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

self-care

The Off Parent – Series: love, kids, divorce, humor, release, sex

when you lose everything, love comes into focus

Log Line: Ferris Beuller gets a divorce.

A committed dad at the height of his creative life hits a snag when his wife asks for a divorce. A redemption story of loss, faith, and hope as Vincent comes to terms with what’s important in his life: his two children. He then crafts his life around supporting and loving them. Along the journey, he learns what real happiness looks and feels like.

Could a tv show bring about real change in family law? Give dads a fair shake at being full parents?

If you would like to be an early script reviewer or a pilot test group member, please reach out to me via email here: john.mcelhenney (at) gmail (dot) com.

Enjoy. Blessings.

 


Learning About Sex from Penthouse Forum

penthouse letters

penthouse letters

My oldest cousin had left behind a large box of Playboy magazines in one of their family’s outdoor storage buildings. He was 10 years older than me and my friend, who were in 7th grade at the time of the discovery. What I was doing poking around in my uncle’s storage shed, I don’t remember. But it was not uncommon to be sent on an errand to retrieve some tool. So, I was probably an accidental treasure chest.

Now, to be fair, Playboy was not really my favorite. There were also a few Penthouse Magazines at the bottom of the moving box full of magazines that we hauled two miles back to my house, sharing the carry along the way, full erections leading us back to unlimited discovery. I don’t recall much about the specifics of that afternoon, but it was an awakening that still encourages my curiosity to this day.

Penthouse Forum Letters

Did the *words* hold more imaginative data than the photo spreads? Probably not. But after the page-turning and massage sessions, I wanted MORE. My mind was now *experienced* and hungry for additional clues to the mysteries of sex. And Penthouse Forum was the place for sexy stories that always began something like this:

“We were just friends. I never thought anything like this would ever happen to me, but… we found ourselves naked and in the swimming pool of her best friend’s parent’s house…”

Two girls, one guy, that was the ultimate quest. I can tell you my first reaction to a lesbian spread was very positive. I’ve never achieved that specific forum story, but I’ve had some wild-I-can’t-believe-we’re-actually-doing-this events. I am sure that I wrote a few whoppers to tell my friends. I may have even submitted a few fantasy “letters” of my own.

By today’s standards, with free porn and free erotica, Penthouse Forum is a bit mild. But 30+ years ago porn meant these three or four magazines and the dueling sexual revolution champions of Heffner and Guccione. The thing about Penthouse was their photographers focused much more closely on the uncovered genitals. Playboy was a BIG BOOBS + BIG BUTT fantasy that didn’t really connect with me as much. I mean, I made my way though ALL OF THE MAGAZINES, but Penthouse was more my *taste.*

How Do We Learn About Sex?

Most of us learn about sex by self-exploration. We learn early on what feels good. We learn what images and ideas get us off. It’s a lonely journey at first. As we get a bit older, we begin the long learning curve of courtship and (if we’re lucky, or talented) sex with another person. But, most of our education came in the form of pictorals and fantastic (or not so fantastic) words. Erotica became an acquired taste. Sometimes the words could evoke a more personalized response. Ali MacGraw your thing? Close your eyes…

Our initial encounters with potential partners were well-fueled by hormones and adrenaline. Most of us tried to leverage our visual and mental images into our real lives with real partners. The more you knew the better it could be. This might have been the reason I purchased Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid To Ask when I was 12. For years, after the discovery, my brother would say, “He’s already more educated than I am. He read the book on it when he was 10.”

I was proud of my brother’s taunting. Well, until it became weaponized, but that wouldn’t happen for years.

But the truth is, from that box of Playboys and Penthouses I studied sex with vigor and intention. I was going to make some High School girl very happy. And if I was lucky, maybe two girls at once, during Spring Break in Miami Beach. Maybe not, but Penthouse Forum continued to tease out the fantasy. And while they didn’t do many 2-on-1 guy photoshoots, the lesbians were always of the lipstick and lingerie variety. My aspirations for a menage a Trois remain unfulfilled, but that’s okay. I’ve learned a bit more about relationships and sex in the real world, and it’s nothing like Penthouse Forum.

Learning How Sex Fits Into Any Relationship

Sex can make or break a relationship. When the sex shuts down in a previously hot relationship, the end is probably approaching. It’s not that sex is everything. It’s, at most, 2% of our time in a relationship. The other 98% is the harder part to get right. I mean, once you’ve discovered your own sexual patterns and desires.

What I’ve learned in my current relationship is that joy is about you spend the rest of the time together. You can get it together in the bedroom if the relationship is amazing. We all come from different experiences. Part of dating is finding the places that sync up, the places that are thrilling, and the red flags of “Nope, not for me.” There is a lot of learning that has to go on between the sheets for you and your partner to find a sustainable sex groove. What else do you like to do together?

A couple of times in the past 12 years since I became a single dad, I have allowed sexual heat or chemistry to establish a relationship that lacked promise outside the bedroom. The sex was hot. Maybe too hot. The partnership, not so much. The magic trick, of course, is pulling both things together with a partner: sex is great, but the time beyond sex is even better.

Today, I’d say I’m in the healthiest relationship I’ve ever been in. We’ve got so many more tools than we had 20+ years ago when I married the mother of my two children. And I’m more inspired to make it work than ever before. And when things go south, I’ve learned, it’s probably because one of the two partners wants out. I’m looking for the long haul and this relationship has green lights across the control board. The red flags have been addressed and burned away.

So far.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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she’s got ghosts (a poem)

she's got ghosts

she's got ghosts

more to her than meets the eye
an entire world spinning just out of view
a gyroscope of whirling moments
she hasn’t quite recovered from

5-13-22


Every Other Saturday Night: Dating After Divorce

dating as a single parent

dating as a single parent

If you’ve got kids and you are divorced you’re most likely on an every-other-weekend schedule like me. While it affords plenty of opportunities for self-improvement and creative endeavors, it’s hell on dating. AND if your “date” is also divorced with children, chances are their schedule is exactly opposite from yours, if they’re on the SPO prescribed by the state and enforced on 80% of Texas men, for example.

Okay, so you’ve got approximately two weekends a month to do as you please.

TIME is what we need to figure out how compatible we are. TIME is what it takes, for me, to understand adoration and appreciation, apart from the drive to have SEX or be in a relationship.

In trying to move a  significant love interest forward (I’d place the remaining woman with potential in this category) it is hard not to press for some commitment. Some indication that we are in a relationship. We’ve snuggled. We’ve hugged goodbye and had the occasional closed-mouth kiss. And then we’re off to the static silence that is the rest of the week in a busy single-parent life. She has a 16-year-old daughter, and that entails a lot. AND… of course, we are both hyper-committed parents. For me that runs a staggered schedule, for her, with the father no longer in the picture, it’s 24/7 mothering.

So rather than asking for some sign, I’m looking at the time. There is not much time to be together. And the joining takes effort and intentionality on both of our parts to make it happen. Why do I need some profession, some major milestone (a passionate kiss, lovemaking) to confirm our relationship? Do I? It might just be my longing and desire for those things, rather than some insecurity.

In terms of my available weekend nights, this summer, I have two Saturday nights a month. (I take my kids THU/FRI during summer vacation.) And now, with a little imagination, I can establish “dates” on those two nights and make the most of what is available.

I kept thinking, “Well, she’s really busy.” But it’s ME that has the time. And for real relaxed socialization, the weekend offers the most return. So Saturdays it is. Every other Saturday.

That’s not a lot of time to get time together. And today, at this moment, I’m okay with that. I admit to getting restless and desirous and checking my OKCupid profile for any “visitors” who might look interesting. BUT, in general, I think this developing story serves me well.

  1. I am busily working on my creative craft (writing, journaling, playing music)
  2. I am reinvigorated in my fitness and slimming quest
  3. I have an engine of passion and longing in imagining “being” with her (and this serves the love poem, and love song output quite well)
  4. And with things still being OPEN, I have the flexibility and the opportunity to explore whatever whims happen to arrive

TIME is what we need to figure out how compatible we are. TIME is what it takes, for me, to understand adoration and appreciation, apart from the drive to have SEX or be in a relationship. I want those things. BUT, I’m clear that my mistakes of the past will not foreshadow my next relationship commitment.

I can use every ounce of energy to improve MYSELF and MY VISION and continue to dig into the wacky meanderings of my mind and my past/future mistakes. Most of all, I can stay present.

When I jump in, this next time, I intend to jump in feet first. Both times I fell head-first in love and married some of the fundamental parts of the relationship mismatch had not been revealed. (Of course, with hindsight I can imagine I would’ve seen them, but I was blind with passionate love.)

It’s enough right now to know someone is out there, someone I aspire to, someone I adore and appreciate for herself, AT THIS VERY MOMENT, without ever having passionately kissed. (I can say this, today, tomorrow might be a different tune.) She is showing me what ADORATION looks like when it grows and moves slowly.

Sure, I’d really like for a woman to take a shine to me and light up like a Christmas tree. And maybe that will happen, maybe this pause, and calm/steady snuggle artist is just what I need to prepare me for what’s next.

And I can use every ounce of energy to improve MYSELF and MY VISION and continue to dig into the wacky meanderings of my mind and my past/future mistakes. Most of all, I can stay present.

All of this self-examination is fine if we don’t ruminate on the past or future. I feel, today as if this writing has allowed me to shed the pain and disfunction of my divorce and explore my life as a happy single person, again. And GF #1 showed me that I know how to be open, honest, and truthful in relationships. She showed the way to what’s next. It is my job to stay present, and not rush into anything (for any reason) unhealthy. TIME is my most valuable currency. When planning my two Saturday nights, I’d be wise to choose with intention.

Sincerely,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
Facebook  | Instagram | Pinterest |  @theoffparent

*written September 2019

As a certified life coach, I’ve been helping men and women find fulfilling relationships. If you’d like to chat for 30-minutes about your dating/relationship challenges, I always give the first 30-session away for free. LEARN ABOUT COACHING WITH JOHN. There are no obligations to continue. But I get excited every time I talk to someone new. I can offer new perspectives and experiences from my post-divorce dating journey. Most of all, I can offer hope.

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image: I’d rather stay at home with my kids, the author


The Simple Science of Online Dating – My Perspective & Process

my method for online dating

ONLINE DATING LAW: If she/he doesn’t say, “What’s next,” then they aren’t that interested. Move along.

First dates via online dating are not my favorite activity. BUT, you can’t get where you want to be without starting out on the journey, so off we go to Match.com, eHarmony, Plenty of Fish, OKCupid, etc. And it truly is a jungle out there. Photoshopped glamour shots. Ages that can’t possibly be honest, when you meet the person in person. “You’re HOW OLD?” I wanted to ask her. And “How long ago was that photo taken?” Often it’s several lifetimes ago, when they were feeling pretty and youthful, regardless of how they are feeling or looking now. And I’ve heard these shenanigans happen on men’s profiles as well.

So that’s a problem. Cutting through the fake and beautified to see the real person. It’s a hard nut to crack. Here’s why.

Either the photos are

  1. Too beautiful (if you look like that why would you possibly be online looking for a date?)
  2. Too plain (good lord, did you even try to look pretty or interested or interesting?)
  3. The near miss (she’s got a great smile, but there’s something not quite right)
  4. Edgy to the max (if your tattoo or ability to hold a mixed drink is a highlight, we probably don’t need to meet)
  5. The just plain sad (girl, your bathroom mirror pic is just sad, even your bathroom is sad, go outside, get a friend to take a picture, please)

It’s clear we all have different methods for PRESENTING ourselves. Some people need glamour shots, some people want wrong-side-off-the-tracks bad girl vibes, and some just don’t care, they’re just putting it out there to see what happens. (Well, good luck with that last approach. In marketing, the packaging does account for a lot)

Last week, a very interesting first date asked a very interesting question. She was clearly a research-oriented searcher.

“So what was it about my profile that caused you to call me?” she asked. She was new to the online dating process and wanted direct feedback on her photos and what she said about herself. I tried to give her an honest answer. Here’s what I came up with.

1. Is there an instant appeal? (Like looking for a house, when there are 1,000 listings, you skip right to the ones that have instant curb appeal. That says, “I could live there.”)

2. Does their body type fall within my range of desire? (I think mine is pretty broad, but I certainly have some limits.)

3. Am I within their desired age range? (Age is a funny thing. I suppose it’s the grand filter on dating, but it’s not really a very good indicator of compatibility. I’ll come back to this in a second.)

4. Do I send a message? (Mostly this is the ice breaker. Show interest. Write a short blurb about what in their profile you were interested in knowing more about. Make a casual offer for a meeting.)

From there, I really believe it’s a numbers game. Plant a lot of seeds and see if you get ANY that sprout. So in my process, I don’t spend a ton of time on the profile until I get a ping-back from my first email contact. For me, it’s these three things.

  1. Can I imagine her smiling across the table from me?
  2. Does her body fall within my acceptable range?
  3. Am I within her acceptable age range?
  4. Put out a lot of feelers.

Spending too much time on any given profile or potential date is like reading pornography. If she’s that fantastic she’s probably flooded with messages from guys, and guys more qualified and charming than you.

Seasoned Online Dater Tip: When you are searching, orient your searches towards “Who’s New” because their inboxes will be a little less overwhelmed and you have a better shot at cutting through the noise and getting your message to her.

That’s it. You put out a lot of first-glance-she-looks-good hello messages and wait to see if ANY come back.

Of course, this is from a Man’s perspective. Women’s experience of online dating is very different, but I thought this might be helpful to know what we’re looking at and what we’re looking for. (Me, anyway.)

In asking a number of women, what online dating is for them, they are often overwhelmed by the responses in their inbox. And of course, the bad eggs are trying to send them pictures of their junk, but mostly for them, it’s weeding through all the introductions and offers, much like it is for us MEN just looking through the potentials. But even if they have more “hello” openings, it does not mean it’s easier for women.

I would guess the games are very heavy coming from the MEN. And I’ve heard some funny horror stories from some of my “dates.”

My bottom line awareness: As a man, I am going to have to do the work to say “hello” in a fun and charming way. And I need to do that A LOT if I’m hoping to get a 1% response to my “marketing campaign.” If a woman reaches out to me, WOW, let’s check that out and see if she’s within my spectrum of desire. (90% of the “hello” messages I’ve gotten in my 1.25 years in online dating are from women who look and feel much more like my mom than my potential date. I know I’m young for my age, but goodness, the emails are almost depressing.)

A thought about age: You are as old as you seem. Too much pontification on how old you are, how old you look, or how much “energy” you have will really not serve you well. If someone is very focused on their AGE RANGE why try to penetrate their prejudice. What I believe is, age is amazingly relative. I’ve met older women who ran circles around me. I’ve met women my age (50) who seemed like they were closer to retirement than going out to see live music on a Saturday night. And I’ve met younger women who were charming, intelligent, and not afraid of my “experience.”

