Ask Dr. NerdLove: How Do I Date As A Newly Single Dad?

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Hello you hideous love intestines, and welcome to Ask Dr. NerdLove, the dating advice column that brings multiplayer DLC to your formerly single-player life.

This week we’re tackling the question of how to continue when you’re out of lives and almost out of quarters. How can someone who’s quick on the trigger learn to improve his hang-time with a new partner? How does a newly single dad get back out on the dating scene? And how much of an age gap is TOO much?

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It’s time to gird your loins and insert coins. Let’s do this.

Hey Doc,

I’m the guy from this article, back with a follow-up to my story. But before that, I wanted to say you were very right the first time around! Unfortunately I had to figure that out the hard way by making the very mistake you warned me against. She was pretty terrible after we got back together. The good news is, once I figured it out, I really figured it out, and things are so much better for me now that I’ve moved far away from that chapter of my life.

Anyway, after doing a lot of dating and learning many other lessons, I’ve met someone wonderful. She’s fun, independent, hard working, affectionate, and actually enjoys being physical with me. That last one may seem like it should come with the territory, but unfortunately that wasn’t always the case before.

Some of that was on me and some of it was due to bad chemistry, but I’m enjoying the genuine intimacy greatly. We’ve had a great 6 months (and no, we aren’t moving in together for at least another year, assuming things stay as great as they are). Anyway, while things are pretty much great, there is one thing I’d love some advice about.

So while my girlfriend and I have a very active sex life, I think it could be even better in one area: duration. While there are times I can hang in there for a decent amount of time, it often doesn’t take much to get me off. Now, we have plenty of foreplay before, and we aren’t done in bed until I reciprocate via other means. This has kept her satisfied for the most part, but I can tell she’d really enjoy if the penetrative part of sex lasted longer! Hell, I would too.

It’s also worth mentioning I’ve always struggled with this short fuse, and I even get put out of commission with the yips from time to time. Fortunately we worked through that issue early in the relationship (she’s a saint for that), but I can tell a lot of this is in my head somewhere. It’s something I talked about briefly while I was still seeing a therapist, but we never really got any deeper than feelings of inexperience. I should also add that I’m still quite a bit overweight, since I’ve read that can impact the situation (though I’ve lost 20 pounds and counting).

I’ve done some research on my own, but my options seem all over the place. I know there’s edging, mixing up positions so I have more control, and all kinds of other strategies, but I really don’t know where to start. I just want to give the two of us the best sex life possible, because she really deserves it (and so do I in some ways)! Anyway, I’d be really grateful for any advice you can offer. And hopefully this can help other readers who struggle with this problem, since it can be something many men find difficult to talk about.

Best,

Real Long Story

First things first: thanks for writing back and letting us know how it’s been going! It’s always awesome to get follow-ups from the people who’ve written in.

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Before we get to the meat of your question, RLS, I want to point out what you don’t say. What you don’t say is that your girlfriend has a problem with this. It sounds to me like you’re going off assumptions, rather than her actually having brought things up or having an actual conversation about whether you’re lasting long enough for her or not.

That’s the most important place for you to start, my dude, because I’m thinking this may be more of an issue for you than it is for her. I hear a lot from dudes who have an issue with not being able to hang in there longer when it comes to penetration.

You know who I don’t hear a lot from with this issue? Women.

Sexual endurance—by which we almost always mean time from initial penetration to orgasmic inevitability—is something that a lot of dudes don’t quite get because… well, they’re usually the ones doing the penetrating. The main way many men get off is either through penetration or through direct penile stimulation in ways that simulate penetration (i.e., oral, hand jobs, etc.), so we can tend to assume that penetration is the main event. All that foreplay’s been the opening act, but now the audience is starting to wonder when the hell Guns N’ Roses is gonna take the stage and take ‘em down to Paradise City, if you know what I’m sayin’.

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(Or not. I mean, GnR is kind of notorious for never actually hitting the stage on time, and now this metaphor’s officially gotten away from me.)

