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Divorced Dads: Approaching Online Dating for the First Time?

Divorced Dads: Approaching Online Dating for the First Time?

Having some concerns about venturing into online dating? Everyone does. If you’ve looked through any Match.com or Plenty of Fish profiles, you’ll probably find the word “skeptical” used more than any other.

In this busy and connected world, it can be difficult to meet potential partners who share your values and interests. When you have children’s needs to take of, it’s even harder to find the time and brain space to devote to your personal happiness. Tip-toeing into new territory always goes better with a guidebook, or in this case a guide blog post that covers all the concerns and tactics for trying online dating for the first time. To make the material both thorough and easily consumable, we’ve taken the journalist’s route of listing the What-Why-When-Where-How of meeting people via a website.

What is Online Dating?

Online dating is a very elaborate form of personals ads where users can describe their looks, likes, values and hobbies at length. An online “profile” can be 1,000 words or more. There’s also typically a space for explaining what the profile writer is looking for. Religion, politics, hobbies, pets, smoking and drinking preferences and more are also listed. Where once, finding out all of these attributes could take months of dates, online dating puts it all out there right away.

After picking out the right matches, users message each other via the services and typically start communicating through their personal email addresses or phone. They meet shortly after that to determine whether they are interested in each other or have “chemistry.”

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Why Online Dating?

1. It works!

Doesn’t everyone know at least one couple that met through an online dating site? Turns out, robust research confirms that our cousins and friends who find love online are just a small sliver of those who do so nationwide.

In 2013, researchers at the National Academy of Scientists surveyed 19,131 people who married between 2005 and 2012. They found that one in three of these marriages, the couple met through an online dating site. Further, the couples who met online expressed higher degree of satisfaction with the marriage and a lower divorce rate.  Those reporting the least satisfaction and highest divorce rates met either in bars or through friends.

Happier marriages and fewer divorces could be due to the fact that those participating in online dating select prospects based on similar values, interests and backgrounds, three factors that many studies confirm contribute to marital success. eHarmony founder and psychologist Dr. Neil Clark Warren certainly thinks so. As he explains in his book, Date or Soul Mate: How to Know if Someone Is Worth Pursuing in Two Dates or Less, he created eHarmony to increase the number of happy marriages. Too many couples, he claims, marry based on superficial factors like looks, lust or earning potential. A career psychologist, Clark Warren had studied the real qualities that build a firm foundation in a relationship. His website eHarmony helps people select each other based on meaningful characteristics and similarities.

2. Stigma about Online Dating has Dissipated

Where once people whispered only to their closest friends that they were meeting with someone they met online, today that embarrassment has dissipated. The renowned Pew Research Center gives us some solid facts about the attitudes about online dating they gathered three years ago. The chart here reveals that online dating wasn’t even ridiculed ten years ago. 44% found it a perfectly legitimate way to meet romantic partners. By 2013, 59% of Americans agreed that the online dating is “a good way to meet people.”

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    Online dating is no longer seen as a last resort for the desperate.

    Now that we’re in in 2016, these numbers should be even higher, particularly since younger stars have come out about using online dating. Singer Adele is open about using eHarmony; Joan Rivers went on Match.com, boldly using her own photos. Chelsea Handler, Charlie Sheen and Matthew Perry admit to using multiple sites. It just goes to show, even the attractive and wealthy find online dating a practical tool for finding love.

    When Should Divorced Dads Start Online Dating?

    Despite the fact that this is an online dating primer, keep in mind that the decision to date should be made cautiously. The unspoken online rule is that if your divorce isn’t finalized yet, you have no business seeking out new partners. This rule has actually bubbled up more from the users of online dating sites rather than the sites themselves. It seems that those on the dating sites who have been divorced for a few years tried and failed at online dating when they made an attempt when just separated or newly divorced.

