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

Posts tagged “dating after divorce

Learning About “I Need You” vs. “I Want You”

image: take my hand

image: take my handWe’ve all got needs. And when we were younger, and wanting children, we had needs that involved another person. And for many of us, that meant getting married so we could procreate and live happily ever after. As the story goes in this modern age, many of us find that “ever after” is not as long as we thought. As plans changed between one of the partners in the marriage, so went the change from “need” to “want.”

I believe my ex “wanted” something different for her life. She had gotten the need for children taken care of, and tried to remain a loving and committed wife, but much of that pretense was for the children. When the desire died for her, whatever the reason, she began to think about wants rather than needs.

And as adults restarting the world as singles, we have to make some clear distinctions between wants and needs. I think I slipped into my second marriage still needing to be healed from my first marriage. I overlooked signs that today would’ve been huge red flags. But I was in need of healing, I was in need of a child-bearing and willing partner. All of those things were instrumental in creating the rose-colored view that allowed me to fall in love with someone who was much less able to express emotions than I would’ve preferred.

We can’t change what happened, but we can learn from our past and try to evolve a bit in our next choices. And that for me has become a distinction between want and need.

“What’s important is, do we want to spend time together? Do we like being together? And then, for me, is this a possible relationship.”

As I have started dating or spending time with a new woman I am more conscious of that distinction. She has some wounding to get through before she’s ready to open up to the relationship idea. That’s okay, I tell her. I’m in no hurry.

And while I mean what I say, what I really am saying is that I WANT her but I don’t NEED her. I prefer to spend time with her than pursuing many of the other goals and aspirations in my life. I want a relationship.

“And if the relationship doesn’t have the potential to be long-term, I’m not really that interested,” I said to her, yesterday.

“That sounds pretty serious. How is that casual?”

I tried to clarify while treading love landmines and old hurts. “I am looking for a relationship. I desire to be “in relationship.” If you were to tell me you were really only interested in friendship, that would be okay, but I’d probably start dialing back some of the time I’m spending with you. I don’t really need any more “do something together” friends.”

She seemed a bit unconvinced.

“I don’t think we need to be together. I want to be together. We are pretty good at being alone. And we already have children, so that’s not an issue. What’s important is, do we want to spend time together? Do we like being together? And then, for me, is this a possible relationship.”

Again I am trying, learning, to parse out need from want. And sometimes I am aware that my needs are getting in the way of my clarity of mind. Lust, of course, is a powerful driver in relationships and coupling. And both of my marriages had a good deal of lusty passion early on. BOTH of them transformed into something less connected and more business-like.

I don’t need a business partner. There may be some advantages to being a married couple, financially, but the unraveling afterward, if things veer off course, is much too painful to repeat for tax advantages. No, what I want is a passionate partner who also wants to be with me.

I want to want her. I want her to want me. And it’s important that she can express that she wants me. And express what she wants.

We don’t need each other, we crave each other. But after the lustful beginning is burned off, there is a lot of just being together that needs to be engaging, honest, and emotional. I needed a wife, today I want a partner. I will keep trying to remember that the sexual chemistry, while critical to the survival of the relationship, has to be backed up by genuine joy and the ability to express it.

I’m ever hopeful.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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*post written April 2014

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image: take my hand, gisela giardino, creative commons usage


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


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


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

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What Boomer Women Want In A Man – Huffington Post (My Response)

she is nearby - poetry

this is me creating, believing, soloAnn Brenoff  (a Senior Writer for the Huffington Post) wrote a very cool piece called Love Over 50: 20 Traits Boomer Women Want In Their Next Lover. And I was excited and intrigued by the introduction to the section (Post50) on the Huffington Post and the courageous woman who was going to *finally* give me some tips on what I was trying to figure out.

And while many of the traits are no-brainers, she has a casual and carefree list that feels inspired and somewhat guiding. My top favorites include:

  1. Knows “Do these jeans make my butt look big?” is a trick question.
  2. Baby talks to the dog when no one is home (the dog confirms it).
  3. Understands plumbing, both mine and the sink’s.
  4. Assumes he is meeting my plane at the airport.
  5. Always drives, always pays and never brings up doing either.

The list is well worth reading. But the fun really starts in the comments where the fireworks begin. (Quite a few of them regarding my personal lightning rod, #5 on my list above.) And then HuffPo published a well-respected man’s response. Ken Solin wrote this piece, Love Over 50: 20 Traits Boomer Men Want In Their Next Lover and the response came off as pretty lame. It was a response, rather than a real attempt at rejoining or answering Ann’s initial post. And according to his Redux post, it garnered over 1,000 comments.

But my problem with Mr. Solin’s list is the tone of the entire thing. I’m sure he was trying to be cute, and smart, and funny, like his female counter-puncher, but his language turned me off immediately. And while I went back to his list several times to try and understand how much was joking and how much was “good-old boy” lingo that really comes out of Mr. Solin’s mouth.

Here are the phrases that really soured my opinion of Mr. Solin’s expertise at voicing us “men’s” traits and qualities.

“A “juicy” honey…” “A sweetheart…” “An in-shape heartthrob…” “A sweetie…”

I couldn’t make it past his language. The part of  Ann Brenoff’s piece that was missing was the poetry. She left the traits raw and unsullied with these colloquialisms. The peak example is this masterfully ripe “trait” from Mr. Solin.

“A “juicy” honey, with a sexual edge, who knows that Boomer sex is less about piston-pounding and more about passion.”

Okay, so… While his point is good, a passionate lover rather than a wham-bam type, his twist is all wrong. Try calling a woman, at any age, a “‘juicy’ honey, with a sexual edge” and you’re about to get a slap or a drink tossed in your face as she waltz’s out the door. It’s so… So… It’s even too infuriating to describe how wrong this statement of male desire is.

Mr. Solin gives us a blanket disclaimer at the end of his list with, “I’m not suggesting that this is every guy’s wish list, just mine.”

And yes, Mr. Solin, in this article and list you come off as a dick.

The other juicy tidbit of wisdom from Mr. Solin is early on where he share’s this, “An in-shape heartthrob with exercise discipline. I have it, but still need an occasional push out the door.”

Well, Mr. Solin, glad to know your a fit and virile boomer man, but take the swagger out of your “honeys” and “sweeties” and come back to Earth where women would prefer to be called by their names. I mean, at least until the third or fourth date.

Mr. Solin has a nice redux where he opens up about his new relationship with a woman who fits his list: 20 Traits A Boomer Man Wants In A Boomer Woman: Redux and I’m happy for him.

To be fair, Mr. Solin is an excellent writer. A few of his posts have been seminal touch points for me along my journey. I even shared them occasionally with women who I had, or hoped, to date. These two in particular seem to catch Mr. Solin on his game.

Why Boomer Women Are Perfect For Boomer Men < about how our craving for younger, fitter mates might really be sabotaging our chances of happiness.

Dating Over 50: Going Slow Instead Of With The Flow < about how getting sexual too quickly can foul up our healthy relationship intuition.

I’m on this journey too. Perhaps my generational gap, I’m just barely a boomer, might be to blame for why I felt such a revulsion at Mr. Solin’s language in his list piece. I’ve done a few runs at making my own list. And I have been keeping my dick in my pants now for six months. I want the last ONE, not the next juicy honey.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

*this post was written in Sept. 2013

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Sex is Fun: Should You Settle for Apathetic Sex?

sex is fun

sex is fun[Disclaimer: This post is not about my experiences with any women, past, present or future. All examples/stories are fictitious and made up in my twisted little mind.]

Sex should be fun. And after divorce, for whatever reason you got divorced, you’ve got a new lease on your sex life. What might have become routine or mundane sex can now be awakened again. Sex can be exhilarating again. Touching someone for the first time, should be a thrill. And perhaps in your marriage, touching your partner became a bit of a chore, or (for me) a navigation through a conditional minefield that often resulted in a fight rather than sex.

FIRST LAW OF DATING AFTER DIVORCE: Don’t take your show on the road until you’ve gotten through the bitterness, anger, and sadness of your divorce.

If you know your love language is TOUCH, you’ve got to get this straight: sex is one of the ways we feel connected, loved, included. Sex isn’t the only way. We’re the one’s always reaching out to brush our partner’s back as we pass through a room. It IS more about touch than sex, but if sex goes off the table, so goes the healthy feelings of love for the Touch-person. I am a touch person. My wife is a “do things for me” person. And while we made it long enough to have two wonderful kids, we couldn’t navigate the end game of love and sex beyond the parenting duties. Some things became more important than sex. The term TTFS became a joke for a while, but then it became a curse. (TTFS: too tired for sex.)

Well, if that’s where you find yourself, entering the new kingdom of adult sex, welcome. We’ve got a lot of things to learn and a lot of new potential partners to meet. Again, it’s not all about sex, but a lot of it is about sex. At least initially, sex is what drives us men so hard to seek a partner. It’s kinda hard-wired. Like our animal DNA trying to find a way to spread in any means possible.

Of course, adult, post-divorce sex, for me has nothing to do with procreation and everything to do with … Well, we’re still exploring what the goals are in my self-talk, but we do agree that sex should be fun. Sex as a chore, or sex without joy isn’t sex at all. It’s something else. It’s what we don’t want. Yuck.

So where are we? We’re recently out of a long-term relationship. (4-years for me today) We’re starving for touch. (Me, a touch-focused person.) And we’ve done a lot of work at healing ourselves post-divorce. (If you haven’t done your “work” to get through your divorce sadness and anger, you’re likely to act out, or repeat the same situation again. Do the work. Get yourself healthy before you get back in the game of love and sex.) So what are our options?

  1. Meeting people at social gatherings (churches, athletic events, school events, bars, live music clubs)
  2. Meeting people through friends (I don’t know why, but people don’t think of introducing their single friends very much.
  3. Meeting people through networking (old friends, high-school sweethearts, Facebook connections, reunions)
  4. Meeting people through the net (Online dating, online dating, online hookups, online sex, hookup apps)
  5. Not meeting people and staying home watching movies or porn. (ACK! This can work for a bit, but you need to get back out there if you’re going to get your needs met.

FIRST LAW OF DATING AFTER DIVORCE: Don’t take your show on the road until you’ve gotten through the bitterness, anger, and sadness of your divorce.

Most of those options are fine, but only #4 gives you any real power to take the matter into your own hands. So let’s look at a couple of types of online dating sites available and discuss the pros and cons of each.

Plain old Dating Sites (This group has your best potential of resulting in a relationship if that’s what you want.)

  • OK Cupid – one of the big daddy’s of online dating. It’s free, there are a lot of potential mates, and their questions are deep and extensive. Sometimes you can learn way too much before you ever meet the person, using OKC.
  • eHarmony – the “we know best” dating site. I hated it because there was no browsing. eH sets you up with matches. And those are the only people you can contact or even look at. No thanks.
  • Match.com – sort of like OK Cupid but you pay to get on. What I’ve noticed recently is there are a lot more women in my age group and women in my tribe on Match. You will know what I’m talking about when you spend any time on these sites.
  • Plenty-of-Fish – Another big free site. I set up a profile years ago but didn’t find any initial hits when I started.

Of all of these, I have been happy with OKC (my only relationship was initiated on OKC) and Match.com. You’ll find what you like and what you don’t. And there are tons more. See what floats your boat.

