You may be divorced, but you’re not dead.
My hands were clammy and I couldn’t feel my fingers. I had a tight feeling in my chest like someone had placed one of those Acme 1,000 pound weights on it and then drove a truck over for good measure. All of the blood in my body was rushing to my head the way it does when I over-exert myself on the bench press at the gym, but I wasn’t at the gym. I was at the front door of my date for the evening. This wasn’t just any date; this was the very first date I went on after my divorce was finalized and I was a “free man”. Funny, I didn’t feel very free in that moment, though.
My marriage was one that I’m sure many can relate to. We actually met in the sixth grade – a school planetarium, to be exact. I was totally smitten by her and she didn’t want anything to do with me. Eerily similar to how the relationship would ultimately end as well, but I digress. My ex wife and I married in 2000 and had our first and only child two years later. By 2005 we were headed for divorce, due to the all-too-common “irreconcilable differences” that we just couldn’t seem to fix.
I tried my best to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the challenges were many. I was financially strapped after my divorce with all the expenses and a third less income than I previously had. The added burden of juggling our schedules, time-sharing and trying to find a way to co-parent is enough to stress anyone to the max. Even the sanest of those among us feel the pinch of divorce. I felt like a boxer up against the ropes. But I knew this wouldn’t last forever; I new this, too, shall pass. And it did.
So there I was, single and alone in my thirties. I was down but I wasn’t out. That’s just not how we guys roll. Sure, I hadn’t been on a date in over ten years and I had absolutely zero game when it came to approaching women. I felt as though I had missed most of the years of my dating prime. My twenties had passed and almost all of my friends were married. I physically still felt great, but I was intimidated by the notion of having to compete in the dating world with twenty-something’s. What’s a man to do when faced with the challenge of putting himself out there to meet strangers? Well, purchase every book on the subject of course! And I did. And I read them all, and I still had no game.
Dating had already changed so much since the last time I was even concerned about courting someone. Technology was permeating our lives and it appeared dating and relationships had changed as well. Gone were the days of meeting face-to-face just to say hi and have what used to be known as a “conversation” (remember those?). Now we’re too busy texting, Facebooking, Tweeting and sharing our Pinterests to actually see each other. Relationships have entered the electronic era, like it or not it seems.
I’ve heard many stories of how relationships had been affected by technology and social media, but it wasn’t until I started dating (and online dating) again that I was able to experience this first-hand. A woman I had gone on a few dates with canceled on me at the last minute one evening. I received a text message from her nearly thirty minutes after the scheduled start of our date. She was stuck tending to a friend that had come into town and had the misfortune of landing herself in the hospital. What she apparently forgot is that we were socially connected through technology. After about the third date, we had become “friends” on Facebook, and as her friend, I was privy to all of her status updates. Those status updates sold her out that night, as I followed her bar crawl with her friends all over downtown. Needless to say, we never went out again after that night.
Meeting people for dates on a computer hadn’t even crossed my mind until I realized that they weren’t lining up and knocking down my door after my divorce. Online dating was all the rage and the taboo it seemed to carry in the past was lifting as millions and millions of single professionals were using it as a tool to find love. It makes sense when you think about it – if you work eight hours a day and have a home, parental responsibilities and life to deal with, who really has time to meet people the old fashioned way?
There were a few surprises that I encountered along the way as I eased myself into the dating scene, though. I’ll be the first to tell you that I am not a numbers kinda guy, but when you’re single and dating in your teens and early twenties, what do you suppose is the ratio of single to married people? It’s very high. When you start talking about people in their thirties and forties, that ratio takes a pretty dramatic drop. The fact of the matter is, the selection of eligible bachelors and bachelorettes narrows as you age. There’s a plethora of single twenty-something’s, some thirty-something’s, fewer 40-somethings, slim pickins’ over 50. The key to dating as you get older is to date smarter, not harder! Learn from your dating mistakes and try not to repeat them.
The most surprising challenge of dating after my divorce was dating as a single dad. Dating is a complex art but when you add a child or children to the mix it’s a whole other ball of wax. I met a woman for coffee once – you know, it was “just coffee” and should have been a slam-dunk by most standards. After over an hour of great discussions on technology, travel, concerts and other shared interests, the talk turned to our home lives. She hadn’t had kids nor was she interested in having any. When I mentioned I had a son, I could see all of the color leave her face.
She suddenly wasn’t interested and ended up leaving shortly after my parental declaration.
Stand-up, involved dads seem like they’re becoming harder to come by these days. Why would anyone shun a father that was taking responsibility for his children? And yet, more women than I could count were very up-front about their unwillingness to date a man that already had children. I’m sure the shoe fits on both feet, so to speak. It was just one of those aspects of dating after thirty that took a bit of getting used to for me.
I can only speculate that prospective dates just weren’t interested in taking on that added responsibility, perhaps. Or maybe the possibility of lingering drama from the past was more than they could handle. I’m not sure. What I do know is that we all have pasts and anyone that tells you they’re free from drama must either be lying or deceased.
On the other hand, dating as a single parent adds a level of complexity that many don’t realize until they’re in the situation. Going out on dates requires a lot more pre-planning and preparation – from scheduling to finding a sitter to deciding when is the right time to introduce the child to your dates.
Thankfully, there are a lot of women out there that understand finding a responsible single father is like finding a diamond in the ruff. I guess that’s why they call it finding “the one”. I met Jen just over two years ago. We’re engaged to be married in the summer of 2013.
Cover image by singleparentspecials