Tag Archives: Single Parent

On a Personal Note

handwriting a letter

(Image/Corcianonline)

Hey.

I felt like writing to you, instead of another new version of the things I almost always write.

I’m sitting here debating spending $50 on a Wu-Tang Clan ugly Christmas sweater to wear to my friends’ annual (and irreverent) ugly Christmas sweater-themed party. $50 does cross my I-don’t-like-wasting-it financial threshold, and I’m currently thinking about all of the little kids who won’t receive presents or possibly even food on Christmas Day, and thinking that if I drop $50 on a Wu sweater, Jesus will send me a very disappointed text message with a stern emoji face, and my mother will zap me with lightning bolts from the sky.

I might have that backward.

Dolla dolla bills, y’all.

Okay. Moving on.

That Awkward Moment – A Divorce Story

There are probably some cool customers out there who handle every post-divorce life situation with enviable skill and grace.

I’m not one of them.

On the heels of divorce, you experience a bunch of things for the first time, with varying degrees of unpleasantness and/or emotional impact.

It’s awkward when you and your recently separated ex are both godparents to a baby girl at her baptism.

It’s awkward when you hang out with your friends without her.

It’s awkward when you see your friends hanging out with her without you on Facebook before you block the feed for self-preservation reasons.

It’s awkward when you go to parent-teacher conferences together for the first time.

It’s awkward when your little boy cries for his mother when he’s with you, or cries for you when he’s with mom.

It’s awkward when you travel alone for the first time.

It’s awkward when you go on a date for the first time.

It’s awkward when you take a date to a wedding, and your ex-wife’s aunt and uncle you were shocked to bump into are ironically seated at the table next to you.

It’s awkward when you first visit your extended family for holidays as a single adult.

It’s awkward when your ex-wife comes over that first Christmas Eve so you can both watch your son open gifts from his parents.

It’s awkward when you’re driving around town with your mom in the passenger seat who is visiting from out of town, and you randomly see your ex-wife’s vehicle, but a guy you know is driving it at 10 a.m. on a weekend morning.

It’s awkward when your son goes on vacation with his mom’s family and you discover that guy is going too.

It’s awkward when you pick up or drop off your son at his mom’s house and that guy’s shoes are by the door even though he’s not there.

It’s awkward when you pick up or drop off your son at his mom’s house and that guy is there, clearly totally at-home.

It’s awkward when you hear him call her “Babe.”

And it’s a little-bit awkward when the three of you start attending your child’s extracurriculars together.

I arrived at the gym about 10 minutes before tip-off for my son’s weekend basketball game. His mom and her boyfriend were already sitting there. As the people were positioned around them, sitting next to him and not my ex-wife was the sensible move.

Aside from that regretful and/or jealous tinge we bury way down deep, I don’t have any problem sitting next to him. He’s an excellent guy and I have no reason to treat him with anything other than kindness and respect. He’s good to my son and his mom. He’s smart. Polite. Treats people around him well.

Those things matter.

At some point during the game, I caught out of my peripheral his hand reaching over to caress hers. I was surprised to discover it made me want to set myself on fire.

After the game, a bunch of parents were milling around the hall outside the locker rooms waiting for the kids to come out.

That’s when a dad whose son played for the opposing team randomly approached my ex-wife’s boyfriend because they’d gone to high school together.

I wasn’t at all surprised to discover wanting to set myself on fire when everyone was meeting each other and exchanging small-world pleasantries while I stepped a few extra feet away before being miraculously saved seconds later by a hug from a little boy happy to see his dad. Like magic—the I-don’t-really-matter feeling disappeared.

We bleed and scar and heal. We grow—wiser, tougher.

We become okay. Not fake-okay, but actually okay.

But the sucker punches and awkward moments don’t stop ‘til they stop.

Maybe they will someday.

The Importance of Mattering

I’ve spent the past three and a half years writing about divorce and marriage and relationships. I did it at the beginning because I needed to get the emotional vomit out of my system. And then I kept doing it because it appeared to be helping some people. That was a big deal to me.

You know? A reason for existing?

A husband and father has purpose.

But some divorced asshole is just another cliché statistic most people don’t want to hang out with lest they contract the Divorce AIDS by proxy.

I’m half-joking.

My little boy remains my purpose. But let’s be honest—mom is the better parent by every measurable standard outside of my genetic advantage in the Involved Fathers Help Children Thrive space.

I know this isn’t unique to me. When she walked out that door, so did a bunch of the purpose I had—without being mindful of it—felt throughout our relationship and marriage.

This is something I didn’t learn as a child—but quickly realized once I was the last person living at home: Our lives MUST be lived for things greater than ourselves.

I was a well-documented shitty husband.

But I loved the woman and cared about many things simply because I was married to her. When good things happened, or I experienced successes, or I received good news or learned something interesting, only a small part of the experience felt good on its own. The good part was sharing the good thing with her.

The craving—something damn close to need—for her respect, her validation, her pleasure, her praise, her love was strong.

I think most husbands feel that in profound ways.

Which does a couple of things:

  1. Helps explain why we feel so mind- and heart-fucked when she moves out and starts seeing someone else.
  2. Makes us incredibly dense assholes for all of the times we blatantly disregard our wives’ expressed wishes because—hell, I don’t even know why—because it’s inconvenient in the 20 minutes we’re living in right that moment?

We’re going on four straight years of self-reflection on all this, and I still can’t explain it.

This Has Given Me Purpose

This has given me a thing to do. A thing that provides value for some people. Where people sometimes say: “Matt. You’re doing something special and important and you matter.”

I want to be doing it for all of the selfless reasons that matter to humanity-at-large, but I’d be lying if I didn’t acknowledge the selfish desire I have to feel like something I do matters.

Everyone has varying degrees of psychological and emotional needs. Super-healthy, functional people with great relationships manage them effectively.

The rest of us just fumble about in the dark, unfairly mother-effing all of the innocent inanimate objects when we hurt ourselves tripping over them.

The Two Ways to Help People

I’ve struggled for a long time with the idea that I didn’t know how to help people in struggling marriages or just trying to get through the day while going through a divorce.

I watched my parents split and grew up with divorced parents as my life narrative.

Then, about 30 years later, after a lifetime of assuring everyone around me I’d never get divorced, I got divorced.

You know the expression “eat crow”? Well, it’s not crow. It’s a giant feces pile composed of digested crow. A big pile that’s not all the way gone.

I don’t write about it much anymore for the same reason most people only share positive-storytelling things on social media. I’m ashamed of it. I don’t want you to know. I don’t want my family to know. I don’t want my friends to know.

Divorce is the dominant theme of my entire life story.

It begs the question: “What does this moron know about how to have healthy relationships and good marriages?”

I get it. I’d wonder the same thing.

I want very much to be able to offer specific actions a person could take to fix his or her marriage.

But I don’t know what to do either. And even if I did, the you-love-another-totally-unpredictable-human-being X-factor will always rule out the possibility for relationship instruction manuals.

I mostly just know what NOT to do. Sometimes that helps people.