Sex with experienced partners is a blast. Get this, they are probably hungry for sex too. But don’t jump in to fast, sex with a less-than-stable person can really mess up your simple life.

Hookup Sites (Um, these are mostly spam sites with people trying to generate money through porn or pay-per-view video sex chat. Not my cup of tea. But you might be curious, so check them out.

  • Adult Friend Finder (The motherload of “Maybe get laid tonight” sites) Free to join, pay to make contact. But make sure you spend a bit of time looking before you pay. You’ll notice most of the profiles are way to good to be true, and they’re not. 20-yo hotties do not look for men 40 – 60 yo. Nope. They are going to ask you to view their private show, or private set of pictures, or something… “You don’t need a credit card or anything to join, come see me there…” Nope, don’t do it. Ever. It’s bullshit.
  • Fling (there are a billion of these spin-offs and half the ads on AFF are to other dating/hookup-tonight sites.) These are all spam-tastic sites. They will start mailing you 10 – 15 matches an hour. Women who are willing to hookup with you today. BUT you’ll have to pay for the privilege of reading their email, where they will invite you to view their pictures on…
  • Tender (the App that seems to have caught on in the younger groups) Use your Facebook friends and friends of friends to find attractive potentials and if they find you attractive too you can communicate. It’s never worked for me, keeps timing out when it tries to establish my Facebook connection. Oh well.

There are tons of new sites and apps daily for whatever kink you’re into. But most of them are revenue generators and could care less if YOU get lucky. And most of the profiles are either fake or made by professional performers who would like to perform for you in some way or another.

Cheating Sites

  • AshleyMadison (Yep, there’s a dating site for people in committed relationships who want some on the side) If you’re cool with the idea, go for it. You’re going to pay to read any emails from anyone. And you’ll be emailed to death with “Likes” and “Collect $ Emails” from lots of women. But you pay to get access to chat, or email, or often to even see a single picture. Um, yeah, forget about it.

I’m sure there are other cheating sites, and probably cheating apps, but that’s way off the path in my book. If you want to hookup for a night do it. If you’re married or in a committed relationship and have that urge, take matters into your own hands and forget about it. It’s not worth it.

Apathetic sex is what got me here. When sex became more of a chore than a joy our marriage was winding down. The two were inextricably entwined in my book.

Okay, so let’s say you’ve found some matches on the legit dating sites, you’ve had a few dates, and …

Sex with experienced partners is a blast. Get this, they are probably hungry for sex too. But don’t jump in to fast, sex with a less-than-stable person can really mess up your simple life. The stories I’ve heard… Not good. So don’t jump in the sack too fast, even if you want to, it’s best to get a picture of the potential partner over a few dates and even a few disappointments. You’ll learn a lot. And maybe even start to have a real attraction to the person rather than just the sex appeal. But on to the sex.

Yes, please. With partners your own age (and new women, who you’ve never slept with, who are not your partner over the last 11 years, who are excited and as revved up about sex as you are) you may be in for a treat. These folks SHOULD know what they want. They should have ideas about sex and pleasure and connecting. And if you’re lucky you’ll both be amazed and fascinated with the passion and power of having sex with someone new. I’m sure it’s a drug. I’m also sure people get addicted to the rush of new sex, new love, new partners. I don’t think that’s me, but it is a thrill, either way, to see a new body disrobed and ready before you.

Hopefully, you have some idea of what makes you tick as well. And if the dance party goes well, perhaps you make it on to the post-coital date where you really begin to evaluate the person as a potential mate. Or not. That mate-thing is up to you. I know a friend who’s into sex with as many partners as possible. When the commitment things come up, he’s gone. Not my idea of intimacy, but he seems satisfied with his high.

Apathetic sex is what got me here. When sex became more of a chore than a joy our marriage was winding down. The two were inextricably entwined in my book. My ex, with a different love language, was happy with infrequent sex. I was dying.

I’m not dying now. I’m not drowning in sex juices either. That’s not my way. I think I’m a serial monogamist. If that involves dating, or coupling, or marriage, I have no idea. And the good thing is, I don’t have to decide until I have to decide. I haven’t gotten close to marriage, but I have had one girlfriend. And whatever that means, I’m open to having another. [BTW: this is not an advertisement for me or my dating profile. (grin)]

Good sex to you all out there. Do what feels good. Walk away from what hurts or seems inappropriate. With divorce on the rise, we’re growing in numbers, and that’s good for all of us.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

*this post was written in June 2014

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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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Searching Online for the Last Date: Seeking THE ONE

OFF-waterlove

How is it that I am in such a rush to find the next and last girlfriend/lover? I say to them, “I’m in no hurry,” but I’m kind of lying. I’m not clear what the pressure is. Lust? Passion? Loneliness? But I am sure that rushing never helps.

So I’m driving headlong towards the finish line of this story, The Off Parent. While I won’t end being the *off* parent, something about this blog/book/story line has divorce and dating written all over it. If I really wasn’t dating, and rather I was building my next marriage, and thus not divorced… Well, let’s just say I’m both eager for the story to end, and a little saddened by the closing chapters, because it means there will be no more story.

What’s the story here?

Divorce. Kids.

Depression. Dad. Men.

Dating. Relationships. Over40, er 50.

If I KNOW my love language is physical touch, how could I ever be fulfilled with someone who had some other priority? Would I always be longing for touch?

Well, if I’m imagining this next relationship is the LAST ONE, well, that too has its own kind of pressure, that perhaps is just as debilitating as the rushing of the process.

What I know, is this pause, getting off the online dating sites, has given me a bit more time to be quiet and listen to what’s going on in me. Too much activity and interest outside my own process, keeps me from listening very well to what’s going on.

I’m excited by both the potential women in my life. I’m eager, but trying to remain calm, collected, reflective. I’m doing my best to LISTEN when I would like to rush on and tell my side, my truth, my siren song. But I think I’m working too hard to call in the next lover.

And even in the potential relationships, landing one would mean letting go of the other.

I was sharing the ideas of both women to a friend today. I showed their Facebook pages and pictures of each woman. My friend asked a few questions. And I answered as honestly as I could. But I found myself more drawn to one of the two women, because she is soooooo classically beautiful. And, of course, she’s the one who’s the least responsive to moving things along. No worries.

My friend was asking me about each of them and their previous relationships and current approach to dating. “Neither of them have been in a long-term close relationship for quite some time.” UM. Didn’t that set off my ALARM? It sure did when I said it today.

Okay, so both of them are writers. Both of them have children from marriages that didn’t work out at all. Both of them are beautiful and intelligent. And both of them admit to not making relationships a priority in their recent past.

Okay.

So, another concept I really should start to understand about each of these women, individually, is their love language.

And the ADORE factor, the final ingredient, has not had time to grow with either of them. I think that is about time. Time together. Time managing complex lifestyles and complex work/family lives.

If I KNOW my love language is physical touch, how could I ever be fulfilled with someone who had some other priority? Would I always be longing for touch and this woman would be more interested in acts of kindness, or just quality time together?

And so, beautiful girl, she’s been fine with not seeing each other for almost two weeks, if we get together tomorrow, as we’ve tentatively planned. How’s that going to work out for my “touch” needs?

I know we’re not dating yet. In both cases, we’re chatting about dating, what we would want, and what we don’t want. But in the holding on loosely, I need to make sure I’m not loosening my own desires and my own knowledge that “touchy feely” is one of my base needs.

So I’m slowing down. And maybe I need to relax the idea of THE LAST ONE a little. If it works out like GF #1, where we are open and honest, perhaps the NEXT ONE lasts a year, or more. But trying to hold that out as the goal, and then allowing the pressures of my own desires to drive me towards a relationship that may not be right for me… It’s a lot of pressure.

And the courting phase does have its magic. Simple things like, the first time we kiss, are still on the horizon. If this is the LAST ONE, then this is IT. This is the LAST moment for that thrilling anticipation of something, or some one, new.

Like the color of her panties each time I am privileged enough to catch a glimpse of them, maybe, at some point, take them off. When this act has lost its mystery, is that what makes men and women go back out of the hunt?

I am here with two different women. The pressure I feel is something internal that is not really serving me or this process of listening and learning about myself and what feels right.

I long. I hunger. But those are not new feelings. When I jumped rabid at the Kissing Girl, perhaps I was showing some of the hollowness I’m feeling in my love life. It’s been a long time since I shared my bed with someone. GF #1 was a master at filling those needs. We cuddled and slept together quite well. And as Kissing Girl introduced me to her bedroom we talked about how cold and dark she liked the room. NICE! I was ready.

And yet, if I had rushed that one, I would still be pulling myself out of the wreckage.

So yesterday, when one of the women said she’d probably like to take Friday to just chill rather than get together, I was a tiny bit disappointed, but more about my own “awww” desire. And when the other woman didn’t call me back after saying she wanted to chat on the phone, I was hurt but responded today with another ping that got a nice response and potential plans this weekend.

I am out there. I am poised to listen more than talk, if I can remember to do it. And I am seeking knowledge of their love language, so I can understand how that part of the puzzle might fit together. It might sound cliché, but we didn’t have such a simple system of compatibility back when I was meeting the ex-y for the second time around.

Today I know I am in desire of a touch-centered lover, who is fearless in talking about emotions or tough subjects, and who I find enduringly attractive. I have two of those qualities with two different women who are operating at their own pace. I do not know if they are touch-centered. If they have not been in close relationships for a while, perhaps they are not. And their low need for touch would prove painful and terminal to me in the long run.

And the ADORE factor, the final ingredient, has not had time to grow with either of them. I think that is about time. Time together. Time managing complex lifestyles and complex work/family lives.

What I know is this time, tonight for example, gives me pause to reflect and learn. A moment not in the throes of wooing or courting or impressing, but hearing what is painful inside of me at this moment. What I am missing. And today, in telling the story of both these women to my friend, knowing that I don’t know their love language at all.

Pause.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

*written May 2013

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Seven Signs of a Healthy Post-Divorce Relationship

dating as a single parent

OFF-healthycoupling

Divorce is hard. Dating after divorce is tricky too, and I’ve found some things I think are good indicators of how whole a person is, and how ready they are for a healthy relationship. Sure, your dating profile says something like, “Let’s be friends first and see where that takes us.” But most people I meet are really hoping that friendship takes us to the next wave of affection. I think we are mostly looking to me found and appreciated by another person, while having the opportunity to appreciate them back. We want to become the most fantastic cheerleader for their hopes and dreams and we expect that positive affirmation in return.

We don’t need a relationship. We want one. We are fine alone. We have found our own way out of the desert of depression and despair. And now, standing strong and alone again, we are ready to dip our toes into the idea of being loved and loving again. It is a huge risk. And some people can’t get over it. Their divorce is still too painful, or their relationship with their ex is still too volatile. They are really not ready for a relationship.

If, however you begin to think your shit is sufficiently together to date again, some new boundaries are in order. And here is what I’ve found to be the indicators of a healthy start.

You are going to be spending a lot of time with this person, out of the bedroom doing other things, and you’d be better of seeing if your “out of the sack” experience is good too.

1. The relationship with the ex is business-like and drama-free.

If your potential partner is still dramatically engaged or enraged at their ex partner, watch out. You are likely to take some of the “stand-in” damage for the anger that needs a place to dissipate. Irritation and conflict can always arise. But pay attention to how this person deals with these setbacks or conflicts. It’s likely this is how any future conflict with you might evolve, as well. Are they able to articulate what the problem is? Can they negotiate a solution and then let it go? The emotional baggage from divorce is huge. And it’s tough to get through all the processing that needs to happen before we can cut it loose and be free of the burden of our ex.