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    The risks include:

    • Bringing in someone new while you’re still in a great deal of pain. The newly divorced need time grieve and heal. Experts say that divorced couples should take one year alone for every five years they were married. It’s tough to hear, but as the pain diminishes and confidence returns, most recognize they would rather choose another partner while in a healthy, confident frame of mind than a needy, frantic one.
    • Bringing in someone new while the children are still getting used to the divorce and the new routines that follow. Experts find that these changes are the maximum kids can handle for a while, even a year or two. While the newly divorced who stay single do forego the comforts of being in partnership, they win in other ways. The time devoted to children’s needs sets everyone up for a happy and successful future. Avoiding the chaos that children can create when resenting a new partner keeps the family dynamic on a positive track.
    • Behaving badly with people who could be great partners down the line, alienating them. The newly divorced are notorious for engaging in risky financial, drinking and sexual behavior. Unloading on a decent person about the ex, while drinking and proposing sex does not impress her in the least. Keep an ideal prospect on the backburner until you’re ready to bring your A-game and win.

    Friends and family members are too quick with the advice to “get back out there!” They just don’t know what to say. These days, society respects all styles of families. Don’t feel frantic to pair up again just to prove your worth or feel like you’re a “real” family again. In fact, many of your colleagues will respect you for focusing on the children for a while.  Working and raising children takes a great deal of emotional and physical energy; waiting to date until you have a surplus of both sets you up for online dating success.

    Where Divorced Fathers Should Consider Uploading a Profile

    Believe it or not, Match.com, the game-changer in how people meet, went live in beta in 1995 . . . 20 years ago. At that point, just 14% of all Americans even used the Internet at all! Started by an engineer who still lives in the San Diego area, Match now has approximately 2 million paid subscribers in 25 countries. The website’s internal data claims that single people with profiles are three times more likely to find a relationship than those without a Match profile.

    While Match.com is the most visited online dating site in the world (far outstripping its closest competitor), it’s not the only one by a long-shot. Users consistently rate OKCupid, PlentyofFish, OurTime.com and various Meetup.com groups effective as well. These general dating website tend to charge less than Match or eHarmony.

    Where general sites have all types of users, narrower niche sites exist that cater to farmers, devout Christians/Jews/Muslims, pet lovers, Star Trek enthusiasts and more. With limited markets, however, fewer partners exist. Still, sharing a passion can light a fire. The niche sites tend to deliver fewer dates but those that you do find could have the potential to be more appropriate for you. That’s the theory behind the business model anyway.

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    Niche sites for divorcees and single fathers include SingleParentMeet.com, Just Parents.com, and SingleParentLove.com. Like the sites mentioned above, these have fewer users so choice is more limited. Dating experts also encourage single fathers to simply use a big one like Match.com or eHarmony. After all, most people disclose their family situation and their level of involvement with their children there as well.

    How to Online Date Successfully

    Once you feel you’re truly ready to date again, venturing online can be fun. Follow these do’s and don’ts to increase your chances of having a positive rather than mortifying experience.

    Online Dating Do’s

    • Take the time to create a genuine profile that reflects the TRUE you. No lying.
    • Fill out the profile as completely as you can. No one responds to an empty profile.
    • Upload three to five pictures. One photo isn’t enough.
    • Understand that you will be nervous. So will your date. “Feel the fear and do it anyway.”
    • Understand that many will not respond to you. Send a message and if there’s no response understand they’re not interested.
    • Prepare for someone to stop communicating with you. This is how it goes in online dating.
    • Understand that many are looking for a reason to reject you. It’s a defense mechanism.
    • Meet within a week or so of emailing.
    • Meet for a short walk or coffee. Don’t set yourself up for a two-hour-long meal on the first date.
    • Talk about your children, family members, friends and hobbies and the joy they bring you.
    • Determine whether the date went well enough to consider a second date. Have a one date at a time attitude.
    • If the date went well, ask for a phone number or card and permission to call.
    • Follow your gut. If someone seems unstable, distance yourself.

