Friday, December 25, 2015

Feeling Guilty About Checking Out Other Women?

Barack Obama, Nicolas Sarkozy perform a routine "Reproductive Fitness Assessment."

"I am a married man, and I check out nearly every woman that crosses my path. On its surface, this makes me appear to be a scumbag . . ."
- HottJoe, Uncensored Writing

Hey, Single Dad (and Dudes, in general?). Are you feeling guilty about checking out women who are not your committed partner?

Well, don’t.

When it comes right down to it, gentlemen, nature has played sort of a trick on us. Because we are thinking beings, many of us value a committed, monogamous, loving relationship just as we value music, art, or a beautiful sunset. However, because we’re also fauna, we “are naturally programmed to want more than one woman, despite being in a monogamous relationship, (but) . . . it doesn’t mean (we) are dissatisfied with (our) own partner.[i]” Apparently, not even heads of state are exempted from that rule.

When a man looks at a woman, whether the man is in a committed
Definitely not this, you morons.
relationship or not, he is “actually performing a Reproductive Fitness Assessment,[ii]” according to Dr. Midge Wilson, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies at DePaul University. Subconsciously, he makes a subconscious determination whether or not a woman would produce healthy offspring based solely on physical attributes such as waist-hip ratio and facial symmetry, among other qualities.

How often do men check out women? Well, for better or worse, it’s pretty much all the damned time.

The male brain is hardwired to notice pretty young things, since they’re likely to be fertile and capable or producing healthy children, says Dr. (Mike) Dow, (PhysD). In fact, (a man’s) head may turn before his brain even realizes! His brain is closer to an animal’s than (to a woman’s brain).[iii]

Although ogling or gawking is un-gentlemanly and disrespectful to your partner and to other women, your committed significant other can rest assured that “other women don’t amount to a hill of beans . . . while it only takes a split second for a man’s attention to be caught by another woman, he is likely to have forgotten her just a few seconds as she has disappeared from view.[iv]

[i] “Why do men with girlfriends look at other women? Professor reveals why blokes ‘check out’ opposite sex.” Kara O’Neill. Mirror. March 3, 2015.
[ii] “Scientists Have Figured Out What Makes Women Attractive.” Graham Flanagan.  Business Insider. October 27, 2014
[iii] “10 Secrets Men Keep from Women.” Jenny Birch. Woman’s Day. Accessed 12/23/15.
[iv] “Why do men with girlfriends look at other women? Professor reveals why blokes ‘check out’ opposite sex.” Kara O’Neill. Mirror. March 3, 2015.

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Break-Up: The Effect on the Single Father Family Part II

“My traveling companion is nine years old. He is the child of my first marriage, but I've reason to believe we both will be received in Graceland.”
- Paul Simon, Graceland

Well, you tried to do it right, Dad. You started dating a woman. You waited until you were believed that you and she had potential for a long-term relationship before introducing her to your kids. Unfortunately, the romance didn’t quite work out like you thought it would.

But then, you did the right thing by “putting on your oxygen mask first.” You took care of yourself emotionally, spiritually, and physically so you could be the kind of parent that your children need you to be, especially now. Still, another significant life event has occurred, you’ve ended a meaningful romantic relationship with your partner and your children are impacted. They’ll watch how you behave for clues about their own behavior later in life when perhaps one of their own personal relationships end. They may experience their own version of loss, too.

If you’ve involved a romantic partner in your life, it’s likely that your children have developed their own relationships with that person. She may have attended the kids’ sports activities, family celebrations, or just hung out and watched television together. Your children may have even begun to imagine your girlfriend in the role of a mother or stepmother. As such, your children need your sensitivity and support.

Regardless of how your children felt about your romantic partner, there are a few things to consider during and after the end of that your relationship.

