help to understand. And you will learn new ways of talking about yourself as well. Do you want to be referred to as “single” or “divorced?” And what do you say when people ask after your now-ex-wife?

A friend from my divorce recovery class told me after about 6 months of knowing me, “I’ve never known your ex-wife’s name. You always just call her ‘my ex'”

And you also develop subtle ways of letting people know you are a single parent. “Oh, I have the kids that weekend, we’d love to come if it’s kid-friendly.” And the ever popular, “They are with their mother that weekend.” Words like “the kids” and “their mother” become keywords that identify us as DIVORCED with CHILDREN. Not exactly a humorous or popular term, but one which you must embrace and GROK before you can move on into becoming what’s next.

But after a while, after consuming the broth of everything that was your marriage, you will begin to recover a new self that is ready for what’s next.

There’s an amazing scene in the movie The Descendants when we meet the older daughter for the first time. She is drunk and very unhappy. Her first line of the movie is “Fuck Mom!”

I was in the process of courting a potential date online last week and I referred to my ex as “my fuckin ex.” Oops. I was trying it on for measure, almost as a line from the movie. The woman I was communicating with was not impressed. And with a few quick txts we established that I was still mad at my ex-wife and would refer to her as “the mother of my kids” or just her name.

That’s okay. But sometimes it is good to say “my fucking ex.” The words have power. But it might be best for you and your same-sex buddies rather than mixed company. And it’s true, if you are constantly triggered by the thought of your ex, it might be necessary to do some more “work” on them.

I think we have to reach a comfort with the language and rhythm of divorce. At first we are lost and confused. But after a while, after consuming the broth of everything that was your marriage, you will begin to recover a new self that is ready for what’s next. It’s a bitter soup. It’s a process that requires many spices and experiments. But you’ve got to rise above the “fucking ex” in order to move on.

In some ways this writing is my soup preparation.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

related posts:

resources: