I was warned as a newly divorced man about the classic “rebound” relationship—one that shortly follows the ending of a previous one. Rebounders are supposedly needy, distressed, emotionally unavailable, and lacking the capacity to make good decisions about a partner. This not only describes me, but also most men I know in Los Angeles. Nothing personal, guys.
Still, I set out optimistically one night for a Jewish singles event called “Opera Under the Stars.” Granted, I’m not a huge opera fan, nor am I a big stars nut, but it sounded classy and romantic and, okay, a friend talked me into going. The event’s producer took over the backyard of a Brentwood home, brought in a tenor and soprano to sing arias, served cheese, crackers and wine at intermission, took our $30 admission charge, and wished us luck. Love for sale in L.A.
Luck appeared at intermission in the person of a woman I’ll call “Amy.” I immediately perceived Amy as intelligent, attractive, funny, Jewish, available, and, most important, of course—interested in me.
The greatest benefit of an exciting new relationship? As any divorced man knows, going from a situation of infrequent sex and no sex—to one where you’re suddenly with someone who actually wants to have frequent and enthusiastic sex with you. It’s heaven, the life-saving oasis in your romance desert.
The abundant sex can also, of course, cloud one’s vision, especially in conjunction with the aforementioned rebounder traits and the accompanying rose-colored glasses through which you’re viewing your new object of desire. Those rose-hued glasses make it that much more challenging to make out the red flags directly in one’s path. And so when Amy eventually suggested that I give up my writing aspirations and return to school to learn a trade, I said nothing.
Nor did I breathe a word of my disappointment one day when during our walk through an outdoor mall in Santa Monica, Amy looked around at our fellow mall-goers and disparagingly referred to them as “shleppers.” Shleppers is a Yiddish term defined variously as inept, stupid, ill-dressed, sloppy in habits, an annoying person who always wants a bargain. It struck me as an incredibly rude, snobbish and judgmental thing to say. But, again, I said nothing.
As the relationship developed, I kept my mouth shut about many of these kinds of things. Didn’t want to rock the girlfriend boat. Preferred focusing on the things that were good, and there were good things, to be fair (Amy said to me on more than one occasion, “You’re the man I’ve been searching for my whole life.”)—that at the time I felt compensated for the insensitivities from “La Princessa,” which is how Amy referred to herself.
My greatest regret about not speaking up was when my children invited me to join them at Passover Seder at their mom’s place. A little back-story: Although Amy was also divorced, she had no children. Didn’t, in fact, seem all that taken with children and not especially eager to spend time with mine. Would even complain that on the nights I was having dinner with my children, she had to be eating all alone. By all this, did Amy expect me to not see my kids? Or to just have me feel guilty about her being alone?
In any case, Amy made it crystal clear that if I accepted that invitation rather than joining her at her family’s Seder, she would perceive it as a clear sign that I would be putting her in second place—and our relationship would be over. I joined Amy at her family’s Seder and to this day regret that decision.
Any man with just a bit of gumption and self-respect would have realized what was happening and walked away. But this is me we’re talking about—the guy whose gumption was hidden behind his rebound relationship, his newfound sexual activity, and his rose-colored glasses.
The wake-up call I so desperately needed finally came—from, oddly enough, Amy herself, who did in fact walk away. I came home from work one day to find all her clothing removed from my closet. That was how she chose to tell me it was over. She was unreachable until four days later, when I got her on the phone. She’d decided to break things off due to my putting my kids over her and my refusal to give up the life of a writer and return to school to learn a trade. She said that each of her sisters were married to doctors and living in big houses in the Valley and she realized she’d never have that with me. And why she couldn’t break up to my face? “It would have been too uncomfortable for me.”
If it sounds like I’m bitter or resentful, far from it. In fact, I’m grateful to La Princessa for helping me get my head straight about my priorities in life and love. Billy Connolly once said, “I love Los Angeles. It reinvents itself every two days.” I think we have to do that in life and in relationships, too, to stay on course. So, now I speak up a lot more. I have meals with my kids and am clear about their being my first priority always. And I wear those rose-colored glasses far less frequently. Oh, and I keep writing. That is, when I’m not hanging out with shleppers.
I always read Mark Miller’s pieces, but this one I thought was one of his best — heartfelt, straightforward, insightful. And yes, I’m one of that legion of divorced men of a certain age, so I know exactly what he’s talking about. Well done.
Fabulous! Funny, open, vulnerable, insightful. Thanks.