“There are two ways to help people in this world: 1) give them specific, tangible advice on what they should do to fix their problems, and 2) normalize their suffering to simply remind them that they are not as alone or as hopeless as they think they are,” wrote Mark Manson in his latest post “6 Books That Make You Less of a Horrible Person.”

“Often what we need the most is not more ‘tools’ and ‘tips’ to get through our hardest hours. What we need is someone who simply understands our pain, and is able to clearly and beautifully articulate that it will one day be OK again.”

I am embarrassed about the basketball-game story I shared. It seems immature and petty to feel as I did. I don’t like that I felt those things. And I don’t like you knowing that after all of this time, things can still cut. I can still bleed.

I think everybody bleeds.

And I think the reason to talk about it is so other people who also are bleeding or feeling shitty or feeling afraid or sad or ashamed can feel: “That happens to me too. It’s nice to know I’m not the only one.”

In the end, I think that’s how I might be able to help someone. I think that’s how I might be able to help myself.

I don’t really know anything. I can’t provide great wisdom or teach any valuable life skills.

But I think—sometimes—I can help a person feel like they’re not the only one.

I hope that can be enough.

Looking Toward 2017 and New Things

Holy shit, right?

2017.

That’s insane. I’ll turn 38 in March. Maybe other things will happen also. We’ll find out.

This blog will need to evolve.

I would like to convert it into a multi-contributor platform with other writers willing to bleed on the page a little.

I’d also like to introduce a new feature of some kind, and audio and/or video content seems like the obvious evolution.

Because I’m occasionally shy, I’m going to ease my way into it by doing simple blog-post readings of posts new and old using Facebook’s new Facebook Audio feature. (You can follow the Facebook page here.)

That might be fun.

I’m looking forward to trying it out and seeing what you think.

In the meantime, it’s Christmas again. They come so fast anymore. For the first time in my life, Hanukkah coincides with Christmas. I’m not sure why that’s cool, but it seems so.

No matter what you celebrate, I hope you have a very happy and blessed holiday season, and to my Christmas compadres, a very merry and beautiful and connection-building and relationship-healing Christmas with loved ones.

Thank you so much for giving your valuable time and attention to this place. It means the world.

We have another opportunity to light up the darkness. Please do.

Do good things.

Cheers, you.

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She Feels Like Your Mom and Doesn’t Want to Bang You

It's your mom dude

Ted said it best. (Image/YouTube)

Your mom probably doesn’t want to have sex with you.

I work hard at not judging. Glass houses and whatnot. But that’s a good thing, right? Your mom not wanting to sleep with you? Because, ew?

I don’t know to what extent incestuous relationships’ taboo classification is a byproduct of biological trial-and-error and documented birth defects, or is something culturally driven, and everyone just sort of looked around at one another and agreed: “Yeah, not banging family members sounds like a good rule! I’m on board! Shouldn’t be a problem because I just naturally don’t want to anyway! Because, ew!”

The reason isn’t important.

But for your marriage’s sake, being aware of this general reality is helpful. Because no matter how many times you sarcastically remind your wife that she’s not your mother and you wish she’d stop acting like it, she often feels like your mother.

This is bad for your sex life.

And, gone unchecked, a precursor to the death of your marriage.

What I Meant To Say…

You may be aware of this, and are already super-sick of hearing about it (just like I am), but I wrote a post called She Divorced Me Because I Left Dishes by the Sink which several million people read. Depending on who you ask, I’m either a genius who saves marriages, or a huge pussy whose wife actually left—not because of dishes—but because I’m a huge pussy.

A bunch of guys developed heartburn over a particular passage, and even though close to 100-percent of them will never read this, I’ll selfishly feel better having addressed—and hopefully, clarified—my stance.

From the “dishes” post:

“But I remember my wife often saying how exhausting it was for her to have to tell me what to do all the time. It’s why the sexiest thing a man can say to his partner is ‘I got this,’ and then take care of whatever needs taken care of.

“I always reasoned: ‘If you just tell me what you want me to do, I’ll gladly do it.’

“But she didn’t want to be my mother. She wanted to be my partner, and she wanted me to apply all of my intelligence and learning capabilities to the logistics of managing our lives and household.

“She wanted me to figure out all of the things that need done, and devise my own method of task management.

“I wish I could remember what seemed so unreasonable to me about that at the time.”

A Closer Look

“But I remember my wife often saying how exhausting it was for her to have to tell me what to do all the time. It’s why the sexiest thing a man can say to his partner is ‘I got this,’ and then take care of whatever needs taken care of.”

This does NOT mean, every day of my life, my wife bossed me around. It does not mean I awaited her daily instruction on how I could be her little man-servant and cater to her every whim.

I don’t write sentences expecting millions of strangers to read them and not know what I’m talking about.

Here’s what it does mean, specifically:

My wife was awesome about keeping the house clean and organized. She ALWAYS did—hell, I don’t know—65- or 70-ish percent of every house chore (dating back to a couple of apartments I lived in alone when we first got together).

Like so many adults today, we both grew up watching our moms do most of the housework while our dads went off to work and mostly stuck to “man chores” like mowing grass, shoveling snow, sanding and staining decks, cleaning the gutters, taking out the trash, etc.

Because I wasn’t as self-aware in my youth as I am now, I didn’t identify the imbalanced workload.

But here’s the key part: My wife—usually on Saturday mornings—wanted to clean the house. I would have been happy to wait an extra week or two because I don’t like cleaning in the same way you don’t want to bang your parents. But I wasn’t going to sit around watching SportsCenter while my wife scrubbed toilets, and vacuumed floors, and dusted furniture, and wiped down bathroom vanities. Even I’m not THAT big of an asshole.

And the second key part: We brought our baby boy home from the hospital and if you’re anything like me, it was VERY surreal and every minute afterward for several months, you’re like: “What the hell do I do now?”

But my wife wasn’t like me at all. She talked to lots of other moms and prepared herself for some of the challenges of caring for newborns. She read the baby books. The ones Seth Rogan didn’t want to read in Knocked Up. The ones I didn’t read, either.

“I always reasoned: ‘If you just tell me what you want me to do, I’ll gladly do it.’”

I wasn’t asking my wife to boss me around.

I was asking my wife to HELP ME help her. Read that sentence again, guys. I wanted to help my wife. I did. But instead of actually being helpful, I put the burden of responsibility on her to manage her life, our baby’s life, AND my life. It was the most stressful time physically, psychologically, and emotionally my wife had ever been through. The health and wellbeing of her and my little son rested entirely on her being the best mother possible. And instead of putting in the work to support those efforts the best I could, I totally abandoned her to do all the “baby work” alone, while I sat around daydreaming of the future when I would be throwing the football around with him in the backyard.

We totally do that now too. My little son and I. It’s great.

But instead of mom watching from the deck with a drink and a smile, she has a new mailing address.

Generalization Police, Beware!

Many sons grow up hero-worshipping, or at least modeling behavior after, their fathers. Dad watches sports on TV, and does “man chores,” and probably makes most of the money.

Mom cleans and folds their clothes, vacuums their bedroom, replenishes the refrigerator and pantry, cleans their pubic hairs from showers, washes dishes after dinner, and packs lunches.

