Dec 1, 2011

A Single Dad's Dating Diatribe - 3, The Game


Today, let's blow darts at The Game.

The Game is one of good intentions but oft sour results.  A dating couple smears on the plastic grin and pretends to be that which they are not in order to be a good catch.  

You know what I'm talking about.  

Neither person farts, she's without blemish and the two of you have barely a verbal smackdown the first year of getting to know each other. 

It makes sense that we act this way.  After all, nobody would date us if they knew our flaws, sin and undesirable traits, right?  So we gloss over our own skeletons and perhaps the junk of the other person and pretend everything's great.

But wouldn't it be in the best interest for a couple to determine compatibility early on rather than playing The Game for months or years before realizing the other person is not who you thought they were?  What's bad is some couples never really have The Chat, he puts a ring on it and they end up not knowing the person they married.

I think it would save time, broken hearts and set up realistic expectations if all dating couples worked through a few frumpy steps early on.  I'll even suggest the following would nip many divorces since there would be fewer hooking up to the wrong person in the first place.

  1. Ditch The Game - Other than Chutes and Ladders, who has time for games?  I certainly don't have the luxury to dink around.  Get to the point and don't pretend to be somebody you are not.
  2. Have The Chat - By the second or third date, sit down and have The Chat.  This is a frank discussion about the good and bad traits on both sides.  If done honestly, this is a painful, humbling process.  Now's a good time to go ahead and fess up on that meth' addiction, habitual bedwetting problem and your secret collection of porcelain gravy boats.  
  3. Make The Decision - Split for a couple days and ponder, pray and chew on what was discussed in The Chat.  You'll have a hunch on whether there's a spark or dud there.  Meet up and decide if the two of you will hug or split.  
  4. Zip Up - If you decide there's a connection and want to move ahead together, refrain from the physical stuff.  Sex outside of marriage clouds judgment.  What you feel is lust, not love.  Especially for men, you'll overlook certain problems if you are sleeping together.  Keeping your pecker in your pants will allow you to evaluate the relationship with clarity, without sweater muffs and pheromones drunking up reality.

      If I were to sit down and have The Chat, I'd say something like this:

      The good:
      I'm a top-notch dad who turns the discipline and love dials to mold a sweet daughter who cares about others.  Years of single fatherhood has chiseled me into a domestic warrior.  I can handle anything from diapers and colicky brats to slow smoking a turkey, spinning a pizza pie from scratch, laying tile and toilets and leading crafts for Pigtails' Brownie Scout meetings.  I have a good job, am fit, a sharp defender of my Christian faith and a seeker of truth and wisdom.  And I use deodorant.

      The bad:
      I'm negative, critical and often see the glass as half empty.  The tear of our marriage covenant through ex's infidelity has soured my outlook on marriage and family to the point where I have doubts about being able to love again.  Love appears to be a feeling that fades.  And the actions that demonstrate love cease when the other person "doesn't feel in love."  Oh, I usually leave the seat up, so there's that.

      Yuck, the above is a shameful bucket of ugliness.  But it's the truth.  I gain nothing and am unfair to the other person if I continue playing The Game and pretending.  So I'm finding help to work through my bucket of shame.  I want to empty that crap out so I can be clean, free and happy again.  

      Mostly, I want to love again.

      - - - - -
      What do you think about The Game?  Would those in the dating pond be wise to open up and partake in The Chat early on, rather than teeing up for another 18 holes of The Game?

      Or am I all wet?   

      -Beard

      32 comments:

      1. No one has time to wait a year to decide to be honest. I don't anyway. I'd rather be me from the beginning and scare away people early than waste months or years on something phoney.

        And what you've disclosed is stuff that would be typical of a single dad or single parent. I don't think you've mentiioned any deep dark secret really. Those that know you well know these things already.

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      2. Totally agree with both of you. And when your a single parent you have less time available to date or really for anything other than being a parent. I am protective of that time and only want to spend it on people who make me feel uplifted...and I certainly don't want to spend a year with someone that is destined to end in heartbreak.

        Isn't it funny how we teach our children to be themselves and understand that not everyone will like them...and that's okay. But...when it comes to love and relationships for us...we often seem to forget that.

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      3. I just went on a super bad date last weekend. It has confirmed the fact that I'm not supposed to date again. At least, not until the kids are in college.

        To be perfectly frank, (Hi Frank!), I don't believe in being "in love". I believe in love. I love my children, my family, my friends, etc. But the whole giddy feeling doesn't last. And I just don't see how you can say at any given moment that you're going to be in love with someone for the rest of your life. This makes absolutely no sense to me.

        A lot of people say that the right person will come along when I'm not looking. But I'm NOT looking, and no one better come along and disrupt the easy flow of things.

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      4. Great points from everyone above. It's certainly hard to admit the not so pretty truths about ourselves, but we all have flaws; nobody is perfect. Not sure how many dates you should go on before the "chat", but there does come a point in a relationship where you need to know if it is worth pursuing. Having the chat too soon could make the other run for the hills, and it takes a little time to know if the other person is worth fighting for, or putting up with.