    Online Dating Don’ts

    • Don’t choose a free or low-cost dating site. Put money, time and effort into this if you’re really ready.
    • Don’t lie on your profile about age, weight, height, income etc.
    • Never reveal last names, addresses or other personal information until you’re comfortable.
    • Don’t expect that you’ll KNOW after one or two dates. As above, one date at a time.
    • Don’t speak negatively about your ex.
    • Don’t go on and on about your financial settlement.
    • Don’t carry on an email conversation too long. People seem to lose interest that way and go on to another prospect.

    Keep these do’s and don’ts in mind, but remember, too, that online dating will take time, energy and money.  You won’t get it right the first time or even the first 10 times! Your first attempts could be failures but failure is a great teacher. In fact, you really can’t get to success without it.

    When the date doesn’t work out, simply consider that you’ve gotten these preliminary meetings out of the way. Sales people are famous for welcoming the number of “no’s” they get because they realize the more they get out of the way, the closer they are to YES! It takes courage to go outside your comfort zone, but the great rewards await you.  Dating when the time is right for you, not your parents or friends, makes the most sense.

    Featured photo credit: Shutterstock via thumb9.shutterstock.com

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    Peter Mueller

    Founder of Father's Rights Law Center

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    Last Updated on October 23, 2018

    Why Negative Emotions Aren’t That Bad (And How to Handle Them)

    Why Negative Emotions Aren’t That Bad (And How to Handle Them)

    I have always had an adverse reaction to negative emotions. I never liked feeling sad, mad or scared. I prefer things to be positive and cheerful – some would say rainbows and sunshine. A lot of this has to do with my upbringing; I grew up in a family who focused on being positive, encouraging and optimistic.

    When I was upset, I looked at the bright side. When I was scared, I pushed through it. When I was sad, I got over it. It’s not that I’ve had an easy life, devoid of heartbreak, grief and challenges. I’ve had plenty of those. It’s just that I never decided to focus on that side of things. I thought it was all good. Until it wasn’t.

    Several years ago, I found myself facing anxiety for the first time. And not just a little anxiety. We’re talking paralyzing, full-on panic that I had no control over. At one point, I didn’t want my husband to leave for work in the morning. If you’ve ever suffered from anxiety, you know how hard this can be. As someone who has always been adventurous, rarely felt the full force of fear and wired for positivity, this was NOT me and I had no idea what to do.

    What I learned (that I have always known, but maybe never fully understood) as I worked through that anxiety, was that it was a symptom. A symptom that something wasn’t working in my life. It was nature’s way of telling me I was off track. There was too much on my plate, I wasn’t taking great care of myself and I needed to slow down.

    I may not have slowed down if I wasn’t hit by this spiritual 2×4 of negative emotion. I may have been able to push through many of the ‘negative’ emotions in my life, but some of them were really just pushed down.

    I’ve come to learn that negative emotions are neither good nor bad. They are not actually negative; they just feel that way. They are part of life, of being human.

    We need to provide space to allow that life is going to be difficult, challenging and incredibly hard sometimes, which leads to uncomfortable or negative emotions. We need to learn to acknowledge, embrace and understand what those emotions are trying to tell us. We need to learn the power and value of these emotions.

    Before we dive into this further, I want to make sure you know I am not a therapist or psychologist. These are my experiences of negative emotions for myself, hundreds of people I’ve worked with, and from research and learnings I’ve had over the years. I want to honor and not underestimate the complexity of human emotions. They have been studied by philosophers, psychologists and scientists for thousands of years – each with their own and often competing theories.

    With that said, let’s take a look some negative emotions, why they aren’t so negative after all and how to embrace them to live a more fulfilled life.

    What Are Negative Emotions?

    Negative emotions are any emotions that cause you to feel badly in one way or another. Anger, fear, sadness, despair, frustration, guilt, shame, disgust, disappointment…You name it. We all feel these emotions. Whether you acknowledge them or not, they are there.

    In the 1970’s, psychologist Paul Eckman (best known for studying facial expressions and how they relate to emotions) identified six basic emotions: happiness, sadness, disgust, fear, surprise and anger. Interesting that four out of six of these fall into the ‘negative’ category.