But mom has an even-harder job.

Mom manages the schedule for EVERYONE in her family. Not just for herself, but for her children’s school, medical and extracurricular needs; her pet’s veterinarian appointments, and her husband’s stuff, too.

It’s HARD to be an adult.

I’ve lived alone about three years now with a young child in grade school there half the time. IT. IS. HARD.

Keeping track of what he needs every day, and for coming school days, and managing my calendar to make sure I’m where I need to be on his behalf. Taking care of his needs alone just half the time, combined with managing my house alone is EASILY the most mentally challenging and taxing work I have ever done, and there is no close second-place thing. And I don’t keep the place 80-percent as nice as it was when my ex-wife lived there. Still quite challenging.

Sons too often grow up this way and end up woefully ill-prepared for adulthood or marriage. It’s bad.

“But she didn’t want to be my mother. She wanted to be my partner, and she wanted me to apply all of my intelligence and learning capabilities to the logistics of managing our lives and household.

“She wanted me to figure out all of the things that need done, and devise my own method of task management.

“I wish I could remember what seemed so unreasonable to me about that at the time.”

Hopefully you get it now.

She felt like my mom because I never took the initiative to identify the needs of our son nor the needs of the household, and then set up whatever personal system I needed in order to take care of stuff. I just derpy-derped around all the time as if me not saying or doing anything would make life tasks magically disappear.

Combine those maternal feelings with a little bit of resentment and a little bit of boredom due to hedonic adaptation, and you’ve just prepared to perfection the She Doesn’t Want to Have Sex with You casserole with a side of You’re Kind of an Asshole gravy.

It might seem hard to believe a man could go through many years of marriage hearing his wife tell him about how exhausting this dynamic is for her, and how much it upsets her, and STILL not get it.

But I’m relatively smart.

And that’s precisely how I experienced it. So I know it can, and does, happen.

But maybe with the help of a Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure visual aid, it won’t have to happen to you.

It’s your mom, dude.

…..

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Hypocrisy, Dating & God Hating Me

This_happened_LOGO_S

(Image/thishappened.podbean.com)

So, I met a girl.

She seems to like me.

It’s weird, because that never happens. (Yes, that’s hyperbole.)

But it’s also not weird because when it DOES happen, there’s always some obstacle, major inconvenience or unusual challenge attached to it. Always.

It’s The Matt Way®. Things can never just be normal and easy. Not with me. Luck might have something to do with it. Maybe ADHD, too. But all signs seem to point to this unfortunate probability: God must totally hate me.

I’m an asshole. Let me put that out there. I don’t mean that I’m mean and treat people poorly. I just mean, in a 50-percent-serious, self-deprecating sort of way, I’m an asshole.

Why am I an asshole, you ask?

Because I met her on an online dating site, which you might consider strange, if not impossible, since I swore off online dating more than two years ago and have constantly railed against it as shitty and horrible and unnatural and couldn’t POSSIBLY have an online dating account! And that makes total sense that you’d think that.

If it’s any consolation, I promise I’m really embarrassed about it, and that it’s not my first time being kind of a hypocrite.

A few weeks ago, because I’m a shitty planner, I let a weekend sneak up on me without making plans. One of my friends and I were going to go out for a few drinks. But then he got sick and needed to stay home. And then, because all my local friends are married and/or have children and don’t live in Asshole Single Guy World where smart planning has forsaken these lands, everyone already had full calendars and I ended up spending most of the weekend alone in my house, and that was that. I’d had enough.

Some people like being alone. I’m one of them, sometimes. I was an only child, and I love writing, reading, and poker—all things best accomplished alone or among strangers you don’t really want to talk to. Creeping up on three years removed from my marriage, I’m totally fine being alone.

The flipside? I’m ridiculously social. If I could ONLY choose company or solitude for the rest of my life, I would choose company for sure. Maybe even a lot of people. A lot of people is good. I like energy and connectedness and togetherness and all that shit. Very much. It’s life-giving to me. I’m at my very best in a room full of 40 people I know and love who brought along 10 strangers for me to befriend.

But there I was, watching HBO and football, and writing from my couch two weekend nights in a row, and I was done.

This is bullshit, I thought.

Match—the online dating site I used for a few months when I wasn’t emotionally ready to be dating two and a half years ago—had sent me one of their crap emails telling me someone had winked at me, or whatever.

I texted my friend: “Remind me again that I hate online dating and don’t want to do it.”

Huge mistake. He’s super-smart and I usually listen to him. Even worse? He is more than a year in with a new girlfriend (an excellent one) he met through Match.

I don’t remember what he said, but it felt like a two-handed shove toward the vortex of suck, and I fell in.

Also, I want to deflect some of the blame.

I used to whine here that no girls liked me on Match.

But then I read my profile that was still live from spring/summer 2013. It sounded EXACTLY like an insane, insecure, whiny, crying mess of non-sexy loserness had written it.

Good God, this is bad. No wonder that shit didn’t work.

I rewrote it.

I can’t be certain it’s the best-written Match profile of all time, but there’s a fair chance it’s the best in my 50-mile radius. Girls liked me. I talked to some of them, but there was nothing there. Even though it wasn’t a rejection festival to the degree it was more than two years ago, it still sucked ass.

I’ve said it a hundred times: I’m either someone who passes your primal attractiveness test, or I’m not. And if I do? You’re probably going to like me because, cocky as it may sound, I don’t make it hard. I’m not the smartest, funniest, wittiest, sexiest or most charming, but I have enough of all that stuff to make it work in real life.

But not so much on Match. And that’s what I hate about online dating. It takes away the one thing I tend to excel at: one-on-one interaction.

Even though I’m kind of a hypocrite about online dating, I’m not a hypocrite WHILE online dating. I try hard to be fair. And it’s perfectly fair for women to want to date tall, never-married, childless men. Those aren’t unreasonable preferences. I have preferences, too.

Match would be amazing for casual dating. If it was all about dating simply for the sake of having something to do. And I’d be all for that if I thought legitimate platonic friendships might result from doing so. But it doesn’t work like that. And if something can’t end well, I have a hard time investing in it. Even when I really like the other person and believe it could go somewhere if things were different.

People hear me say that and assume I’m wife hunting.

Not true.

I don’t crave marriage. It’s scary. I don’t even crave a committed, monogamous relationship. That has never been my objective, or even my hope.

My only hope?

To meet someone so amazing that I would want those things with her.

I’ve met some great people since becoming single. Under other circumstances, things could have gone differently.

But no previous encounter had a viable happy ending. Single parents put their children first. And when your loyalties are (appropriately) with your children, it often makes single adulthood more challenging.

Not that this thing now is less challenging.

She lives three hours away, even though she used to live in my town, because God’s hilarious.

Some people don’t think that’s a big deal, but I intentionally don’t date people who live even an hour away. Want to know why? Because that’s three hours, roundtrip on a wintry Tuesday night for dinner and a movie, and that’s some serious bullshit.

I don’t do it because I’m selfish and I want to actually see and spend time with the person I like.

I don’t do it because I think, fundamentally, long-distance relationships are unsustainable.

