Have you seen the online dating profiles requesting “No drama”? Arianna Jeret is over it.
I was recently talking with a man I had been seeing casually for a while about being set-up on blind dates. Or rather, we were talking about friends and family who have tried to set us up with people who are entirely NOT either of our type.
In our back and forth detailing of ridiculous mismatches, he launched into one he seemed to feel would come across as particularly amusing:
“So my uncle said he had found me the perfect woman! Get this: she is in her late-30s or early-40s, divorced, and has 3 young boys! Are you kidding me?!” Pause with eyes wide open for my expected giggles and snorts — yes, I snort when I laugh. Deal with it.
Except I was not laughing. I happen to be 42 years old. I am divorced. And I have two boys.
I asked him what the problem was with that particular description, and all he could come up with was, “Well, come on. That’s a lot.”
I don’t know. Is it?
This particular man is in his mid-40s, has never been married, and has no kids. If I wanted to be snarky, I could write about how his having reached this point of life without having made a lasting commitment to anyone but himself could be seen by some as liabilities lined up in the cons section of a pro/con list regarding dating him.
I just don’t see it that way.
The guy in question is a good man. He is kind, responsible, thoughtful, classy, respectful and self-reflective. He has had plenty of responsibility to take on for himself and for others in his life, and I sit in no position to judge whether or not his choices have been wise or foolish. His choices have been his choices and his life has been his life.
What irks me to no end is the way that men and women in the dating pool today have assumed free license to negatively judge those of us who gave the commitment of marriage our best go, and who now have beautiful children who come along with our package, all under the guise of the labels “baggage,” “drama” and “damage.”
My good friend, divorce mediator Diana Mercer, and I happened to talk about this issue a little while back when I was sharing with her another story of the “baggage” label being used against me. Wise as she always is, Diana simply shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know. I think if you have made it to this point without experiencing any drama or accumulating some form of baggage, you must have led a pretty damn boring life.”
If you really want to look carefully for red flags while perusing a dating site, I would argue that the specific questions of whether or not they have ever been married and whether or not they have children are two of the least important queries to pay attention to.
What makes or shapes a problematic partner is their character and their behavior, both of which are developed through a mixture of genetics, their environment as a child, and the full spectrum of life experiences they have or haven’t encountered. Their marriage didn’t make them who they are. It is just one part of the life they have lived.
Clients and friends often tell me they are afraid to get a divorce because they don’t want to traumatize their children. This is an understandable, yet intrinsically false premise. No one — and I feel absolutely justified saying NO ONE — makes it through their childhood without a measure of trauma. I can guarantee you that a child living in a home with two unhappy parents who are staying married for his or her sake is being traumatized by their parents behavior towards each other in some way.
After all, one of my favorite lines of all time is this: “If it’s not one thing, it’s your mother!”
In the same way no child makes it out of their parents’ home (or homes) untraumatized, no one makes it to their 30s, 40s or beyond without accumulating some “baggage” along the way. If it isn’t a failed marriage and children, it’s career stumbles, financial wobbles, substance-use or abuse struggles, sexual shame or confusion, deflated relationship expectations, or one of many other Lifetime dramas. There is a reason those are so popular, you know.
I will even go so far as to say that when I read something along the lines of “Please keep walking if you are carrying baggage,” I believe the unconscious message sent by the author of that profile is that he or she has little patience for others’ concerns, poor self-awareness and a sense of entitlement.
Is he ever going to want to hear about an imperfect day? Will she hear you out when your boss has you feeling over-worked? When your parents want the two of you to join them for a gathering you just know will be as boring as death but means the world to them to have you both attend, will there be anyone standing by your side?
These are all parts of living life, and if we are lucky, we all get to live a little more every day. Experiences compile. It’s called growth, maturation — life.
I want to be crystal clear. I am not saying that anyone who doesn’t want to date someone who has been divorced or who has children is a bad person, or that they are wrong and should open up themselves up to that romantic possibility.
By all means, if you only date women who have a particular shade of white blond hair or men who stand a minimum of 6’3″ inches tall – go for it! That is your preference. There is simply no need to label everyone else who doesn’t fit your particular love model as inherently flawed for not matching up with your checked boxes.
I can easily understand why someone who has never been married and never had children would prefer to date someone who also stayed single and child-free. Many divorced parents have the same experience I have in finding it more comfortable to date another divorced parent.
In neither case is the issue the size or shape of the baggage attached to any one person. The issue is that shared experience creates empathy which creates trust which creates a bond which creates a solid relationship framework. That is, if all of the other 58,000 stars needed to align for a healthy relationship do their job along the way as well.
I am not the least bit ashamed of my age, my divorce or my children. I am proud to check all three boxes as meaningful cornerstones in my life. If you don’t want to date me because of any of the suitcases I carry, it doesn’t bother my anymore than if you don’t want to date me because I am a brunette, because you think I am too short or too tall, or because you don’t think my jokes are funny.
(I will say that if you don’t think I am funny you are quite surely the wettest blanket ever, but again, no problem by me.)
For myself, I’ve decided I have a new deal-breaker. If your dating profile says anything along the lines of “No drama please,” “Leave your baggage at the door,” or “Damage-free and I expect the same of you,” I will be making an immediate swipe-left into the cyber-can.
This post is republished on Medium.