Unfortunately, at this point, the three main points AND chemistry have not fallen in place for me. YET. But I’m hopeful when I open up OK Cupid. (I’ve killed my Match.com account and I tried eHarmony once, but hated their selection of women they thought would be good for me. Let me browse.) I am hopeful that my next relationship is out there.

And it’s important that I don’t thrash or work too hard to make it happen. I believe, when it happens, my concepts, even my method will prove to be useless. That’s what I hope for, anyway. A connection that says, “YES.” And a first date who asks, “So what’s next?”

That energy you would spend trying to woo or convince her that you are awesome is better spent making yourself more awesome (eating better, exercising, reading, expanding your horizons).

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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*written April 2013

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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.

___

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 took 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 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 an 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 overdone. 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 a relationship, but in dating, and early dating situations, 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 the 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 my 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 leaped 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 superpowers, 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,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
Facebook  | Instagram | Pinterest | @theoffparent

*written Aug, 2014

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image: bliss dance, rulenumberone2, creative commons usage


Go Big This Time, Or Go Home: Looking for a Long-Term Relationship

girl in the deep end

 

Several more creative titles came to mind when framing up this post: “She’s Come Undone,” or “Girl In the Deep End of the Pool.” But I needed to remember that this is not a philosophical post, it’s a hardship post. It’s about the harder side of dating, that I had yet to encounter.

She texted me, “Don’t stand me up. I need a drink.”

But I’d already decided a few days ago that she was NOT the one. AND in my current state of mind, anything, anyone, BUT THE ONE, is a waste of time. So why is this so much harder to do than I anticipated?

The hard thing to realize, even if I know it, is that she will not hurt any less tomorrow if I go along with the plan tonight.

She’s nice. She’s pretty. She really really really likes me. (Might be a red flag.) And she just wants to get together again. In response to my “I’m not ready for this relationship right now,” text she pleaded, “Just call me. It’s not going to be hard. It will be a good call.” She was quite convincing about how easy-going she is. And how she understands “people with kids.”

She doesn’t understand at all.

So I paused the train. I attempted to get off without hurting any feelings. But it’s not going to be that easy. And today, Monday, it’s not going that well. She’s had a hard day. She began buzzing my phone about two hours ago. When her “contract” workday ended. I talked to her. And again she confessed to having a really shitty day. Looks like her work might not continue after another two weeks. And in the place where I would feel compassion and outreach for someone, I was wanting to be in a relationship with, I simply felt tired by the exchange. I didn’t want to meet her for a drink. And at this moment… I won’t. But she doesn’t know that yet.

Why is it easier for us to see disaster in another person’s life so much easier than in our own? I was having dinner with a friend last night and it was easy to coach her a bit in the “get the assholes stuff out of your house NOW” vein. And today she’s texting me, “How did it go?” I’m embarrassed to say, I was still embroiled.

I don’t want to be the bad guy. I don’t want to be the hurter. UG. BUT… here’s the point I’m clear on, I’m not going to be in a “relationship” with this woman. We kissed, it was good. We kissed a lot. And I realized I was not interested in her. END OF STORY.

The hard thing to realize, even if I know it, is that she will not hurt any less tomorrow if I go along with the plan tonight. In fact, I know, she will feel worse. Much less me. I don’t want to spend this evening nursing this dying quail of a relationship. I want to move on. I want to go for a walk. I want to think about NEXT. And her kisses don’t sound like a good idea under any circumstances.

While she’s not a drug addict or a mean person, she’s not the right relationship for me. Anything less is compromising.

So how do we extricate ourselves from a person who simply does not want to be extricated? How do we grow the balls to say NO with a firm and loving hand? EVEN when they’ve had a bad day, a hard life, any number of hardships. We still need to say NO. But it hurts.

So I’m going to call her now. I’m going to say no. I’m going to be firm.

Oh fuck, maybe I’ll go for a walk first. Sort my head a bit. Then call her. Tonight and her waiting is nothing compared to the drop of the other shoe. And I need to get myself in a place where I will not compromise. I told my friend, last night, “You need to get clear of this shit.” While she’s not a drug addict or a mean person, she’s not the right relationship for me. Anything less is compromising. And that’s the deal I have with myself today. NO COMPROMISE.

Easy to say, harder to do.

I’ll post an update, but first a walk. A good, long, walk. Alone. (Instead, I bought tickets for a movie and called her from the park near the theater. The story continues here: Obeying the Speed Limits, and The Daily Journey)

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

*post originally written April 2013

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Your Contempt for Me After the Divorce is Hurting All of Us

OFF-maidamerica

There were two minor events that happened in the first weeks of my relationship to the woman who became my wife and mother of my two outstanding kids.

About two years into the divorce, and a year after the full payments are in force, I hit a rough patch in my employment.

ONE: After we had begun our committed relationship, she got in the car one afternoon and said, “I’ve just gotten a new prescription for birth control pills.” EXCITEMENT PLUS. Woot!

TWO: She got in the car a few weeks later and asked me why I was upset. I told her that I had left $150 cash in the glove box of the rental car. I had called and, duh, they didn’t have the money. Her response was immediate. “Well, at least you are rich enough that you don’t need the money.” BOOM.

It not only hurt, but it also stung me quite deeply. I recoiled and had to ask her what she meant. She didn’t do a very good job of explaining how $150 to her would’ve been a huge deal, but to me, it was little more than an inconvenience.

That’s how she saw me. MONEY. Even early on in our relationship. MONEY. I’m just now getting clear on this. As she is still grilling, hammering, and looking for “enforcement” from the Attorney General’s Office about MONEY.

We got over the early yelp I gave out at her contempt for my slightly more affluent upbringing. And we moved along down the relationship road until she moved in with me. Into the house I owned. She never mentioned the money again, but now I can see, with 20/20 eyes, that it was much more important to her than I realized.

When she got pregnant, we made plans to move into a house, rather than my condo. So the kids would have a yard. So we could begin building our nest. The money for the down payment came from my family. And we bought a nice little house in a nice middle-class neighborhood. We probably bought about 3 years too early, because a tiny baby doesn’t really need his own room. But we were young, in love, and ambitious.

Fast forward the tape 10 years into the future and we’re getting a divorce. Suddenly my money is her money, the house that was made possible by my inheritance, and my owned condo was all we really had between us. And the breakdown of the finances left us on unequal footing. She got the house, I got some relief from the $2,400 a month child support and insurance payments.

When she didn’t get her money after two months and 27 days, she filed the whole thing with the Attorney General’s office.

About two years into the divorce, and a year after the full payments are in force, I hit a rough patch in my employment. We lose a client. I lose 50% of my income. I tell her immediately that I’m going to be a little late on the child support. She throws a fit.

Now, to slow things down a bit, let’s examine the situation.

I was paying $2,400 per month in child support and insurance. She was living in a house (basically covered by my child support payments) and only had utilities, food, and clothing to provide for the kids. She had a steady job. Had we still been together, we would’ve worked together to survive the lean months and made up the slack when I got another job.

As divorced parents, she was furious at me. She wanted her money. She refused to talk to me about the coming school year and parenting stuff. Her response to every request from me was, “When can I expect my money.” Seriously, it was like a bad cartoon.

Well, when she didn’t get her money after two months and 27 days, she filed the whole thing with the Attorney General’s office. If she couldn’t make me pay her what she was entitled to, maybe the lawyers and police could.

Now, even two years after the AG’s office has driven my credit into the dirt, and really gained nothing for her, she still believes there is a benefit to keeping them in the relationship between us.

Why?

I’ll let her tell you. From an email a month ago.

