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

Posts tagged “dating as an adult

Burn the Maps! Forget What You Think You Know About Dating Today

Do I repeat myself? Then I repeat myself. I am large. I contain multitudes. — Walt Whitman

So much of this blog has been about trying to figure things out. Figure myself out (wants, desires, depressions, ecstasies), to figure out my divorce (what happened, how to get over it, and how to move on in a healthy way), to figure out single parenting as a dad, and ultimately, where we find ourselves (me) today, dating and the mechanics of desire, relationship, coupling, or not coupling. And this much is clear. I have no idea what I’m talking about.

It’s like trying to write about being a parent if you have never had kids. Or imagining what it will be like when you’re married, before you’ve ever experienced it. And I believe I’m on a similar precipice. I THINK I want the next relationship. But it’s only because that’s what I know, that’s what I think I’m comfortable with. “I’m good in a relationship,” I like to say to myself, and occasional dates. I’m looking for that again.

Pause. Relax. Enjoy the process. There is no hurry. Really. Get this. There. Is. No. Hurry.

But am I? Or is it just what’s familiar? I was married for the first time for seven years. Then single and sad for a couple of years and married again for eleven years. So since I was 27 years old, I’ve spent most of my time married. So I kinda know what that was like. And both experiences were eye-opening and transformational. And it’s my natural tendency to want to get back in that couple-mode again. At least I think so.

As I am embarking on this more recent path of discovering myself in “dating” mode I’m not sure I have all the information or tools. I certainly don’t know what my optimal date would look like, though I’m trying to construct maps. I’m doing my reading, planning, and sketching thing, and trying to figure it out. But the real answer is this: There is no figuring it out.

I simply don’t know. And all the posts leading up to this moment, this awareness, are theoretical meanderings of a man who thinks he wants to be back in “relationship.” And they are all lies. Because I can’t know. I can’t imagine. I am trying to write the symphony to the next love of my life without having met her. How do I know where to begin? How can I dream her up, if she’s not revealed herself to me? Quite simply, I can’t.

Here’s what I can do.

Pause. Relax. Enjoy the process. There is no hurry. Really. Get this. There. Is. No. Hurry.

And I can keep imagining my treasure maps, but I have to be willing to be swept away by the unknown and unexplainable. I think that’s what love is. OH BOY, I used the L word. When and how does *that* come into it?

I’ve learned that the spark comes from the eyes, the smile, and the intelligence inside. If there is joy, it usually shows through the eyes.

What I do know is this. Present moment exploration is the only way to go. Present moment conversations and discussions. Present moment dating. Present moment sex, if it presents itself. ANNNNDDDD STOP. That’s it. Stop. Stay with the “touch” part. Stay with the conversation about current events. Stay with the fascination about the person in front of you, and not the idea you have.

I do a lot of projecting. (Hello! Have you been reading this blog long?) And often that projection process is misleading both to myself and the potential date. I write love poems. And occasionally those love poems are inspired by actual events in my life, a kiss, a missed opportunity, a chance meeting with an old flame. But they are no more real than my maps of the “next relationship” or finding “The ONE.” Bunk. All bunk.

And yet… All very useful in self-revelation. I AM learning more about my desires. I am learning how to deconstruct my wants and desires and see which ones serve me and which ones I can leave behind. I’ve learned some really valuable lessons along the way, but they are not maps, they are notes.

I’ve learned that much of the programming I received about beauty came from pornographic magazines. But even when I was ten I was reading Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Sex, But Were Afraid to Ask, so I’ve been studying women and sex and pleasure for a while.

I can only imagine… And for now that’s all I’ve got. And these maps, which I will gladly set alight in her flame.

I’ve broken the idea, for myself, that youth is beauty. And what I’ve discovered is youth is more about the animal need to procreate and breed with the most attractive and available woman. And get this, women in their 20’s who are uber-fit and good-looking, will appear to be perfect mates, to my reptilian brain. And yet, I’m not interested in procreation, or having sex with 20-year-olds or really even 30-year-olds.

I’ve learned that the spark comes from the eyes, the smile, and the intelligence inside. If there is joy, it usually shows through the eyes. And if there’s deep intelligence, I find I’m more turned on than any physical attribute. Except of course the smile. And the joy.

I’ve learned that I don’t have much experience in dating after divorce. We are much different than we were “back in the day.” And our parameters and needs are very different. And our boundaries and priorities are very different as well. AND we won’t put up with much bullshit before we call a foul and move on.

I’ve learned that the real sparks are very hard to find. And valuing that connection is often more important than any idea or roadmap I’ve ever made up.

And finally, I’ve learned that working on myself if the best strategy for finding who’s “next” for me. And that includes this writing (self-examination), exercise (health and self-care), and putting myself out there as “available.”

While I don’t like first dates, they are a necessary evil if you are going to date. [What does that word even mean? Date?] And I don’t like online dating. But I find it another necessary evil, like looking for a needle in a haystack. Looking for the spark to set the haystack on fire.