But that ain’t true. While many women dig penetration, the truth is that, if you’ve got a vagina, the odds are that you aren’t getting off via the peen. Folks who have vaginas almost always (90% of the time, according to recent studies) need direct, intense clitoral stimulation in order to get off. Some folks are part of that lucky 10% who can be stimulated from the inside, but most penetrative sex in most positions just ain’t gonna do the trick. This is part of why foreplay is so vital; it’s what actually gets folks off. Just acting like a fleshy jackhammer isn’t going to do the trick. In fact, it gets kinda boring, fast.

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And that’s for the folks as what’re doing the penetrating. If you’re the one being penetrated, it can go from “boring” to “chafing” to “oh Christ STOP ALREADY” pretty fast. Even the most aroused partner is gonna run out of lube—their own or store-bought—eventually, and that’s when things get unpleasant.

The other thing that people don’t keep in mind is that most people don’t know what the average duration of penetrative sex is. If you were to ask most couples (and if they were honest with you), they’d probably tell you that they think that the penetrative portion of sex for them was a little below average. Except it isn’t. Most people tend to clock in at around five minutes or so: dead bang (as it were) in the center of that particular bell curve.

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Why do so many dudes not think they’re lasting long enough? It’s partially because sex ed these days is a blasted hellscape that features a plumbing diagram if you’re lucky and no actually useful information. But it’s also because of porn. Just like the idea that bigger is better, porn sells the idea that being able to bang out for for-goddamn-ever is both normal and desirable and is how you get someone off. But the real reasons are strictly practical for the filmmakers. It gives more room for editing, allows for switching to other positions so the audience gets all the views, and frankly, it pads out the run time.

Also, part of the reason why it takes so long is because the sex they’re having in porn is fucking uncomfortable. Those positions aren’t because it’s good for the actors, it’s because it lets the director get all the goods in the shot.

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But what’s significant is what you’re not seeing. You’re not seeing the takes where someone blew their load early. You’re not seeing the takes where they had to stop to get more lube or deal with the cramping and chafing. You’re not seeing the breaks they took because someone couldn’t get off and they had to bring in the stunt cock.

As a result, we get a really distorted idea about how sex is supposed to go, and everyone gets to feel like they’re not measuring up to a literally impossible standard. Unless we’re talking about you being a one-minute man, RLS, I suspect the problem is more in your head than your pants.

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But with that having been said, there are things you can do to improve your hang time. The first is simple and kind of obvious: masturbate before you go out. This takes the edge off, which means you won’t be quite so quick to blow, but it won’t leave you in the refractory period where you just won’t be able to get off at all.

The next is to switch things up. More often than not, people tend to choose one position and one rhythm and stick to it. That’s a good way to both train yourself to get off at speed and make the sex less interesting. So if you know, for example, that certain positions hit you just right, start with something different—possibly a position that your girlfriend might enjoy more that doesn’t stimulate the same spots on you. Then, once she’s satisfied, you can go back to the tried and true for your finale. Similarly, you can vary your rhythm—a four shallow, one deep pattern, for example—which will not only disrupt the sensation for you but also mean that you have to concentrate on something other than your approaching orgasm. And it has the benefit of being more entertaining for your girlfriend and less boner-killing than baseball or math.

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The other option, especially if your girlfriend would like more penetration, is to bring some toys into the mix. Even if you’ve hit your limit and have to wait to recharge, there’re plenty of dildos and other toys that you can use to the same effect on her. Don’t fall prey to the bullshit idea that “it’s the toy getting her off, not you” or “if she has a toy, why does she need you?” That’s the same logic that says you didn’t build a house if you used a saw and hammer instead of gnawing the frame into shape with your teeth and pounding nails in with your hands. Those toys aren’t running themselves; you’re the one using them. The point for your girlfriend isn’t getting off, it’s having sex with you, specifically.

Now there are medical options out there too. There are desensitizing creams and sprays, and some SSRIs have off-label uses for treatment for premature ejaculation. But again: unless we’re talking about less than, say, two minutes, I don’t really recommend them. That’s more like swatting a fly with a Buick.