A fact it would be weird for me to ignore is that involvement of the AG corresponds with XX and XY receiving more support than they did for the year /18 months before the AG was involved. It’s our job as parents to represent the interest of J and C and them having more financial support is in their interest. Until  there is an alternate method to oversee the result of XX & XY receiving a percent of your income for their support, I’d be laying down my obligation to XX and XY if I said no thanks to the strategy that has coincided with you more consistently paying support.

And when I shared with her the payments coincided exactly with my employment. I have to have an income to pay you a portion of it.

What is it you are asking me to rely on to assure you voluntarily will pay? This isn’t a sarcastic question. Help me understand what has changed to make it so you’ll contribute a part of your income no matter your financial situation.

So that’s clear, right. The AG’s office means my contribution to my children’s welfare is compulsory rather than voluntary. What I think we’re seeing is her rationalizing the entire affair that has caused me to lose my house and several employment opportunities. She won’t ever say she’s sorry. But maybe she will eventually see the damage the AG’s involvement continues to have on her children’s lives and mine.

But that’s not likely to happen, now is it?

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

*this post was written April 2015

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image: maid in america, creative commons usage


Entering the Church of Kisses

[I really don’t want to write this post. I don’t want to go where I know it’s going. I’m sad. I’m conflicted. I’ve met someone, who’s SO CLOSE. I’ve also discovered that I have got a bias.]

A new awareness: Kissing maybe as addicting as sex. And though we have not taken any clothes off, GF 2.0 and I have moved quickly into something resembling intimacy via extended kissing time. I’m not sure I’m any more clear-headed than I was with GF 1.0 when we entered the bedroom with abandon on date number two. But when she’s misty-eyed and smiling at me and the oxytocin is flowing I’m not so sure that I’m making wise decisions.

She’s the one who “slowed down the runaway train” when she let me know, the first time at her house, that we would not be ripping out clothes off. I was relieved. I had been having similar thoughts just an hour before when we were in a massive kissing session in a park by the river. I’m not sure my process was the same, but my internal question was, “Do I want to do this?” I was tired. I had been up since 4 am on some creative jag, and I really wanted to go home and take a nap.

She suggested we go to her place, and take a nap, and then see where we might want to go from there. It was an exhilarating moment. And one I was not sure I was going to be able to control, once we got to a cool, dark, and private place. And as the kissing heated up in her wonderfully fluffy and inviting bed, she gave me the brakeman’s warning. I was happy to agree. I didn’t really want the momentum to propel us into sex to quickly, but my Pavlovian brain was revving up, and I knew the discipline would be difficult without her compliance. She took the lead. And the kissing got out of control for 30 minutes or so, safe in the knowledge that we had agree on not sexing it up.

It was wonderful. And the pause gave me some time to reflect, even filled with desire, on the goals I had for my next relationship. We had been talking around a lot of this information, thus far, during the afternoon.

I restated my relationship must haves: 1. able to express deep emotions; 2. comfortable with physical closeness; 3. sexual chemistry; and my new addition 4. adoration. We covered some, “What happened in your past relationships?” And “What went wrong in your marriage?” She had never been married.

And kissing her deeply on her bed, fully clothed, I was closer and closer to infatuation and lust that comes from newness, and the exhilaration of experiencing something new. Maybe, just maybe, coming closer to finding a next relationship.

BUT… something happened. Two things happened. And the pause, the delay at rushing into the sexual tunnel of love, might have saved us both a lot of heartache. (It’s not done, yet, I haven’t talked to her, but she’s on her way over here in an hour.)

The first awareness is the most uncomfortable. I am ashamed to admit it. In all that IS right with this woman, all the excitement, energy and good communication, I cannot get over her weight problem. My friend said, “Does she know she’s overweight?” Of course. She’s talked about control and just last night, in a kissing fest, she mentioned getting new jeans and being very happy with her new style.

But laying back on the bed, I was holding her feet, I couldn’t suppress my need to be elsewhere. I’m sorry. I’m guessing this will generate some ill will. And I’m sure she’s not going to be happy when I talk to her about not being ready to move on in our relationship. She will be gone. And again, I’ll be alone. And my church of kisses will collapse back into silences. But I know that’s where I need to be.

Girl #3 met me for coffee yesterday as well, and it was clear that I could make a case for her, she wasn’t that engaged or connected. She was a bit flighty. I think I recall this trait from when we knew each other 15 years ago. She was attractive to me. She fit many of my desires about intellect, fitness, and a full life of her own. But I couldn’t really penetrate her ditzy fog. It wasn’t that she was ditzy, but it seemed that she liked to play ditzy, as an excuse for forgetting something, or not wanting to explore some topic of conversation.

Back to my priestess of kisses. I cannot lead her any further down the road of excitement. She’s been sharing me with friends. And I would ALMOST rather give her some more time, but really I’m giving myself more time to NOT deal with it. The further we walk into the church of kissing the harder it is going to be to leave without a sacrifice.

So… PAIN PAIN PAIN, I’d rather do almost anything other than hurt someone.

OH, the other awareness that came from this journey down kissy-face lane.

WHAT IF, she had fallen physically within my range of comfort? What if the girl who was so delightful turned out to be a real possible “match?” Without kids of her own, she had very little to do other than want to be with me.

Am I ready for a devoted girlfriend who wants to spend endless time with me? Isn’t some of that what we are looking for?

But what about the nights I just wanted to read or get in bed early? What about the times I really just need to work… Even with GF 1.0 there was a bit of a struggle when I said, “I’m really busy, can we get together tomorrow instead?”

So how is that going to work? What if I got exactly what I was hoping for? The FOUR TRUE requirements, and she wanted to be with me. And then she REALLY wanted to be with me. What then?

My friend said, “She needs to have a rich life all her own. So she is not so dependent on your schedule and your activities.”

I floated the idea, “What if what I want is really just a lover?” But I know that is not the solution.

What I learned, yesterday as I was contemplating this woman who REALLY wants to be with me… was I actually have to define some of my desired time constraints as well. So you mean, even after all this, all this work to FIND SOMEONE, you also have to negotiate time and schedules?

And of course, the concept flashed across my mind, “It would be the end of The Off Parent.”

I laugh now. Hardly. But the focus and dance of this story would change dramatically.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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*written April 2013

Resources:


Losing Everything in Divorce; Learning to Carry On

OFF-home

Can a man survive without a home? Without a job? Without his family? Divorce often feels like the end of your life. And, of course, it is the end of life as you have known it up to that time. Post-divorce life is very different for everyone. And some of the life-threatening blows, may become less severe as time goes along, as water under the bridge continues to flow.

The first death-blow for me was losing my house. Of course, it was a lot more than a house. The house we created for our family was filled with our hopes and dreams. It was the physical manifestation of our plans as a couple with kids on the way. We bought the house for our future family. And everything we became in the years within the house was our family history BD. (before divorce) As a symbolic loss, a man’s house is very important. The money, the commitment, the work that went into buying and maintaining the house… it was the only home I knew for my family. Walking out, or being asked to leave, was the first life-threatening loss in a long series of future losses.

If I want to have a place to live, it requires a much higher salary base. As long as I have the BIG JOB I can have a place to live and pay my child support.

Can a man survive without a home? As a single dad with the Standard Possession Order, it is possible to survive for a while without a home. For me, I was able to find shelter at my sister’s house. I was homeless but I had shelter. I was even able to have my kids on my weekends. And we made it work. But it was not easy.

A few of the intangibles you lose when you lose your house goes beyond the material goods. Sure there are a lot of “things” that you lose, that you wouldn’t even know how to ask for, but there is so much more to the loss. For me, I lost my neighborhood, full of green belts and parks, and home to the tennis club where I played three times a week. The dream that we had created was working for me. And now it was lost.

