Tag Archives: dating a single dad

The Waiting is the Hardest Part

I am alone.

I don’t like being alone. I like sleeping next to someone, loving someone each morning, finding new things to love each day. I crave this connection a little too much and I know that’s a bad thing. I think I’m too susceptible right now to my own addiction. I think I might be addicted to women. In a slightly unhealthy way, that has led me to trouble in the past. So let’s slow things down a bit and look at how “the waiting” can be the best part.

At the moment I am in a perfect relationship. I wake up , go to sleep, nap, walk, play tennis, write… all that, I do all those things without considering another soul. I am in love with myself. Okay, that’s a bit extreme, but I’m learning to like my own company again. For awhile there, after my last breakup I was not sure I would survive to see another relationship. Today, I know I will, I’m just not sure how or when. It’s that unknowing that I’m also beginning to understand. I can’t say I enjoy it yet, but I get it. I’m not ready.

While there are not a whole lot of things going tremendously right in my life right now, I am comfortable in my rebuilding. As I went on a “hello date” yesterday I was happy with the me I presented. While there was zero chemistry and thus zero follow-up, it was an opportunity to tell my story again. To hear how it sounds to talk about my divorce and my kids, and what I’m doing with my life. Of course, I leave out some of that life stuff, but I was honest in all that I chose to share.

What I learned yesterday, at some point during our 45 minute conversation, is I am confident and comfortable with who and where I am. I talked about the i-ching for a minute in reference to both of our current situations. (See, when you’re going on a first date it’s likely the other person is alone and waiting for what’s next as well.) That she had never heard of the i-ching was surprising, but hey… Here’s a paraphrase of what I said.

Back when I was into the tao and zen, I used to throw the i-ching for guidance. It’s really just a reflecting pool that you can bounce your current situation off of, a philosophy. What was interesting was out of the 64 hexagrams of the i-ching, three times I threw the exact same one.

5. WAITING

Actively Waiting.

And what I learned was the great general does not rest during the down times of war. He is actively rebuilding, strategizing, readying his plans. In our case, we are in a down time, but rather than be lazy or discouraged, we must take advantage of this time and explore, learn, study, plan, everything we can think of, so that when the waiting is over we are well-prepared for the journey ahead.

Am I ready for a new relationship right now? Nope. How do I know? I’m too into it. I’m too ambitious. I’m too eager. There is very little peace in my approach right now. I’m learning and slowing that down over the past few weeks, but I still feel the lingering energy that would swoop in at the first opportunity for a relationship and create an unrealistic fantasy about the woman just so I could have a relationship.

In the waiting I’m working on a few things.

  • Continuing my exercise and good eating habits. (Helps me stay fit.)
  • Reading and writing. (Helps me plan and imagine the future.)
  • Exploring online dating. (Gives me glimpses of possibility. None that I have connected with, but it’s sort of like training school.)
  • Working a shift-job while I continue to seek my next big job. (Keeps me engaged. Gives my kids some child support.)
  • Honoring and visiting with my mom. (She’s 85 and has plenty of worldly-wise and unwise experience to share with me.)
  • Requesting opportunities to be with my kids and build our relationship. (Teenagers are usually too busy for mom or dad, I get it.)
  • Listening and respecting the pace of life. (Mindfulness is an ongoing practice.)

I am confident that each of the activities gives me more strength and passion for what’s next. That could be a new job. A new relationship. Or it could be more of the actively waiting. As long as I am not wasting this time, I am building a better me. I believe that.

When I think about myself at this moment I would say, I’m as happy as I’ve ever been.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

image: meditation, creative commons usage

What a Divorced Dad Wants in the Next Relationship, Year 3!

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Dating is not enough.
If you don’t know what you’re looking for, you will surely miss it.

My goal in dating, in setting out a dating plan, was to wind up in a relationship. I don’t like dating. I didn’t like dating. And now that I’m set to remarry in March of 2017, I can tell you, while the process was not unpleasant, I prefer being IN a relationship to searching for one. Let’s get caught up.

Dating a Mom
I said this was of critical importance to me in my next relationship. Both the women I dated before finding my fiancé were moms. And I assumed that being a mom was a requisite for dating me, because I assumed that the “mom” gene was required to understand the “dad” gene. I was wrong. My fiancé can accept my dad role along side my mate role. They are not mutually exclusive, but one is not more important than the other. In fact, as I began to date my fiancé it became more and more clear to me that establishing my next relationship was as important as being a good dad. And in several years, my kids will be going off to college and all I will have is my relationship. I determined that getting the relationship right, regardless of kids was more important that if the woman had kids of her own. Date the woman, if she has kids or does not have kids is just part of the equation.