So, here’s the deal: I’m breaking a ton of my dating rules on this thing. But I’m not compromising ANY values. Not one.

Whether it was radical differences in life philosophy or personality, insurmountable geography, or a bunch of really bad timing, a fatal flaw in any potential relationship tended to rear its head immediately.

But not this time. Even with all the rule breakage. Not this time.

She lives three hours away.

She’s an insanely busy person, personally and professionally, which keeps communication comparatively infrequent.

She’s a mother of three. (I had a no-more-than-two-kids rule, because I already have enough trouble with time- and money-management.)

She might be a fraction of an inch taller than me. (Classic, right?)

Any of those four things would filter you out of my online dating preferences if these hadn’t been particularly unique and unusual circumstances, quite possibly orchestrated by a God intent on smiting me. “Hey guys, check out this dude, Matt. I kind of hate him. Watch this!”

And then, fa-la-la-la-la-la! Alakazam!

This thing.

And it’s way too early to know what “This thing” is, but I insta-turned off my Match account after meeting her and that felt like something.

And it’s way too early to be scared, but it still feels scary.

And it’s way too early to make judgments or predictions about anything, because really? Who knows anything, ever?

I only know that it’s different.

No matter what happens next, this time’s a little bit different. Because I’m still single. But I’m not still available. And that feels like something, too.

Wow, two and a half years feels like a lifetime ago.

Wow, this is crazy and different.

Wow, I’m going to hit Publish.

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A Blog Vacation

(Image/fpchiro.com)

(Image/fpchiro.com)

I try to explain how it works in my head but most people don’t or can’t understand.

It’s probably really hard for a working mother to empathize. After all, she’s a superhero. Raising children. Managing calendars and balancing them against the scheduling needs and wants of the family. She is often working harder around the house than the rest of us, doing the things I spent the first 34 years of my life taking for granted. Keeping bathroom mirrors and porcelain shiny and spotless. Keeping floors swept and vacuumed. Keeping caught up on laundry. Keeping countertops and home offices uncluttered. Keeping the pantry and refrigerator appropriately stocked. They do all that AFTER working 40- to 50-hour weeks.

I sometimes come off undisciplined. Forgetful. Irresponsible. Unreliable.

I’m not proud of it. I’m even a little ashamed. Unless other people are relying on me, I am unlikely to meet a self-imposed deadline. Unless someone (probably a girl) is going to come over and pass judgment on the way I keep my home, I am unlikely to keep it as clean and organized as I’d prefer.

To be sure, I DO like the feeling of a clean and orderly home. I DO like the feeling of accomplishment following completion of a job well done.

But if there are competing interests? Even ones that matter less? I have an amazing capacity for procrastination. And despite my self-awareness, I’ve never found a way to overcome it.

I was diagnosed with ADHD. If I’m remembering the data correctly, about 5% of people’s brains work like mine. It has its advantages. It does. But the effective management of too many things suffers when I don’t have help.

My young son keeps me busy, even though I only have him at home half the time.

Me and two partners launched our start-up company in recent months. We even have clients now. It means that all of the extra professional work I do, errands I run, and housework I (sometimes) complete, is squeezed into nights when my son is with his mom. I try to stay socially active, too, because it’s really important. But that’s usually the first to suffer when life beckons.

I spend 40-plus hours per week at my full-time office job.

I’m trying (somewhat poorly) to write a book.

I’m trying to maintain good exercise and eating habits.

And I’m trying to keep this blog active, and God-willing, interesting to a few people.

Because I’m me, EVERYTHING suffers when the task list gets long. I do good work when I channel all of my focus and energy into one thing. I can do that, one project at a time.

But I’m kind of a disaster when life demands more than one thing from me at once. And in the real world, being an adult—especially a parent—requires that I be on top of more than just one thing at any given time.

In addition to the emotional, spiritual and physical (giggity) balance having a partner provides, I’ve really learned the value of having someone who helps and supports you each day (and whose mere existence motivates me to provide return help and support).

I was an emotional disaster in the aftermath of my marital separation and divorce two years ago. And that—BY FAR—is the worst part of divorce. Feeling dead inside.

But once you get back on your feet and find the internal balance, peace, confidence, hopefulness that had been missing, what you’re left with is this realization about—for lack of a better phrase—the logistics of being an adult. Especially one with parental and professional responsibilities.

Two years later, that’s the hardest part now. No question. If I could fire myself as manager of my life, I totally would.

I’ve been feeling—I don’t know—overwhelmed?—for a while now.

I’m doing a bad job staying in touch with people. My kitchen counter is an emergency of the cluttered variety. I have a bunch of projects that need finished for our growing small business. The book isn’t progressing as I’d like. My email inbox is piling up. And I have to leave town this weekend.

Again, to virtually any mom, or probably any woman (okay, or responsible guy), I probably sound like a dumb, whiny loser. I don’t care. I don’t know whether all the chaos I feel is real. It’s probably something I just manifest in my head. But my brain can’t tell the difference.

I’m not saying I won’t write. I’m not saying I’m going to intentionally post less often.

I’m just saying, I need to slow down in certain areas so I can put more energy into others, just to make sure I don’t totally lose it.

Maybe I’ll post again soon. Or maybe I’ll post again in three weeks. I don’t know.

I just know I need to reset, and I won’t know when it has happened until I feel it.

I hope I see you whenever that happens.

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The Faux Apocalypse

Image by eKBS at Deviant Art.

Image by eKBS at Deviant Art.

The world ended 616 days ago when my wife moved out and my little son became someone I only got to see half the time.

He was 4. The same age I was when my mom left my dad.

That was one year, eight months, and six days ago.

Today isn’t any sort of anniversary. And I’m only thinking about it because I had a perfectly pleasant and seemingly “normal” email exchange about a couple things with my son’s mom.

We were married nine years. It mattered. And it’s sad that we’re not married anymore on a handful of levels.

The most-shocking thing about getting divorced was feeling how hard it was even though I’d already experienced divorce as a child. Your entire life you hear about couples getting divorced, but it never really seems like that big of a deal from the outside looking in.

In the case of a death, we rush to everyone’s side. We send sympathy cards and flowers and make lasagnas. But when people get divorced, we just shrug and think: Gee. That sucks.

But then you get divorced.

And you can’t even breathe.

Maybe it’s because you were so accustomed to the rhythm of life. You get up, kiss your wife and son, go to work, come home, have dinner together, do this or that and go to sleep and do it again the next day.

Routine feels safe.

And then it stops suddenly and you freak out because everything’s different now and change scares us.

And maybe it’s because an actual piece of your soul was intertwined with someone else’s soul. And divorce doesn’t surgically separate that. It just rips the shit out of it and leaves it bleeding.

You gasp for breath. Frantically try to take your mind off it with TV or books or parties or friends or drinks or family or work, but everything you do and experience reminds you of your now-failed marriage.

Your now-failed life.

It reminds you of broken homes and broken dreams and broken hearts.

It reminds you that you had ONE job that really mattered.

And you didn’t get it done.

And you cry.