  1.  Be honest. Truth is truth, right? In this case, being honest is a little more involved. Honestly should be focused on facts, like your relationship with your romantic partner has ended and you don’t think there’s a chance of reconciliation. Honesty should not involve the personal, and most likely complicated, reasons the relationship ended. Even older children will probably not understand the nuances of adult romantic relationships. Don’t burden them with the plethora of slights and perceived offenses that will simply serve to bias their opinions of your former partner.
  2. Be direct. Hemmin’ ‘n’ hawin’ only serves to create anxiety in children when an important subject is being discussed. Taking a circuitous route to the facts provide children with the time to let their little imaginations create their own, worst possible news. Especially for your children who’d grown attached to your partner, let them know right away so they can begin to grasp the change.
  3.  Don’t embellish. Whether or not you, yourself, hope for a reunion with your former partner, stop short of creating unrealistic expectations for your kids. A break-up is quite a bit different that a legal divorce or separation. It’s extremely unlikely that the woman from whom you’ve broken up has any legal relationship with your kids. If one of your children asks, “Will I still be able to talk to “Jane?” your honest, unembroidered answer has to be, “I don’t know.”
  4.  Wear your heart in your chest, where it belongs, and not on your sleeve. As already mentioned, your children watch your behavior, so you have to be careful about how you react. If you fail to show any emotion, your children may not learn that it’s natural and normal to feel sadness and other emotions after a loss. If you are an emotional wreck, your children may mimic your overreaction. Put the loss in context, process your feelings responsibly, and be the grown up.
  5. Watch for delayed reactions. One or more of your kids may, rightly or wrongly, feel that you’ve been victimized. Their only context to a break-up may be their friends’ experiences or television portrayals, which are much different than real life. At first, your children may say things like, “I didn’t really like her anyway,” in a show of solidarity with you. When the reality of the loss sets in, your child or your children may experience some traditional stages of grief. Be aware of the potential for a delayed reaction, be patient, and be ready to provide the support your children need to process the loss.

It was either William Shakespeare or Neil Sedaka who once famously said, “Breaking up is hard to do.” Like most things when the variable of single parenthood is added, “Breaking up is exponentially harder to do.” You do have some control over the size of the exponent, Dad. Keep that number as small as you can so you and your children can get over the feelings of loss and move on with your life.

And, like Babe Ruth once said, “Every strike-out brings me closer to my next home run.” With any luck, you’ll have learned something about yourself in context of your failed relationship, which will bring you one step closer to finding your soulmate.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Break-Up: The Effect on the Single Father Family Part I

“And I may be advised to defend every love, every ending, or maybe there's no obligations now.” - Paul Simon, Graceland

So, single dad, you’ve been dating, huh? You know, of course, dating is quite a bit different now that you’re a single father than it was when you were an unencumbered guy living alone. Given the fact that you’re a parent on your own, chances are very good that you’ve already had at least one committed relationship that stopped short of “happily ever after.” Now that you’re dating, if you’ve introduced your love interest to your children and involved her in your life, well, the stakes are just a little higher.

In The Single Father’s Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball, I include as “Golden Rule #15: It should be an exception that you introduce your children to your romantic interest, and do so only if you are reasonably certain there is potential for a relatively long-term relationship:”

I haven’t introduced my children to my romantic interests any time during the first several encounters to avoid creating unrealistic expectations or misunderstandings for just about everyone .  .  . At the point when I want to spend more time with a woman I’m dating, I clearly have an interest beyond a casual friendship .  .  . (and) I consider the benefits .  .  . of commingling my personal life with my home life, considering my needs and those of my children first.

Sometimes, sadly, that person you fall for may not be ready to catch you. So, what do you do when you’ve had some form of a committed relationship with a woman, involved her with your children, and then the relationship ends? The short answer is, “Take care of yourself so you can take care of your children.”

Easier said than done, right? Maybe not.

“And she said losing love is like a window in your heart.” - Paul Simon, Graceland

When that special relationship ends, how should the single father react? What does he need to do to maintain that happy environment that he’s worked so hard to create for himself and his children? Considering 76% of single fathers in the United States are either divorced or separated[i], chances are you’ve had some experience with ending a relationship. In case you didn’t handle the first break-up very well, didn’t learn anything from your mistakes, or have forgotten what you did learn, I have a few suggestions.