    In 1980, Psychologist Robert Plutchik identified eight basic emotions: joy, sadness, trust, disgust, fear, anger, anticipation and surprise. Again, four of these eight might be considered negative.

    They both went on to expand the range of emotions to include many others. Dr. Plutchik expanded his findings through the wheel of emotions (below) to illustrate the spectrum, degrees and relationships among these emotions.

      If you Google it, you could find a list of the top 10, top 20 and more emotions, but for the sake of our sanity, we can start with these.

      Why Negative Emotions Aren’t All That Negative

      While negative emotions may feel bad, they’re not so bad for us after all. Here are seven reasons why negative emotions aren’t all that bad.

        1. They’re normal.

        We are going to start here, because, somewhere along the way, experiencing negative emotions became a bad thing. In a world where we are encouraged to be present, grateful and happy (which I agree with as well), perhaps we are doing ourselves a disservice by not talking about the fact that negative emotions are a natural and unavoidable part of life.

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        This leads us to feel even worse when we do feel them. Experiencing different ‘moods’ is all part of being human.[1]

        It’s time to re-assess the role of bad moods in our lives. We should recognize they are a normal and even useful and adaptive part of being human; they help us cope with many everyday situations and challenges.

        2. They serve a purpose and have a positive intention.

        If you research the underlying purpose behind negative emotions, they all have one thing in common:

        They have served an evolutionary purpose for our survival, health or well-being.

        For example, fear is our signal that something is wrong and protects us from danger and allows us to survive. Sadness enhances feelings of connection and empathy and builds community. Disgust provides an adverse reaction and steers us away from things that could cause harm or be contagious. Shame and guilt urge us to do the right thing and correct our wrongs. Anger is a protection mechanism that inspires action and causes us to do something to change a situation.[2]

          Surely, without these emotions, we would not be where we are as a species. All these emotions are things we need to feel attuned to help us survive and grow. While they may feel negative, they all have an underlying, positive intention, a reason for being. We need to seek to identify what that positive intention is.

          In addition, our negative emotions prompt us to grow. To be better partners, better friends. To grow, progress. They make us better people and drive change in our lives.

          3. They’re a warning signal.

          They identify something that’s going on — our true self, our inner nature and natural state is one of peace, calm and connection.

          However, when we’re out of alignment with our natural and best way, we experience negative emotions as signals that we’re off track. They are telling us, “Hey, listen up, somethings not right here, you’re going off track”.

          ‘Milder’ negative emotions such as frustration, apprehension or annoyance can be early warning signals that something’s not working for you. Leave those alone long enough and they’ll start to get louder. Perhaps you’ll start to feel anger, resentment or fear. Leave those alone too long and they’re out of control – you may experience rage, loathing, anxiety, depression.

          I always liken this to a toddler who needs your attention. They’ll tug on your leg quietly seeking your attention. If you ignore them or don’t pay attention, they start to whine. Ignore them further, or push their needs to the side, you’ll start to get screaming, crying and eventually a full-on temper tantrum.

          The fear and anxiety I experienced was a (late) warning signal that the path I was on was unsustainable, even if my conscious mind thought I was all ‘all good’. I was way off track and needed to slow down.

          Some negative emotions aren’t signs we are off track or out of alignment, but signs we are doing the wrong thing. Think about when you feel shame or guilt. These are signals that you’re doing the ‘wrong thing’ or something out of integrity. A few weeks ago, my 7-year-old daughter came home saying she felt ashamed of something. That was a strong word to use and my first reaction was to comfort her to remove that awful feeling.

          But then I asked her why. As she explained what happened, I realized that what she was feeling was quite healthy. The guilt was telling her she was doing the wrong thing – in this case, it was a self-correcting mechanism. Our discussion became less about absolving the bad feeling and more about learning from her mistakes and doing the ‘right thing’ next time.

          4. They inspire action.

          They are a catalyst for change and movement. What happens when you get really mad? You take action.