And then you’re someone else. You’re not who you were. You look in the mirror and think: Who the hell are you?

Someone unfamiliar. Someone strange and broken.

The Time Machine

Life doesn’t have a fast-forward button to get through the hard times. We just have to gut it out.

And it’s excruciatingly slow when everything feels poisoned and broken and wrong.

But life does have a funny way of making it seem—in hindsight—as if time flew by. Maybe it’s our mind’s way of healing.

But here we are. One year, eight months, and six days later.

What have I learned? Am I healed? What can I do to make sure I never feel that way again?

I’ve learned that divorce is worse than I thought. The emotional fallout is unlike anything I could have ever imagined. And losing so much time with your child? Life is too short and too precious to lose what little time we have with our children.

But this is what happens when two people can’t muster up the fortitude and courage necessary to love even when it’s hard. It’s a tall order. It can feel impossible. But if we’ll step in front of a truck or bullet to save our child from harm, it seems particularly foolish and selfish to suggest we can’t also be courageous enough to choose to love someone we already promised to love and cherish forever. Because that’s what is best for our children.

And certainly not in ALL cases, but in most, I believe it’s what is best for us.

There are no perfect partners out there. There are no magic people with whom we will never fight or disagree. With whom we will always want to lustily ravage in the throes of passion.

The Other Side of Divorce

Am I healed?

Damn close. It’s still a tricky thing. A little sensitive. Particularly as it pertains to my son who I cherish above all things. I don’t like not seeing him half the time. I don’t like that I can’t do anything for him when he’s not with me. I don’t like that there will likely be another father figure in his life one day and that if that man is not a particularly good person down deep where it counts, I can’t be sure how that will rub off on my son.

But the most underrated, non-discussed aspect of divorce, from my perspective, is the ebb and flow and logistics of life.

I was born in 1979.

I was raised by parents until I was 18.

I went to college and lived with my best friend for four years.

I started dating my ex-wife, and even when I lived alone, she was always around to help me.

We were married nine years.

Then BOOM.

Here’s a big spoonful of shit, Matt. Eat it. You may not like it. But you better figure out how to deal anyway.

All the sudden, all the little things that need done when you own a house and care for a school-aged child come into play and blindside a guy that relied so heavily on a mom and a wife for the first thirty-whatever years of life. Wow. They did a lot. And with infinitely more efficiency than me.

It’s big and scary and some people totally shut down and can’t handle it. That was me for a stretch.

It all still scares me a little. But nothing like before. Because when you do something 616 days in a row, you realize that you can do it for 616 more.

I have fallen short in several areas, several times. I’m still figuring things out. But I’m getting there.

Love.

Fortitude.

Courage.

How Can I Stop This From Happening Again?

Because it’s really scary to break on the inside and I want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

But how?

I don’t know. Nothing?

Do a better job at marriage if I’m ever someone’s partner again?

That’s the rub. Marriage and divorce are big and scary propositions. Ones we don’t see coming when we’re young and in love and feeling invincible.

There’s no insurance against heartache.

Someone can always leave you.

People will always die.

Humans will always be human.

I always say I don’t know much. Still true. I just know the few things I know based on my own experiences. Those are the only things I can really be sure about. And they only really apply to me, and anyone who happens to be like me.

And here’s what I know: Divorce is hard. Excruciating. But you just keep breathing. And after hundreds of days, it doesn’t feel so hard anymore.

I know that I kind of wanted to die because I didn’t want to feel so bad.

And 616 days later, I don’t want to die anymore.

I know that I didn’t know how I was going to get through life alone, raising a young son when I can’t even take care of myself.

And 616 days later, I can take care of myself. And I’ve never felt more pride in anything than I do in that little boy.

I know that I was broken, gasping for air and searching for purpose. I don’t know what’s going to happen and I’m scared.

And 616 days later, I feel whole, I can breathe and I am thrilled to be raising my son with his mom while continuing to push my own limits at home and in my career, building a new life, creating more purpose.

I still don’t know what’s going to happen.

But with 616 days in the books? I know I can handle it.

And I’m pretty sure tomorrow is going to be better than today.

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Hope Changes Everything

SONY DSC

In the aftermath of my wife leaving, sometimes I would sob like a small child.

I spent so many years not crying that I didn’t know I still could—not like that.

For reasons I still haven’t figured out, the trauma (Am I allowed to use that word—trauma?) of divorce rewired me emotionally and I became hyper-sensitive to emotional triggers.

Saying goodbye to my son was, by far, the biggest trigger.

I only see him 50-percent of the time now, my little six-year-old. I cried in front of his day care provider twice during those first couple weeks. I’d even get teary if some poignant father-son thing was happening on TV.

It was pathetic. But it was also real.

We lose things.

Loved ones.

Marriages.

Jobs.

And no one ever handed out the How to Deal with Major Life Trauma manual.

Near as I can tell, everyone just has to take it on the chin. Feel the shock and horribleness. Then make a comeback as a wiser, stronger person.

Throughout the healing process, one tool remains useful no matter which stage you’re in: Hope.

About a Girl

My friend’s divorce was finalized exactly one week before mine last summer.

His story is very similar to mine except he’s an infinitely better human being than me.

At the risk of sounding like I’m celebrating his divorce, it’s hard to put into words how helpful—emotionally and logistically—it is to have him going through the same healing process at the same time.

You swap stories about what went wrong in your relationships.

About healing.

About the ups and downs of dating after divorce.

There’s someone to play golf with. To have drinks with. To go out with in the absence of your partner.

He’s been an enormous blessing.

We’ve been walking this walk together, and I’ve had a front-row seat to his healing process, as he has mine.

He’s had an active dating life, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be one of his confidants. I hear all the stories. The good and the bad.

Like every person in human history, all those stories have (in varying degrees) unfortunate endings, right up until they don’t anymore.

Every couple that doesn’t marry or end up together forever ultimately has a sad story to tell.

I tried online dating just a couple months after my wife moved out because it was the only way I knew how to mitigate loneliness and balance what I perceived as unfairness that she seemed so happy while I felt so miserable.

It was one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made.

Even if online dating was a good idea (it’s not), I was this totally broken, imbalanced, barely sane freakazoid trying to convince women looking for a future husband that I was somehow a good choice to go out with.

It seems so much crazier now.

I was a total mess.

But today?

I’m not a total mess.

I have all kinds of problems. Plenty of life obstacles and self-esteem issues to work through. But I also know that I represent a pretty solid choice for anyone interested in a single 35-year-old with a child. And sooner or later, someone will make that choice.

The best part?

I don’t feel panicky about when that might happen. I’m comfortable in my own skin again. I’ve spent plenty of time alone these past 16 months. And you know what? There are worse things.

The day I realized that I was finally okay alone is the day I realized I might be ready to let someone in again.

Which is a big deal. Because a year ago, I was questioning whether that could ever happen again.

And under the right circumstances, I think maybe it can.

Hope.

I love the word “hope.” Always have. But I love it even more now, because when you feel totally broken, the only real reason to keep waking up every day is because you feel hopeful that things will get better. And of course, they will.

A couple weeks ago, my friend—the one going through the same process I am—had three dates in one week.

