My ex-wife asked for a divorce without warning and it wasn't a situation where I could stay at home until I saved some money and found a place. I moved almost immediately to a friend's house and then a crappy apartment. I also still paid half her bills for the first month I was gone and $500 a month in child support the rest of the year even though I has our son as much, if not more, than she did. I'm not the first person to suffer unnecessarily by being too nice in a divorce but the combination of that mistake and it all happening without warning meant I left with almost nothing and almost nothing to buy anything with.
I left with an old couch, a few pots and pans we had doubles of, an almost broken T.V., my books because she knew better than to try to keep my books, my clothes, a few of my son's clothes, and my truck because dammit I wasn't going anywhere without my truck. I can't blame it all on her because as I said I was too nice for my own good. My friends and family chipped in when they could. I got some hand me down beds and furniture. They gave me some other things too but it's not like I know a lot of people with a lot to spare. Many of them, if they knew how bad things were would've sacrificed too much to help me too much so I just didn't tell them.
I started dating about two months after I moved out before I even had my own place. I had to buy date clothes because this self styled old, married man didn't have anything suitable to attract a young woman. Dating was another expense I didn't need but it was something I needed to do. I probably started dating too soon but that's the way I've always handled loss and disappointment. I have to move on before I can move on.
My first girlfriend afterwards bought me the plates I'm still eating off of and the pots and pans I'm still cooking with. She also bought me sheets because we needed them ;-), some clothes for my son and I, and prepared and paid for many a meal. My next sort of girlfriend bought me groceries and beer and took me out a lot. She's even still helped me as the sort of girlfriend description has become just a friend. Then the woman that just broke up with me bought my son a whole new wardrobe basically, enough new clothes for me that I won't have to buy date clothes for a while, countless little essentials like toothpaste, and, of course lots of food. Women seem to love to feed a single father.
In purely financial terms I was a taker in these relationships. It wasn't purposeful and I did try to give back. It cost me gas to see them and I paid for nights out too and I tried to help them out when I noticed they needed it. I became a really good gift giver with my proudest present being a pair of Chuck Taylors with Van Gogh's Starry Night custom printed on them. I couldn't contribute as much financially to the relationships as they did, though. All the help still left me with a lot to buy for my place, the ex-wife left me with a lot of bills, and my son always needed football cleats or wrestling headgear or new glasses etc. etc. and you know who was paying for those. Also, I've been more concerned with spoiling my son than my girlfriends because he's needed some stuff in his life that wasn't disappointing. So even though I've had a better job and more income than them my girlfriends have always spent more on the relationship than I have.
If it was just money it wouldn't bother me as much. Things were the way they were and they all knew it at the beginning. I didn't hide anything. However, it wasn't just financially. I took emotionally and physically too. These women loved me with their heart and souls in a way I probably wasn't capable of loving them. My focus was on loving my son and figuring out a way to still love myself after I helped fuck up his life. I had room in my heart for these women but it wasn't enough room and not near what they deserved. In this way too, I was a taker.
Again, I feel compelled to defend myself a little. Again, it wasn't purposeful and I did try. I'm very good at making women feel beautiful and good about themselves because most women are better looking and better people than they know. So I did that and I held them and massaged them when I noticed they needed it. I've always been a good listener with a ready ear so I provided that. I'm a hardworking, nice guy, who tries to be attentive in the bedroom and that's more than a lot of women get from a lot of men so I try not to get too down on myself.
Still, what I did for them isn't much compared to what they did for me. The first few awkward bedroom sessions with someone other than my ex-wife were gotten through with patience and understanding. My horizons were expanded and my outlook on life changed. They taught me new things and taught me to appreciate things I never did before. They supported me and loaned me a backbone when I needed one through a difficult divorce. In the two breakups that came from these relationships both women mentioned how tired they were. I was tired, too. I ran myself ragged trying to be the kind of father I expect myself to be, work, and attempting to give these women as much as they gave me. I just couldn't do it. They made me feel loved again and showed me I was still worth being loved. I couldn't and can't repay that. I can only say I'm sorry and I will always hold them in high regard in my heart.
If I thought it was just these relationships I wouldn't be worried about it; I wouldn't be up in the middle of the night writing about it. I am worried that all my romantic relationships are going to be this way at least until my son is grown. My situation is still improving bit by bit and so I'll have more and more of myself to give but I'll probably give most of me to my son. I'm who he has and I'm who is supposed to do for him and be there for him and doing that to the level I expect of myself will always take most of who I am. I don't know that I'll ever have enough of myself to be fair to anyone else.
So the question should be is it even fair of me to date but that's not a question I ask. I don't want to know the answer. It might be no but I don't want to know it because I don't want to be alone. I know that's selfish and I fear it means I'm not a good man. Being a good man is right under being a good father on the list of things I pride myself on. I wish there was some nice, tidy bow I could wrap this all up in but I fear it's going to be open ended and something I'll always struggle with. Maybe that's why I wrote this, though. So that it's out there and the women in my future will at least be warned. I am a taker.