I felt instant recognition when reading the poem “Duality” today by the blogger Ineffable Mr. Jones. (Here is a link to his beautiful poem.) I realized as I finished reading it, that it described today (and almost every Saturday for the past year) perfectly. I adore my three-year-old, but the tantrums and the screaming when I ask him to do or not do something, put me in a tailspin.
One minute I’m breathless and shaking. He’s thrown something again. He’s hit me. I’m struggling to pick him up, while he kicks, and put this 40 lb bruiser into his time out chair that I literally have to strap him into. I’m trying to stay positive, but typically fail. I wonder why I was chosen to deal with this all alone. And then, maybe 10 minutes later, when he calms down, all I can think is how grateful I am he is here with me. I learned a few weeks ago that my rough and tumble three-year-old isn’t creating antibodies. Yup. It’s like he’s never been vaccinated. He has no antibodies to Tetnus, for instance, or Pneumococcal. That’s why he’s sick so much. That’s why he’s a cranky bugs most days. That’s why his adenoids are so swollen ALL the time and he can’t sleep well. That’s why he’s had pneumonia so often and is vulnerable to getting it again. After 20 days straight on antibiotics last month, I found a specialist and had his blood drawn. Thank God. We’re going to solve this. He’s going to be okay. My heart swells with unconditional love and fear just thinking about it.
But…WHY he has to scream, throw things, kick and hit when he doesn’t get his way—to the extreme that he does—is driving me to the edge. It’s like emotional whiplash on a weekly basis. Today, I went from being madly in love with my little guy while playing sweetly with him—to choking down dark anger and frustration when he threw books off his bookshelf and screamed full tilt because I dared to ask him to put on his shoes a few minutes earlier. It’s the emotional equivalent of one minute cruising sweetly down a dirt road through the countryside on a gorgeous summer afternoon—to banging your head and neck on the back of the seat as you are jolted into Mach 5 speed—thrusting you madly into outer space. And this happened over and over again today, as it does on our weekends. I want so badly to stay in pasture thoughts and soul snowing love as Mr. Jones so eloquently put it. But my weekends with my little guy propel me like an emotional pendulum back and forth, again and again. I can’t let him get away with his tantrums and bad behavior. I have to be firm and put him in time out every time. I do. But it’s hilariously exhausting as I carry him up the stairs, still limping in my boot from my injury, to put him in his time out chair. But it’s what I have to do right now.
For those of you who may think I’m missing the forest through the trees, know this: Of course I’m madly in love with my little boy. Of course I’m meant to lasso this challenge and grow spiritually because of it. Of course he will grow out of this or I’ll find a specialist to help me if necessary. He has to get better physically and emotionally. I CAN do this. I HAVE to. So even though it’s been one month without a weekend off and I’ve got two more months to go, I’m going to mentally strap myself into this pendulum and remind myself to try to enjoy this maddening ride. Single parents out there, can you relate?
Here are Mr. Jones’ simple words. See if they resonate with your world:
So you want to find Mr. Right? It’s simple: stop doing all the wrong (albeit fun) things when you first meet, says Dr. Pat Allen, Ph.D., relationship and communication therapist in Los Angeles. Allen is also the author of several best-selling books including: Getting To I-Do and The Truth About Men Will Set You Free, (But First It Will Piss You Off!)You may be more familiar with her, however, from her multiple TV interviews or her work on the TV show Millionaire Matchmaker where her blunt talk about sex and relationship blunders borders on the comical. Here’s a clip to see what I mean. (It’s ok, go ahead and watch it, I’ll wait!)
I met Dr. Allen in 2009 when I was desperately trying to keep my marriage together. Through a friend’s psychic vision (yeah, I know, but it really happened), I discovered that my husband started an affair when working abroad while I was at home with our six month old baby and his older brother. I try not to focus on all the details of this sordid time, and the time that followed of yo-yo-ing back and forth in this cycle of forgiveness and betrayal again and again. My life had become the car wreck that friends and family couldn’t stop themselves from slowing down to look at. When I think back to that period when I was still breastfeeding and down to 92 lbs from sheer sorrow, I just die inside. So, like a race car driver who refuses to look at the wall when he races, I’m keeping my eyes on the better road ahead.
Just know that three months of therapy with Dr. Allen helped me let go of an impossible situation. She taught me about the male brain and the drug-like effects of dopamine on men who are ascending into places of power. And, I learned that I was too nice, codependent, and had lost my power and my ability to say no in relationships that resulted in mistreatment.