He told me about all three on our way to a recent concert. (Lord Huron, suckas. You better get on that.)

One was a total non-fit.

Another had a health condition that was a huge obstacle.

The third seemed… perfect. And still does.

Her name: Hope.

3,000 Miles Away

My son is vacationing with my ex-wife and her family on the East Coast this coming week.

I had to say goodbye to him this morning for what will be the longest time we have ever been, and hopefully ever will be, apart.

Early next week, I fly to Reno/Lake Tahoe for a work trip.

Logically, it doesn’t make sense that the geographic distance between my son and I over the coming 10 days should bear any relevance whatsoever.

But it does.

I’m somehow acutely aware of how far apart we’ll be. I didn’t have an easy time saying bye to him this morning.

But.

I didn’t break either. Not like I would have a year ago.

Tears welled. But none fell.

And I think that means I’m healing.

That everything’s going to be okay.

That I’m learning to accept that things are as they are.

As I was driving to work this morning, I passed a little church. One of those places that likes to put inspirational messages on their roadside sign.

This morning it read: “Hope changes everything.”

I thought about my friend. I’m really rooting for him. Hope.

I thought about how much differently I feel 16 months later. Hope.

And I smiled.

Hope changes everything.

Yes.

Yes it does.

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One Year Later

It's remarkable how one year can seem so long and so fast all at the same time.

It’s remarkable how one year can seem so long and so fast all at the same time.

A year ago, I was crying at least once a week.

Drinking all the time, because distracted fun was the only way I knew how to not think about it.

Terrified, because I was online dating (even though I wasn’t ready) and no one was interested, confirming my worst fears of dying sad and alone.

Everything had been going according to plan for nearly 30 years.

Grade school.

High school.

College.

Gainful employment.

Engagement.

Marriage.

A child.

Then 30.

Then fuck you, Matt, now you’re going to see how good you really had it.

I lost a job.

We lost her father.

Our marriage fell apart.

We spent more than a year sleeping in separate bedrooms.

She left.

And then everything inside me just broke.

Despite my parents’ divorce at a young age and being 500 miles away from one or the other every waking moment, and despite never having any money, it turns out I lived a VERY charmed life for my first three decades.

I had never experienced misery. True misery. You hear about broken hearts in books and movies and in whiny Facebook posts, but you don’t really know what that means until your insides break.

It’s spiritual, almost. And it pierces the soul. And there’s no medicine for the unreachable wound. You just sit there and bleed without the benefit of a merciful death. You simply hurt until you don’t anymore.

Everything in life had been going according to plan. Everything had happened, for the most part, exactly as I had mentally prepared for. I never knew failure until the job loss. And that’s a pleasure cruise compared to what happens when the person you love and trust the most checks out and decides life with someone else, or alone (doesn’t matter, so long as it’s not with you!) looks better than what they have now.

Life becomes a book full of empty pages needing written but you’re all out of ink.

I am so afraid of all the things I don’t know or understand. I am so afraid of all the questions I don’t have answers for. I used to believe that everything would always be okay, because for most of my life, everything always ended up okay.

But then something didn’t. Something didn’t end up okay. The most-important thing.

And now I don’t know that everything is going to be okay anymore.

And sooner or later, I need to learn that THAT’s going to have to be okay. That NO ONE knows how things will turn out.

And then maybe I can start filling those blank pages again instead of just rummaging around for ink.

A Year of Blogging

So far, the best thing to come out of my failed marriage is this.

That won’t seem silly to all of you who are writers, but may seem so to everyone else. Writers need to write. But I was never interested in writing for the sake of writing. I always believed it was important to have something to say.

Must Be This Tall To Ride gave me a platform for writing about things that mattered to me. A place to divulge all that human-being stuff stirring around inside. Stuff that had to come out because it was killing me all bottled up.

When you start writing stories about real-life stuff, things start to happen. People get it.

Not everyone.

But enough.

And then they realize they’re not alone. And they say “Thank you.”

And then you realize you’re not alone. And you thank them.

Then people are grateful.

And people feel connected.

And so much good can come from those things that the process bears repeating over and over and over again.

On June 21, 2013, I was drinking vodka, or tequila, or beer, or all three, and hit publish on a weird, rambling post. It was a process (minus the drinking, for the most part!) that would, for many months, become an addiction.

Writing about the things I was thinking and feeling and experiencing became more than just important for me. It became therapy. And I needed every bit of it. I probably need more.

People feel like me.

We’re not alone.

There aren’t a lot of feelings more helpful during difficult moments than the realization that other people know and understand your particular brand of misery.

We’re now one year in, and despite hitting that blue Publish button more than 300 times, I’m not sure I’ve found a groove. I’m not sure I know who I am or even who I want to be as a writer.

I want to help, but people don’t want to be preached to.

I want to be funny, but I’m sort of sad and borderline-pathetic half the time, and afraid you won’t laugh the other.

I want to document the journey because I think it’s important for people going through similar life events to see what happens and doesn’t happen to me because sometimes that helps people in their own lives, and I’m pretty sure it helps me.

I want to organize my thoughts and feelings and experiences as I try to make sense of this unexpected life.

Everything was going along as it was supposed to.

Right up until it wasn’t anymore.

I suspect that’s how everyone’s life is, and you just don’t know it until life starts firing shots your way for the first time.

Run for your life.

One year later, I still hurt and I’m still sad. But not nearly as much.

One year later, I’m still hopeful and I still believe good things are coming for me. I just don’t know what that might look or feel like or how to get there.

One year later, I still love writing. And now I have a place for that to happen.

I’m 35 years old and I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I’m divorced.

I’m a father to a six-year-old boy.

I’m afraid of all the uncertainty. I’m afraid because of money. I’m afraid because I don’t know what tomorrow looks like on every conceivable level.

But I’m a little bit strong, too.

Because I took the punch and got back up.

Because only shitty things seem to happen and I still have hope.

Because I look around and see a whole bunch of darkness.

And I intend to be a light.

Be one, too.

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The Seaworthy Vessel

ship-moon-sea-night-calm-3d-1600x2560

Uh-oh.

I could feel it rising in my chest. It makes your heart pound a little harder. It reminds you you’re alive, but also how fragile it all is.

Not now.

I was in my regular Monday morning meeting surrounded by bosses and colleagues at the conference table.

Just breathe. In. Then out. Maybe they won’t notice.

It’s the feeling I’d never experienced prior to turning 30 before losing my job with a wife and baby at home. It’s the feeling I’d only ever heard about for 30 years and sort of rolled my eyes when I heard it mentioned.

Fear.

I’ve never drank enough or smoked enough (and that’s saying something) to feel less in control than I do when this monster rears its head.

Just breathe. In. Then out.

People were telling jokes. I was supposed to be laughing. But nothing felt funny.

I wanted to leave.

Don’t lose it. Just breathe.

We’re Afraid Because We’re Weak

I’ve never been alone.

Because I was an only child, I’ve developed unique skills. I can hop an airplane to a strange city to attend events with no familiar faces and get along just fine. I can dine alone, sleep alone and figure out how to get where I need to be.