          Maybe you get passed up for the latest promotion. You’re mad. You felt you deserved it and you’re angry you didn’t get it. That anger prompts you to talk to your boss (in a courteous and professional way, of course) about your skills, accomplishments, successes so she can see your point of view and doesn’t pass you by next time.

          Perhaps you wouldn’t have spoken up so clearly if you weren’t angry?

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          Anger has been used throughout history as a positive catalyst for change. Many great leaders have harnessed their anger to stand up for what they believe in and to demand justice and change. Martin Luther King Jr. said,

          “The supreme task is to organize and unite people so that their anger becomes a transforming force.”

          Our anger can be a transforming force for good on a small, person scale (as in the case above) and a much more widespread scale (such as Dr. King). When someone treats you or others unfairly, and you feel angry, you can harness that anger to stand up and correct the situation.

          Negative emotions create fire in your belly – they motivate you to be productive, solve problems, stand up for what you believe in, gain back your personal power and make changes that propel you – or maybe even society – in a different direction.

          I love this quote from Arun Gandhi (grandson of Mahatma Gandhi):

          “Use your anger for good. Anger to people is like gas to the automobile – it fuels you to move forward and get to a better place. Without it, we would not be motivated to rise to a challenge. It is an energy that compels us to define what is just and unjust.”

          5. They allow you to live wholeheartedly.

          Many of the world’s ancient wisdom traditions, philosophers and psychologists have valued and been intrigued by the light-dark, negative-positive, shadow aspects of our selves.

          Think about the concept of yin and yang in Chinese philosophy:[3]

          “It describes how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another.”

          You know the movie Inside Out? I’m embarrassed to admit this, but I’ll share it anyway. When the movie first came out, I didn’t want my kids to see it. Why? Because I didn’t want any emphasis placed on ‘negative’ emotions: fear, anger and sadness. Why couldn’t they just make a movie about JOY? Joy is awesome. Add in happy, grateful and excited and now we have a movie I want to take my kids to see.

          Then I watched Brene Brown’s TED talk on vulnerability, and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Maybe it wasn’t until then that I fully realized how important it is to feel all of our emotions. In her talk, she shares that to live wholeheartedly, we must feel the full range of emotions. The positive: joy, gratitude, happiness. And the not so positive: grief, fear, shame, disappointment.

          You can’t selectively feel emotion. So, for us to live as wholehearted human beings, we need to feel and express our full range of emotions. After all, how can you really appreciate the joy of happiness if you haven’t suffered the pain of sadness?

          And as my daughter reminded me, in the movie Inside Out, guess who saves the day? Sadness. Yes, it’s sadness who saves the day.[4]

            6. They provide release.

            “What the mind conceals, the body reveals”.

            When we conceal or try to hide or ignore emotions, they don’t just go away. They go deep within us. They eat at us. They cause ulcers, back pain, sickness. That ‘sudden’ heart attack, ‘unexplained’ high blood pressure or ‘unexpected’ anxiety may not be so inexplicable after all.

            Feeling our emotions allows us to release the feeling and move forward. My chiropractor, Dr. Ruth Ziemba once said,[5]

            “Feel them, but don’t let them become you.”

            This has served me well. I think we have all feared those painful emotions of guilt, anger, grief, hopelessness would mean we would fall into a never-ending pit of despair from which may never emerge.

            I have worried I would go too far down the rabbit hole and never make it back to see the light of day. But in order to move on, we must feel and release them. Once we ‘expose’ them, they have much less control over us.

              Rich Roskopf,[6] a bodyworker , trainer, massage and movement specialist, shared something that resonated deeply with me. He was studying the meditation work of Guy Armstrong, author of “Emptiness” and the philosophy that everything needs to arise, persist and pass.

              The same is true for our emotions. When we allow the feelings to arise and persist, they will pass. Grasping, clinging and pushing them down will always lead to unhappiness.

              Even a good cry can help. We have three different types of tears and the ones produced when we cry can make you feel better. Tears cried in sadness contain a chemical that is toxic to our body.[7]

              “Emotional crying is the body’s way of ridding itself of these toxins and waste products.”