Can a man survive without a job?

The second death blow. This one is tougher. With today’s economy, this struggle for solvency is much more difficult than I remember it ever being in the past. Of course, now I have an additional $1,500 a month in expenses, and that puts even more pressure on my employment. And, if I want to have a place to live, it requires a much higher salary base. As long as I have the BIG JOB I can have a place to live and pay my child support. But when things get even a bit tight, something will suffer.

As things went for me, I was lucky. In a few months of living with my sister, I got another BIG JOB and felt like I was off to the races of picking my life, as a man and father, back up. Of course, I want a home for my kids. And of course, I want my ex-wife to be able to afford the home I left. I want them both. And I am willing to work to support both dreams. So off I went, on my new job and I immediately set out to buy a new home for myself and my kids. It was a right of passage. I needed to establish another home. I needed a place for my things again.

And things were good for a few months. I got my home, I got my kids in my new home. We swam at the nearby lake, we jumped on the new trampoline, we became a family, a single-dad family, once again.

Today, I am without a home. I am without a job. And I am surviving on goodwill, guts, and hopefulness.

But things changed, and my employer changed their business model and eliminated my position altogether. And six months in, on my new mortgage, I was jobless again. And for a while, I was able to make ends meet by cashing in my retirement funds, and my savings. And I landed some contracts and some project work. And I made my payments and my mortgage as best as I could. And for the next year and a half, things lurched along with some sacrifices and some drama, but for the most part I was able to say on top of the money situation.

And things changed again.As my primary contract changed my billable hours, I saw that I would be late paying my ex-wife on the child support. I contacted her to let her know what was going on. And we were okay for the first month. However things did not get better with my work. And the loss of hours was not immediately replaced.

It was in the second month of my delay that my ex-wife began threatening to turn it all over to the Attorney General’s office. I asked her to reconsider. She pressed. We devolved into angry exchanges over email. We were both sure that we were right.

In the end, she did turn all of our financial details over to the AG’s office. She had some reason. She was doing the best she could for her family, I suppose, but it was very hard for me to reconcile her actions while continuing to cooperate on all the parenting tasks. We agreed that the money fight should not affect our parenting. And we did okay with that.

But when I lost my steady income, or it dropped to an amount lower than my survival rate, I did not have any backup funds, I had no safety net.

In the end, I was unable to replace the income loss from my main work contract. And I was unsuccessful at supplementing that income enough to get caught back up on my mortgage or my child support. And now with the AG’s office putting the credit screws on me, I was unable to refi or file for restructuring bankruptcy. I lost my house. Well, I got to sell my house, but it was not what I wanted.

So now, I’m homeless again. And I have this same choice to make. I can go for the BIG JOB and make enough money to have my own place and support their mom in keeping our old house. Or I can fight in the courts, for 50/50 parenting, what I wanted in the first place, and reduce my primary expenses by $1,5oo a month.

Today I am interviewing for the BIG JOB. And I am hopeful to return to full employment in the next few weeks. And I will begin making my child support payments as soon as that is possible. But today, I am without a home. I am without a job. And I am surviving on goodwill, guts, and hopefulness.

Sincerely

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
Facebook  | Instagram | Pinterest |  @theoffparent

*written June 2014

As a certified life coach, I’ve been helping men and women find fulfilling relationships. If you’d like to chat for 30-minutes about your dating/relationship challenges, I always give the first 30-session away for free. LEARN ABOUT COACHING WITH JOHN. There are no obligations to continue. But I get excited every time I talk to someone new. I can offer new perspectives and experiences from my post-divorce dating journey. Most of all, I can offer hope.

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image: welcome, glassess eyes, creative commons usage


losing the thread (a poem)

fallen on court

fallen on court

i keep losing the thread
how we could get closer
follow along the edge of the creek
looking for a shady spot
to rest
cast a fly or two
breathe in the sunshine
and crisp new mexico spring afternoon
but i am in texas
only recalling your hand
the soft sound of your voice
lilting easy laughter

3-31-22


Seeking, Finding, and Gifting the Spark of Love

desiring my wife

finding the spark in another personIt’s a fragile thing, this spark we are all looking for. But it’s essential for success in relationship, I think.

So this “spark” we are seeking in love, it’s hard to find. And when we do find it, it’s even harder to keep. It’s easy to mistake sex or chemistry for spark. They are not the same thing.

The key to spark, however, is more than discovery. The key to spark, and sparking with another person, is how they carry and care for your spark once you’ve revealed it to them. You see, I think we’re hoping to GIVE our spark to someone for safe keeping and nurturing. We want someone else to see, love, and protect our spark. That little thing inside of ourselves we are proud of no matter what.

When you begin to wield your spark, many things happen. The other people interested in fire begin to show up.

In the last few days an amazing thing happened that helped me illuminate, for myself, a bit more about this concept of spark and what it IS and what it IS NOT.

I’ll take them one by one.

What we want is someone who lights up when they see our spark. And then we want to be lit up by their spark as well.

1. Kissing Girl imploded. In the process of telling her, my spark had dimmed in relationship to being with her. She bargained  she negotiated, she got mad. Kinda the stages of letting go, right? Anyway, what I saw in that change was how accurate this spark and spark awareness was for me. The minute I felt the spark was not in the right place, I brought it back home to myself, and the proverbial floodgates of confused communications began. She blew up my phone with texts and calls within 15 minutes of a potential agreed upon contact time. I can’t abide that. Sorry. You and your drama must go.

2. New Girl, of the poetic and aspirational heart, did a bit of a disappearing act. Not in action, but in presence, she became unavailable. A visiting friend, and then a scheduling conflict and then, “Have a great weekend with your kids.” It was only Wednesday. Easy handling here. No worries. No fear. We are still in the very early stages of “what if.” I have not given her any of my spark. I have begun nurturing a spark for her, but that is all. I’m saving the poetry for a future time. At the moment it is a projection of my spark on to something that might not be accurate. So we breathe and relax. “Yes, have a good weekend.”

3. Girl with Potential #2, from the previous post (Tilting the Planet In My Favor) texted and called me last night. It was a nice phone call. She was asking if I was available to join her for an event on Friday. I couldn’t go. But I was happy to express how willing I would be in the future for similar invites. And I was clear that I was happy to hear from her. It was a warm fuzzy. She had reached back to me. After a moment of pause. Again, she’s got spark potential, but it’s still undeveloped.

What we want is someone who lights up when they see our spark. And then we want to be lit up by their spark as well. When we are together our sparks have the potential to become a fire. But the process of bringing them together and being vulnerable and protective at the same time is something new and different for most of us.

I learned in my marriage to ex-y that passion and beauty can blow right over the spark. In the fits of desire, my own need, and my infatuation with her, I forgot, or missed, some core fundamentals that I should not have. No regrets. I have two beautiful children, and we soldier on as co-parents rather than parents. BUT… we could’ve had it all.

When you are aware of your spark, you can bring it to bear on a given relationship in a new way. As I am learning how precious my energy is, I am also aware that people of the fire are drawn to sparks.

In fact, we did have it all. At least, I thought we did. And while she was carrying my spark I didn’t even look at other women with the same eyes. I was DONE. I was HOME. I was COMPLETE. I was also misguided. But that’s a story I’ve already told here.

So in the current moment, I am well aware of my spark and the sparks building with PG#2 and NG. How fun.

And what I hope to learn, before moving too quickly with either of them, is how well our sparks fit together. How well we resonate, even in these very early stages. How easily does change get accepted and how stressful are the resets? We are in this next journey for the big finish. (That’s an idealistic concept, I know, but it’s an intention and not a truth.)