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The best option is to start with talking to your girlfriend, then prioritizing foreplay and non-penetrative forms of sex. The variety keeps things interesting, makes the entire event last longer and will be more enjoyable for your girlfriend overall. And honestly? It sounds like she’s pretty satisfied.

Good luck.

Dear Dr. NerdLove,

After almost 5 years of marriage, I find myself unexpectedly facing divorce. To make a long story short, we spent money we didn’t have so she could go on a three week vacation while I worked and the mother in law helped with the kids. About a week after she got back, she confessed she banged some guy (who didn’t even know she was married) and that this was proof that the ‘passion’ was gone from our relationship and it was over. I’m sure I’ve made some mistakes in the relationship (too focused on work and finances, not enough time spent together, etc.) but right now it is a little difficult not to be bitter about that.

That said, the reality is that I need to focus on what happens next. All but one of the step-kids are adults now except for one who will be moving in with her biological father. My biological daughter Nora has just turned 3 and will be living with me. I’m getting a lot of emotional and financial support from my parents and other family (who fortunately all live in town) so I will likely be able to keep the house, hold down my job, and get good childcare for my daughter. I’m trying to do everything I can now to get things in motion and get used to the fact that this house will soon feel a lot more empty before the seasons change (I have a mild case of SAD).

I probably shouldn’t even be thinking about this so soon, but I’m completely stumped on how I’ll start dating again when the time comes. I mean, I’m a 38 year old nerdy dad. Physically I’m still reasonably attractive and haven’t gained a lot of weight or anything. However, I’ve pretty much sacrificed almost all social activity for my family the past few years. My life is almost entirely my job and my child, with my small amount of spare time mostly playing games and reading bad LitRPGs on my phone. Not only am I boring now, I have no idea what it is like to try and date as a dad. How common is it for the father to be the primary parent?

-Sincerely,

Nerd Dad

I’m so sorry you’re going through this right now, ND; you’re dealing with a shitty situation and it absolutely sucks that this happened to you.

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But the good thing is that you’re in a place—metaphorically and literally—where you’re getting plenty of support and care from the folks who love you. That’s going to be important for your recovery and getting through this.

You’re right in that I don’t think that you need to worry about dating just yet. This is all incredibly fresh and new, and you need time to heal and recover. Dating right now would be a bad idea. Hell, even thinking about it is going to be an issue because, frankly, the wound is still open.

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But I think that your biggest problem with dating in the future is that you’re feeling overwhelmed by your current situation. You’re projecting your current mindset and emotional state into the future, as though you’re going to be in the exact same place you are now. Small wonder you’re feeling overwhelmed. You only have so much bandwidth, and all of it is being taken up by what you’re going through. As a result, when you try to think about what comes next, your brain vapor-locks.

The good news is that you’ve got time. Love and dating will wait for you while you draw the curtain on this chapter of your life and get ready to start your next one. And the things that will help you recover and heal—rediscovering who you are as a single man and father, exploring new interests, cultivating new hobbies, reconnecting with your friends and rebuilding your social scene—will help make you more interesting and desirable as a partner when you are ready.

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The most difficult aspect will be either issues of timing and scheduling—your daughter is your priority, after all—and the question of when to introduce a partner to your kids. The answer to the former is going to be situational. The answer to the latter is: not earlier than a year in, and certainly not until you’re both serious and you know they’re going to be around for a long time.

But honestly, everything isn’t nearly as hopeless or daunting as it seems. I know after five years out of the game, it feels like everything is different. But I promise you: the scene may seem different, but people are fundamentally the same. You’ll have the same adjustment period that every newly single person goes through, but you’ll find your sea legs again soon enough.

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And, incidentally, a father who’s got a loving, nurturing relationship with his children? Holy hopping sheep shit, my dude, being a good dad is like catnip to many, many women. When you’re ready, I think you’ll find that it’s not nearly as daunting as you think it’ll be.

You’ve got this.

All will be well.

Hi Doc, sorry in advance for my poor English, I’m not a native speaker.

Here is my situation: I met a girl at work, and we hit it off quickly. She’s very smart, funny and we share a lot of things in common about the way we see life in general.