2. The other person puts their kids ahead of the relationship.

In my experience, I find a potential partner who has had kids (they can be older or younger than mine) is more likely to be accepting and accommodating of my relationship to my kids. When my kids call, they come first. Sure, it’s an interruption, and sure it puts the “special friend” in a secondary role, but it’s clear to me that my kids emotional and physical well-being is much more important than me having a girlfriend. At least at this point in my life, while they are still in school, and still very much under my influence. I have a deep respect for my role model as a dad, and as a man. I am showing both my daughter and my son how a man acts in the world. Even under duress, I am showing how I can remain calm, and make strong and positive decisions. And always, my kids come first. Especially in the early stages of a new relationship.

You’d think that if someone is dating again that they are ready for a relationship. But that’s often not the case.

3. In meeting the kids, there are no major hangups or obvious attachment issues.

Divorce traumatizes all of the family members. And often this trauma causes us to revert to old and unhealthy defense mechanisms. And of course, as a divorced, and now-single parent, I am going to do everything I can to take care of my kids needs. BUT… this has to be carefully done. I have seen both men and women who were WAY to enmeshed with their children. Maybe the kid was a brat who was completely undisciplined. Or perhaps the child was overly shy and withdrawn, folding themselves into the parent. At younger ages some of this behavior is acceptable. But as the child ages, and reaches the end of elementary school they should not need to be coddled or babied, because the other parent is trying to make up for some loss. The single parent cannot make up for the divorce. But everyone survives and moves on. Both the kids and the parents need to return to healthy boundaries and healthy communication styles, so that everyone can grow up, and let go of the stigma and shame of the divorce.

4. Conversations about divorce, parenting, or relationships are not tense.

In early stages of a relationship, most of the time you want to hear, “What happened?” And this opportunity to share your story and hear the divorce story of the other person, is a great time to listen for their repose. How have they accepted their own responsibility for the divorce. Even if the divorce was the result of some infidelity, have they been able to move beyond the anger? The best approach to the ex is to live and let be. Focus on the kids. Walking away from a marriage is hard work, and the way someone tells their divorce story is important. Listen.

5. Clarity of intention and honest expression of affection and desire.

You’d think that if someone is dating again that they are ready for a relationship. But that’s often not the case. You’d even imagine, that someone who puts up a dating profile online, and who talks about what they want in their next relationship, probably has some intention of being in a relationship. BUT, you might be wrong. I have been on quite a few dates where the woman had no idea what they wanted. I had one woman, who I connected with and had just spent nearly two hours talking to, tell me in the parking lot as she was getting into her car, “I can tell you at least three reasons I’m not right for you.” She didn’t, but she said she knew she had no real idea of what she wanted in a relationship. If you’re dating, be clear on if you want to “date” or have a relationship. I’ve heard that some people are into casual dating and casual sex. That’s never worked for me, but if that’s your thing, make sure that’s what the other person is saying as well. If the person cannot give  you a good idea of what they are looking for, how their next relationship might look or feel, they may not be ready to be in a relationship. And if you can’t articulate what you are looking for, if your vague, or simply lonely, you might want to keep working on yourself, and your approach to relationships before jumping right back into one.

Relationships are fun. And now that we have our kids, and our independence, we can be more intentional and clear about what we want in our next relationship.

6. Alcohol or tv are not constant sources of entertainment or escape.

Drinking together can be fun, but it shouldn’t be a lifestyle choice, unless you are both into it. If the person doesn’t really open up until a glass of wine or two, you might be rubbing up against someone who has a hard time expressing themselves. In moderation, as a celebration lifter, a few drinks on the weekend are no problem. But if it’s every single night, and the glass of whatever becomes like the cup of coffee in the morning, a necessary lubricant, there is probably an issue there. And I’ve seen TV become the same sort of numbing or escaping addiction. I went on a few dates with a woman who professed addiction to reality TV shows. She also turned around and fought with me about the virtues of TV overall, and how TV was no less interactive than reading a book or playing a game with someone. Um… Yeah.  Escapism should not be a common theme. You want clear and present as the normal relating condition between you and another consenting adult.

7. Affection that moves into sexual relations doesn’t change the overall tone of the friendship.

Of course, you’d like to be friends first. And if the chemistry is working, there may be a pull towards the bedroom. But of course, you need to know that if you are looking for a relationship, sex, while important, is not the most important aspect of a relationship. You are going to be spending a lot of time with this person, out of the bedroom doing other things, and you’d be better off seeing if your “out of the sack” experience is good too. Don’t get me wrong, good sexual chemistry is a powerful motivator. But don’t let the sex cloud your understanding of who the person is, and what other things you like to do together. You can’t screw all the time.

And initiation of sex shouldn’t cause major shifts in the relationship. Your friendship should still remain a focus in all of the stages of a relationship. Perhaps that’s part of what led us to divorce, we stopped dating our partners and began to take them for granted. We stopped cheerleading and became more of a negotiator or even antagonist.

Listen to yourself as you talk about the relationship as well. When you are describing your relationship to a friend, notice the words you use. How do you describe this new interest? What are the highlights that you are proud to share about this person?

And listen as you talk to this person as well. Are you open and free with your expressions of affection or desire? Can you say what you need? Are you holding back, or withholding some information for fear of upsetting the other person? All of these are clues that the relating part of the relationship might still need some exploration.

Relationships are fun. And now that we have our kids and our independence, we can be more intentional and clear about what we want in our next relationship. It doesn’t have to be about marriage, but can be more about learning to love and feel loved again. Take your time. Be intentional with your time, attention, and actions. And if things don’t feel right, move along. If you’re not in a hurry, there are plenty of fish in the sea, and plenty of time to find one that’s just right. Or at least better than what you’ve done before.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

*this post was originally written in July 2014

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The Yoga Girl Next Door; What Is An Erotic Ideal, And What Is Real?

What would you talk about with a yoga girl?

What would you talk about with a yoga girl?

 

There I was leaning into her new red Prius, talking about PR and yoga and her plans. It was as if I had put my head into a spaceship and was looking at some Penthouse forum photo of “the yoga girl next door.” But there was nothing going on. She was a next-door neighbor, and I was asking her about her work and her Prius.

I’m guessing she’s in the 20-years-younger range. Blonde. Stunning body in black tights. Raybans. Biggest smile you’ve ever seen. And what would I have done with her if she had been asking about coming over later? (She was not.)

I’ve been dating.

As I walked the long distance back to my car after the kiss, I was erect as a bar of iron, and wondering how — in my fkd up state — someone else could be attracted to me.

This is the first “relationship” I’ve been in since my divorce. The other two were both in the neighborhood of one week, and that’s not a relationship, that’s a fly-by. The first one was the woman who slept with pit bulls. The second one had the prettiest smile you have ever seen, but she lived 80 miles away.

So I wouldn’t say I’m experienced. In fact, I would say I’m a newbie in the department of dating. And dating as an adult who’s about to cross into my 50’s, I have to say, things are very different than when I was last on the market. I’m different. The women are different. I have two kids and a schedule that imposes some initial absence regardless of how fast I want to go in terms of hanging out together.

Sure, I’ve got an OK Cupid profile. (Tried Match and eHarmony.) But I haven’t been working it. And from the depths of my aloneness, I wasn’t in any mood to be imagining or looking for companionship. In fact, I was flat out deluded about how far fked up I was.

Enter attractive 54 year-old woman on OKC that says, “Hey, why didn’t you respond to my last email?”

If warning bells are going off it’s only because she is into ME too much. Or more than I have ever experienced. She was telling me I was “much more attractive” than my profile over our first drink together. And in the parking lot, as I walked her to her new convertible Mini, she held up before opening the car and half-kissed me. We still joke about who kissed who, but she HAD been dating a lot. And she was prone to “trying out the kiss” in the parking lot, even on the first date. I had not kissed any of my “dates.” You tell me…

And as I walked the long distance back to my car after the kiss, I was erect as a bar of iron, and wondering how — in my fkd up state — someone else could be attracted to me. Was that in itself a huge red flag?

OR… Did she see something in me that was solid and cute and funny, regardless of how I was feeling?

Three days later, we were kissing on my couch as a prelude to the trip upstairs, where she said as she was unbuttoning my pants, “You don’t know how long it’s been!”

Two months later… Well, I’ve driven the Mini quite a bit.

Am I looking for some erotic ideal that is more about masturbatory fantasy and trophy wives that parade around the nearby HEB in their yoga pants.

But there is something that I am not feeling, that I think I should. As we continue and she confirms repeatedly how much I fit her picture of a prime fit, I am not sure. I did not have the euphoria associated with passion. I don’t crave her. Her beautiful blue eyes and easy laugh are wonderful, but for some animal reason, I would not pick her out at a party as someone I wanted to get to know. She is attractive. She is a bit older than any of my previous relationships. She is completely crazy about me.

Am I out of my element? Am I looking for some erotic ideal that is more about masturbatory fantasy and trophy wives that parade around the nearby HEB in their yoga pants? (Don’t they have to work? Um… No, they don’t.)

So I have a woman who craves sex and time with me. She does not play games. She has told me from the beginning how delicious she thinks I am. She even told me, after a lengthy discussion about my previous relationship history, that she wanted to learn how to give me the best blow job ever. (WHAT?)

The yoga girl next door represents a college-age fantasy. I am not of college-age. She is thin, beautiful, and I would assume, somewhat spiritual, being a yoga instructor and all. But she and I have nothing in common. Would I find things about her that fascinate me? Would she cook me a meal, come over to my house, and leave me with leftovers? (like a tame Penthouse Forum post)

My experience, thus far in my life, says no. My experience, thus far in my life has never had someone so crazy about me. I feel almost guilty about not being able to return the level of excitement about her. I am trying. I am stretching. I am exploring everything with her, to see if the animal hotness grows. I mean, the truth is, I was depressed beyond measure. And NOTHING sounded good. I didn’t crave anything, not even ice cream. So how could I expect my senses to crave this available woman?

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

*This post was written on Nov 2012.

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5 Big Relationship Questions to Answer Before You Start Dating Again

OFF-girl-boy-plus

Just like everything else in life, dating requires goals. Either you are working towards those goals, or away from them. And if you don’t even know them yet, I can assure you, you are working away from them. Getting clear about why you are dating is a great first step. The further you can go down the path of clarity, in understanding what you are looking for, why you are attracted to the people you are attracted to, and what your ultimate goal is… Well, without goals, you’re going to end up starting over a lot.

Each time I go on a date I try to get clearer about what worked and what didn’t. I’m not in this for the fun of it, I’m pretty focused on not-being-too-focused on dating. And each time I come up empty-handed, from a developing relationship, or even a dating experience that teaches me something new, I pause and reflect. I am in one of those moments. Just let down from a very nice/short high of “almost” and back to nothing.

What Does “Long-term Commitment” Even Mean

Walking with a friend today, I answered the question again about long-term commitment.

“Are you looking to get married again?” my friend asked.

“I don’t know. But I’m looking for a relationship. What’s after that is a bit more about the relating and the mutual goals we set.”