              In Japan, they even have ‘crying rooms’ and ‘crying events’ which serve to help participants ease stress levels and release emotion.

                7. They build resilience.

                The more you experience the full range of emotions, the more resilient you become to facing and dealing with them.

                Jessie Dudley, Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Program Manager at the Mental Health Center of Denver, had this to say.

                “By allowing yourself to feel everything you need to feel, you learn how to cope and build your toolbox of coping strategies. Then, next time you feel that same feeling, you know what to do and what works for you. You realize the feeling won’t kill you. It doesn’t’ make the sensation any less, but it makes you more aware of how to respond to it.

                If you don’t build coping skills, when you feel those emotions, you want to push them away. Emotional avoidance is effective to an extent. Really, everybody tries to avoid feeling badly. But the more you avoid, the less coping skills you’re developing. The less you are able to cope, the more afraid you become of the emotions, which leads to a vicious cycle of pushing them down. In many cases, people may turn to other unhealthy ways to cope, including addictions and substance abuse.

                Remember this: we are constantly evolving. Your coping skills will evolve and grow too.”

                As Jessie shared, When you face negative emotions and learn effective coping skills, you feel stronger and more capable to deal with them in the future.

                As a mother, this is particularly relevant. I once read that our job as parents is not to protect our kids from disappointment, it’s to be there for them when disappointment happens. If our kids don’t learn healthy ways to cope with negative emotions, they will struggle throughout life to manage them.

                How to Embrace Negative Emotions and Turn Them into Positive Motivation

                Here’s a process you can use. Let’s call it the ACDC Method.

                A – Acknowledge and honor the emotion

                Feel it but don’t let it become you. Let it arise, persist and pass. Sit with it. Your instinct will be to push it away. (Seriously, who wants to feel like crap?)

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                But once you acknowledge it, you can move forward. If you feel uncomfortable or unsafe feeling what’s coming up, you may want to reach out to a therapist or someone who can create a safe space to experience your emotions.

                  C – Consider the positive intention of the emotion

                  Is it showing up as an early warning signal (or a late one), a catalyst for positive change, a protection or survival mechanism?

                  Identify the positive intention behind the emotion.

                  D – Double check your story

                  Sometimes our negative emotions are warranted, but sometimes they are misplaced. Make sure to check them out.

                  If you’re feeling worried, is there really something to worry about or has worrying become a bad habit? If you’re feeling angry at someone, do you have all the facts? Perhaps it’s a miscommunication or misunderstanding. If you’re feeling sad or defeated, is there a story you keep telling yourself that is not true? Before you dive in, make sure to double check the depth of the water.

                  C – Choose your action

                  Once you acknowledge, understand and double-check the emotion, think about what action you can take.

                  Maybe you thank the fear for keeping you safe. Perhaps you harness your anger and stop putting up with something that is impacting your life or health. Maybe you use your frustration to move forward in a new direction. Or, employ your guilt to right a wrong.

                  In some cases, your action may be to do nothing at all other than feel you’re feeling. That’s okay, too.

                  When Negative Emotions Become Bad…

                  It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge the varying levels of negative emotions that can occur.

                  Too much guilt can be paralyzing. Too much sadness is depression. Too much anger can lead to rage. Too much fear can lead to anxiety.

                  Experiencing some level of these negative emotions is normal. Experiencing ongoing and excessive levels of these emotions can be a signal that something much deeper needs to be addressed.

                  If you’re feeling persistent negative emotions or your emotions are significantly interfering with your life, please reach out to your doctor, therapist or specialist for help and support.

                  Conclusion

                  To experience all of these emotions is what makes us human.

                  What if we could take off the label of negative emotions? What if they weren’t bad? What if they were all just emotions? Negative. Positive. Neutral. We have all sorts of different emotions.

                  Let’s just feel them. Listen to them. Acknowledge, honor, accept them. Seek to understand what they are trying to tell us, so we can harness them to live our best lives.

                  Featured photo credit: Riccardo Mion via unsplash.com

                  Reference

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