Three or four months later, even though I’m very bad at seeing flirty behavior, I’m starting to see some signs. She proposed that we hang out outside of work, and other coworkers told me that she seemed really interested in me.

But here’s where I struggle : I’m 31 and she’s 20.

So:

a) I’m scared that it would be seen as creepy for me to go further.

b) We don’t have the same hobbies: she goes out in night clubs and I’m more of a traditional geek, playing video games or going to the movies (even if I enjoy hiking, running and other outdoors activities).

c) She’s currently a student living with her parents, going to university and working the weekends at our workplace. I have my own apartment and am trying to change my career path while working fulltime. So it seems that we currently have very different lifestyles.

d) Maybe it’s superficial but she’s way out of my league. I’m kind of insecure about my physical appearance.

So with all that going through my head, do you think it’s a good idea to pursue and see where this relationship could be going or are we too different because of the age gap and just stay coworkers that get along well?

I could really use some insight from someone else.

Thanks Doc.

More Than A Number?

The generally accepted rule of thumb for the largest acceptable difference in age is half your age plus seven. So with you at age 31, she might be a little young for you; the suggested lowest age in your case would be 22. That having been said, a nine year age difference isn’t really that significant in the grand scheme of things. Seeing as she’s a grown-ass adult with agency, she’s able to make her own decisions about who she is or isn’t attracted to and wants to date.

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So, if she’s into you and you’re into her? By all means, go for it. Some folks may side-eye you for it, but again, she’s the one who seems to be pursuing you. You’re not Svengali’ing her into your wiley clutches.

But with that having been said, I don’t know if this is a relationship that’ll work out for very long. Not because of the age gap, but because you two are very different people. It’s not even that you’re both in different stages of life, but you have very different, contradictory interests and lifestyles.

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One of the bigger indicators of how well a relationship will work in the long term is how compatible your lifestyles are. It can be hardnot impossible, but hard—for a homebody to date a club girl, for example. If that’s her favorite way to spend time and it’s not something you can be down with, and vice versa, then that can be a source of conflict. Your being uncomfortable at the club will make her feel uncomfortable, while her starting to get stir-crazy when you’re trying to have a relaxing night at home will get on your nerves. Now this doesn’t mean that you can’t have separate interests or lead separate lives; that’s how you keep a relationship healthy. But it can throw a pretty significant wrench in the works.

But it’s the stages in life that I think is the bigger issue. She’s trying to work and get her degree; you’re in the middle of trying to jumpstart a new career. Even if you work around the lifestyles and interests, I think that’d be a bigger impediment to long-term happiness.

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Then again, who said it needs to be long-term? There’s nothing wrong with a short-term relationship, or even just a fling, if you go in understanding that this is exactly what it is. As I’m often saying, not every love story needs to be an epic. Some are short stories. Some are dirty limericks.

So I don’t think there’s anything wrong in taking her up on her offer to hang out after work. I’d probably suggest you make sure you know whether this is just the two of you (and if so, is it a date?) or if she’s inviting you to a group thing, so you can adjust your expectations accordingly. But if she’s into you and you’re into her? There’s nothing wrong with seeing if you’ve got enough in common to give a date or two a try.

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Oh, and one more thing: there’s no such thing as leagues. There’re just people who dig what you have to offer and people who don’t. If she’s interested in you? Then by definition, you’re in her league.

Good luck.


Did you have to work on your sexual endurance? Have you dated as a single parent? Share your story in the comments below and we’ll be back with more of your questions in two weeks.

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Ask Dr. NerdLove is Kotaku’s bi-weekly dating column, hosted by the one and only Harris O’Malley, AKA Dr. NerdLove. Got a question you’d like answered? Write doc@doctornerdlove.com and put “Kotaku” in the subject line.

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Harris O’Malley is a writer and dating coach who provides geek dating advice at his blog Paging Dr. NerdLove and the Dr. NerdLove YouTube channel. His new dating guide New Game+: The Geek’s Guide to Love, Sex and Dating is out now from Amazon, iTunes and everywhere fine books are sold. He is also a regular guest at One Of Us.

He can be found dispensing snark and advice on Facebook and on Twitter at @DrNerdLove.

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