Here are my BIG 5 RELATIONSHIP QUESTIONS you should answer before you start dating. Get yourself and your priorities oriented before you jump back into the dating pool. There is a lot of BS in the process of dating, both online profiles and meeting the person for the first time. And there can be a lot of reasons for wanting to date, many of which may not have anything to do with a relationship. That’s fine. I’m not interested in casual sex or building up my network of friends. I’m interested in a relationship. If that’s your perspective as well, perhaps these questions will provide some clarity out there in the ambiguous world of dating.

Top 5 Relationship Questions Before You Start Dating

  1. Are you ready for a relationship or are you dating for fun and nighttime activities?
  2. Do you have a good sense of what makes you happy?
  3. What are the traits you are looking for in a partner? Is physical beauty the number one trait?
  4. How would a good first date experience look and feel?
  5. As you progress along the dating experience with someone, how would it unfold in your mind?

When you come to a relationship there has got to be a physical attraction, that’s a basic requirement for me. After we’ve done the “hi I think you’re cute” date we can both move on to what’s next. I’m noticing a new variation on the theme for me. When I’m meeting a woman for the first time I get one of three responses.

Negative: there’s no chemistry at all. The feeling may or may not be mutual. But there’s no moving forward for me.

Neutral: there might be chemistry, there might be a spark, but the response or resonance with the other person is a bit less clear. Perhaps they are not an excitable time. Perhaps they don’t show their happiness in the same way I do. Or maybe their having a “meh” reaction and are having a hard time letting me know.

Positive: these are so rare for me, that I’m certain that they are the harbingers of a real relationship potential. These are the women who light up visually and verbally in our conversation. You don’t have to ask about the next date, because you’ve already begun planning things, or imagining things to do together.

What I’ve found about myself in these three situations is interesting. The -1 response is an easy No. The +1 response is also an easy Yes. But the ones I get confused about are the neutrals. And I think I’ve found myself pursuing neutrals even when I know the HIT is not there. Why? Because there are so few positives. So few women that light up the way I imagine I light up. So few women who are clear enough about what they want, and are able to discover that I have some of those qualities. So few YES responses. So I push on the MAYBE dates a bit too hard.

100% Postive, 100% Yes, Not Maybe

I’m learning. The YES is going to come from a Positive. When I am going after a neutral, I’m really compromising.

So let’s make a pact, in our next round of dating “work” I want to commit to pursuing only the clear YES women.

Everything else is a distraction. If I am interested in a relationship, that’s going to take time, patience, perspective, and the right YES woman. And with all those things factored in, a MAYBE is so far-fetched that I am really wasting time. I don’t want to mess around with “dating.” My goal is a relationship. And then a Relationship. And then a RELATIONSHIP. I’m not sure what those steps mean, but I am sure that it will only begin with a YES.

From here on NO and MAYBE are the same response. I want a YES and I want it whenever the right woman, who’s answered most of the questions above for herself, shows up and says, “What’s next.”

*this post was written in 2014

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Sexual Frequency and Happiness: How Much Sex Can I Expect?

OFF-oldsex

I used to worry about the frequency of sex in my marriage.

Then I got divorced.

And now I worry about sex at all, with someone other than myself. Well, to be honest, I don’t worry, but I do go without for long periods of time. I hear that I could go out seeking sex and probably be fairly successful. I hear that women are into casual sex at our age and now-divorced status. That’s what I hear.

I’m not that way. I’m cut from a monogamous cloth. It’s how I’m wired. It’s what I want. And every opportunity, since my divorce, for casual sex, I’ve dabbled, but ultimately turned it down. I don’t want FWB. I don’t want a one-night stand. (I did that a couple of times in college. No thanks.) I don’t want to cruise online dating sites for hookups. Or Ashley Madison for married folks who want to cheat. Gross. That’s not me. And that’s not my idea of love and sex and what I want from a relationship.

So How Often Are Most People Having Sex?

I tell most women, early on in the dating process, if the relationship does not have long-term potential then I’m not that interested.

You might be surprised to know the average sex counts for dating couples and married couples differ substantially. Or you might not be surprised by that, you might assume that sex will cool after you get married. But what about divorced adults, often with kids, how often are those cute women on OK Cupid getting laid? What’s their frequency if they were unbridled by societally imposed limits? I need to ask my friend and OK Cupid serial dater what her experience has been. But she’s not looking for sex, exactly. She wants a relationship. She wants long-term. She wants “what’s next” to be something that lasts.

I don’t know if that’s the normal single divorced attitude either. I’ve met a friend of hers who seems to be more bent towards screwing while it’s good and looking for what’s next when it gets tiresome. Maybe she’s experiencing a pent-up unmet needs hangover from her previous marriage.

I remember meeting a recently divorced woman at a singles party arranged by a mutual friend who was happy to tell me within minutes of our introduction that she had never been fully satisfied sexual by a man. And certainly, since her divorce, she had not be able to find an adequate lover who was capable of keeping up with her in bed. She was insatiable, she said. Obsessive and a bit gross, was my read, but anyway, she formed at least a portion of the single and divorced female demographic. So the answer is all kinds of women, all kinds of needs, all different amounts of sex.

But often for women, sex is not the objective. And for some men (breaking the stereotype here) are also looking for something beyond the frequent and satisfactory orgasm.

But when you first get divorced you’re sure the time is ripe for ripping up the sheets with as many women as possible. And it didn’t’ happen for me. Not that I didn’t go out on some Match.com and OKCupid dates while I was still tragically hurt from my divorce. And not that there weren’t any potentially willing partners if I wanted to play-act the dance to get them into bed. But I didn’t. I still don’t.

I tell most women, early on in the dating process, if the relationship does not have long-term potential then I’m not that interested. Sex with someone, anyone, is not very much more fulfilling than porn and my own left hand. So I don’t look for this type of sexual gratification as an initial part of my dating process. And I’m pretty clear on my dating profiles that I’m not looking to hook up or jump in the sack. (And research on OK Cupid also shows that men putting those vibes out AT ALL, get very low response rates. Very low. So keep your libido in your pants, at least in your profile and opening communications with a woman.)

Among men, both poorer physical health at older ages and a decrease in its association with frequency are significant factors in the decline. A change in the association between happiness and frequency is also a significant factor for men.

And there have been a few women who contacted me first, with some sort of “hey your cute” proposition. And the two that I did go meet were really a bit more into it than I was. I simply did not care to proceed, even with a hot woman in a bikini who was downing gold margaritas, to the play that could’ve led to sex. Nope. That wasn’t attractive to me in the least.

So how much sex is everyone having out there? Is there some research we can turn to for answers?  If you look at the scholarly approach to data you get this report: Sexual Frequency Decline from Midlife to Later Life – Journals of Gerontology. And that’s really the demographic I’m interested in. (Millennials, who are probably not reading a divorce and single-parenting blog will have to go elsewhere for their data.)

Here’s the summary: “For women, change in the proportion widowed is a significant factor in sexual frequency decline, as are changes in the association between happiness and sexual frequency. Among men, both poorer physical health at older ages and a decrease in its association with frequency are significant factors in the decline. A change in the association between happiness and frequency is also a significant factor for men. Reverse causality may explain the happiness–frequency findings for both men and women.”

Okay, but that doesn’t really help us parse our men and women and married vs divorced. For that, I went to The Kinsey Institute: sex frequency by age and marital status chart.

Sex Frequency by Age and Marital Status (chart)

Sexual frequency for men by age and marital status:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 8.59.03 AM

click to view full-size chart

Sexual frequency for women by age and marital status:

Screen Shot 2014-09-29 at 8.59.18 AM

Click to view full-size chart

Okay, so to take my age and desired trajectory (I’m being a bit silly here) let’s see what this data can tell us about the best relationship configuration for having frequent sex on into the sunset years.

The Sweet Spot of Sexual Frequency for Men and Women

frequency-sunset-years-650

Results of the Sexual Frequency Study

  1. Partnered seems to be the winner.
  2. Married comes in a close second
  3. Single 70+ dude, no matter how fit and virile he is, looks like he’s alone a lot

Seems pretty simple, but hey, good to know.

reference: The Kinsey Institute: sex frequency by age and marital status

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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Divorce Recovery: Loving Yourself Better, So You Can Eventually Love Again

maybe the lover IS the goal

OFF-lovehandles

Getting right with yourself after divorce is the biggest challenge you’re going to face. All the mechanics of divorce, will eventually take care of themselves. But the emotional fallout might be a bit tougher. I often rely on the language and support of the 12-steps to recover my balance when I’m under the rock of depression or sadness.

And for me, the biggest part of that recovery was regaining some self-confidence and self-love. I felt defeated and broken when I walked out of my marital home and into the world of single dads everywhere. I knew the loss that was coming, now and for the rest of my life I would not have unlimited access to my kids and their hopes and dreams. That loss is still the hardest part for me. I used to love going in late at night and appreciate (give thanks) for their beating and healthy little hearts. Now I can’t to that on most of the nights.

But the areas in me that needed healing were much more personal.

  • I didn’t feel sexy or desirable
  • My extra weight felt like a fat-sumo-wrestling-suit
  • The sadness made it hard to exercise at all
  • My initial attempts at dating felt desperate and disconnected
  • Loss of all touch and closeness (except for friends and my kids)
  • Loss of the hope that I would ever be with another woman
  • My mental processes were so wrapped up in ruminating the past, that I felt slow and unintelligent most of the time

And at the deepest core of my pain, I wasn’t sure my body, my soul, was worth all the effort it was going to take to resurface and regain my position as a strong father. A strong single father. At a few dark moments, it just didn’t seem worth it. But then I remembered my dad, and what the loss of him in my early twenties did to me, and I soldiered on.

I go from moments of feeling fit and healthy to feeling fat and uninspired, often in the course of one day. And it’s not that I’m fat one day and not-fat the next. It’s more about how I see and talk to myself.

Today, four-ish years after I walked out on my kids and married life (not my idea) there are still points of pain and sadness, but overall I’d have to say I’ve recovered most of my energy and enthusiasm. I still miss my kids on the nights they are not here with me, but we’re managing. All of us are managing.

Today I read a piece about how the human body ages over time, written from a very healthy and zen perspective. And while I don’t do all these things, I wanted to share them, and the source article, in hopes that you might find some inspiration for your own journey. You are worth it. Whatever you have to go through to get back on top of your game, whatever it is, DO IT.

Here are the  8 Things I Learned from 50 Naked People – published in The Elephant Journal.

breath in - the off parent

So let’s spend a brief moment together, breathing *that* in. I could spend a long time trying to absorb these wonderful affirmations into my own self-image.

The physical body needs love: Your body doesn’t lie.

What are the things that need healing around your body image? I’ll share mine.

The thing you’re the most embarrassed about: my size. Notice I didn’t say weight. I go from moments of feeling fit and healthy to feeling fat and uninspired, often in the course of one day. And it’s not that I’m fat one day and not fat the next. It’s more about how I see and talk to myself. And I’m working on it, on just loving whatever I am at the moment. Today those emotions are more tripped up by something I ate or bloating, rather than some massive increase in my girth.

And what I can do about it:

  1. A better diet (not dieting)
  2. Fewer rich indulgences (they tend to breed next indulgences: frappucinos, ice creams)
  3. More activity (doing what I love)
  4. More energy from healthy activities; 4
  5. Emotional boost and joy from being in a relationship (when that happens).