Going Long Term
As I stated early on in my dating adventures, I was not “into dating.” I was looking to be in a long-term relationship. (LTR) My dating activities were focused with that in mind. If chemistry was lacking on the first date, it was also the last date. I wasn’t interested in creating the next relationship. I wanted sparks and fire and excitement right from the start. I wanted spunky, adventurous, creative, and beautiful all wrapped into one package. I was not going to setting for “all right” or “nearly.” I was either all in or all out. I learned to streamline my dating process by using this rule: If I didn’t see a future in the relationship there would be no second date. Sure, people warm up to each other over time. But chemistry and initial attraction were part of my program. And when I went out with my fiancé I got all of my wishes in spades. Even as I was telling her, I was really not looking for a relationship, she was blowing my circuits with her charm, smiles, and wit. She knocked my socks off from the first Facebook text. And things have not slowed down one bit.

Going Too Fast
When you know it’s right, when you both know it’s right, there’s no need to hesitate. Jump into it. If you’re going to blow up, blow up big and soon. Why piddle about and “see” if things are going to work out? We jumped at the assumption that everything was going to work out, and the attraction and compatibility we felt early on was all the signal we needed. Granted we were both in the right position, we were both looking for NEXT, and we were both open to a long-term relationship. As they say, “Timing is everything.” When the timing was right with us, we were planning a trip to New York City together within the first six weeks together. BOOM. Don’t hesitate or you might miss it. Don’t doubt the magic, if you feel it lean into it, and if it goes away or fails, you will know you took your shot.

Sweating the Small Stuff
We’ve always maintained our eyes on the big relationship picture. We can disagree on several things while still maintaining our balanced love for one another. She can irritate me, and I can trigger her anger, and we know we’re bigger than any of the little misses. We have the BIG CONNECTION figured out. The little misses, the irritations, the things left undone and unsaid, can be repaired in the wake of the huge love we feel towards one another. If you’ve got big love, the little details will work themselves out.

About Those Kids
My fiancé does not have to be best friends with my kids. They don’t have to love her like a second mother. We don’t have that kind of relationship between the four of us. She is Martha, they are my kids. We all have a relationship together. Sometimes they are the priority, sometimes it’s Martha, sometimes it’s myself. But it never gets confusing because we are not jockeying for position. We all love each other. She loves my kids because she loves me. They love her because they have seen the transformative effect she’s had on my life. We are all happy. And we are all individuals in a relationship with each other. There’s give and take on the weekends they are with me. There is more flexibility and freedom on the weekends when they are with their mom. What we do have is time. And the time I get to spend with all four of them is of peak value. And when I most feel like a family is when we are driving somewhere in the car together and the kids are rolling their eyes at our overt displays of affection for one another. “I’ll get to be so lucky,” I say, to see you guys in love in the future. They get it. We all get it. We are a family of individuals who come together on alternate weekends to be a family. There’s plenty of flexibility in that and plenty of togetherness.

Looking to the Future
The kids will be moving past high school and moving out sooner than I imagine. I am going to eat up all the together time with them that I can. While I have the opportunity to be with them, I will show up 110% for them. And as they reach escape velocity I can focus even more on my primary relationship. We’ve started talking about retirement, dreams, next big plans. And we’re 100% in sync. Life after kids will not be a lot different that life today, but we’ll have even more time to explore things together. And when possible we’ll invite my kids along for the ride.

As you look to build the long term relationship with a spouse, remember your kids are important, and in some ways they are priority number one, but that will change over time. As you become less of a priority in their lives, as they move on to college and their own lives, you will be left with what’s next. Make sure you are building the NEXT that you want. As I was looking at dating a woman, I was ever conscious of the next I wanted to build together. Today I have that and it gives me great hope and joy for the future.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

Back to Dating After Divorce

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Dating a Single Dad – Version 2.0 Updated

Let’s reexamine my requests for what I wanted in my *next* relationship and see if anything has changed.

My Initial rules for dating a single dad.

  1. Let’s not rush into things.
  2. I’m Looking for 100% Pure Connection
  3. I’m Into Moms
  4. Brutally Honest
  5. The Spark Is Only a Start
  6. Fearless Commitment To Monogamy
  7. Feeling the Feelings
  8. Dating younger women.
  9. Straight to sex.
  10. Who pays, who is the predator, and who’s demanding sex?