I’m good at meeting people, making friends and having a good time.

That’s the small stuff. I’m good at small stuff.

Despite being an only child, I always had a safety net. Until I was 18, I lived with my parents. Throughout college, I lived with my college roommate who is one of my childhood best friends. After that, I had my girlfriend who became my fiancée who became my wife.

We got a house. We got cars. We got a kid.

And then seemingly overnight: Poof. Gone.

The first thing I noticed was the silence. A lively home turned silent and cold. So I began to fear silence.

The second thing I noticed was how your insides get poisoned when the person you trust the most rejects you. If SHE won’t have me, who will? If I can’t keep the mother of my son, how will I find someone to want this dumpee with a kid? So I began to fear rejection.

The third thing I noticed was the loss of security.

There are four pillars of humanity. Mental. Physical. Spiritual. Emotional. And you need to keep all four balanced like legs on a table, otherwise you start to wobble.

You lose balance.

Because I read and write and think more than I ever have, my mind is sharper than it has ever been. I’ve always been good at honing in on one thing and excelling at it.

But I’ve taken hits elsewhere.

My motivation for physical health lied in wanting my wife to want me. Oops.

My motivation for spiritual health was rooted in my desire to be a positive influence on her and my son.

My emotional health was predominantly okay so long as the people I loved were okay. Emotional health seems to be a byproduct of getting the other three pillars balanced.

I’ve always had a net to catch me when I fell, allowing me to live courageously. To face challenges bravely.

And now the net is gone.

And now I’m afraid.

So I’ve begun to fear the fear as well.

We’re Ashamed Because We’re Afraid

Women tend to be afraid of abandonment because of how their hearts work.

Men tend to be afraid of abandonment because of how our minds work.

I am afraid.

And I am ashamed because of my failings AND because I’m afraid.

I’m not sure there are two emotions more caustic to humanity than fear and shame.

I’m afraid of failing my son.

I’m afraid of failing my parents.

I’m afraid of failing my friends.

I’m afraid of failing my co-workers.

I’m afraid of failing my God.

I’m afraid of failing myself.

In one way or another, I am failing all.

And I am ashamed.

I feel ill-equipped to keep my life afloat as it is currently structured.

Frozen in place on the tightrope, out of balance and terrified of the impact should I fall.

It’s all so fragile, this life.

Just breathe.

I looked around the conference room table.

At the other end of the table was a co-worker whose marriage will legally end tomorrow.

Next to her, a guy who has been struck by lightning.

Then a guy with a second baby due in the next few weeks.

Then next to him, a guy who is going through something so horrific that I wouldn’t dream of trading my problems for his.

Perspective.

My heart rate steadied.

Remember to breathe.

My smile—weak, perhaps—returned.

One way or another, my ailments are unlikely to matter five years from now. And if they won’t matter then, they shouldn’t matter now.

Everything’s going to be okay.

The lady getting divorced tomorrow wheeled her office chair over to my desk, forcing me to minimize this post you’re reading.

“I’m sorry to interrupt you, but I’m kind of having a day.”

“I can tell. It’s okay. I am too.”

“When does it go away? The anger?”

She was looking for answers I don’t have. A tangible timeline. Something to look forward to.

I looked at my desk calendar.

“It’s been 14 months and I’m not there yet.”

Other people are afraid, too. I’m not the only one. She wants my help.

And then you get a little stronger because it’s easier to be strong for others.

She doesn’t know yet that there’s no way to know where she’s going.

That the rough waters are vast and difficult to navigate for all of us sailing alone. That getting to calm waters and getting our bearings is the next step. That there’s nothing to do except keep sailing toward whatever destination will one day appear on the horizon.

Your only job is to stay alive.

Memorize the night sky so even if you don’t know where you are, you always know which direction you’re going.

And then when the storms find you, and the waves pick up, and you’re afraid you’re going to die, you can look at the sky, make a wish and just hold on.

Keep breathing.

This trusty ship has carried us this far. A seaworthy vessel. Tough enough for the voyage even when we’re thrashing about.

Overcoming fear is one of life’s most-gratifying feelings. You’d think that would make it easier to embrace the scary moments. It doesn’t.

When do we stop being angry?

When do we stop being afraid?

Maybe never.

But probably someday.

Maybe we’ll find a shoreline tomorrow. Maybe we won’t.

But the waters will calm soon enough.

The stars will reemerge.

And we’ll be back on course for an uncharted destination promising adventure and endless possibility.

Today’s only mission: Stay alive.

Just breathe. In. Then out.

Mission accomplished.

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The Single Dad Writer — A Tipsy Lit Guest Post

whats-best-for-our-children

My son is gone half the time.

But he’s really gone more than that. Because he attends school or daycare during the day while I sit in a cubicle plotting my escape from Corporate America.

Our time, so precious.

He turns six in two weeks. He is beautiful. Both smart and smart-mouthed. Stubborn. Hilarious. Sensitive. Loving. Innocent.

A casualty of the poor choices of his parents.

I am a person who craves rhythm and routine. Not boringness, certainly. But predictability. I have a hard time finding comfort in the unknown.

Logistically—by that, I mean everything unrelated to emotion—this has been the most-challenging aspect of divorce.

Finding the rhythm of life again.

It still eludes me.

My son is here two days, then gone two days. He’s here for a weekend, and not the next.

Many divorced fathers don’t see their children as often as I see mine. I suppose gratitude might be in order. But I don’t feel grateful. I feel cheated. This is not what I wanted.

I focus so much of my thinking and feeling and writing on the loss of my wife and the pain it caused. The pain has at times been unbearable because my marriage ending represented the first time I had ever loved someone more than myself only to have that person ultimately say: “I don’t love you. I don’t want you. You don’t matter. You’re not good enough.”

I write it a lot because it’s true: When this happens to you, some part of you dies. Maybe it comes back to life someday. Fingers, crossed.

Just as painful in a different way is coming home to an empty house, with a couple of my son’s toys scattered in the living room, or his toothbrush and comb laying by the sink—only he’s not there.

There is a semblance of balance when he’s home. There is almost none when he’s not. And all the back and forth, and up and down creates a see-saw experience in which I’ve yet to find sure footing.

Assuming the pain of divorce eventually fades to the background, my young growing son—and his life experiences—will emerge as an even greater focal point.

I want to protect my son from the horrors of this world.

But I also want him to know the truth about the human experience to protect his heart and mind from the shock and awe of adulthood.

I want to shelter my son from the mistakes of his father, as I was sheltered from the failings of my parents.

But I also want him to avoid the colossal disappointment which inevitably comes when your heroes fall unceremoniously from their pedestals.

I want to save him from the pains of being a child of divorced parents—and that includes protecting a more-mature him from whatever emotions he might feel should he ever read his father’s words.

But I also want him—maybe need him—to know who I was. Who I am. Who I will be. Just as I want you to as well.

Some people will care. Most won’t. But this is my “I WAS HERE” scratched into life’s maple tree.

How much do I tell?

I tackle that question today over at Tipsy Lit in a post on the subject of writing about parenting. I hope you’ll visit, follow the fine writers at Tipsy Lit, and join in the conversation there.