So let’s be sparking together. Let’s see if we like the feel of the other person’s personal flame. How can we support and champion their ideas?

Oh, and I almost forgot. I’ve killed my online dating profiles. Not in response to any of the above changes, but more in an attempt to simplify and be quiet. AND in that process, one final spark, OK-girl and I exchanged contact info. We’d been chatting on OKC for over a month. She was busy. I was easy. We were just being casual friends on OKC. But she was the only remaining spark. So I gave her a final ping with my email and cell number. And guess what? She texted me last night. And we had a funny exchange. And we’ll probably go have a drink in the next week or so.

That’s another learning. Hold on loosely. I learned this in spades with Kissing Girl. When they are TOO ready to engage or schedule, that might be a sign that something is missing in their lives.

And final thought. When you are aware of your spark, you can bring it to bear on a given relationship in a new way. As I am learning how precious my energy is, I am also aware that people of the fire are drawn to sparks. And, unfortunately so are the vampires. So as you bring your energy online and put the spark on your sleeve a bit more, beware of the baddies as well as the potential mates.

We’re all learning this together. Today I spark. And viola I have three potential sparkmates again. Like moths to a flame. Let’s see who circles without imploding, getting burned, or lighting up too quickly. And I will be listening for their sparks. What songs are they singing about themselves and their lives? And how does their flame make me feel?

Sincerely,

John McElhenney – life coach austin texas
Facebook  | Instagram | Pinterest |  @theoffparent

*written April 2013

As a certified life coach, I’ve been helping men and women find fulfilling relationships. If you’d like to chat for 30-minutes about your dating/relationship challenges, I always give the first 30-session away for free. LEARN ABOUT COACHING WITH JOHN. There are no obligations to continue. But I get excited every time I talk to someone new. I can offer new perspectives and experiences from my post-divorce dating journey. Most of all, I can offer hope.

< back to On Dating Again index

related posts:

resources:


i want you to know you are loved (a poem)

phone screen matrix

phone screen matrix

i want you to know
you are loved
i want these words
typed not spoken
to resonate in your heart
as you voice them to yourself
i can’t touch you
i can’t see you
yet, here we are
having a short intimate conversation
and while we are here
i’d really like to leave you
with a smile
and a murmur of confidence
that the love in your life
is enough
that your light
brightens may souls
who hover around
even if you can’t see them
as we can’t see each other
yet here I am
still clicking here in my moment
and you following along in yours
blessings
and wordle bliss
pointed at your happiness

3-30-22


leaving us (a poem)

my best friend's dead father

my best friend's dead father

i believe in spirits of the dead
they don’t haunt me
but around me they swirl
if I take a moment to say hello
i might get an answer
a warm or cold feeling
as if…
and it’s not just my family
my mother and brother
who took their walk
across the rainbow bridge
are around and nodding their heads
it is more about the others
dads of high school buddies
or high school friends
from other high schools
there is something about them
that strikes me differently
their entire untold story
and collapse of my opportunity
to ask them about their memories
of all the wildness we put them through
when we were bent on driving
ourselves down the highway to hell
as fast as our first cars would take us
today is one of those days
lazy summer heat beginning to bloom
into the ides of march
putting a punch in the gut
about the return to offices
and cubicles
and managers with trust issues
i am not all here today
i am chatting with José
seeing his flamboyant and boyish smile
and how i wished for a dad that was involved
today i ask for a blessing
this is it
this moment is the beginning and the end
today is just another turn of el sol
and i am here to celebrate
cry
and remember
promises and hugs
that cannot go with them
where they have gone
and yet
i feel them
the minute i frame a question
“do you talk to her”
this psychic asked about my dead sister
“what do you mean?”
“just, ask her, she will answer.”

and that’s my spirituality
in a poem
prayer
words on a computer screen
as pink floyd croons on about
“where were you”
and here I am
here i be
all by myself
and surrounded by love

3-28-22


just for a second (a poem)

breathe

breathe

walk outside right now
stop stop stop the rush
of this day and moment
and go breathe a cloud in
take a pause to collect
the pieces of your soul
scattered out along the rush
of this work
this adventure
this life

you know
there is no other chance
this is the big show
you should not be waiting
for some sign
if you are
this poem is the sign you were waiting for
don’t wait
go outside
stop driving so hard and fast
open yourself to the softness of an afternoon’s heat
to the smell of the cedar
even as it makes your eyes water
give space for god
or your higher power
to catch up with you
don’t hurry on
don’t interrupt
just listen to a few good deep breaths
IN
and
slowwwwly
OUT
pause
repeat

this break brought to you by war
nearby deaths
tornadoes touching down next door
and all that is sacred in our lives
but ignored
escaped through entertainment
missed with resentments and anger
this break
is the beginning
the opening
for your change to happen
now
right now

in this second
with each word of a poem
you are opening to the pause
the great pause
the slow inhale and exhale
the modern recovery act
i am only here as a friend
a lover
a colleague
in every interaction i hope to encourage
champion
and cheer
for your success
as we both learn to slow it all down
this work/life balance destination
and do it now
do it even if we don’t feel it
do it because it will take effect
more powerfully than any antidepressant
more than sex, or chocolate, or money
the pause
the connection with another person
may be the most two vital practices on the earth

with these words, these strokes of keys on a laptop
i am joining with you
calling for your moment of connection
with your inner voice
your breathing
and your tuning in and dropping out
of the furious pace of your world
please pause
please take the breaks you need
please celebrate those around you
at every moment
and know that i am with you
in this journey to aim our hearts
closer to the beloved
i am here
you are there
we
are
in this most sacred
now

3-23-2022


this little flitter (a poem)

shadow the cat

shadow the cat

tooth rough against my tongue
80’s rock vibrating my earbuds
and decaf coffee
to decrease the stimulation
in this simulation of a life
as art
as a poem
written out one breath at a time
open to the sunshine
and the rain
as it resets my compass
towards soul bleeding expression
of love pain magic sex sugar blood explosions

once inside
my mind
an image fires up
synapses that were gray
and lifeless
now engorged and lifting
each thought moves toward a word or a sound
or is lost in the bustle of work life love loss

i cannot give it to you
there is no word that would awaken your mind
as this thought has blasted mine wide open
a word-jam-orgasm happening at this moment
with this clicking of the keys
toto finds home again
and my mind is flooded with good vibes
and memories of other sunny mornings
and coffee that burned with awakening
and this fuel must give liftoff
towards a well-articulated planet
of love life art held between each inhale
alone or in a crowded coffee shop
each stroke and letter leads to another
i can’t seem to stop or edit this flow
even as i am becoming restless
ready for the next buzz of my amygdala
as the dopamine rewards even this little flitter

3-19-22


Unadulterated Love: What Is Joyful Sex?

OFF-joyfulsex

When you’ve felt the raw power of sexual joy there is never any going back to ‘blah.’

Sex is often a mixed up dance between two people. But sex begins with yourself. And ultimately, your sexual joy begins with your own relationship to something inside you. Sex, and sexual dysfunction, is 90% in your head. So when sex is off, either between you and yourself, or you and others, there is some examination that might need to take place. (I’m no doctor, and I have no understanding of E.D. or other medically related sexual issues.)

I can count on one hand the joyful sex partners I’ve had in my life. Some were even joyful with a side of obsession, and that’s not really good, but the sex was amazing.

You want joyful sex, you explore and ask for a joyful partner. And when the chemistry is ON you can imagine seeking ever deeper levels of connection with this partner.

