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

WHOLE-goldgirl

 

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