Writing and parenting.

It’s a dance. A delicate one. And much like life, I still haven’t got it figured out.

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The Art of Dating Discrimination

Image courtesy of nana-eddy.blogspot.com

Image courtesy of nana-eddy.blogspot.com

I’ve only had three girlfriends ever make it past the get-to-know-you phase.

It’s because both my mom and dad had gone through divorce, and both preached “playing the field” and to not be in a hurry to get married.

Spend time with lots of different girls, they said. Figure out what you like. Figure out why.

Not every girl approved of my way of thinking, but I didn’t particularly care. The thinking was: As soon as you know there’s no chance of this ending in marriage, why be in a committed relationship with one another?

I didn’t believe in having a girlfriend simply for the sake of having one.

That was an easy choice to make back then. I was young. With a hard stomach. And constantly surrounded by young, single women.

I’m sure I wasn’t as honest as I should have been. But I also wasn’t a lying, sneaky prick.

As far as I know, I didn’t leave very many hurt feelings in my wake as I navigated my youth.

Everything’s Different Now

It’s a much more-difficult choice to make now. Being discriminatory. But I choose it anyway.

I am no longer the most-important person in my life.

The day my son was born changed everything.

From that moment on, my decision making revolved entirely around the fact that I was his father.

Divorce hasn’t changed that.

But that has also come with a cost. It means I spend a great deal of time sleeping alone, dining alone, watching television alone. It means, for the first time in my life, I do most things alone.

I’m still adjusting to that.

It hasn’t been easy.

When my wife left, it was as if someone hit the reset button in the middle of my game.

I was on high alert. I knew it was possible. But the reaction was still: “WHAT THE… !?!?”

Then, after the dust settled, it hit me: A fresh start.

Kind of a do-over.

There are certainly geographic and financial limitations due to the shared custody of my son. But it’s not as if I’d trade him for anything, so I don’t see the point in lamenting his wonderful existence.

Beggars Can’t Be Choosers

My mom always used to say that.

But, guess what?

I’m not begging.

I wrote a post about an encounter with a girl at a bar on Valentine’s Day. It was a nice moment, I thought, and wanted to write about it.

There were more than a few people who told me both online and offline that they thought I was doing it wrong. There are probably several more who agree with them but didn’t bother to tell me about it.

One lady wrote:  “I just happened upon your blog and I sorta agree with elbrookman (who was very disappointed with my choices). I understand not wanting to get involved with someone not geographically close, however, asking for her number is not a marriage proposal!…

“Maybe your inability to connect has more to do with your idea that you don’t measure up vs others thinking that you don’t! And connecting with someone doesn’t mean sleeping with them right out the gate! You have a lot of soul-searching to do my friend!”

She did a pretty good job of summing up my entire life and every word I’ve ever written in one comment.

But I dabble in the honesty business now. More than I ever have. So, let me just come out and say it:

I was pretty annoyed with everyone who suggested they knew better than I did what the best play was while meeting a strange girl at a bar. I was there. I was having the actual conversation. I was minutes away from picking up my five-year-old son to take him home and get him in pajamas and tuck him into bed.

It was suggested I made a mistake not trying to “romance” her. Perhaps a stroll under the full moon.

I’m not opposed to such things, I guess.

When I don’t have a sleeping five-year-old at home.

When it’s not 10 degrees outside with a shit-ton of ice and snow everywhere.

Whatever. Totally beside the point.

Why didn’t I try harder with the pretty stranger at the bar? Let’s discuss.

I only want to date women who live close to me. That stranger in the bar? She lives 2,380 miles away.

That’s a 34-hour drive, if you don’t stop for gas and food and sleep and bathroom breaks.

I only want to date women who live close for the same reasons I didn’t waste a lot of time in committed relationships in my youth I knew to be doomed for failure.

What’s the point?

I don’t want to date a woman I can’t see.

I don’t want to like a woman who I’m going to miss because she lives far away.

I’m really confused about why people don’t see the wisdom in that.

And I don’t care if this makes it hard for me to find people to date. I’m not going to suddenly change all my criteria, just to increase my odds of finding someone who meets my dating criteria.

My standards are my standards. I put thought into formulating them.

If I end up liking someone enough to be in a relationship with them, I want to be able to see them. You know, so we can have dinner and drinks and go to concerts and the movies and make out on the couch. This can’t seem weird to very many people. Right?

I only want to date women who could theoretically be a potential stepmom to my son. Even if this pretty photographer didn’t live in California, I can assure you—beyond all doubt—she wasn’t looking to spend all her time in the Ohio suburbs with a divorced guy and his kid.

She was awesome. Very funny. Very smart. Enjoyed her company immensely and would have had a great time with her for as long as the night allowed had I not been on parenting duty.

But even if my son hadn’t required my care?

There was still no happy ending to that story, from a “dating” or “relationship” standpoint.

So, I fail to see the wisdom in treating the encounter as anything more than it was. A nice moment that made me smile.

If people care enough about my personal life—and I realize I invite this commentary by publishing stories about my personal life—to offer criticism of my conversations with strangers at bars, I’d love for them to get on board with the idea that I actually think about this stuff (probably too much, actually) and have reasons for the choices I make—even the bad ones.

They are not accidents.

They are thoughtful and deliberate.

So, Yeah. I’m Picky.

Fastidious.

Discriminating.

Particular.

I am.

And I’m not sorry, either. I have all kinds of personal rules about the kind of women I’m willing to hitch my wagon to. And, yes. I’m totally smart enough to realize just how challenging that’s going to make this next chapter of my life from a dating standpoint.

I’ve written about just how frustrating I consider it several times.

But I don’t think the answer to one of the most-important life decisions one can ever make is to all the sudden lower ones standards in the interest of increasing the candidate pool. That’s how the Cleveland Browns hire all of their head coaches, and anyone paying attention to American football can appreciate just how well that works out for them.

I want to meet someone who lives close to me. Period. Because if I like her, I want to see her.

I want to date someone who is mostly on the same philosophical wavelength as me. Because if it were to ever morph into a long-term thing, and she’s going to serve as a part-time parent to my son? I need her to be supportive of the values I want to instill in my child.

I want to date someone in my relative age range.

I want to think she’s beautiful in all the ways I evaluate beauty, both inside and out.

I want her to like me. To want to be here in Ohio where I must live for the next 13 years, minimum, until my son graduates from high school.

And I want the two of us to have lots of common goals and interests. On superficial things, and on all the stuff that really matters in relationships—all the emotional, mental, physical and spiritual components required to make it work.

I do not want to sleep with random strangers in bars.

I would not want to casually hang out with a random stranger in a bar UNLESS I wanted to sleep with her.

I have a million rules. All of them matter. Every single one.

And sure, it makes my life more difficult. More frustrating. More lonely.

But I’m not compromising my values.

And I’m not setting myself up for emotionally devastating long-term failure.

I think back to my first crack at dating. How I would never even start down the path with someone when I knew it couldn’t last.

And in many ways since, everything has changed.

But in some ways?

Nothing has.

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