What Men Should Never Say to a Single Mom

A couple of weeks ago, a guy I knew announced he was splitting from his wife. It shouldn’t have surprised me. Dude had been flirty for months but since we hardly knew each other, I’d assumed that I was reading these situations incorrectly (not impossible, given that women only recognize flirtation 1/3 of the time) or that he was maybe a little unclear on the touchy-feely boundaries (also not impossible, given that I am American and people in Germany seem to think that means that I like to be touched. I don’t. You put your hand on my arm and I will burn a hole in it with my eyes until you remove it.) This guy really liked to put his hand on my arm. And the small of my back. And ask me if I was dating anyone. Clearly, he was expressing interest but I was too caught up in his being married to notice.

When I finally did notice it, I asked, “How long have you been talking about splitting up?” Because I have ethics and before I can even look at a guy to determine if he’s cute or not, I have to know that he is not attached to someone else. I’m told I’m unusual that way, but whatever. If you’re with someone else, you got no business trying to get in my business.

“Six months,” he said.

They say it takes three years to get over a divorce. Six months would still be a rebound. But rebounds can be fun, right?

“Why are you splitting up?” I asked him.

“It’s her decision. I have no idea.”

Ruh-roh. This could go both ways — she could have someone new in her life or he could be completely tone deaf during their arguments. So I asked her why they were splitting up and she very nicely but not without a lot of hurt in her voice explained that she wasn’t happy with him and that she knew she never could be and that the decision had been a long time coming. Fair enough.

Before I could get interested, though, I needed to know more about their situation so we sat down to chat. I was expecting something similar to what the ex had said, perhaps a confession that he’d found her with another guy. Instead, he proceeded to call his ex an asshole, claim that he had done absolutely nothing wrong in the marriage, and accuse her of being out for his money. Lots of anger. But that wasn’t what bugged me most. It was how familiar it all sounded.

You see, just the week before, I’d sat down with a couple of dads I knew who’d split from their baby mamas so that I could get their perspective on things. Because while in some ways, Diva’s dad is a nice fixture in her life, his presence in it brings me a lot of unnecessary headaches and I’m trying to iron out the wrinkles in the way least detrimental to diva. I thought maybe getting a man’s perspective would help me understand what needed to be done and since her dad and I can’t communicate, maybe these guys would give me some good advice.

After I asked them how they envisioned their roles in their kids’ lives and how best to attain those ideal roles, it became clear very quickly that a) these dads had zero idea of what their baby mamas were juggling at home in terms of responsibilities, that b) they thought the baby mamas were only out for their money, and c) that they personally had done nothing wrong to lead to the demise of the relationship because d) the baby mamas were batshit insane and completely illogical. Also, there was the big statement of entitlement on their parts: “I made this child with my sperm, therefore I am entitled to it.”

It shouldn’t have surprised me. Those are the exact sentiments Herr Lederhosen has. And while I agree wholeheartedly with all the psychologists who say that children need to have their fathers in their lives, I cannot abide men who lack the self-awareness to say “Here’s how I fucked up, this is my role in this situation and here’s what I’m doing to make it better.” I cannot abide any more men who diminish the difficulties that mothers, both single and married, face when raising a child or children while juggling a job. Nor can I ever tolerate hearing again that your child’s mother is “acting crazy for no reason.”

No, she is not acting crazy. You’re not listening.

That’s ultimately what I told that dude with the interest. No one is completely innocent when a marriage comes apart. It might be her request to divorce — and the last stat I read said 2/3 of divorces are initiated by the women because men are too lazy to move out — but that doesn’t mean you didn’t fuck up in some way. That way could be that you couldn’t love her the way she needed to be loved but calling her an asshole (or a Tussi or a bitch, insert your favorite degrading curse here) ain’t going to change that. Sorry, sweets, but it just makes you look bad.

Next time you’re trying to impress the divorcee single mom, admit your mistakes. Show how active you are in your kid’s life. For heaven’s sake do not disparage your ex wife to everyone. Save that for your best friend or your mom.

And here’s the last part, which I can’t emphasize enough: instead of hammering on and on about what sucks in your relationship with your ex and how that impacts your visits with your child, ask her what you can do to make life easier on her. Because nothing is sexier than a guy who, despite all the hurt, actually acknowledges the difficulties of the mom raising his kid mostly alone and does something to lighten that load.

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