I am sorry to break it for you Mark but a rebounder is a man with b***s. Ask any woman who doesn’t find that attractive or that he is able to pick himself up again and not being a quitter. Which woman finds it attractive and admirable to see a “man” feeling sorry for himself for years and enjoying sex without commitment (as implied by you below)?
And finally, again we are back to square one. Why am I not surprised to see such immature statement “The greatest BENEFIT!!! of an exciting new relationship? As any divorced man knows, going from a situation of infrequent sex and no sex.” Aaah! Sex. Is the genital men’s major dilemma after divorce? Wow! Really!? Ok, then why should they get married, then why should they pick only one woman or show respect for women with serious commitment if it is just a short fling anyway. So a booty call can easily qualify as “dating”. “I dated her for a very short period of time but it didn’t work out. When I met her in the bar, I thought she had qualities of a good wife and mother.” Insightful…
I had a similar situation only it was her that was on the rebound. Her divorce was not finalized. I thought we got along great, our kids loved each other and we were becoming an extended family. I was there to assist her with her emotional challenges but after fourteen months, she dumped me saying my kids were more important to me than her (what about her kids to her but I still put her first) and then she was picking on small things then attacking the bedroom activities and money issues.
all this after we even took a marriage class at Chabad. Why can’t Jewish women be more down to earth? They are so demanding that they drive Jewish men to shiksahs….
Not an uncommon experience and one that many people have confronted including myself.
It’s the reason I tell folks that the best combos are people with children connecting with each other and singles without children connecting.
There is a significant difference in your life experience for a man or woman that has raised children and people who have not. And naturally someone with children is going to give them priority and if your relationship has not developed to the point of being invited to the family dinner, you will sit alone some weekends–the time of the week many people don’t work and relax and look to date and have fun.
It’s amazing how his situation mimics mine. Three years of dating showed a caring person who said she wanted a blended family. After marriage, her princess face emerged. She was always trying to drive a wedge between me and my family, my three children and parents. She wanted all the attention and felt neglected otherwise. It didn’t matter that I was a good stepfather to her daughters and son. In the end, when my daughter needed an operation and I obviously was going to spend time with her, she then asked for a divorce, on the spot. Divorcing her was the best move we ever made. I suppose I was overwhelmed with the affection and care she showed me and that clouded my judgement, as I did love her. In the end, that love turned to disgust, as the person I thought I had married was a fake all along. She will end up with her pills again and will be alone. Sad but true.
Great article, Mark. I’ve just started dating following my divorce and have to say that it’s a lot easier dating someone with a similar background (divorced with kids). I dated a couple of jewish girls (not divorced or kids and at least 7 years younger) and ran into the same rose colored glasses full of sex and going out to great places but ran into the preverbial JAP syndrome. Unlike your ending I dumped them instead of the other way around as I was able to defogg my glasses a bit and realize that I wasn’t about to start a relationship with a “golddigger” I am currently dating a great gal with 2 kids (4 years younger) who just gets it. Its so refreshing!!!!!
Good luck to yall.
Has anyone ever thought of what we Jews of color go through? Me, being a black Jew of course. I have been on JDate for, I think, ten years, and have yet to go on one date with a woman from JDate. People have been more curious about me being a black Jew than interested in dating me. My Jewish mother makes that answer quite simple.
Unfortunately, I do however, agree with the first comment by “Ed” who says that Jewish women “are so demanding that they drive Jewish men to shikshas.”
“Match-Maker, match-maker, make me a match, find me a find, catch me a catch….”
I hope all of you find your besherts soon. 🙂
An unfortunate but fundamental fact of life in a relationship is that your partner simply has to take priority over your grown children. Otherwise she is a friend merely and not someone with who you plan to spend the rest of your days. There is no other way to structure the relationship without your partner, male or female, feeling as though he/she is slotting in or being an outsider. No, he/she cannot love your children as their own or be part of a family if the structure is upside-down. It’s bad enough in a marriage for a spouse to have the children come first. It’s an unworkable disaster in a relationship.
Take it from someone whole will not play second fiddle. And from someone who spends his professional time fixing relationships and restructuring them into a workable arrangement.
MA Clin Psych PhD Clinical Psychologist 7
Wow this really seems like a story that would resonate with a lot of guys.
This definitely could be me and I need to thank this man for telling his story in such an objective non blaming way. I will be careful to not walk in his shoes and find someone that accepts me for me and the children I have as a priority.
From Boston to LA
Thank You for you commmentary