Rushing, Connection, and Honest

When my real lover, and now fiancé showed up there was very little I could do to slow things down. The honest connection was so pure, so revolutionary, that my “slow” rule was tossed after the first kiss. I did wait a few dates to go in for the kiss, and then even after she suggested wanting to kiss me. Why rush the moment? You’re only going to be in the first moments of your relationship once. Chill. Enjoy the thrill, the chase, the capture. For me, kissing is a big deal. I don’t kiss on the first date unless there’s something remarkable happening. And even then, it might be more of a hug and a peck and not a full-blown French kiss. When the honesty and openness of the connection appeared in my sweetie’s eyes I had no hesitation at all. The release into the LOVE was immediate. It was as if every circuit in my body had suddenly gone from resistance to acceleration.

Go slow initially. Make sure your emotional and mental state is solid. Then, when the right partner arrives, be prepared to have all your rules, lists, and ideas torn to shreds with the passion of your connection. If it’s not a map burning connection, you should even give that time, as connections do grow hotter over time.

Moms and Younger Women

Initially I figured only another single parent would understand the occasional “dad’s checked out, attending to his kids” moment. But that’s not how it happened. My lover has never had kids. And while I don’t think she will ever love my kids the same way she loves me, she is 100% supportive of my relationships with them. Their mom, not so much, but that’s water under the bridge.  So scratch that requirement off my list. And the “younger” was more in response to a comment, but I’m not all that concerned with age. And yes, my fiancé is a year older, so nix that idea.

The Spark and Monogamy

You gotta have the spark. That’s the key ingredient for pulling my heart-strings. Yes, I’m sure chemistry of some sort develops over time, but I’m pretty convinced that the YES-VIBE is what kept me connected to my previous wife even when things were going South. I was so “into” her, that she could do a lot of crappy stuff before I got mad. If the spark is not there, I think monogamy might be a bit more of a challenge. I’ve never cheated, but I have only committed to relationships that had the spark first.

Feelings

You’ve got to be able to express them to each other. She’s GOT to be able to get mad at me. So that we can work through what’s upsetting her. I’ve got to be able to show her my vulnerability so that she can respond and reply in ways that support me. In my current relationship, we were lucky to have so many YES connections right off the bat. THEN when my depression kicked in, full-bore, as bad as anything I experienced while married to the mother of my kids, even then, she was prepared to stick it out with me. And she did. And now the connection runs even deeper.

Sex and Dating

Sex is amazing. Sex is meant to be amazing. Don’t give your amazing to too many people, it can result in a lot of confusion for both you and your partners. I tried casual sex once. It was fun for two times, and then it sucked. When I commit to having sex with someone, I’m opening myself up to a relationship with that person. Sex without that connection is more like masturbation. It’s fine, and yes, it’s better with someone else, but not all that much better.

When I have sex with a woman I am saying, “You’re the one. I don’t want to, and won’t, have sex with anyone else.” It’s that commitment on my part that keeps it real and that keeps me from getting into uncomfortable situations when the dating shows up some real issues. Keep it in your pants until you KNOW this is a long-term thing. Short-term sex is unappealing to me. That’s what porn is for. With a real, live, human being I want to be 100% present and honest and I can’t do that if I’m only thinking about sex.

Dating and Money

I once dated a woman who made 3X the money I made. We still split the checks. Here are my simple ideas about “who pays.”

  • Both people should offer to pay. (“We can split this.)
  • It’s okay for the man to pay as part of the dating plan as long as that’s okay with the woman. If the woman wants to pay, to make it equal, then that’s what you should do.
  • If money is an issue and your date wants to go to a really expensive place or drink expensive wines (as in the case of 3X woman) then you have to say something. Getting overdrawn on your debt card is not pretty and not fun. Most of all it’s not honest or necessary. If she’s got a lot more money, let her know she’s going to have to float some of her expenses.

Summary

Go for 100%. Don’t settle for an almost relationship because you are lonely. That’s the time you need to take more interest in yourself and what you are doing to become a more attractive and delicious partner. If it’s not working out, don’t go further, or go on more dates to “make sure.” If you’re not feeling the spark, it’s probably not going to arrive on date #2 or #3.