If you agree with the idea that sex between committed partners is a critical part of a healthy relationship, you can begin your quest: first, to find the joyful sexual partner within yourself; second, to find another joyfully aware sexual partner to explore core sexual satisfaction.

I don’t mean to sound like a tantric sex practitioner, I’m not. (And when someone does claim to be, as Sting did a while back, I want to run the other way.) And I don’t really profess to understanding all the nuance of what goes into sexual chemistry (one of the great mysteries of life). But, what I do claim is my commitment to understanding my own sexual partnership goals and using those guidelines to frame part of my “nothing but 100%” commitment to finding my next relationship.

Ten tenants of my joyful sex hypothesis.

  • Much of what happens during sex is very personal (inside an individual’s mind)
  • There is a physical joy that comes from finding a connected and aware partner
  • Even the prospect of sex can awaken all kinds of wonderful chemical changes in the human body
  • Casual sex can contain elements of joy and bliss, but true joyful sex, in my definition, requires two committed partners
  • The discovery and unlocking of your partner’s sexual potential is a lifelong quest (otherwise monogamy would become boring and lead to infidelity)
  • Is is possible to get too interested and rapt in your partner’s sexual pleasure
  • When you are in the “flow” of sex you are experiencing a micro-nirvana
  • When sex deteriorates in a relationship it is an indication of deeper communication and commitment issues
  • The free play of joyful sex is as necessary as a good sleep, once you’ve experienced it, you crave it, and are somewhat restless and unsatisfied in life, without it
  • Sex is not everything, but it’s a lot

And I have a few ideas about how to discover your partner’s inner joy while having sex.

  • Always approach sex more as play than work or a goal-oriented task (the orgasm is cool, and fundamental, but it’s not always necessary for joyful sex).
  • Sex can be fast and furious (a quickie) or long an luxurious (afternoon delight: bath, massage, sex, nap).
  • One-sided sex is fine, and nice if you can get it. (This is one I’m still working on, how to just lay back and enjoy an event just for me.)
  • Sexual energy can be shut down or limited by stress, alcohol, drugs, hunger, exhaustion, worry about work, hyper-focus on the orgasm of either partner.
  • Every sexual encounter with another person is an opportunity to unlock some new pathways of sexual joy, both your partners’ and your own.
  • The more playful and unscripted sex can become, the more flexible and adaptable your relationship becomes.
  • Core sexual satisfaction soothes over all kinds of frustrations and disappointments in life and in your relationship. You still need to talk about any problems in your relationship, but when the sex is “worth it” you will be a better listener and be more committed to the necessary negotiations to keep the other aspects of your relationship healthy.

I don’t know that it is much more complicated than that. You want joyful sex, you explore and ask for a joyful partner. And when the chemistry is ON you can imagine seeking ever deeper levels of connection with this partner.

If you can find your way to playful sex you can find your way to the inner joy of sex that just might give you a longer life.

Even after 11 years of marriage and the duties of becoming parents to two lovely kids, I never lost my joyful appetite for my wife. Somewhere, she began to pull away and shut down her joyful sexual being. It was hard for both of us. But, as bad as it got, I still remembered and sought out the joyful sex I had imprinted between us. I was not willing to compromise, even if I was willing to delay and sublimate my desire while she “worked through some stuff.” When she didn’t return to our sexual bed for weeks, sometimes months at a time, I know there was more going on than sex.

What I understood even in the end of our relationship is my connection to her had been 100% strong and pure. And it did not diminish over time, until some other aspect of the relationship was failing.

As I move forward in my quest for another joyfully connected partner, I know the sexual chemistry is also a non-negotiable. And it’s really more of an attitude than a technique or prowess. If you can find your way to playful sex you can find your way to the inner joy of sex that just might give you a longer life. And a longer life with more joyful sex… well… that may be an enlightened path right there.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

*this post was written Oct. 2014

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image: kiss, pedro ribeiro simões, creative commons usage


Tired of Kissin Frogs

girls of summer

girl of the summer

And just like that: I’ve hit the opening of summer, alone.

All that potential stored up, and a little head cold that took me out of a potential date with the last remaining “woman with potential.” Oh well. Let’s re-assess.

1. OKCupid is dead. Once you go through and HIDE all the “no fkin way” matches there are about 8 women that are interesting. The one responder was fun, (SEE First Date Closure) but pursuit would’ve been an act of interest not inspiration. I don’t want interest. I don’t want kinda. I want fireworks.

2. Women with Potential. The overthinker has been removed. And the remaining woman, while AMAZING, is a slow mover. I’m taking the persistent but distant approach. She’s not been in a close relationship for many years. So moving anything along down that path with me will require time and patience. I’m fine with that. BUT… I’m back in farming mode. (Meaning, trolling OKCupid and generally opening up the universal box of wishes again.)

3. Self-Improvement. Probably the most important part of finding my next match is continuing to grow and build my own momentum. Over the last few weeks, stress and general business have led to less than stellar health routines. Less frequent walks, eating out a bit more than I would choose to, a Spring cold has all left me with a tad bit less energy and zip than I would like. On the creative side, however, I’m moving forward with some of my aspirational music plans and starting a collaboration with a drummer to consider putting my live band back out in the clubs, locally.

4. Refining my roll. Cultivating my creative energy is critical to calling in the goddess of my dreams. If I’m not in full-bloom how will I attract a blooming beauty myself?

In this pause, I am returning to the center. I don’t think I will pursue miss maybe from OKC. I’m going to stay home tonight rather than push so hard with “woman with potential.” There’s a relief at having a stay-at-home night. I’d prefer it to be WITH someone, but that’s still not in the plan.

I am tired. I’m going to leave the frogs in the swamp and not work so hard on finding her. I’m going to work harder on being the frog prince she might be looking for and taking care of my spiritual and creative needs so that I radiate with my passion.

It’s gonna be a hot Summer. And this is a marathon not a sprint. There’s no real hurry. And wouldn’t I really rather be with the NEXT ONE, rather than just SOMEONE?

At this moment, I feel the joy of being in a centered and emotionally content place.

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*this post was written June 2013

Resources:

+++

Concrete Bed – Nada Surf
“to find someone to love, you gotta be someone you love”


DATING METAPHOR: Two Tails Are Wagging or Neither Tail Is Wagging

the dating metaphor

OFF-bostons

From across a 100-foot divide I can tell if a woman is attractive to me. What? What am I looking at, at that distance? Like a dog, from behind, I can only be keying off her overall ratio (hip-waist), the cut and color of her hair, and what she’s wearing. How can those simple details be enough to get a rise out of me?

And when given more time, and more angles, but with about the same amount of information, how can I work myself up into a lather about a woman who I know nothing about?

And when the cutest woman in the world is sitting across from me, and has already asked it I wanted to kiss her (Here and Now) what is it that begins the turning away? A wag is just an initial blush of arousal. But without it, the arousal may never come. I do believe my metaphor about two dogs meeting in a park is quite accurate in assessing the “wag.”

The Dog Dating Metaphor

Two dogs meet in the park
a. either both tails are wagging
b. only one tail is wagging
c. neither tail is wagging

That’s it. It’s that simple. The quicker we can admit the wag or non-wag the quicker we can get to the next step. Relating. But without the WAG there’s no need to take the next step unless you are looking for a running buddy rather than a mate.

Taking the dog metaphor one step further, I believe we are born a certain type of dog. (I think I’m a Boston Terrier.) That’s how we look, how we behave, and it defines a lot about how attractive we are to other dogs. If you’re a poodle and you’re into Boston’s, we’re in business. If you think Boston’s are ugly, or simply don’t get your tail wagging, there’s not much else either of us can do about it. I’m a Boston: tenacious a bit on the muscular side, and very positive and boisterous.

