WTF Wednesday: He’s perfect but repels me. Is dumping him a mistake?

Dear Emma, 

Four years after my divorce I finally felt confident enough to get out of my yoga pants, buy some decent panties and date. It was horrifying at first: for so long I felt unattractive, unsexy (I mean, I’d never dated as a mom!) and totally clueless about navigating the singles scene in this this crazy digital world.

But after a few weird OKCupid dates I got into the swing of things and am having SO.MUCH.FUN. Why doesn’t anyone tell you how awesome post-divorce sex is? The health department should run a PSA on the dangers of its addictiveness!

But here comes the pickle: In my spree of fun dates and casual hookups I had a wonderful date with one very sexy, smart and interesting single dad. In one very intense evening we really connected — intellectually, emotionally and sexually. Also: he makes total sense, is just a few years older than me, and in a similar place in his life as a parent and professional (big high-five when compared with the smoking losers and delicious younger dudes I’ve been sampling). 

So what’s the problem? 

After our one, admittedly magical date, it has been a non-stop stream of texts, suggestions I meet his son and long-term plans for our future. All I want to do is block him from my phone and keep whoring around! 

But I worry: Shouldn’t I give this guy a chance? I mean, he really is so great. What if I regret not pursuing him just because he’s a little too much, too soon? Trust me: If my first date is any indication, this guy is a catch! But I went through utter hell to get to this place where I feel confident and sexy and like I can take on the world. I want to enjoy it. I should enjoy it, right? So why do I worry about regret?

Confused in Culver City 


Dear Culver,

There is a mistress in every relationship. Her name is Time-Place. Time-place can bring together two mismatched people for a bout of perfect harmony. And Time-Place and send two terribly compatible lovers into opposite, ships-in-the-night directions.

You and this man may be thwarted by Time-Place. You’re having a blissful moment of post-divorce high. You have emerged from the horrors that is marital meltdown, and now have risen, a phoenix of sexual confidence. It is no wonder this — and all these many, many other men — are drawn to you. You are on fire! And it doesn’t hurt that you could give a shit about any of them — creating a intoxicating recipe for their desire.

But an interesting thing is at play. Your powerful confidence both attracts this man, and also makes him very insecure. He senses how hot you are — and knows he must sink his clingy claws into your supple flesh before you skip off to enjoy the pleasures of the many other men in your wait. But instead of seducing you, treats you like a needy pathetic woman — one who wants nothing but the security of a monogamous relationship, at any price.

That is not where you are.

That is where he is.

Who could blame you for wanting to bolt? If there is nothing more seductive than a confident, ambivalent women, there is no bigger boner killer than a needy man. You cannot commit to that! You would resent him from the start.

And yet I believe in keeping an open mind and second chances. First impressions — both good and bad — are noting on which to make commitments. And so  you will go on another date with this wonderful man. You will go on another date with this man for three reasons. 1) He is wonderful and you want to be kind to him, 2) You need to know for sure that you do not want to date him, 3) After a an unusually special date it is the honest thing to give it another shot out of respect for the other person. This will make it easier to keep the door open for another moment for Time-Place to do her thing. And maybe that day  — months or years from now — will be your moment together.

Emma Johnson is a veteran money writer, noted blogger, bestselling author and an host of the award-winning podcast, Like a Mother with Emma Johnson. A former Associated Press Financial Wire reporter and MSN Money columnist, Emma has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Glamour,, REAL SIMPLE, Parenting, USA Today and others.

The Kickass Single Mom: Be Financially Independent, Discover Your Sexiest Self, and Raise Fabulous, Happy Children (Penguin, 2017), was a #1 bestseller and was featured in hundreds of media, including The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, and the New York Post, which named it to its ‘Must Read” list.

Her popular blog, and podcast Like a Mother, explore issues facing professional single moms: business and career, money, sex, relationships and parenting. Emma regularly comments on these topics for outlets such as CNN, Headline News, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fox & Friends, CNBC, NPR, TIME, MONEY, O, The Oprah Magazine, Woman’s Day, The Doctors, and many more. She was named Parents magazine’s “Best of the Web,” one of “20 Personal Finance Influencers to Follow on Twitter” by AOL DailyFinance, “Top 15 Personal Finance Podcasts” by U.S. News, and “Most Eligible New Yorkers” by New York Observer.

A popular speaker on gender equality, Emma presented at the United Nations Summit for Gender Equality.

Emma grew up in Sycamore, Ill., and lives in New York City with her children.

21 thoughts on “WTF Wednesday: He’s perfect but repels me. Is dumping him a mistake?

  1. Wow, I love this, and I can so relate to where Culver is. Even though it makes some of my friends and relatives uncomfortable, I try to comfort myself with the idea that the universe puts us where we’re meant to be. Coming from a very nonreligious background, it feels a little weird to me. Another quote I came across that comforts me is, “Fall into the plan” (as opposed to second guessing and berating yourself because you’re not feeling what you think you should be feeling). You can also look at it as the idea that we subconsciously choose people who enable us to work through whatever is challenging us at the time. Maybe Culver’s Mr. Perfect is actually serving the purpose of getting her to think about the possibility of being with someone who’s “right,” even though she’s still enjoying her wild-n-crazy boy toy time. (The latter spoken tongue in cheek — I’m experiencing a similar conflict, although no perfect Mr. Dad has appeared in my life.) In any case, enjoy the time, and view it as a learning experience! And I also think a second date is warranted.