I’ve got a gentler way of talking to my 50-year-old self. I’m still easily influenced and sometimes angered by fat obsession. And I’ve never really felt fit enough since I left high school hyper athletics: I lettered in three sports and was always driving myself to win.

Now, of course, the matches are less important, and it’s the game that makes me happy. Even losing, I can appreciate the skill and performance of the other players. (Tennis is my passion.) But I love playing. I love seeing a player who has it all and disassembles my game with several well-placed shots at critical moments during the match. It’s a chance to watch my own emotions and my own reaction to winning (when I win) and losing (when I get creamed). And that too is about balance.

So I lost at marriage. And here on out I have to learn to be a single dad to my two kids. So what. Sometimes the game doesn’t go the way you want it to, so you move on, try something different, and give up only after the last point is played.

So my embarrassment about my fatness is really leftover shit. I’m not *that* fat. I’ve been much fatter. And healthy, for me, is not obsessing about fit or fat, but focusing on eating better and playing more tennis. And knowing that we’re not getting any younger when I look back at some college photos of me when I was (at that time) feeling quite fat, and noticing how great I looked.

I’m guessing if we could look back on our “now” selves from our “much older” selves, we’d admire our energy and vigor. We would probably not say how fat we were. We might, but those are the tapes I am eliminating from my vocabulary, both inner and outer. So much of what we say to ourselves is mean. If you say it out loud, you might hear how to be more supportive of your process, as you would be supportive of a friend.

I’m not trying to become a model. I’m not really trying to call in some much younger women who are super-fit and perhaps more focused on super-fit guys. I’m not going to be that guy. But I am aware of things more tangible, like my energy, my optimism, and creativity, my blood pressure. All those signs are GREAT. What more can I ask for?

Perhaps a partner who’s on the same trajectory of self-love and healing from fat-shaming. We’re not fat. We’re where we are. And we’re here to love ourselves, and with luck, others.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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

OFF-kidsculpture

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

Point One: Divorced parents are still parents.

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

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

Why it’s important to remember.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Get over your issues with your coparent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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

OFF-coupledacing

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

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

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

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

I’ve been through:

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

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

And I arrived at:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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If You Were a Car, What Car Would You Be? And Why?

OFF-car

I’m a marketing man, by trade, so often we use little tricks to get clients to think about their businesses. “What kind of car would your business be? Describe the features and outstanding qualities that distinguish your make and model.”

I have found that this metaphor, cars, works for people as well. And in my efforts to dial in myself and my type, I think it might be fun to play a bit with the “what kind of car are you” and “what kind of car are you looking for” metaphor for a minute and see if we gain any insights.

You might still be carrying some scars from previous races, but overall, you are still a fine example of beauty and grace.

First me. I am a 2004 BMW 3-series. Great look and body style. Performance oriented. Flashier 10 years ago, but still classic. I’m sporting a bit of extra weight due to some prior body damage, but you can still recognize the lines and strength of the design.

Okay, so I’m not the perfectly maintained version of myself. I’ve got some things I can still work on. And probably the main feature, that I’m less that enthusiastic about is my belly. (There I admitted it.) My love handles have been with me my entire life, and they expand and shrink with the seasons and how much attention I’m paying to diet and exercise. Okay, I’m fine with that. And I think… I think I’m pretty comfortable with myself. But I’m sucking in my gut a lot more than I’d like. It’s like a tightness, almost an anxiety feeling, when I’m trying to compress myself to look a bit fitter than I am. But I’ve done this almost my entire life. So I am familiar with the feeling. I’m pretty sure I’d be more confident and joyous about myself if I spent a tiny bit more time walking or playing tennis, and a few less nights snacking and staying up late. Okay, that’s me.

Her. This one is harder. So I’ll take it in stages.

German engineering. I want a performance car. I want design and form to follow the function of speed and agility. I have a high standard. American cars are almost abhorrent to me. Again, this is MY bias. I  understand that. But I’m looking for a well-designed and classy form.

Within 5 years of my own vintage. The newer models are cool, and offer more features, more performance, but I’m less obsessed with perfection and flash. I’d prefer a car with a few miles on it, broken in, all the kinks worked out, well-maintained, but less needy.

Minimal body damage. When something is broken you fix it. When a tire is worn or low you replace it. You might still be carrying some scars from previous races, but overall, you are still a fine example of beauty and grace. You don’t have to be flawless. I’m not sure my body damage falls within my own range of desirability or not. I think I do, but I’d rather get a bit more of my racing shape back, rather that compromise.

No compromise. The big thing is having a car you love to drive. Spending time inside, even in traffic, or carpooling kids back and forth, is a pleasure. I want to be well matched. Confident and casual about our relationship. I want you to drive sometimes, but I’ll do the lion’s share.

No maintenance lights. A few “check engine” warnings and we’re probably going to part ways. If you haven’t kept a descent maintenance schedule, we might have some problems ahead. I’m flexible, but I won’t be stuck in the repair shop and very happy about it. Do your work, fix your major mechanical flaws, and let’s meet up for a Sunday morning drive together. We should fit. We should purr together and not feel the need to race ahead or prove anything.

Once we’ve travelled together for a few trips, perhaps she will join me in my car, or I will gladly hop in her car for a spin up the mountain pass.

Confidence and stability. Performance driving cars share a love for the road. Curves, dips, and hills are all part of the landscape. And with a well-built car, the twists are a joy to navigate. Cars with less attention to handling become more unstable as the journey continues. I’d like a partner in the confidence and stability class.

However she shows up, the next woman will be a performance car. She will have a few miles on her, like me, and have some wisdom and aging scars. Once we’ve travelled together for a few trips, perhaps she will join me in my car, or I will gladly hop in her car for a spin up the mountain pass. I’m into speed and beauty, but I’m also realistic about myself and my vintage. All the new models, primed and polished, are fun to look at, but I don’t aspire to be in a new model. The payments are too high, and the insurance is killer.

If you’re looking for a classic German sports car, with low miles and good mechanical structure… I am too.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

Note: This post really got me thinking about my shape. The body damage is unnecessary. I am carrying extra weight from stress, depression, anger, sadness, and plain old laziness. Too lazy to eat right. Too lazy to pick up a few more healthy snacks. But mainly, just unwilling to make a commitment to change my diet in the same way I have changed my attitudes about divorce and my single life. That all changes today. A new blog is born. Seek me out and I’ll give you the address. And you can hold me accountable for the next major life transition. Back to my classic beauty and form. I might be nearing 52, but I’m primed for the second half of my life. I’d rather do it from a comfortable place in my skin, and not just an accepting place.

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She Came On Like a Freight Train – The Woman Who Says “Yes”

OFF-yes-girl

The light at the end of the tunnel may be an oncoming train, or a love crush barreling down on you.

My first Tinder crush went swimmingly and ended without a whimper. The poem (i could fall in love with a dress if it shone in the sun) was written about the final moments of this most amazing firework pop and fizzle of a relationship to-date. She was here, she came on like a freight train, and now she has passed by in the night without so much as a whimper. And I let her go. We let each other go. “Maybe for later, when your life sorts itself out a bit,” I said to her.

“I’ve always done this. I’ve always gotten into a romantic relationship right at the beginning of some huge change. I did it with my divorce, I did it when I graduated from college, and I was doing it again with you. But I’ve got to stop, this time. I’ve got to make a change. Something has got to give.”

In fact, for me, the poem was a part of the letting go process. What started out as three amazingly intense days of courtship, felt a bit too good to be true. And maybe it was. Or maybe the universe shifted, for both of us, and we needed to regroup, alone. That is certainly the case for her. And me? Well, I’m not sure if the relationship part of it needed regrouping, but I was aware of my tendency to stretch out towards someone, even after the connection was severed.

I love the wake up text. The little ritual of saying “Good Morning, Sunshine.” Just letting the other person know you are thinking of them.

It’s about being 50/50. It’s about being contributing members of the growing relationship. And when one or another partner drops out of the 50/50 partnership, it’s about stopping and listening to hear what is going on. In our case, her life had taken a wild and unexpected turn, like a rocket blasting off from the back of our collective freight train, once I had gotten on the same track with her.

Enough metaphor. She was amazing. She looked and spoke as deliciously as she texted and showed up in her best profile pictures. I could see through the styling, and honored the core brilliance that came out from the moment we met. And we met with great joy, in the middle of a huge bookstore, playing hide and seek. And she found me in the blank book section. “My favorite section,” I had texted her earlier.

“Is it appropriate for persons’s under 18 years of age?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“Is it the kid’s section?”

“No.”

“Literature?”

“Great guess, but no.”

I picked the meeting spot, she picked the game. We hugged and laughed in the sweet smelling area of leather bindings and blank pages. And we talked and talked and walked around the store for a couple hours.

“I really would like to kiss you,” I said, somewhere in the middle of the second hour. “I’m just letting you know that.”

She smiled. “I would like that too,” she said, with a sly smile on her face. I was blinded a bit by the direct sunlight, but I was already feeling a bit smitten. “In a bit,” she continued.

We moved our coffees and chat into a more shady part of the outdoor park, and continued leaping from books, to blogs, to writing, to food. She was a #foodie. I am not a #foodie, but I worked with #foodies for two years. We had a lot to talk about and a lot of mutual energy to fuel us along.

She reached out her hands at some point and pulled my face in for the kiss. She planted the kiss. She initiated. She took charge. And I went back in for a second kiss a few minutes later. Reciprocating. But alas, the mosquitos and sunlight were pushing us back inside, and when there was no place to sit, we decided to rendezvous, perhaps tomorrow.

“Yes, definitely,” she said. ” I’d like to give you a kiss after your first day at your new job.”

And we texted a few more times over the night. The next morning we picked up with the chatter. This is the fun of new dating. I love the wake up text. The little ritual of saying “Good Morning, Sunshine.” Just letting the other person know you are thinking of them. And it goes both ways. It’s a simple tap. A connection that requires little more than a willingness to imagine a relationship.

We texted a few times and spoke once over the weekend. This is from full-tilt boogie, three days in a row, amazing morning selfie of a kiss, and on to ZIP.

It’s like a virtual “good morning” kiss. Except, of course, you’ve just met. But still, there is a lot of potential in those little hellos. And she was a master of the flirt. She called me on my way to work, and we had a spirited conversation about sex, and kids, and relationships, and work. And we made plans to meet for a glass of wine after work. DONE. She was efficient, hilarious, and full of love and life. I was liking this development.

In all but one of my post-divorce dating experiences I have been the over-sharing partner. I have courted when perhaps I should’ve played coy. I have sent a poem when I might have been better served to just be quiet. The whole absence makes the heart grow fonder, thing seems more like game playing as adults. If you like someone, tell them. If they like you back, jump in. She was certainly jumping in. And I was excited to see how things played out.

The wine bar date was no less exhilarating. Except this time I was anticipating the future kisses with mad fantasies. And she arrived looking like the smiling picture she had sent me earlier in the day. She was radiant. And we jostled along in our second date, wine bar, “what was your day like” conversation. It was a moment between anything actually happening. We had exchanged some very intimate information via text and phone calls, but we still didn’t really know each other. Not at all. But there was a lot of energy and intention, and that was enough to set us both on a fast track.