If you are feeling the lack of any chemistry, it’s okay to bail on the date. Don’t extend the conversation to a second cup of coffee or glass of wine if these are merely pleasant. The other person might be picking your vibe, but if you are NOT, then don’t prolong the miss. At the end of a “meh” date don’t pretend you’re going to call each other. Just say, “Thanks, I enjoyed it.”

You deserve a kick ass relationship. You deserve honesty, monogamy, and awesome sex. Make sure you’re not settling for Mr./Mrs. Meh. In the long run, only the magic will preserve your relationship, so you’d better get on with the task of finding THE ONE.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

The Dating a Divorced Dad series continues:

New Dating Strategies:

image: kiss, creative commons usage

The 5 Stages of Dating Again After Divorce: Letting Go of Expectations

WHOLE-couple

I’m not all that good at dating yet. I mean, I don’t really know how to BE. I try to be “myself” of course, but I’m too involved, to hyper, to talkative. I don’t listen as well as I should. But the part of the problem, that I’m just beginning to understand, is my habit of projecting any “potential” relationship off into some imaginary future. What I mean is, I sometimes have a problem staying present.

If we both felt a “yes” we should both want to feel it again, soon.

The fact that most of my adult life, post college, was spent married is a good place to start. I’m new at this “dating” concept. When I was last on the dating scene things were a lot different. I was more interested in sex than in “relationship compatibility.” I need to reframe my expectations and assumptions about dating vs. relationships. I’m going to attempt an exploration of what is going on in my head, to help illuminate (mostly for me) my issues and see if I can get some traction underneath the “issues” to them to let them go.

1. Before We Ever Meet

The process of meeting potential dates these days is “easier” but also more distracting. We’ve gotten online dating down to a “hot or not” process. And I’ve met plenty of “hots” that were not. And more women who were quite attractive who had nothing in common with me. The question, “Why am I here,” was a constant refrain in my early dating experiences, as I jumped at the opportunity with anyone who looked interesting. Notice the emphasis on look.

Looks are deceiving. Of course they are, because the outward appearance has very little to do with what is going on inside the person’s head. And with most of these “pretty dates” I never got to any expectations or projections because I was disinterested within the first 5 minutes. Sad when the extent of a person’s conversation is work, working out, and television. “But their profile seemed so lively,” I thought. Upon returning home I’d go into forensic mode and scour their online profile to see what I missed.

What I’ve decided about online dating recently is that it’s a distraction. Profiles are full of great things just like your fortune cookie after a nice Chinese dinner. You can see things in the words and pictures that can fire up your imagination, but it’s 100% made up. Until you meet there is no such thing as chemistry, or connection. All the texting and flirting via email and even phone calls are moot the second you meet in person. If I’m going to schedule a date these days the woman has to absolutely amaze me before we meet. THEN we might have some touch points in the real world. “Meh” dating is done. (See: Why Online Dating is a Distraction and Not a Solution)

2. On the First Date

I believe the chemistry is either a “yes” or a “no” with little room for middle ground, or “maybe.” In the first minute, perhaps much quicker, I think two people sum each other up in their animal brains and either get a tail wag or no tail wag. It’s a lot less about what type of person we think we’re attracted to and a more about instinct and dog-like reactions. If both people start out with a tail wag, then you have the potential to begin exploring what’s next. When the hit is strong neither of you will ever have to ask, “What’s next?”

We need to see each other under the duress of regular life to understand how we deal with things.

For me, it’s what happens after the tail wag that is illuminating. Even in those first minutes together my mind is jumping all over the map of the future. I don’t think we can help it, actually. I’ve begun watching my brain on “yes.” My fantasy maps all kinds of odd things from “do they play tennis” and how would they look in a tennis skirt, to are they creative, do they have other passions that can balance our time together? I am fascinated by the things my animal brain locks on to, again in almost dog-like fashion: a dark glint in their eyes, a soft vulnerable spot on the side of their neck, a whiff of their perfume and the intimacy it unlocks.

And I continuously try to pull my attention back to the conversation even as my blood is rushing into dusty areas of my body. And I use little tricks to bring my focus back to the present and what she is saying. I will try to repeat a tiny portion of what she just said as a connector. “Yes, I love the Spanish poets too.” The real trick is stopping the projections into the future. I have an internal mantra going, STOP, LOOK, LISTEN, REPEAT. It’s not that mechanical, but I’m aware of how whacked out a YES date can get me. I do my best, but if my animal brain is turned on, I’m not as clear as I’d like to be. If we’re both in a semi-intoxicated space, we’ve really got to move carefully and slowly.