So, seeing the woman with dark hair from 50 paces is very much like spotting one of my preferred breeds across an open field.

And when I get her to the table, even if she’s my type, and she’s interested, there’s got to be the next part: relating. Does she make my brain sizzle? Is our conversation equally balanced? Does she have more going on in her life than work and the gym? Is there a place to slot me in for some activities?

With the smiling woman, cute as a button, and run-obsessed, is there anything else? Is she working on anything extra? Does she have ambitions beyond having fun when she’s not running or working?

I wonder if I’m only going to be interested in artistic women. As a writer, I need someone else who shares a passion for creative expression. Another person who can appreciate the whim of the creative process can hear, “I’m really hitting stride on this project, can we skip tonight?” and not freak out. If the person doesn’t have that burning desire, what does this mean to them? Does it mean I’m not that interested in her? Does it mean that she is not a priority in my life?

But more than that, what is SHE bringing into the relationship? What passions and creative ideas can she bring into the relationship?

If there’s nothing there. The wag simply becomes a wag. “Wow, a very attractive woman.” Just like the woman at the top of the page. (Happily married, I’m sure < I project.) She is a woman with potential. She’s a breed and fit I like.

We are a lot more like animals than we think. By being closer to my animal instincts and listening to my internal Boston Terrier’s heart and compass, I am steering myself towards a partner with both WAG and SWAG.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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Note: this post was written May 2013

Resources:

image: boston terrier, creative commons usage


The Sensual and the Sexual: Dating After Divorce

OFF-desktopsexy

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 gets 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

*this post was written in May 2014

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image: best lions, mkalty.org, creative commons usage


it’s you, my soul told me so (a poem)

it's you, my soul told me so

it's you, my soul told me so

 

what if the most beautiful girl in the world appeared again
this time, she’s a bit lit
how many years have passed since our last session
she’s sporting a couple kids under eight
but again, imagine her stunning beauty
that distorts all your defenses
sends signals into your veins on all frequencies
and a memory of her kissing lips
like a poisoning intoxicant
upsetting all present moment objections
she’s smiling at you
holding her fussy two-year-old son
and you can tell there’s a new motivation
something behind the sunglasses is radiating
and the shape of her hips even more inviting
she is open to me
like a shot of a favorite tequila
a warmth, a burn, an invitation
and i pass by
allowing her to not see me
no starting over with this madonna
with her oxytocin
and her breast starting to vibrate
with the cries of her son
and i know i would fall
hopelessly bound
for the crashing waves of the rocky shore
i cannot pause here
or risk being captured
forever and ever

2-23-22


pulled under (a poem)

pulled under (a poem)

pulled under (a poem)

she pressed back towards the surface
the ghosts had released their hold on her legs
once more i was trying to rescue and restore
this is a dangerous mode for any man
and failure would mean death or something worse
loneliness again
loss
hopeless romantic suicide
there is no “fix you” in love
between lovers
we need balance
higher/lower is a trap
and a lie
we are together for a reason
and the lessons we learn
will be important
if we can quiet our own panic
and listen
just to hold
space
for the beloved

healing that comes from being in love
and holding the line between us
as a sacred bond
and agreement
this is how we love
without losing our own
minds

2-16-22


change of plans (a poem)

walking away from love

kissing her neck

i wanted her exactly as she appeared
i wanted a change
i asked
i prayed
love languaged
yelled
whispered
kissed
self-loved
inspired
lost
left
returned
left again
broke down
died
reanimated
to let go
one
more
dear heart

2-11-22


Dating Time Out: Swiping Left or Right is Wearing Me Out

kissing a girl

OFF-glider

I’m done with the online forum for a minute. I’m back to rebuild, remodel, retool mode. I think I’ll even take my profiles down for a bit. I had a non-online date become a non-date via email yesterday and I sort of bummed me out. Not that she was an amazing fit, or that sparks were flying all around between us, no, it’s more the idea of dating that’s wearing me out.

I’ve got a new fitness program, that I’m committing to. I’ve got my next musical performance in early Dec. And plenty of kid duties and work duties between now and then. I think I’ll take them down and focus back on the project of building, becoming, and enjoying a better me. The “she” will have to follow.

I’m done with pursuing women who are nonplussed at the start. And until I find the partner who can share her bright flame with me, I’m going to reserve mine for myself.

Would I date me, at the moment? I’m not sure. If I take the example from this week as a sample, I’d say yes, I would. The woman was within range on certain qualities, she was vibrant, engaging, intelligent. And on others (touchy-feely, love language understanding, physical closeness) she hadn’t shown any indications of how these things might come into play. And that’s where I knew we had a sticking point.

I know the woman I want to be with will light up when we’re together. In the same way, I light up and cheer at the sight of a new potential lover, the same way I still light up ever so slightly when I see one of my two previous girlfriends. I’m a “happy to see you” kind of person. I don’t need subtle, or introverted, or quiet. I can be quiet. I can enjoy quiet. But a lack of joy comes across to me like a dull color. I need shine and dancing.

I generate a lot of energy and joy in the world. And I’m clear that I tend to blow people off their center, especially if their center is not very well established. I will require a strong partner. Both previous marriages broke down in some ways as a response to my over-abundance of energy and creative drive. It became a competition thing. I didn’t think I was competing, but somehow the woman, both of my previous wives, did.

So I get that. I temper a bit when I’m meeting new people. I keep most of my peacock feathers tucked beneath my non-logo t-shirt. And still, I’m often the person who interrupts, jumps from subject to subject, and if I’m zoned or on a highly productive day, I might miss the person completely. Or I might miss a moment when I should’ve been quiet rather than engaged. When I should’ve had a non-response, rather than a delighted one. This last woman didn’t seem to be able to keep pace. More likely, she didn’t want to.

Again, that’s OH KAY. Really. I hear myself explaining my own type-a, driven, goal-setting, personality. But I’m not apologizing for it. I’m merely saying, this is the way I am. I hope you can keep up, and I’d really like it if you came on the ride.

Live the path of joy and energy. When I am in that space I don’t require a partner, I merely want one.

Heading into November, my birthday month, I’ve got no one to cuddle up with. No problem. Not the way I’d want things, but there is a lot of stuff that’s not the way I’d choose it to be, at the moment. Still, I’m not unhappy about my withdrawal from online dating. It’s more of a refocus, again, back on myself and my empire building.

I have many rooms in my house. I am remodeling some. Others I have down, but I prefer to spend less and less time in them. While over here, in the writing and relationship wing, I am constructing an entirely new atrium. I’m done with settling for almost in an online profile. I’m done with pursuing women who are nonplussed at the start. And until I find the partner who can share her bright flame with me, I’m going to reserve mine for myself. Each of the projects I am working on requires a certain amount of energy. The date this week was an opening of possibility. As she closed that door, I’m taking the message from the universe (too woo woo, again?) and getting back to my own basics.

Become who I would like to be with. Show my highest form of passion and creativity. Live the path of joy and energy. When I am in that space I don’t require a partner, I merely want one.

Switching to glide for a bit.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

*this post was written Oct, 2014

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image: Hang gliding over Makapuu Beach, peddhapati, creative commons usage

They’re begging me not to cancel my Match.com account.

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 5.32.11 PM

But when I do, I get a nice message. Almost like an answer. 11/27/2014 will be my 52nd birthday. Gracias Match.com!

Screen Shot 2014-10-29 at 5.32.37 PM

And finally, the Tinder…

tinderdone