Enlist a Wingman
Whether you ended the relationship, your partner ended it, or both of you did it together, you will experience a sense of loss for something that had been an important part of your life. After any sort of loss, it is not uncommon to grieve. Call on a close, trusted, and sensible friend to serve as your "wingman" while you navigate your safe landing. Wingman qualifications include the ability to put you in a headlock and say, “I love you, man,” and the ability to put you in a headlock and punch you in the face, both with equal enthusiasm.

Take a Step Back
Remember, the person with whom you’ve ended a relationship cared and, perhaps, still cares about you a great deal. After you get over the initial disappointment of the break up, anger may be one of your first reactions. You may even feel obliged to tell your former partner, in no uncertain terms, exactly how you feel. Whoa, boy. While you may think it will make you feel better to scream and curse, you’ll be doing yourself a disservice in the long run. That person who you loved and with whom you’d been emotionally and physically intimate, hasn’t changed. It’s likely she’s hurting too. What benefit to anyone could possibly come from hurting her any more? It should go without saying that drunk-dialing, perpetual texting, and driving-by her house will accomplish nothing other than to erode her respect for you and destroy the beauty of the memories of good times. This is a time when your wingman can really earn his stripes.

Don’t Try to Change Your Ex; Don’t Promise to Change Yourself
By this time, you should know for yourself that we, as adults, are who we are. Pretty much the purpose of dating, in case you’re wondering, is to find out whether you and another person are compatible enough to commit to a long term relationship. By virtue of the fact that you’re not together, obviously, you’re probably not compatible enough. You can no more change who you are than a leopard can change its spots. You certainly can’t change who you former partner is.

Find an Outlet to Relieve Your Stress
If you have a wingman, have behaved rationally, and haven’t wasted any emotional energy trying to change what can’t be changed, then you’re rewarded with, get this, stress. At least you didn’t create any more for yourself. Still, you may be dealing with a range of emotions. Find the outlets for the stress and for understanding it. Although I neither encourage nor discourage counseling, the enlistment of a professional is a way to discuss and better understand your problems. Talking with a trusted friend may also be helpful. Some (ahem) write or create art, while others exercise or practice a hobby. The point is; find a way to process the stress and grief you’re feeling so you can be everything you need to be for you and for your children.

Get Back on the Horse, Slowly
Don't rush back into an intense relationship. If the relationship that ended was meaningful enough to create feelings of grief, then you will not be emotionally equipped to have a new person in that role right away. Genuine, real love, what I refer to as, "It," may happen only once, or perhaps twice in a lifetime. For many people, sadly, It never comes. Pretending, rushing into a relationship, and involving your children with a new love interest and, perhaps, her children, puts your kids at risk for another disappointment and sends the message to them, "Anyone will do."

Sooner or later, you’ll probably feel like giving romance another try. In the meantime, enjoy all the aspects who you are, what you are, and where you are. Talk, socialize and enjoy life. I’ve found the most beautiful relationships happen when you least expect it.

The Dr. Seuss Rule
Unless your former romantic partner was some kind of a malevolent ogre, (which, if she was, why would you have been with her in the first place?), then there must quite a lot about that person and the two of you together which made you happy. While grieving may hinder your effort for a while, take the advice Theodor Geisel, “Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened.”

That will be important because, in case you’ve forgotten single father, you’re still responsible for providing a safe and constructive environment for your children. You still have to be a dad.

[i] “Facts and Features,” U.S. Census Bureau,, April 20, 2011.

Friday, December 4, 2015

The Favorite Son Saga: Even Cooler Than You, Dad

Spent a great Thanksgiving with some great friends who have an 18 year old son, Mike, who is a senior at the local high school. As boys are apt to do, The Favorite Son (TFS) and Mike played video games for most of the day.

As we were about to leave after eating plenty of turkey and watching a lot of football, Mike asked me if he could give TFS one of his video games to take home with him. I say, "Yes."

On the ride home, TFS could hardly contain his excitement.

TFS: Dad, do you know why Mike gave me that game?

Me: No, Boss. Why?

TFS: Well, first, he had two.

Me: Yeah?

TFS: Yeah, and second, he's really cool, Dad, even cooler than you!

The takeaway?

My son thinks I'm cool. I'll take it.