3. Following Up

As we are wrapping up our date I start to notice how she is responding. Is there a smile on her face or are the closing moments tinged with anxiety? I’d like to know immediately if there’s a mutual tail-wag, but it’s not necessary to ask. The signal is in the “what’s next” question. It’s best if you don’t have to ask it. When there is a pull to connect both people will be making space for the next date to happen. In that last goodbye do you feel a warm fuzzies or is there a lack of resonance? That’s probably your best indication of where things are, unspoken feelings. The words often mislead. Too often you say, “Okay, so see ya later.” And what that means is, “Probably not.”

If you get a “see ya later” rather than a “What about Wednesday?” you’re probably not a match. I think the YES happens fairly soon, and if you are interested in a relationship and motivated by the chemistry, you’re really not going to just let the person scoot away without securing a “next” time. And if it’s you, don’t wait, ask. (I do understand that I am extraverted, so I’m always the one seeking the answer, and a more subtle and introverted date might need some time to sort through all that’s happened, so I don’t push.) If we both felt a “yes” we should both want to feel it again, soon.

4. Getting Into the Groove

Beyond the “dates” comes the relating. Relationships are what happen between the dates. Dating is like a performance, a show, a wooing process. But once you’re wooed and have seen enough of the other person that you’d like to give it a go, you now have an opportunity to just be together. The mundane life tasks are what can illuminate a person’s approach to relationship and the bonds and boundaries you can expect as things move forward. For example, if you have to eat dinner every night, and you’d like to also find time to be with this new relationship, you might start deciding how to share meals that aren’t dates. In my first relationship we got this part of the togetherness down. “I’m heading home in about 10 minutes, would you like to come over, I can grab some salad stuff at the store.” What a warm feeling that gives. Just being considered as part of the plan.

As you move into relationship you have to find ways to include the other person in your normal activities. Sure you want to spend weekends (as available) together, but what about all those other evenings and nights? (Single parents have another priority that can be seen as a gift or a complication.) It is in this ongoing negotiation and resetting of expectations that we start to uncover some of the fundamentals of our relationship compatibility. Does the other person freak out when something comes up and you can’t get together? Can you have a low-key evening together? What if the other person is just too tired to get together? Is that acceptable? Disappointments are part of life, how does this new partner deal with disappointments? Do they roll out of bed on the positive side of life or is there a sigh and struggle in the morning to get on with it?

We need to be co-captains in the navigation of dark and stormy waters as well as the high-noon-high-wind happy times.

Here’s where my expectations must be tossed out and I try to be with the other person as I would like to live. We need to see each other under the duress of regular life to understand how we deal with things. If little things throw the other person’s world into a tailspin that might be a good sign that you’re either going to be a caretaker or you need to move on.

In my experience, so far, I had a HIT on the relationship front and a miss on the sexual chemistry. And in my second relationship I had a HIT in desire and sexual enthusiasm but a miss in navigating life without drama and crisis. I don’t need any more crisis and drama in my life. That’s the antithesis of what I’m looking for.

In going slow, you can get s sense of how the other person navigates their life. And if we want to jump onboard with them, we need to see how things go when storms and seasons change plans and break expectations. A healthy relationship finds easy repair. The bond between you begins to build strength and not liability. What you’re looking for is a co-pilot, not a domineering captain. We need to be co-captains in the navigation of dark and stormy waters as well as the high-noon-high-wind happy times.

5. Back to the Drawing Board

I’m just learning these things about myself. I’ve learned there were a lot of things I overlooked in my two previous marriages. Now, as a single dad, I’ve got a pretty full schedule, and a built-in priority around my two kids, but I also have a space for nights and weekends with someone special. The latest re-discovery is that time alone, even when lonely, is better than time with someone who causes us to feel alone.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

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image: random date at maudie’s, john mcelhenney, cc 2014

What a Single Dad *Still* Wants in a Relationship (9-month update)

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Don’t kill the heat by worrying about the fire damage.

UPDATE / 9 Months Later (7-30-14) – What A Single Dad Wants in the *Next* Relationship

One of the things I’ve learned thus far, never assume you have it figured out. This list has come back to bite me on more than one occasion. Sure, I’m okay with being a single-parent blogger and getting into the dating/relationship space, just a bit. And I’m okay with telling you I write about stuff, and might even write about our relationship should we hit it off.

