The mere thought induces waves of nausea and recoils of revulsion in newly single women all across the land. Now that I think about it, the distaste clearly isn't limited to just women. Most single guys I know would prefer an infected scrotum to navigating the dysfunctional and sometimes treacherous waters of dating after the age of thirty. The bottom line is, it doesn't matter if you're packing a penis or a symmetrical set of feminine breasts - the general consensus is that post-divorce dating blows.
Or so some would say.
Call me cracked, but I've always enjoyed the dating scene. Though my bad boy days of pimpin' and playin' are behind me, there's still nothing quite like sitting across the table from an intelligent and vibrant specimen of femininity. As a hot-blooded alpha male who adores women to my core, I believe every woman is a masterpiece in her own way. So to me, the process of getting to know someone new is like watching an artist paint a picture before my very eyes. At the beginning, each woman is an unknown - a blank canvas full of potential beauty and grace. As we get to know one another, brushstrokes appear on the canvas and a picture begins to form. Her character might be represented by brushstrokes of blue. Her personality, the addition of reds. Our compatibility might be a light shade of green, while her qualities are a soft blending of greys. If it all comes together in a 'picture' that pleases the eye, I'll throw myself heart-and-soul into said masterpiece and give it my all.
That said, I haven't dated much in the past year or two. Between finalizing my divorce, writing my first book and terrorizing the back roads of America from the chrome-studded seat of my custom Harley Davidson, I've had other priorities jumbling around in my helmetless head. But all that is about to change. I've recently decided it's time to come in from the cold and begin a new chapter in Blood's chronicles of female companionship. Said another way, I'm going to start dating again.
Now for those of you who just now decided to lock up your wives or hide your daughters, allow me to put your mind at ease. It's a whole new Austin Blood on the scene this time around. Now that I'm older and thankfully just a little wiser, I'm a completely different man in many respects. Like most responsible adults, I no longer have the luxury of putting myself first or indulging the impulsive and sadistic whims that used to bring me so much joy. The blissful and carefree days of juvenile delinquency are long gone. Responsibility is my new mantra now and with this maturity comes a whole new set of priorities and considerations. Dating at age thirty, forty or fifty isn't the same as when you're younger. Or at least it shouldn't be. So in commemoration of my upcoming foray back into the fray, I'm commencing this hard-hitting series on what I believe are the most important factors to consider when venturing forth into the sometimes inhospitable badlands of post-divorce dating. Henceforth, these factors shall be known as The DAD Factors.
So without further ado...
For most of my twenties, accountability and obligation were dirty words and as foreign to me as the concept of a stable relationship is to Taylor Swift. Hell, until I was twenty-five, I considered the day a success if I rolled out of bed before noon and managed to wash my nutsack. Things are a little different now. For starters, the Good Lord has blessed me with two precious little genetic replicas who count on me every day to provide for and protect them. I've long contended the single most important job of any parent is to raise happy and well-adjusted human beings. In this day and age, that can be a tall order. Kids today are mercilessly assaulted by a reckless and ever-present pop-culture serving up a rancid stew of sex, materialism and a narcissistic sense of entitlement. So to combat the societal wolves who lie waiting to snare our impressionable young ones at every turn, it is more important than ever that we as responsible parents do our best to create an environment of loving stability in our homes. This is especially important if their world has been rocked or destabilized by the specter of divorce. Which brings us to DAD Factor # 1.......
It Ain't All About You (Or Me)
Many divorcees emerge teary-eyed from the SplitsVille Tunnel with more emotional baggage than a cross-country Amtrak. Consequently, they aren't always in the best frame of mind to make optimal decisions for themselves or their kids. But can you really blame them? Given that their entire existence has just been tossed in a high-speed mixer and blended on frappe, their fragile and vulnerable state is to be expected. Unfortunately, with the wounds of their marriage's schism still bleeding profusely, many divorcees do the one thing they have absolutely no business doing....they haul ass straight into the arms and bed of damn near the first person who comes along. Virtually overnight, this new Romeo or Juliet becomes the most important person in the divorcees shattered world. Their savior. Their newfound messiah. Their own Personal Jesus. Someone to hear their prayers. Someone who cares.