        But I agree, as a Single Parent, why waste time fooling around with someone you know isn't right for you? Seems silly. Guess that goes for anyone, not just Single Parents. Besides, if your attention is on the not-so-great person that you're hanging out with just not to feel lonely, you might miss out on someone really great.

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      5. Well said! Been there, done that, refuse to play that game again!!

        I recall a friend saying now that she had "the ring" he was going to meet the real her. I thought what a strange comment to make at their engagement party. I felt bad for the poor guy.

        Why do we tell our children to be themselves but don’t follow that rule in our own lives??? Children learn more by what we do than what we say. Great reminder to lead by deeds not by words.

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      6. Anonymous12/02/2011

        Love is a choice. Consider those feelings a bonus, certainly great and with merit, but not foundational. People have to be willing to accept and commit to this choice AND understand that love takes work. Lots of it, day after day - and that some days will be unbearably difficult, while others will be divinely beautiful. Beard hit the nail on the head. However, I view it as more about getting to the heart of what makes that other person tick - morals, values, goals, etc. It's not so much that all must be "the same", but rather you need to be in sync with making your mark in this life. And now I'll leave you with some parting words, not necessarily about love but still entirely applicable, "Even if you fall on your face, you're still moving forward." Learn as you go and hang in there, my friends!

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      7. @Christina - WHAT, ARE YOU SAYING YOU ALREADY KNOW I'M A CRABBY PATTY?!

        @GR8 - Well said, and I hear you're good at winning stuff.

        @Erica - How bad was the date, was Frank a bed wetter or what? I do believe in love, just unsure I'll find it.

        @Cari - Dang, I think us single parents should get together and write a date book. Lot's of good input on this one.

        @Heidi - Was your friend my ex-wife?

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      8. @Anon - Love is a choice, but I've seen too many cases of a person choosing to stop demonstrating the actions that show love when they don't "feel in love anymore." Feelings do play into it...once the feelings fizzle, so does the "love".

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      9. Anonymous12/02/2011

        I agree, Beard. Points taken. So this begs the question - how does one keep the feelings alive?

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      10. @Anon - I don't know the answer, otherwise I'd probably be in love.

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      11. Anonymous12/03/2011

        Would totally date a person with a secret porcelain gravy boat collection...

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      12. @Anon - That one cracked me up!

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      13. I think if something happened to my marriage I would end up being the crazy-cat-church lady with the coolest kid on the block. I can't imagine dating... It makes my toes sweat.

        Wanting to find love again is a huge deal, knowing that it is possible.

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      14. To be truthful, dating and self-discovery is the most difficult realization in the world. I have been divorced for 3 years now, and dating is like being at a new restaurant. You heard great things about it, but once you try the food it's a hit and miss. I have had great times trying out new people but no one "fit" me. It took too long for me to realize I'm looking for someone that I "once wanted" rather than someone who I want to be with now. Believe me I paid the price. I'm a romantic at heart and I seem to wear rose colored glasses when picking a date. I have figured something out about me and the population around me, romance is gone. There are too many "eager beavers" out there who expect everything in a night or in a weekend. WOW, where is the sincerity? I wish you all the luck in finding a person that might fit you. Everything will work out when you execute your plan and see who is willing to stay by your side and take you for you and sees what a relationship could be. Love is out there, we have to see it as it is and what is grows into.

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        Replies
        1. Dating after divorce is a fine balance between not settling (again), being too picking, and overcoming trust issues after getting once burnt. I need to step back and let God work rather than me thinking I have it figured out or pushing things on my own timeline. I wish you the best!

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      15. The Chat definately! Life is too short. I recommend Mark Gungor's Laugh Your Way to a happy marriage series as an excellent 'heart preparation' option. It is christian, to the point, male friendly and once you have stopped laughing long enough to breathe again you realise that he is saying some pretty smart stuff!

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        Replies
        1. Sounds like a good book, I'll check it out.

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      16. Anonymous3/22/2012

        I think "the Chat" is a good idea and agree with your points. However...in practice, I'm not sure how well it would hold up to your ideal goal of tossing all masks. B/c frankly, your negatives aren't all that bad to someone infatuated...or not infatuated, frankly. Perhaps...the idea is to continually have mini little chats and agree to keep chipping away at all masks. Sometimes I don't even know I'm wearing one, so such "sharpening" of one another without the distracting horizontal dancing might work out pretty well. Best wishes and blessing. Saying a prayer for you and pigtails.

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        Replies
        1. Oh yes, there's more crap on my yuck list, so a series of "chipping away at the masks" would be warranted. Good point you make, and appreciate the prayer.

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      17. Praying that you WILL be able to love again someday -

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      18. Wow. Stumbled across your blog and have been perusing. You seem to be a fantastic individual and I applaud you for your commitment to doing good and being good. Love what you stated above. All of it. I am happily married to a wonderful man and we have wonderful children, but we have reached an age where we've seen good friends go through hard things because of others' crappy choices. You remind me a lot of one friend in particular (your commitment to a child, your experience in marriage, your wanting to be open and honest from the start, and to want to love again (but being afraid to trust)).