Well, let me tell you how my last three months has gone. We hit it off, sort of. We hit some parts of relating in spades, and other parts, not so much. Here are a few more points that I’ve learned in the course of dating another single parent for three+ months.

1. Long-Term Relationship Or Bust
Saying that I’m only interested in a long-term relationship, or marriage, is not very accurate. This was the first issue that freaked this woman out. She politely said, “We’ve got a lot of heat, but I don’t think I want the same things you want. I’m not looking to get married again. Ever. So if that’s your goal, you’d best keep looking.”

But…

There was no argument. However, we were both sad when our chemistry and joy was absent again from our lives. And she texted later, “do you want to hit.” We were tennis buddies. And what unfolded from that “date” was an agreement that we would stay in the present and not get too far ahead of ourselves. Starting a relationship and having a Relationship are two different things. Couldn’t we just enjoy our present moment together? Sure, let’s try that.

I have had to recant my declaration of long-term quite a number of times. Though I know, what I want is a long-term relationship. Not a question for me. The question is, what does that look like? That’s the sticky wicket.

2. If You Stay Present You Won’t Get Scared
It’s the future that gives my friend the freak out posture. The best case scenario, even in her mind, is a bit diffuse. And it is also pretty abstract when I start thinking about next year, or two years from now. I’d like to still be involved with this highly intelligent woman, who I completely dig on all burners, but who knows… Right. Who knows? Certainly we don’t know. We’re just starting out. But that’s our pattern and our fear that comes into our minds when we start mapping out too far in advance. And, in all fairness, it’s not necessary. NOW is it. Stop with the “what if.”

3. Making It Up As We Go Along
So we don’t really have a word for what we “are.” I don’t like dating, so I’m not dating her. She doesn’t like the idea of a long-term relationship so we’re not doing that either. Do we need an easy handle on what we are forming between us? No. Is it more convenient if you are able to say, my boyfriend and my girlfriend? Maybe a tad better than my lover, or my life-mate. But please, we’re splitting hairs. Do we like to be together? Yes. Are there things we like to do together besides fool around in bed? Yes. Then do that. Do all of that.

4. Hold On Loosely
So she doesn’t want to read my love poems. She doesn’t need to read my blog. I don’t have to get my yayas by getting her to tell me I’m a good writer or a swell poet. I don’t need that reassurance. I’m okay with who and how I am. And she also doesn’t want to hear if I’m still looking for the next relationship, though she wants to be clear that she’s not it. Well, sometimes she’s okay with that. (Yes, she’ll be reading this at some point, and I’ll get her side of the story) We’re figuring that out too. What we are, what we will be. Who knows? If I think I know, I’m delusional. I have no idea. What I do know is we have an honest relationship. She’s able to say when she’s pissed off at something I’ve done or written. And I’m able to let her breakup demands roll off my shell until we’re able to meet in-person and talk things out. That’s as far as we’ve gotten. And that’s fine.

5. Texting Is Dangerous and Lovely
The minute there is a misunderstanding on text, stop trying to figure it out, or argue it out on text. STOP. Get face-to-face and talk. You cannot read the person’s attitude. You have no idea what is really going on when the text comes across saying, “I’ve gotten some very disturbing news.” Um, what? Just STOP. Trying to answer complaints, answer requests for reassurance, basically answering anything that has an edge to it, is very risky to continue via text. Our average is 1-out-of-10. Just forget about it and ask for a meeting. “Sweetie, let’s get together and talk about this.” That’s all you need to know. It’s never gone afoul when we are able to actually talk. Yet. (grin)

6. The First Three Months Are Not Real
We’re still pushing boundaries, still finding rhythms, still managing two single-parenting schedules to try to find time to be together. The good thing is we ARE trying to get together. We’re both trying. We both make efforts. And that’s enough for now. Just as the long-distance relationship has a tendency to create a honeymoon extension, the single-parent dating cycle is quite gated by our ability to find the time to be together. That’s probably a good thing.

7. All About the Kids
In the end, our kids come first. We’ve got to make them the priority. They are dependant on us and our availability. Our adult relationships are not. Your “dating” needs to be able to weather some disappointments. When the kid is sick and the date doesn’t’ go off as planned, it’s got to be okay. And that goes back to the idea of single parents dating other single parents. We get it. If at some point in the future we decide to blend our family lives more, we’ll have more insight into the inner workings of the other parent-child relationship. Until then, we should butt out off all things kid-related. Other than giving their kid priority access to them, obviously.

