dating sex and the single parent

Dating, Sex & Changing LTR Goals: Three New Rules of Dating

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I learned a couple of things yesterday that turned a light on in my brain. In the spirit of self-examination, and self-deprecating humor, I thought I would share and illuminate them for you as well.

Dating Rule #1

Dating is not marriage. In fact, dating (which I admittedly don’t know much about) can be shut down by getting too serious or too future-plans oriented. As my schedule and future is quite flexible, I was surprised how quickly my “relationship” concepts changed yesterday when confronted with a challenging dilemma. On one hand, I had met and “dated” an amazing woman. On the other she was telling me how our closeness and chemistry were freaking her out. And my reaction to the fourth letter in a series of Dear John letters was to accept her appraisal that we weren’t really all that well matched.

Perhaps I just wasn’t listening, I thought. She was trying to be clear with me, we were not really a match, and she was in no way ready to be a couple. Wait, what? “Okay,” I responded. “I am disappointed, but I will accept your judgment.” And that night I went to sleep saddened that I had missed or lost an opportunity for growth, and maybe some more great sex.

I’m not sure what I dreamed about, but I know my inspiration was a lot lower when I woke up the next morning. And even after two cups of coffee, the bright enthusiasm was not returning. How close do we have to get in the early stages of a “relationship?” (Oh, the R word.) What if we just kept it casual, and “dated?” But wait, hadn’t I just stated that the “long-term potential was critical to my plans” in a previous post? Hadn’t I just sent her the Dating a Single Dad post?

I was imagining giving her a quick exit. Another one of my strategies when given a less than enthusiastic response, has been to withdraw all energy towards that person and use that momentum towards some creative project or goal. So I was initially quiet when she texted me a nice “You’re great, it’s not you” message. I took the confused feelings and dug into my writing for the entire day.

But something stuck in my heart. Something didn’t feel right. I was not the cold type to just freeze someone out when the spark and energy had been SO right. By 10 pm my resolve or strategy was cast aside and I texted back.

“You did not do anything wrong. I’m not mad, I’m disappointed. You too were great. – Namaste.”

And then I headed back off to dreamland, at least feeling like I had proposed the repair that might mean friendship, even if my heart would be at further risk of attachment.

And again some transformative sleep brought another level of acceptance and peace so that when she suggested playing tennis the following day, I was excited and open to the idea. I measured my response and checked in with my heart. I would keep it within renewed boundaries. If I didn’t venture my heart perhaps I wouldn’t be so dependant on her response.

Dating Rule #2

90% of our relationship hangups and aspirations are in our heads, and perhaps it’s okay for most of them to stay there. See, as I was professing “going slow” and “openness to whatever” I was ramping up my activity in a way that said, “Let’s do this! Let’s be together. Let me be a stepdad to your son, I’m a great role model.”


Even that was too far for me. My imagination, my internal romantic clock had gotten off and I was shooting way ahead of our relationship and knowledge of each other.

Dating Rule #3

Stay in the present. When you get ahead of yourselves you tend to idolize or catastrophize in your visions of the future. And the future is NOT where it’s at. It’s about being open and honest with the time you spend together and learning what works and what doesn’t.

In my past, jumping too far into the WE was disastrous. And this moment was no different. But now, we had no driving desire to make plans, only driving DESIRE. It’s important not to confuse desire with love or marriage. Desire is critical to the success of a relationship, but the capital “R” comes a lot later.

I don’t have much experience in the D (dating) post-divorce. The game has changed and my intentions and priorities have changed. I am full of contradictions. That’s okay. I may profess that I’m only interested in a Relationship while also saying I’m all about going slow. While the two things aren’t mutually exclusive they do present internal conflicts rather frequently.

But I am also a learning individual. I can adapt and make changes in my plans and trajectories. So while I was thinking I had lost orbit and was shooting away for some new destination. I may have been only slowing to the gravitational pull of this amazing lady, and learning what her fears and passions were as well. By trying to adhere to some map I had of what I wanted, I risked another journey into the dark aloneness of outer space.

Today we played tennis. That’s enough.

New Dating Mantra

Reset, review, and repeat what works. Stay present.


John McElhenney
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This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Divorced Kat

    It’s hard to shift gears from being a spouse to getting to know someone. I might have scared off the last person I dated because I was getting comfortable fast. Not that I wanted to rush things with him — I just used to being so chill with a guy thanks to having been married.

    1. jmacofearth

      Agreed. I loved being married. I’m not all that fired up about dating. Unless that looks a bit more like FWB. Maybe that’s the new adult partnership. Friends with Benefits. Thanks for your comment, Kat.

  2. Darren

    Thank you for your blog John. Regarding this post, I went through something very similar and I’m still in the process of resetting myself and learning to stay in the present. Thank you for speaking your truth…it’s a mirror for all of us.

    1. jmacofearth

      Thanks Darren. I do run ahead often. I’m happy to have the opportunity to learn how to go slow again.

  3. Michael D.


    That comment by Darren about being the “mirror for us all” is very telling. Several of your posts have been so spot-on, that I catch myself nodding vigorously at the computer screen and saying out loud, “EXACTLY!!”.

    I had to disagree with a couple of your points, but should be expected. You are you, and I am me. To me, your work here is not so much of a perfect mirror, as a reflection in a calm puddle. A mirror is solid, and only the light causes a change in the view that comes back to us. I feel your commentary is more like a reflection in water, a la a puddle, where we can see clearly at times, but can also notice a bit of spherical aberation that can be attributed the bottom being bit muddy or an occasional ripple, caused by the wind. Nevertheless, the insights are wonderful and very telling for me, and many. The chord you have struck is obviously very similar in a great many folks who read. Thus, I am ready to share your blog with others.

    Of course, I do this at the risk of it becoming immednsely popular. Like so many things that I have enjoyed in my life, I found them when they were new and only relatively recently ‘discovered’, as in “Calvin and Hobbes”, or MSR equipment, when they both were new. Then, with the success that good work brings, it ushered in the ineveitable mimicry and hangers-on, that dilute a great body of work.

    Since you only have so much life to live, and can only date so many women at once, it can’t go on forever. Alas.

    I might suggest, here, a different tack, once this has run its course. Perhaps your children could offer their reflections, sandwiched with your commentary? Just a thought. Your writing reaches through, on this frequency. Maybe you will be able to find a harmonic, once you have found “The One”, as I hope that you and I both do.

    As harmonics do, it is able to channel the original, to a slightly different frequency, but still penetrates.

    Thanks for the focused diversion the thing that we are trying to forget, by remembering. The paradoxes are amusing, even if my oxymorons don’t make the point clearly.

    Thanks! Keep smiling and generating the good vibe. It is truly appreciated.

    1. jmacofearth

      Wow, McDude, thanks for this amazing comment. And sure, bring on the popularity. I’m ready to be on Oprah and make a career change. I love your idea about kid feedback, but that will be a bit later in their lives, and mine. Still I do think their perspectives will be helpful, if they choose to participate.

      Again, I really appreciate you taking the time to craft such a response. I hope you find other harmonics and we both go on to bigger and brighter relationships.


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