In the parking lot, saying goodbye she kissed me, or we kissed, again. This time there was no casual innuendo, it was all kissing. And while it didn’t last more than a minute, I was electrified. Not by the kiss, but by the potential behind the kiss. Here was a beautiful woman, saying she was ready for a relationship, saying that she thought I was cute and funny and smart, and kissing me madly in the parking lot. And we made plans to see each other the next day as well. And we parted. I walked to my car with the lift of someone who’s been well-kissed.

That was the first real moment between us, and the last good moment between us at the same time.

As things would progress, I was fired the next day, due mostly to this blog. And that collapse of my plan, nearly cratered the relationship all in one fail swoop. But she wanted to give me a hug, and to support me in this massive bummer. We met. We exchanged some more information about our current state of unknowingness. She started talking about how she had no business getting involved with anyone at this moment… And then she had to go get her daughter. We kissed awkwardly in the parking lot, in broad daylight, in a hurry. And she’d let me know her schedule over the next three days was going to be mad. So we parted in this semi-unresolved, semi-unstable place.

And then her life changed dramatically as well. (I can’t tell you about it, or I’d have to shoot you.) And I saw her smile and her texts almost drain right off my phone. The communication went from 80 mph back to a full-stop in a hurry.

I went with my “hold on loosely” strategy. Pinging, but not over pinging. A couple messages without any requests or commitment. Essentially I was supporting her in this new opportunity. And she was going with it, and full of her life. We texted a few times and spoke once over the weekend. This is from full-tilt boogie, three days in a row, amazing morning selfie of a kiss, and on to ZIP. Nothing? It was painful. It was also understandable.

The poem I was writing over the weekend to try and give a love poem to frame the joy I was getting into. Of course, the story played out, the poem went unfinished and then like magic the story completed to resolve the poem without the need for another letter.

I am ready for the dress in the sun. I am hoping there will be an intelligent and attractive woman inside who is also ready for me.

She had come and we had sparked. When we talked on the phone this morning, it was to say, “You were awesome, the timing is not awesome.” And I told her the poem was a capture of that amazing moment in the parking lot. Full of promise and potential and all imaginary. And now the poem was the answer, the complete story of us.

i could fall in love with a dress if it shone in the sunlight

I did start falling. And she let me. She responded with a “yes.” And now we’ve moved back into our individual stories, to see if at some time down the road our romance would make more sense. But we were both happy, when we spoke today. I was so glad to have rubbed up against her at such an amazing time for both of us. And we may or may not ever see each other again, and that’s okay too. But the poem captures the full experience for me.

I am ready for the dress in the sun. I am hoping there will be an intelligent and attractive woman inside who is also ready for me. This time, I got the dress and the girl, but the timing was amiss. But she gave me a taste of what things might look like when someone DOES show up, and that someone IS ready for a relationship.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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If Age is Just a Number Why Do I Still Want to Lie About It?

OFF-winners

Yadda yadda, people lie about their age. In fact, the woman I’m dating at the moment, said she was 49 in her online profile. And when we met, I couldn’t have told you any different. But she was 57. She admitted it fairly early on in our first date.

I get it. The women who proposition me on Match.com look much more like my mom than I’d care to admit. (Please, at least try to update your look, won’t you?)

If we could forget that number is an age, we might find compatibility in a wider range of people.

And when I first entered the online dating pool I posted my age as 45, rather than 50. It just felt a lot more like my tribe. But I learned pretty quickly that I was mistaken. When you start courting younger women and begin to look for connections beyond youth, beauty, and “having fun,” there might not be a lot of common ground. Your musical tastes will be different. You grew up with different TV shows, movies, bands, global events. It can be done, but I’ve found a lot of comfort in being with women of my own age, or god-forbid, a bit older.

So when this woman was clearly within my range of beauty and fitness and admitted to lying about her age, I was nonplussed. “Yeah, I did that before. (pause) But I am 51.”

Here are few of the assumptions I have about age.

  • People our age (50’s) are often more like my parents than my peers.
  • If you haven’t taken care of yourself (mentally and physically) by the time you are 50, you will be looking 60.
  • Gray hair might be nice, on octogenarians.
  • Fitness can be a factor at any age, but in your 5o’s you’re either fit or you’re not. (And I’m not talking about weight, exactly.)
  • Age is one of the first qualifiers or disqualifies when looking online for a date

I used to like looking at the younger 4o-somethings and imagining… But the actually engagement rate was very low. And when I did hook one in for a date, I was underwhelmed by their banter. It was a missed connection from the start. Even when the cutest girl I had laid eyes on in more than two years was sitting in my car after a first date that involved margaritas, I was tempted but not really interested in kissing her or pursuing the next date.

She was a bit miffed later and she texted me, “You looked like you were going to kiss me, but you didn’t. WTH?”

I was still unclear on what I would get out of a “relationship” with this young runner. She was fit, pretty, smiled and laughed a lot, and we had nothing in common.

So there is some wisdom to the adage, stick with people your own age. At least within your high school class. (That would be a 4-year range on either side of your actual age.)

Now physical age is different from attitude or youthfulness. I am 51, and I’ll admit to taking the George Clooney out of my hair every 6 – 8 weeks, but I’m always getting, “No way,” when I tell the younger women, my real age. (This is not from online dating, I’ve been reporting my real birthday since my second week there–four years ago.) So age is a number, how?

  • What you do in the evenings
  • What you do for fun
  • What you do to stay fit
  • Your curiosity and joy at learning new things
  • How you entertain yourself when you are alone
  • What you bring to the conversation
  • How much energy you have
  • How much joy you have

It is NOT:

  • How much partying you can do
  • How much you like to drink
  • How good you are in bed
  • How flat your stomach is
  • The color of your hair (though I have succumbed to this trap, more for work purposes than dating, but it helps.)

If we could forget that number is an age, we might find compatibility in a wider range of people. But it’s a deal breaker for me. I’m sure the genius 42 year-old is out there. She’s a famous rockstar named Imogen Heap. But there’s a really slim chance we’re ever going to meet. Outside of that, I’ll take beauty, age, and wisdom over fitness, youth, and spontaneity, every time.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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What Is Casual Sex? I Have No Experience with This…

OFF-upsidedown

Okay, so let’s put EVERY SINGLE POST before this one, on hold for a second. Let’s suspend our previously assumed beliefs, desires, and road maps. And reset for just a second from the perspective of casual or recreational sex. Um… This is not a term or concept that I’m very familiar with. I think my generation was either way into it, or we weren’t. So, when a woman appeared recently, and introduced the concept (non-verbally) that we might enjoy a roll in the hay, just for the fun of it, I was a bit taken off guard.

I knew this was possible in the post-divorce dating apocalypse. I knew these free-thinking older women existed, but I had not had the pleasure of meeting one until now. And to her, I was an attractive, healthy, and willing younger man. She confessed to having lied on her OK Cupid profile, she wasn’t 49.

So, casual sex to me means no intentions or expectations about the future of the relationship. In all of my writing, to this point, I was *always* talking about long-term goals. What my expectations are for dating someone, and growing that into something more like a relationship. That’s all I thought about. Or thought was available to me. And this woman walked in with all the swagger of a professional athlete and she began to show me some signs that more opportunities might be possible. It wasn’t that we were talking about sleeping together, we weren’t. But the talk of sex did come up fairly early and in a playful and light way.

“Oh I get it,” I said. “The women that often approach me, the one or two times a week it happens, are usually very disappointing. So I get it. Age is just a number.”

“How old do you think I am,” she asked.

“I’m not falling for that trap,” I laughed. “You’re quite attractive and fit for whatever age you are.”

She wasn’t actually the woman who I would put as “next.” But my libido was pushing my maps to the bottom of the drawer.

That brought a smile to her face and another margarita to the table in front of her. And it wasn’t like it was immediately apparent that we were going to sleep together because it wasn’t. But the chemistry was there from the moment she came into the restaurant, from my perspective. And sure, the signs were there. She was smiling a lot, we were exchanging casual arm touches, and the ritas started doing their magic as our topics jumped from kids, to future, the divorce, and back again.

She had some of my favorite physical characteristics: dark hair, dark skin, a winning smile, and an affinity for tennis. Perhaps it was her fitness and tennis skirt that did me in. (That was in her dating profile.) She showed up in an LBD (little black dress) that was all but explosive. The idea that she was an “older” woman never crossed my mind. She worked at being fit and flirtatious, and it was paying off. She knew what she was putting out and she found me receptive and accommodating. Again, this is more about courtship and play, than about jumping in the sack. I don’t think she’d had a relationship since her divorce. But she was sprinkling magic fairy dust all over the conversation and me. Perhaps I was bewitched.

Nothing out of the ordinary, so far. It was a first date after all. And nobody is really into sleeping with someone on the first date, right? So we carried on as any other first date would, except there was a joyousness and lightness to our conversation. And actually that’s what had drawn me in this far, she was very funny in her texts and emails. And she liked my sense of humor. This join was apparent and clear in our 2 hour lunch with tequila.

And I walked her to her car. No biggie. Not going for a first kiss, but a nice hug. And that was nice. She was an amazingly fit 5’2″ like a little fitness dynamo. I was enamored. And we talked about maybe getting together again later in the evening for some live music or something. Something…

I handed her a cd of the music that was rocking my world at the moment. Imogen Heap. And she drove off and called me moments later thanking me for showing her how to use her CD-player in her car. A nice new convertible. Wow. She was something else.

But she wasn’t actually the woman who I would put as “next.” But my libido was pushing my maps to the bottom of the drawer. Of course, the tequila was talking as well. But we’d been drinking water for the last hour, so I was clear she was some different breed of woman. As joyous and playful as I thought I was. Was that a match or just a HIT.

I got back to my house and passed out on the bed. (see poetic naps) I didn’t even hear the text an hour later from her that asked what I might have in mind for later. And when I roused again my phone was ringing. It was her. What? Most people blow you off at the first sign of a near miss. We talked around options and decided on Orange is the New Black at her house. “Should I bring a bottle of wine,” I asked. She had everything we needed.

“I’m touchy feely,” I said. She laughed and said, “It’s all good.”

And from there I have to admit I was hooked into the idea of casual, what’s this all about, sex with her. And the odd part is, I was feeling no pain, no resistance, just pure and easy desire. On both our parts! How refreshing. Even as I was showing to get ready I could feel the jump in my skin. The idea of sex was already making its way through my bloodstream.

And we watched an episode over a first glass or rosé. And I’m a red man, so I was a tiny bit disoriented. But she was all there and all present and all okay with my wandering hand. And I mean, on her neck and shoulder. “I’m touchy-feely,” I said. She laughed and said, “It’s all good.” Green lights all across my internal instrument panel.

We had not spoken one word about “dating” or what was next. We weren’t really talking about our relationship, or what our expectations were. And that was refreshing. We were just being in the moment and being in touch with the chemistry that was catching fire. And when things did finally catch fire, I was even more appreciative of her physical regimen and joyous outlook on life, and sex, and whatever was next.

And I’ll end the episode here without going into details. But let’s just say I’m excited to see her again. And it really has nothing to do with “long-range planing.” Nothing. I think I’ve found a pocket of YES with the idea of casual sex. And I think she’s happy with that as well. And there’s not really any need to discuss it. We’ve made plans to get together tomorrow night. And I couldn’t be more satisfied with that.