8. I Have No Idea
Where are we going? Why should I really be concerned about not knowing what the future holds in store for me and my special friend? There are over a hundred things that could upset the apple cart in the next three months. Why spend energy and time trying to figure the future out? Don’t. Go read some Power of Now. Go for a walk alone when your new partner can’t make it. In the end, go on about your lives as if…

As if the other person is just a “nice to have” and not a “must have.” Going that far, and putting too many expectations on the future of your relationship is enough pressure to blow it up right there. Don’t kill the heat by worrying about the fire damage.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

The Dating a Divorced Dad series continues:

related posts:

image: goldfrappe, publicity photo, creative commons usage

What A Single Dad Wants In the *Next* Relationship

WHOLE-tennisgirl

[Feb 2016 Update: Dating a Divorced Dad – Version 2.0 Updated]

Let’s Hook Up, Wait. I Mean, Let’s Go Out On A Date…

We’ve both got some history under our belt, kids, and some requirements for what’s OK and what we simply won’t ever do again. (Red Flags, we like to call them.) As we navigate “dating” again, we quickly realise the rules are very different. Our experience gives us some distinct advantages in terms of recognising what we don’t want. And perhaps our unfinished wounding might keep us from starting the dating process again.

Don’t miss the exciting conclusion of this single dad’s journey:
A Single Dad In Love, Again

Rules for dating a single dad.

(I’ve got two kids and a full-time job, but I’d still like to find time to be with someone.)

1. Let’s not rush into things.

I will admit that getting back out there, for me, as a man, initially was about sex. Today, I think sex can get in the way of learning if you like the person. And if you’re going to do more than lay around in bed with this person, you’d might want to go easy on the seduction moves at first. Get to know if you like talking to, as well as looking at your potential partner. I don’t have any hard rules on this. But if you slow the drive to the bedroom you might avoid getting mixed up in something purely physical. It can blur your vision when trying to figure out if you want to hang with this person for the long run.

2. I’m Looking for 100% Pure Connection

Half my life is behind me. I have two beautiful kids. And I’m happy with myself, just as I am. (I’d like to keep getting fitter, but my joy is genuine.) In several previous online dates I found myself sitting across the table from very attractive, usually younger, women who had nearly nothing in common with me. I could see myself eyeing their bodies and trying to imagine the sex, but I stopped myself, pretty quickly, even with the fantasizing. It takes a lot to get to a second date with me. Today, I’m even getting pretty stingy with first dates. I don’t want a “date.” I don’t want nice. I want my next relationship to start out with the potential going the long distance. I’ve never been a casual dater.

3. I’m Into Moms

If my date doesn’t have kids, they probably don’t have much in common with me. At our age kids are either a choice you made or one you didn’t. And nothing against the non-parents in the group, but I’m so wrapped up with my kids, that if you don’t have that same passion and joy, we’re probably going to have to look for things to have engaging conversations about. If you have kids, we’ve got an immediate starting point for everything. Trying to talk about your kids with a woman who’s not a mom… Well, they just don’t get it.

4. Let’s Be Clear About This

Games of any kind are an immediate time out. Passive aggressive might have worked in some other decade, but as adults, we should’ve gotten that silliness out-of-the-way. One thing I will tell a first date, “You can ask me anything. In fact, I prefer the hard questions. I’m trying to learn the answers myself. I will always try to answer honestly.” And the one relationship I’ve had since my divorce, went right for it. And while we are no longer a relationship we went through the whole process, getting to know each other >> dating >> breaking up, without any drama. None. We’re still friends. That’s how it needs to be. Let’s do without all the crazy stuff.

5. Brutally Honest

If it’s not a fit on the first date I’m going to try to let you know as gently and as quickly that it wasn’t a fit. I think that initial attraction is something that we can’t really control or completely predict, but I also don’t think we can do without it. I have created a dog metaphor to help me explain what I’m talking about. And I usually share this concept on the first date. (Hmm. Maybe this explains a lack of second dates.) Here it is. Two dogs meet up in a park. Either 1. both tails are wagging; 2. one tail is wagging; or 3. neither tail is wagging. It’s as simple as that. I was born with a Boston Terrier’s body. I can be several different sizes of Boston Terrier, but if you’re into whippets and poodles, we’re probably never going to be a match. And there’s no accounting for taste. I think some of this is hardwired.