Like the old saying goes, 'Nothing helps get over the old, quite like the new.'
Be that as it may, this is a bad idea for so many reasons. Most notably, you're not much good for someone else if you're already an emotional liability yourself. And let's face it, many divorcees are exactly that. I know I was for a time. So when you're down and out, you need some time to heal. Time to sort things through and begin the process of making yourself whole again. But the average divorcee doesn't think so. To them, healing can only be found in the arms of another. And as quickly as possible. So they commit one of the most egregious of all post-divorce sins....they place their new partner on the highest pedestal and then prioritize that relationship over every other. Oftentimes, including their relationship with their kids. We all know someone like this. Someone who fools themselves into thinking it's the right person, even if it's the wrong person, just to have a warm body by their side.
This is where DAD Factor # 1 comes into play. When it comes to dating after divorce, it ain't all about you or me but it IS all about the kids. Specifically, what is best for them so that they come through the divorce with the least amount of scarring and disruption to their lives as possible. If you're either going through or are recently divorced and want to give Junior a serious case of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, start introducing your lovers or dates into his or her world. Then after you've facilitated the introductions, be sure and send me an email with your home address so I can come over and brain you with a cast iron skillet, Three-Stooges-style.
Do your kids a favor and keep them in the dark about your love life. Both during and in the aftermath of the divorce. I'm talking total blackout. No exceptions, no deviations. If there's one thing that raises Blood's blood pressure to aneurysm-inducing levels, it's watching supposedly mature adults act like emotionally-stunted, love-sick teenagers while their poor kids bear witness to mom or dad's sideshow train-wreck of a dating life. Divorce is traumatic enough for kids without them seeing mom or dad getting their groove on with someone other than mom or dad too soon. Know what I mean?
So this begs the question....how long should someone wait before introducing a new romantic partner into their children's world? I regularly counsel women on matters of divorce, so I'm asked this question on an almost daily basis. My response usually shocks the shit out of most people. I tell them a minimum of one year. That's twelve months on the low end, folks. Frankly, the longer the better as far as I'm concerned.
Why a year?
Let's be honest...the first six months to a year of virtually any romantic relationship is the euphoric and blissful honeymoon stage. Everyone is in love, on their best behavior and the stars and constellations are aligned. Guys aren't yet butt barking and scratching their nuts at every turn and women are still shaving their legs and whisker biscuits for the benefit of all mankind. Everyone watches what they say and are generally as agreeable as they'll ever be.
It's a magical time.
Here's the bottom line: You don't really get to know someone until at least a year or more into the relationship. I don't care what anyone says. It doesn't matter if you're welded to one another at the hip for the first six months...certain things only reveal themselves with the passing of time. You don't truly begin the process of getting to know someone until some level of comfort sets in on both sides and masks begins to slip. That's why with rare exception, the new Romeo or Juliet is largely an unknown. They haven't stood the test of time. Or walked with you through trials and fire. They're an unproven entity. With a future unknown where you are concerned. So why subject what is most precious to you in the entire world to even more uncertainty during an already uncertain time by introducing this person into your child's life too soon? The answer is simple. If you have half a brain, you don't.
So you can bet your sweet ass the Blood girls won't be meeting the ladies anytime soon. No matter how amazing I think the woman may be. My daughters' sense of stability and assuring them that they hold first place in my heart and mind is far more important than anything else to me at this point. In fact, just the other day, my nine-year-old affirmed for me the wisdom of this approach without even trying.
Her: "Daddy, are you ever going to get married again?"
Me: "Married again? Ummm...the thought really hadn't even crossed my mind yet. Anyways, that wouldn't make much sense for me right now. I already have TWO amazing girls in my life, right?"
Upon hearing that, her beautiful little face broke into the biggest grin I've ever seen and lit up with a glow I'll never forget. A glow borne of safety and security that she was still number one.
When it comes to dating after divorce, it's all about what's right for the kids, folks. Trust me on this one. They'll thank you for it someday.
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