And really that’s what I’m looking for, the fire. To feel the burn and intoxication again. This time with some tethers to the ground (and sobriety of my past experiences). But for the fire to come and burn my maps, I have to start with the spark. And since I’ve only seen a few sparks in the last four years, I know the journey ahead may be longer than I want. (I guess it already has been. *Grin* )

And, here I will repeat myself again, I am excited and terrified about the transformation that will occur when SHE shows up. And yet I am pushing towards her, calling her in, writing love poems to “HER.”

I can only imagine… And for now, that’s all I’ve got. And these maps, which I will gladly set alight in her flame.

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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For inspiration read this: Dating Don’ts for the Single Mom – from SingleParentingIsHard

image: screen grab from Republica video below.

+++ And though I say, “Baby, I’m ready to go,” I have no idea what that looks like.


Whole Adults Dating Again: Knowing Ourselves, Knowing What We Won’t Compromise

Last night I had the pleasure of eating dinner with an old friend from out of town and his new girlfriend. When he texted me that he was in town he said, “Down here with a new girlfriend. Recently divorced but all good.” I was surprised but not all that surprised. Seems like this divorce thing is going around. And my friends and I are in the 7 – 11 year itch period where the rubber meets the road. So he was divorced and already traveling with his “new girlfriend.” Wow. Good for him.

So how can we enter into a new kind of relationship, now knowing what we know about ourselves? How will the mistakes of our past reframe what is and is not acceptable in our next relationship?

It was great to see my friend and his delightful new partner. She too is the survivor of divorce, with two kids who are a bit younger than my friend and I. We had a very interesting discussion about what we were doing with our lives.

You see, in addition to catching up with my friend, who I hadn’t spent time with in over two years, we were also catching up as a group of recently divorced people. I took the opportunity to explore some ideas I’d been kicking around.

Here’s what seems to ring true for all of us.

  1. We start a marriage with a set of assumptions and a set of ideals.
  2. Over time, as we add mortgages, kids, and health insurance to the equation, we begin a long process of adaption and compromise.
  3. If we continue to compromise away from our true selves, we will eventually get depressed or angry. We will start looking for a way back to something more vibrant, more authentic. We want to get back to sometime more like the ME I remember.
  4. Divorce happens. Initialized by one of the parties, and then the transformation begins.
  5. In the process of divorce recovery we either 1. jump right back into another relationship, failing to examine or learn from what failed in the previous one; OR 2. we take some time to rediscover our solo-selves.
  6. As somewhat activated solo-selves we are now able to reclaim our artistic passions, our authentic aspirations, our alone-wants, and our alone-desires.
  7. In imagining and testing the concept of dating and relating to another adult human, we have new “non-negotiables” as part of our needs.
  8. We do not want to re-enter the path of compromise if it means a collapse of this newly rediscovered self.
  9. We are forced to create something new.

As the three of us talked about our dreams for ourselves, we were careful to listen to the other person’s dreams. I was sounding out, and exploring my friend’s musical aspirations. I wanted to hear about his new symphonic ideas. I was interested in the part of himself that he was rediscovering and re-establishing. And his new girlfriend was clearly in that same camp. She too was an artist. She had vision and drive. She wanted the musician in my friend to reignite and come alive.

So how can we enter into a new kind of relationship, now, with what we know about ourselves? How will the mistakes of our past reframe what is and is not acceptable in our next relationship? And ultimately, can we create a Relationship 3.0 that keeps our goals and ambitions as creative individuals at the forefront of the mix WHILE we are also negotiating the togetherness that we also want.

So in defining and finding a next relationship, what time am I willing to be flexible on and what time am I going to keep just for myself?

I am curious how much of a relationship is about sex for me. And if sex was more a function of several “dates” perhaps I would not need a relationship so much. I don’t think that’s it. I KNOW there is much more about relationships than sex. And I know, recently, that sex without the deeper connection is much more like masturbation. But it is interesting to pull apart all the aspects of a potential relationship and see which parts of it are valuable, and which parts are limiting.

At the moment I am limitless. I am alone, yes, but I am the sole determiner of what I am doing tonight. (Well, I have my kids this weekend, so not tonight…) And then I can ask, and what am I willing to give up to be WITH someone. What would “tonight” look like if there were another person waiting in the wings to spend time with me.

Often in the early months of my courtship with the ex we would have breakfast on a weekend and make plans to get back together in the early evening. And off we would go to our separate artist studios. (For the most part, art is a solo endeavor.) These were some of our happiest times.

When she let the work and compromise of our relationship kill her artistic dream she became small and resentful of mine. I have never stopped trying to write songs, or poems and stories. It takes time. And for sure, time away from the relationship.

So in defining and finding a next relationship, what time am I willing to be flexible on and what time am I going to keep just for myself?

Sincerely,

The Off Parent

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image: Lujuria/Lust, Gabriel S. Delgado C., creative commons usage