6. The Spark Is Only a Start

If the chemistry (tail wag) is ON, there are still a ton of steps along the path before we’re in a relationship. We need to have intellectual compatibility. (If I’m a reader and you’re a reality tv junkie, we might not go the distance.) We need to synchronize our schedules over time. (Kids, work, and all the other stuff we’re just remembering we love to do) have to be the priority. It may take several months to get in our first four dates, but… Like I said earlier, we shouldn’t be in a hurry. And then we’ve got all the negotiations about how and when we want to see each other. (Let’s not start with jumping in bed or looking at vacation calendars for a while. Okay?)

7. Fearless Commitment To Monogamy

At first divorce may seem like we’ve gotten the key to the kingdom of sex again. It’s not that easy. If that IS what you are looking for, go for it. I won’t be in your queue. If we do decide to sleep together I want to know that we’ve just become mutually exclusive. That might be a stretch if you’re playing the field, or not sure about what you want. It’s not difficult for me. By the time we get past 1st-base I’m letting you know that I am into you. And if you want to go further, we’ve got to establish some mutual objectives. (If we’re about to sleep together I can assure you we’ve had this conversation.)

8. Feeling the Feelings

Men are often accused of not feeling their feelings. And, in fact, feelings can be scary for both men and women.  But as we begin navigating our time together we’ve got to be able to talk about whatever we’re feeling. The beauty of that is feelings include the ability to fully love. So when opportunity arrises I look forward to being 100% present with my feelings. There might have been a disconnect on those terms in my previous marriage. But I’m a learning individual. I know that I feel deeply and I enjoy being expressive of those feelings. If feelings scare you, that might be something for you to look at. Feelings are the key to compatibility, in my opinion.

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I look forward to having another opportunity to learn about myself “in relationship” at some point. I’m happy and patient right where I am. But I believe by having my priorities clear and articulated I can do a better job of finding and sorting through the process of finding that NEXT RELATIONSHIP. I wait enthusiastically.

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UPDATE: Responding to a comment on another site about this post, I’d like to share a few more observations.

Thank you for your comment. Here are several points where I think we need more discussion.

1. Dating younger women. Yes, I selected these potential dates and knew their age, and also that they had not ever had children. My post shows some of my learnings as a result of these mistakes. It’s pretty telling for both men and women when their profile says they are 50 and they want to date partners who are 30 – 40. I’m not that guy. I’m pretty clear about wanting a woman who’s experienced a lot of the world. And in that model they’ve probably had kids, and are generally within 5 years of my age, on either side. My one girlfriend since divorce was a couple years older.

2. Straight to sex. Hmmm. This is one I try to cover in the post in several different ways. If this is the case, we are not a fit. (I can only speak from my perspective, not your’s, or her’s.)

3. Who pays, who is the predator, and who’s demanding sex? I agree with many of the things you say are wrong between the relationships between men and women. I am not an apologist for the cultural norms that have stacked the deck against those of us who are trying to elevate the discussion about it all. And I think our culture’s focus on youth is way off base. But I’m not sure porn is any more the driver then the Miley-Cyrus-type circus of celebrity and mainstream media. Our culture feeds on extremism. And it has an effect on all of us, adults and teenagers.

The discussion I am hoping to facilitate is the antithesis of these issues. That’s why I am trying to come out with my individual perspective that seems to be different from the experiences you’ve had. We learn. We evolve. Or we don’t. I am hoping to get better, clearer, and more honest with each attempt at being in a relationship.

I really do appreciate you taking a chance and voicing your opinion. We (men and women) need to have more frank discussions about desire, sexual preferences, and how we want to relate to each other in and out of the bedroom.

AND ANOTHER UPDATE:

I didn’t “find myself on a date” I realised during the date, with an attractive woman who was within my desired age range who happened to be younger than me and not a mom. It was my realization that we had nothing in common (yes we seemed to have a lot of spark on txt messages and via email) once we were sitting at a table together. It was a moment of finding myself, not discovering that she was younger. I discovered that I wasn’t interested in this attractive, younger, woman for a variety of reasons I tried to articulate. I understand the knee-jerk reaction. There are just as many women in online dating who do the exact same thing. Again, that is not what I am looking for. And sex is way off in the future, for ME. What she might be thinking, her motivations for sitting at the table are for us to discover, hopefully, via clear and honest communication.

Always Love,

John McElhenney
@wholeparent

The Dating a Divorced Dad series continues:

New Dating Strategy in 2015:

image: tennis girl smelled so nice, austin, texas, july 2013 – john mcelhenney