What are our expectations as we enter into the “hello” date? What if things go really well? Are we prepared to let go if things go “off-map?” That was part of the allure. We were clearly in new territory for both of us. And the relaxed and playful way we engaged in the conversation was mirrored in the way we casually engaged in lovemaking. Even for the first time, it was great and free and easy. It might have been partly due to the freedom and skin high we were experiencing. The future wasn’t in question or in play, and something about that, let us drop the pretense and just be together. And that was surprising, magical, and refreshing all at the same time. Something about my rigid “code” was cracked.

Sure, whatever. I mean, why not enjoy ourselves, right?

Sincerely,

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

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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Dating A Divorced Dad: We Might Be Good For Each Other

OFF-kissme

This isn’t a mating call post, but more a look at some of the ways divorced dads are cool, flexible, and likely to understand divorced moms.

FIRST: Let’s compare notes on our kids. We’ve got our priorities straight. Our kids come first, our dates come second. Got it? Good. I don’t think any single parents will ever need to debate this. Now, dates without kids, or even parents who’s kids are long out of the nest, might present a bit more of a problem. There is an imbalance of time. I do spend more time with my kids than with my date. But, that’s only while we’re getting to know each other. But let’s stop right there and not get ahead of ourselves. We are talking about dating, after all.

So if this partner has their act together, even after a divorce, they’re probably pretty flexible and understanding when it comes to compromise and negotiating wants and needs.

SECOND: Let’s compare notes on our exes. I can lend a sympathetic ear to your stories about your dickish-ex. No problem, I’ve go my ex-y who can be a handful from time to time. I’m likely to take your side in any debate. And if you just need a sounding board, I’m here to say, “Wow, he really is a dick.”

THIRD: Let’s just say sex was getting less and less frequent and a bit less fun towards the end of my marriage. So, to say I’m hungry would be a bit of an understatement. Attentive might be a better word. I am so ready to make you feel good. Sure, we can get to me in a minute, but let’s just enjoy you for the moment.

FOURTH: By this time, even with a divorce and child support, we should have the money thing dialed in. Sure, there may be some setbacks (heck, I’m in the middle of the biggest one of my adult life right now, but…) along the money trail, but a partner with some history probably has found a way to make a living.

FIFTH: A well-balanced partner with kids and an ex has learned to get rid of the drama and strife. Divorce is one of the biggest stress potentials of our adult lives. So if this partner has their act together, even after a divorce, they’re probably pretty flexible and understanding when it comes to compromise and negotiating wants and needs. An unbalanced divorced parent is pretty easy to identify as well. Listen. Are they complaining about their ex? Do they have more drama than most people? If so you can move right along. But if your divorced partner still has a healthy sense of humor, they are likely to have a positive approach to navigating the path of developing a relationship.

If we can build our alignment of priorities around our kids health and happiness, then we can both relax when we are able to find time alone as a couple.

SIXTH: We’re going to understand if you’re too tired for the dinner and dancing plans. So you want to curl up on the couch, watch a romantic comedy and order chinese food? Sure, we get it. We’ll even rub your feet during the movie.

Relationships are not easy. But a divorced dad has a lot of experience under his belt that might come in handy as you too are dealing with parenting and dickish-ex issues. I’m pretty certain my next relationship will be with a divorced mom.

If we can build our alignment of priorities around our kids health and happiness, then we can both relax when we are able to find time alone as a couple. Perhaps that scarcity of time can build and sustain some of the honeymoon phase of the courtship. There is something quite motivating about sexual hunger for someone you are getting to know. Use that energy, prioritize your parenting, and have some fun. After all, we’re still talking about dating, we’re not going to get married or anything. (see What’s This About: Marriage?)

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: always kiss me goodnight, courtney carmody, creative commons usage


5 Wonderful and Unexpected Benefits of Being a Serial Monogamist

OFF-monogamist

When did monogamy become a negative term? Today a Google search of that term brings up a lot of snarky posts about things like “unable to spend any time alone” and “your friends forget exactly who you are dating.” What? It means something completely different to me and most of the people I hang out with, and when we talk about relationships, most of us are looking for some form of serial monogamy. Maybe it’s a generational thing. Perhaps the millennials are more interested in gratification and hooking up. I’m not sure where that leads them, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the right direction for me.

I’ve tried being a casual dater. Post-divorce I had ideas that I would go out and become a serial dater. I was ready to sow some unshackled seeds. But, it didn’t happen. In fact, given the opportunity to kiss a pretty woman several months ago on a first date, I didn’t. She was confused. I wasn’t.

1. Keeping Everything Honest

Sex is great, sex is important, but sex means very little when there is no relationship involved.

I tried “dating” two women at the same time in college. It didn’t end well. You see, no matter how you do it, you’re always going to be telling the other person what you’ve been doing the next time you get together. And if you’ve just had a wiz bang time with the “other” person, how are you going to reconcile that? My buddy, KP, confesses to being a casual dater with no intention of settling down, or even slowing down. He’s a model of vigor and sexual enthusiasm. But he’s also a bit sad. I saw how his life changed and his attitude lightened up when a woman nailed him down and claimed him for her own. It was good for him. I can’t keep secrets very well. I can keep quiet, I suppose, in order to get something that I want. But sex and dating is not the answer for me. I’m up for a relationship. Maybe even a Relationship.

2. All Available Time

I’ve got my kids nearly half the time. That doesn’t leave a whole heck of a lot of time for dating. And that’s okay with me. My priority is my kids and their well-being. I can’t imagine a situation where a date would get in the way of my parenting, or prevent me from responding to a text or call from them within a few minutes. I would love a relationship, but I have a great relationship with my kids. I can wait on the lover, until the right lover comes along.

3. Cutting Away the Distractions

If a woman doesn’t have long-term potential, I’m not all that interested in spending time with her. I’ve said it over and over again. It’s not that I am making long-term designs on a woman in the first months of a relationship. But if she’s not long-term material, I’m not really interested in putting a lot of energy or effort in to the relationship. I’ve passed up a lot of opportunities for sex, but that’s not really what I’m after either.

4. Focus on My Goals

I’ve got some rebuilding to do. I’m still recovering from my divorce in some ways (mainly financial) and I am taking steps to deal with my unfinished business. How could I really be 100% available for what’s next, when I’m not there myself. I am working on new financial goals. I am writing up a storm, though I know poetry and self-revelatory recovery books won’t provide a roof over my head. It’s best if I keep my focus on the aspects of my life that I am still trying to change or evolve. If I were too serious about the dating thing, or the finding the next long-term relationship, I would be taking focus and attention off the things I really need to get done.

5. My Kids Are Growing Up

At 11 and 13 I don’t have a huge amount of time left before both my kids are heading out into the world without me. And as a single parent, I already don’t get enough time with them. While I’m happy to explore relationships with other women, my real priority is my kids. Plain and simple: my dad duties come before my dick duties. And I put a significant amount of energy into doing Dad right. That’s my priority.

Being a happy dad is the most important role in my present life. If that’s ultimately attractive to another woman, awesome.

All that being said, I crave a relationship with another woman. I’d relish the moment that I find that connection again. I am happy moseying along, in the current mode. I’m okay with dating and keeping things simple, if that’s what it takes to keep the other person around. I’m really okay with that. And I’m not going out to try to find my next hookup. Sex is great, sex is important, but sex means very little when there is no relationship involved.

So yes, I’m a serial monogamist, but it’s not because I always have to be in a relationship. It is not because I cannot stand being alone. Nope, I’m a serial monogamist because I’m hoping to find the next relationship at some point. And that point in the future is very flexible in terms of time, and even in terms of what the person or the relationship looks and feels like. We know love when we feel it. I want love again from another woman. Until then I’ve got more than enough love for and from my kids.

Being a happy dad is the most important role in my present life. If that’s ultimately attractive to another woman, awesome. Until then, if you’re interested in checking things out, let’s go have a cup of coffee and see if anything sparks.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: l-system, exey panteleeve, creative commons usage


The Promise in a Thumbnail; Online Dating Hits and Misses

onlinedatinglies

The online dating profile, a mystery, a fantasy novel, a pulp fiction romance. Whatever the profile is, it’s not reality. In looking for love online, you’ve got a lot of obstacles. And getting a handle on the bullshit detection is a good start.

  1. Even the unattractive and obese can score a cute photo every now and then.
  2. Photos from 15 years ago may not be an accurate representation of the current state of affairs. You would hope that people would clearly label the “when I was younger” photos, but they don’t.
  3. The one photo profile. Um, why don’t you have some other photos of your gorgeous self?
  4. The “just checking this out” profile. Usually with only a few sentences about themselves and a couple photos. Variation: a friend put this up for me.
  5. The scammer account. Too cute. Way too young to be hitting on me. Has an age range that’s a bit odd. (example: female 32, seeks males 45 – 70)
  6. No profile photo. “Ask her for her photos.” Um, no.
  7. Sunglasses make for alluring photos, but they’re not very accurate.

As long as you know you are creating the fantasy when you look an online dating profile you’ll be okay. You are filling in the blanks and missing information in your head. And most likely you are filling it in on the positive side. Often that’s not the correct data at all. If a person is 1. ready for a relationship and 2. honest, you won’t have to go fishing for too much information.

Look for how this person articulates their desires. What are they looking for?

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 8.43.51 AMBad signs:

  • “I love to travel.”
  • “Just want to have fun.”
  • Every photo has a drink in hand.
  • Glamour photos.
  • The one photo that sticks out as “WOW-SHE’S-AMAZING.”
  • The one photo that sticks out, “What? How is this the same woman?”
  • Hyper-athletic. Too many mentions of “working out.”

Screen Shot 2013-04-22 at 8.18.57 AMGood signs:

  • “Intimacy.”
  • “Honesty.”
  • “One core relationship.”
  • “Low drama.”
  • Mentions a healthy relationship with the ex-partner.
  • Semi-athletic.
The goal in online dating is to minimise the false positives and set dates with the authentic potentials.

The goal in online dating is to minimise the false positives and set dates with the authentic potentials. That’s easier said than done. And culling down from 1,000+ matches can be a bit of a challenge. So you have to start somewhere. Find a couple of things that are really important to you. (My current desire is tennis. If I could find a tennis-playing girlfriend, I think I’d be a long way towards compatibility.)

Then if you find a potential you are interested in, go ahead and say hello. I have found that casual and funny is better than direct. You don’t need to ask for the date right off the bat. Mention a few things that you have in common, flatter them a bit (You’re very cute.) and see what their response is.

  • No response is a response.
  • A casual and playful response is a good sign.
  • A form-letter response is not so good. (Thank you.)
  • An engaging response with lots of information can be a good and bad thing. On the good side, they are probably very attracted to your “profile.” On the bad side, they may be trying too hard, because they are not getting enough dates, or their dates are not going well.

If someone is genuinely interested you should both be able to establish some rapport within 4 or 5 messages. And when the idea of meeting for coffee or wine is floated by either party, the other person accepts and you both agree on a time and place. This is great. Now, the temptation is to continue the conversation, learn more, keep being charming. But that’s a mistake.

Here is the goal of online dating: set the date without too much effort or build up.

We all know the deal. If it was a HIT we are probably both thinking “What’s next.” If you get a “What’s next” before leaving the first date, you’re well on your way to trying a real date.