        Good luck on your journey. I hope you will find a woman who deserves you and your daughter.

        If you're interested in a snippet of someone else's parallel journey:
        noraballantyne.blogspot.com/

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        Replies
        1. Thanks for the lift, and checking out Nora's blog now.

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      19. I hear you, Beard. Four years ago, my marriage ended suddenly when I discovered my husband had been unfaithful. As you know, it was devastating. I knew I would want to love again someday and so I worked my butt off in counseling and trained like a mad woman until I was in the best shape of my life. A year and half later, I began dating a very good friend who would eventually become my husband. But it was harder than it sounds.

        It's a very good thing that my husband is as patient as a saint because I was flat out terrified the entire time we dated. Again and again, he recognized my fear for what it was and didn't let me push him away. My hope for you is that you do everything you can to break through your fears. Finding love and partnership on the other side of all that crap is absolutely worth it! All my best to you...

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        Replies
        1. I'm a master of the pushing-away-game. Please pray that I'll knock it off and learn to love again.

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      20. Anonymous4/05/2012

        My take on the game is that you should never stop playing it. We are all broken and we all have ugly. Why stop trying to impress your spouse just because you are married? Why stop trying to come across like a better person than the inner you who thinks mean thoughts or does selfish things? I'm not saying don't be true to yourself. I'm just saying that it's good to stretch yourself and try new things or revisit old things (and by things I mean gestures or behaviors) that your spouse enjoyed.

        I've been married five years now (i know it's not very long, but it can feel like an eternity on some days :) ), and I am still delighted when my husband brings me coffee at work just because, and he likes it when I put on the lingerie instead of throwing on the sweats after work. These aren't our typical behaviors-we do them because we know the other person likes it. That's how we play the game.

        And, since people change, who you are right now does not necessarily dictate who you will be in five years. Who knows? You may learn to put the seat down, or you may just purchase a soft close lid and make it a non-issue. I don't think that you can have just one talk about the good and the bad and truly know whether you are meant to be together or not. I think I'd be more concerned with a date who didn't try. I hope, for your sake, that you find that woman who you will never want to stop learning about, and I hope she appreciates you completely (and your use of deodorant).

        I really enjoy reading your blog (I, too, popped over from YHL). You have a great sense of humor and wit and a beautiful daughter. Good luck in your adventures and God bless.

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        Replies
        1. Agree, we should strive to dote on a spouse, since love is an action more than a word. The challenge is getting over the hump and choosing to do the things that demonstrate love, even when we don't feel like it.

          I'm heading upstairs now to swipe on another layer of deodorant, thanks for the insightful note!

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      21. I would say in addition to not "playing games" and being honest about who you are - you also need to listen properly to the other person. A lot (almost always if you look close enough) a person will show you exactly who they are. Some people are so obsessed with who they "think" someone is rather than who they are. It's always good to get a good friends perspective on this and take it to heart. Love can be blind but eventually you regain your sight. Just make sure it's earlier than later!

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      22. AH yes, CHECK!

        The total negative attitude toward human relationships is a survival skill.

        ALso: In the three years since the divorce I mistakenly dated one guy who said he was a Christian but then expected a sexual relationship right off the bat. (Clearly I am no longer dating.)

        I can't give you any sunshine on this one. I think it's all a crapshoot.

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      23. I think you can be honest with a date, as well as with yourself, and discover eachother in a more natural, less rigid way. It is almost like the scenario you are creating is to foolproof love. But you can't do that. And I get where you are coming from, a very hurt place, but you are more than the some of your positive and negative qualities. What happened to me in my relationship with my child's father wasn't because of me (although it took years to figure that out). Sure, I was a participant in the relationship, but some people are just not good for us, they leave us, and sometimes even with a baby in tow. Friendship is always a great place to start, but you can be forthright without scaring the crap out of eachother.

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      24. That should be "sum." Doh!

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      25. As someone who divorced after 22 years of marriage and learnt to be financially independent, I have been dating someone for the last 3 years.

        I think if you view every potential woman/man as someone who could, one day, betray you, then you will never really be free to love. The thought, malignant, will hibernate hidden, dormant, ready to leap up when the smallest of provocations.

        Instead enjoy each other's company, learn from your and their strengths and fragilities, accept both your imperfections, be appreciative of the great talents and gifts you can give and receive.

        A rapport needs time; you can't possibly know or love someone fully after a mere two or three dates!First be good and then best friends!

        Laugh and do exciting things together. I'm a great believer in sharing new experiences doing something you would normally not have done. Be open minded, reflect, but don't be afraid to say "no" if it goes against your morals and makes you feel uncomfortable. Don't be searching for the perfect spouse, don't expect them to accept your baggage unquestionably.

        Be a child again but with the difference that you know exactly what you want.

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      26. I suppose the first part where, as you say, you gloss over your skeletons is the most exciting, but there's certainly something wonderful at the same time about being comfortable with someone! It's just about keeping things alive by doing new things, which should be a part of your whole life actually!

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      Thanks for the note, check back for my response!