I turned to Dr. Allen to advise all of us single moms who are venturing out into the dating world as newbies. Her books will teach you many things, including how right-handed men think (very interesting, but for another blog) and how you have to negotiate commitment with men and never assume they can be monogamous…which is a bitter pill to swallow, isn’t it? So my first question to her on the night we met at her office in West Los Angeles was this:
“What is the biggest tip you can give women entering the dating world again?”
Without hesitation, she replied: “Stop drinking. Pure and simple.”
She speaks in a quintessentially blunt, staccato voice. I’m listening, expecting a more elaborate explanation. When she doesn’t continue I push her for information on this topic as how many women like to have a glass of wine on a first date to take the edge off? The relationship expert explains that a woman can’t size up a man correctly if she even has one drink on the first date or before commitment.
“Wine (on the first date, first meeting) knocks out instincts for her and knocks out intelligence and intuition for him. They go home, have sex and wake up with strangers. The chemistry is all wrong,” Dr. Allen explains.
The relationship guru continues that “you need to be sober to feel chemistry.”
Sexual attraction that builds over drinks isn’t true chemistry, she reminds me.
Ok, I can do that. I don’t drink that much anymore anyway. The other tip for finding Mr. Right might be a bit trickier: NO sex.
And I don’t just mean on the first date, which isn’t an issue for many of us. Dr. Allen says a woman shouldn’t “consummate a relationship” before commitment.
“Don’t have sex without a commitment and don’t make a commitment under the influence,” she explains.
Before having sex with a man, women need to have at least “a gut feeling of the goodness of the person we are with.” That can’t happen under the influence and women bond too quickly with a man after sex—but clearly, it’s often with the wrong man.
This is science at work. If a woman is attracted to a man, the hormone oxytocin is released into her body, which heightens the sense of touch and orgasm. If she drinks and then has sex with a man that she knows little about, she can become addicted to him. This makes her disregard any red flags that she would have normally picked up on—such as drug use, a history of infidelity, sexual addiction, mental illness, anger issues, financial instability, etc.
“The problem with oxytocin-based addictive bonding to an inappropriate man is that the intellect is relegated to a secondary status in choice and judgment. The good counsel of parents, friends, religious leaders and psychotherapists is of no benefit. Addiction to oxytocin as a pleasure takes over,” Dr. Allen says.
Ok, Dr. Allen’s advice makes sense to me. But, like a lot of things in life, it might be harder to put all of it into practice. I always wait to have sex with a man until I feel a bit of goodness about him, and never on the first date. I remember hearing about the “3 Date Rule” when living in New York. Do you guys know of that one? Well, waiting until the third date to have sex is complete rubbish, according to Dr. Allen, unless you just want to have fun and don’t care whether you end up abused or in a long-term relationship.
What do you think single moms (and single women in general!) out there? I ran across a couple of great single mom blogs recently where this debate is raging. MsSingleMama.com, (who rocks, btw!) often writes about her dating adventures and chats with other single moms about the importance of having sex. In a forum asking how long it had been for her single mom readers some moms wrote in that it had been 18 months or even 2 years! Wait, these are gorgeous, smart, savvy, young women. What’s going on here? Well, most of us just won’t bring a man home to the kiddos. And, many of us are completely gun-shy after the heartbreak of our divorces. Dr. Allen says we all need to know that “No man is monogamous.” (Why this should be reassuring is hard to get right away!) A line from our interview that is so apropo for this is: “The man you’re afraid of is THE MAN.”
All men want to cheat, but not all do, she says. In order to find the good guys, the ones who will cherish and love you and feel horribly if they hurt you, you need to weed out the bad.
As a recap, here are Dr. Allen’s top tips to successfully find a good guy:
Don’t drink on the first date, even one glass of vino, so you can determine chemistry and listen to your intuition.
Don’t have sex on the first date, ever.
Don’t have sex until a firm commitment, so you don’t bond with the wrong fella.
Don’t drink with your new man until you have a commitment.
Why does she insist on these rules? Because you have to have true chemistry, compatibility and great communication to make a relationship work. “You will know in three minutes whether you have great chemistry with a man,” Dr. Allen insists.
Ok, I think I have three minutes.
And, she says give a potential good guy at least three dates in order to realize whether your intellect is disregarding him prematurely. But don’t drink on these dates!
Well, I’ve got three minutes and three evenings to spare. … Maybe I can tip-toe back out there after all. How about you? Do you think you can follow her rules? Do you even want to? Please chime in!!
AloneTogether: Single Moms Support Group (This is a closed group, please say you found their site from me, Laura Roe Stevens, when requesting to join.)
The UCLA Family Commons: http://www.uclacommons.com/
Single Parent Housing: www.SPAOA.org
Pell Grants For Mothers: PellGrants.ClassesAndCareers.com