Once you have the date set to meet face-to-face the rest is distraction. Get this straight: you can tell very little about the physical chemistry from online profiles or even electronic flirting. While it might be fun to rev each other up before you meet, it is really a waste of time. And the real danger is setting up these great expectations and then not feeling the chemistry at all. So then what do you do? You may have had a bit of fun, but you’ve used up a lot of energy, even flirting takes time and energy, and come up empty-handed.

Online dating is not a full-time job. If you are too hungry, too available, and always online the available partners might notice this. If you are too persistent and focused on getting a date, that might be an indication of a problem.

The best approach is simple hello flirting. Gut checking the profile for reality. See if their emails or texts are also witty and fun. And then set the date and move on in your search and in your mind. You’ve got the date. There is really nothing else to do before you meet in person. You can confirm the date the day before. It’s easy to provide a phone number (texting is okay) before the date “In case something comes up.”

And then chill out and see what develops when you meet. Getting to excited or too involved with a virtual date has never worked out for me. Never. But then I haven’t had very many hits with the in-person meetings. And the handful of women who were just my style weren’t quite interested. They may not have said as much, but they didn’t ask for the next date either.

If there’s no chemistry, don’t make a big deal about it. Enjoy the conversation and make your exit. You can send them a note about “Not quite a match for me” but it’s not necessary. We all know the deal. If it was a HIT we are probably both thinking “What’s next.” If you get a “What’s next” before leaving the first date, you’re well on your way to trying a real date. Good luck.

Respectfully,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

< back to On Dating Again

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image: a montage of online dating, the writer


Walking Away from the Wreckage of a Failed Relationship

OFF-nightout

Love poems and reassurances are not enough. Breaking through someone else’s issues is not for a partner, lover, or friend. It can be, but it’s got to be a willingness to change and grow that fuels the rebirth. This would be no rebirth.

When she kept saying, “You want something else.” I kept feeling how fantastic she was, how much I could hold the relationship even as she fluttered away every week or so. And as we moved up towards and even passed my longest post-divorce dating milestone, she continued to toss Molotov cocktails into my heart space. I don’t think she was doing it on purpose, but I do note that it always happened after a particularly close day/night together. The closer we got the more incendiary the love bombs she would hurl.

They both told me, “We don’t talk about you.” But it seemed that when the wine flowed, apparently the juicy tidbits were just too juicy to withhold.

Somewhere in my heart, I knew it was a matter of time. Somehow, I thought, by the fifteenth breakup soliloquy or so, she would wear me down. I mean, I knew how capable I was of sustaining the fantasy, projecting the “okayness” of our time together, but I was also working to heal the part of me that wanted to be the hero, to be the bigger partner, to see and look out for obstacles. I could not anticipate the reasons for her breakup messages, but I could learn to do better at not responding, at not accepting what she was saying. But was that healthy? At some point, even if the chemistry and fascination quotients are high, don’t you have to walk away from the wreckage, before the next crash takes you down with it?

There was this one mitigating factor that kept finding its way into the equation, an unexpected antagonist. It was the one person who could draw the connections between the two of us. The one woman I had dated since the divorce. The person I considered a confidant. I was wrong about that. In fact, she sort of got us together by inviting us to the same party. She then, however, counseled us both that we were not right for each other. And that’s where things got a little squishy.

We were all friends then, it seemed. And as the new woman and I began to spend time together, we both kept checking in with our mutual friend for advice, ideas, confirmations, and references. And as things went, most reports were stellar. I mean, she wouldn’t have continued for more than a week if our friend had told her really bad things about me.

But then they’d have a girls night and low and behold, my sweetheart would get strangely quiet. The first time it took about a week to cipher out what had happened, what disconnect had occurred between us. But the disconnect turned out to be something GF#1 shared with her. What?

They both told me, “We don’t talk about you.” But it seemed that when the wine flowed, apparently the juicy tidbits were just too juicy to withhold.

First, it was discovered that I had “depression.” And the new sweetheart was confused as to why I hadn’t told her about it, especially since I had shared it with our friend. Of course, the friend mentioned it casually. But the implications were dark indeed. How had I shared it with her and not here in my present relationship yet? Um, we had a very different relationship.

She liked to joke about “I guess it’s time to break up now.” Ha ha. I’d text back, “Yep, I guess I’ll have to go fire up my OK Cupid profile again.”

We got through it and we laughed it off. There were a few more breakups that were not related to our mutual friend, and then another night out and another strained silence appeared.

This time in a moment of honest debauchery a text message had been shared. A message from the earliest weeks of this new relationship. I was confiding in my friend about the woman who was breaking up with me because she was scared. And I was the devil, and our relationship was just not going to work. “We are too different.” And the pattern of getting the text or email effectively ending our relationship repeated again. At this point, I was a bit irritated, but I laughed it off and attempted to put the context around the text that had been shared. I wondered again, why our “friend” had shared such a sensitive piece of our confidential correspondence.

We’ve ebbed and flowed through many panics. Sometimes it would be a love poem that I shared that would completely trip her out, “I can’t be that woman.” Or something I did or didn’t do. And sometimes even in our playful banter the raw underbelly of fear and hurt would peek out.

She liked to joke about “I guess it’s time to break up now.” Ha ha. I’d text back, “Yep, I guess I’ll have to go fire up my OK Cupid profile again.” And that was too painful for her and she would register her hurt. “You’ve gotten mean.” What?

Okay, so I learned that responding to her joking breakups with any indication that I’d move right along should that happen was too terrifying. We agreed to not joke about either issue again. And then I made a declaration of the summer by shutting down my profiles. In my mind, it was a show of color, since she had been freaked out that I might be flirting with other women. I thought I’d show her that I wasn’t by closing my exit.

And in that moment, I also asked, “And you can’t break up with me for the Summer, either. Unless it’s something horrible, and we know that won’t happen.”

And somehow this idea worked for both of us. She admitted that it made her feel good. And we moved along with the baggage behind us, and the future ahead, looking controlled and casual, but hopeful.

Guess what?

Nine days later, Girls Night Out, final round. This time the issue was unrecoverable. The sharing of our friend was so casual and devastating that there would be no return.

I wondered, as I was trying to argue my side via text messages, what our friend’s purpose was? Was she protecting her friend? Was she angry at us for being happy? Was there some wounding that she was still acting out with me for not being the relationship she had hoped for?

I was weary of the struggle to prove… Something. What? That relationships were worthy efforts? That I was honest?

And then I imagined all the things our friend could, over time, share “in inebriated confidence” that would take our relationship down. And I saw that she could go really deep if she wanted. And since they were high school friends, my chances were very low that I could continue to negotiate a surrender and rebuilding over and over again. It was exhausting. And unfortunately, familiar. The crisis. OMG! And I’m digging myself out of some perceived wrong. That’s how my marriage descended into hell. There was always something wrong.

I would not recover this time. I went down with the flaming plane. I let the friend know what she had done, was “3-for-3 in inappropriate sharing.” She was sorry. She apologized. And my GF#2 became EX#2.

I guess now they have each other again. They can swap stories now at a deeper level. And I don’t have a place at the table defend myself. But I was weary of the struggle to prove… Something. What? That relationships were worthy efforts? That I was honest?

No, I was really trying to convince her, to create in her, the lover that I so desired. I was willing to grow a bigger heart, to stretch my boundaries and relax my grip on the idea of “girlfriend” or “relationship.” But I was getting tired of being kicked to the curb, like Fred Flintstone, every week or so tossed out the window with a, “We are just two very different people.”

I don’t know, I don’t think it was on purpose. I don’t think it was either of them was conspiring to break us up. Our friend providing the ammo for some reason, my sweetheart using the new issue to support her fears.

You’re right, girls. It probably wouldn’t have worked. But I am so sorry this beautiful opportunity was smashed. I need some rest and a reset. Thanks for the love poems, and the amazing journey through relationship #2. (Sad face.)

I don’t walk away from this one unscathed. I was gaining confidence and joy in my time with her. And now I have, most likely, lost both of my friends: two friends who have seen inside my deepest parts, post-divorce. I guess it’s time to rest before I get back up again. I am very sad.

Namasté.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

[Note: this post is not written to either of them, though I suspect they will read it and be outraged. I guess this is my outrage.]

And if I could actually write what I feel, it would be closer to this poem: don’t tell me how it ends

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image: girls hanging out, flavio, creative commons usage


Perils of Dating a Relationship Blogger, Especially If You Know

OFF-kissbye

When she broke up with me the first time, I wasn’t sure if she knew about my blogs. And I wrote about the experience. She contacted me and said that what I had written was very honest and accurate, but not very flattering. She didn’t ask me to take it down. And eventually we continued dating.

She vowed to not read this blog. I know I would not be able to keep away if I knew she was pouring out pieces of her heart and soul. It’s too tempting.

She let me know that my love poems really tripped her out. “I don’t want to hold all that expectation for you. That’s not me.”

Her objections to my love poems, however were more troubling. As our relationship continued, I continued to express my desire, hopes, fantasies, and ultimately my sole-created projections.

And as much as I tried to explain to her that the love poem was an art form, and though she had been the inspiration for the passion and fury of the expression, I often lifted off into some altered state where I was writing to the gods. The love poem to end all love poems. The best love poem, ever. Still it freaked her out. So I learned not to share them. And she continued to profess not to read the blog.

But she read the blog and broke up with me several times over the next month. Still, I understand.

I can’t imagine what it would be like if the tables were turned. Well, in fact, I sort of can, a woman I dated for a while is also a blogger. And it’s a bit voyueristic. But we’re no longer involved, so it’s cool.

Anyway, the one time before that I dated someone who knew about the blog it didn’t go so well. I told her that I would not blog about us. And we proceeded to implode rather quickly, but I couldn’t write about it. It was my promise.

Moving on towards the present moment, I can understand the temptation to read the words of the person you are in a relationship with. In fact, it’s hard for me to imagine that I wouldn’t read the entire tome back to front, just to get oriented.

But rather than learn and explore with me, this woman tended to defend or take offense to much of my writing. And that was a bummer. She would miss the entire point of a post, to share her take on where I got it all wrong. Um, excuse me? Which part did I get wrong? The part where I didn’t agree with you?

Her objections to my love poems, however were more troubling. As our relationship continued, I continued to express my desire, hopes, fantasies, and ultimately my sole-created projections. I am aware that poems and even some posts are simply projections of what I want. She was not so easy to convince that not every single line was about. her. So she stopped reading the love poems too, and I learned not to send them to her. But that’s a bit of a problem right?

It makes me very sad to have invested so much heart and time into this wonderful startup, and yet have it fail.

It’s as if this blog is a loaded gun, pointed directly at our relationship. And if I am already unable to share what I’m thinking, dreaming, and hoping for… Well, that says something about how the relationship was going to progress, unless something amazing changed. And I know waiting for the other person to change is a big problem. (see: Waiting for the Other Person to Change)

Okay, so things aren’t going to change. And my poems and posts are going to freak her out… forever. That’s no way to be. And she’s now let me know, once again, that she’s not right for me. At this point, I am inclined to accept her protestation.

It makes me very sad to have invested so much heart and time into this wonderful startup, and yet have it fail. And now she can read this blog freely as I stumble to learn and move on from the experience of loving someone fully again.

Here’s how the story ends: Walking Away from the Wreckage

Here’s how it felt when it ended: don’t tell me how it ends < a poem

Sincerely,

The Off Parent
@theoffparent

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image: bye, bye 288, tim, creative commons usage