It trickled in through the grapevine that one of our friends getting divorced. One or two kids (we're not GREAT friends).
Susan and I were discussing this at the salad bar this weekend. Stupid little observations, like how your mid- to late twenties are spent attending weddings and your mid to late thirties are spent watching some of those partnerships falling apart. This led to an analysis of trying to find a new partner as a single parent which lead to a discussion of what our plans would be if we split up or one of us died.
As an old man of 37, were Susan to die and I to re-enter the dating game, I'd have the following groups to choose from:
(1) Younger women who haven't been married.
(2) Divorced women (no kids)
(3) Women my age who were never married
(4) Single moms
(5) Give men a try
Speaking generally, I've listed the groups in order of preference. From a selfish standpoint, it's pretty defensible. You'll note the bottom (realistic/non-prison part) of the list contains single moms, regardless of whether or not they were married. This ain't gonna sound good, but I've always been of the opinion that women with kids are - from the perspective of a suitor - damaged goods. Although I don't have stats on this, I would guess that pre-existing parenthood is a liabilities in the dating arena. If you doubt this, use the identical twin test: Imagine two identical twins, one with a particular feature and one without and ask yourself which twin is more desirable. If the particular feature is an X-year-old, I'm going with the single option. There are so many reasons for this - Baby daddy drama. The kid could be an asshole, or we just don't get along ("You're not my real father!" screams the apoplectic nine-year-old.). I don't want to be responsible for any more dependents than absolutely necessary. It's also a little difficult to imagine a woman with kids, especially young kids, as a sexual being. I could go on, but you get the idea.
This is one of those viewpoints that might (MIGHT) be OK to share in the abstract, but serves little purpose in voicing, even when it's relevant. What's the point in telling a woman you've dated a few times that you don't want to continue because, although you like her, it's not enough to overcome the baggage her children represent to you? It's not like they're gonna bash the kid's head on a rock and start over. To paraphrase The Big Lebowski: You're not wrong, you're just an asshole.
Extrapolating from this, it makes sense that divorced people with children tend to re-marry other single parents. Blended families galore! The logic governing these selections isn't exactly the most romantic stuff - single parents are damaged goods, and the most likely people to accept them as romantic partners were people with similar impediments.
There may be more to it though - as Susan and I discussed the merits of this argument, I had another thought to explain this phenomenon. Let me try to explain this via direct example:
Susan is the most important person in my life. Top priority. I hope (and would expect) I occupy the same place in her personal hierarchy. However, if I had met Susan after she had a child with someone else (assuming we formed a romantic relationship), I couldn't necessarily expect to be the most important person to her... ever. That's the kid's place. This creates a situation where Susan gets top billing from me, but I'm second fiddle forever with her. This may sound great for Susan, but it's not so awesome a deal for me. Strategically, I'd be better off finding someone without a kid and enjoying the unfettered attention that person has to offer. Now, if we both had a child, perhaps this would be a more tenable situation. Our love would be mutually secondary to our children, an even-stevens arrangement that would be mutually palatable. This would explain the phenomenon of single parents hooking up at such a high rate.
It seems to me that people intuitively understand this, but rarely (if ever) articulate it. People respond to incentives. Simple as that?
Extending the analysis leads to some interesting questions: I wonder if this lack of synchronous priorities contributes to the dissolution of many marriages. What if MOM is still dad's top priority, but CHILD is now MOM's first priority? Kind of fucked up, yeah?
I also wonder whether, if romantic love (or a binary partnership, or whatever you want to call it) really becomes secondary to love for one's children, there are people quietly living in blended families with people they don't feel strongly about, where the relationship is more for insurance and mutual support rather than a real connection. There's not much way to tell, I'd say. It's not like anyone would ever admit to this kind of thing.
It makes sense. But it's also kind of sad.
Noah's Inner Monologue
Scribblings of a man who can barely operate an idiotproof website.