  2. “Maybe Culver’s Mr. Perfect is actually serving the purpose of getting her to think about the possibility of being with someone who’s “right,” even though she’s still enjoying her wild-n-crazy boy toy time.”

    I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately … recently had the loveliest evening with maybe the world’s most perfect man … who lives in Toronto (I’m in New York). The value is that a) it makes me think more critically about what I want, need and what feels good, and b) the confidence gained by knowing I am attractive to wonderful men.

  3. Provided the guy is being decent and kind in his texting, he could simply have felt the chemistry, be in a similar place like Culver, and be overly excited at the prospect of going out with her again. The big plans for the future would be a bit overkill, but perhaps in all the bleakness of his dating life his excitement momentarily clouds his judgment. I do agree – if he is overall being respectful and decent – that giving him a second date could be good.

    We’ve all been the similarly excited and in some way foolish upon finding someone we thought might be great – even you single moms who pretend to have this “powerful confidence” (that apparently cripples we men, making us “very insecure”) bumfuddle and stammer around during dates with eligible me. By the way, this “powerful confidence” is something I only hear single moms tell themselves and one another; I’ve never heard another man say, “Wow, I met this woman who is so powerfully confident that it’s intoxicating.” Don’t get me wrong, I prefer a confident woman, but let’s not overdo it.

    LOL: “You have emerged from the horrors that is marital meltdown, and now have risen, a phoenix of sexual confidence. It is no wonder this — and all these many, many other men — are drawn to you.” I suspect these men aren’t drawn to her as a “phoenix”, rather the word out on the street may simply be that she’s back on the scene, and is an easy lay. (I’m not complaining, after all that’s the only reason I date at this stage in life.) We men aren’t generally considering how “confident” our date is after she has gone through a horrible divorce, and how she has risen from the ashes of tragedy. Rather, we are thinking, “How quickly can I get into her panties and bra?” – without spending a ton of money on food and drinks.

    And, after all, this guy may believe Culver might simply be as clingy as oh so many other single moms I have, err, I mean, he has dated. So, he’s acting toward her as they have toward him – making premature plans for the future, pushing kiddos into the picture too soon, etc. – thinking she’ll respond to that since other moms have acted in kind toward him. He may knowingly be typing texts to her as he’s thinking “I can get another date with her, and get into her panties and bra at least one more time.”

    1. OK Darth, hold up. You’re all over the place. First you sweetly encourage the writer to give this guy another chance, clearly empathizing with his giddy nervousness in the face of a prospective romance, then turn around and let all us single moms know that all men ever want from us is our pussies.

      Re: Confidence …. I have written several posts about the post-divorce high that most people — men and women — experience, and that includes feeling sexy for the first time in forever, which the opposite sex senses and is drawn to — whether they articulate it or not. Oldest story in the world: Confidence is sexy. No, it does not “cripple” men universally. I was speaking to this woman’s specific experience.

      1. You presented this guy as needy and weak in most of your presentation as if Culver is so “powerfully confident” she has cast some spell over him making him show some extreme of neediness. I presented a different idea: Indeed, he may not be needy and weak in awe of her greatness, and rather merely handling his communication with her as he perceives he must.

        Romance?! Culver makes the comment that she is thinking about dumping the guy and returning to “whoring”, so you really think anyone believes she really wants romance? Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

        Many divorced women are sexy. I agree with you there. I’ve seen plenty of my male friends go through divorces, and similarly explore the new found sexual confidence. It is a sight to behold; often good, sometimes not. Still, in finding that confidence women do not make we men into shuddering, stuttering buffoons. We, too, have brains, and may be working the dating to our own ends.

        We also agree on this point, that she should give him a second chance. And if a guy were in a similar situation as her asking me about a second date I would suggest as you have. From reading her note and your response it sound like they both only want sex anyway.

        As to men only wanting women for sex….difficult as it is to believe, most men, especially divorced men who have had there eyes opened to the pain of divorce (just like women), only want women for short-term sexual conquests to keep feeding that new confidence. They may tell you something else as they date you, but they are telling their buddies the real story.

        And, what I like most about reading your blogs, is that it is apparent that women mostly want sexual conquests to build their confidence as well. For me, that is the greatest thing of all.

        1. Dearth – you join the rest of U.S. culture that believes that people either want quick and dirty sex, or a monogamous, soul-mate commitment. It’s not a zero-sum game. I date casually all the time and am also very open to one of these dates turning into a serious relationship. The more confident I feel in my sexuality, the more I attract men who I am also attracted to on emotional/intellectual/personality/life stage levels. We’re all nuanced, complicated people — I’m on a mission to encourage women (moms in particular) not to ignore the sexuality part.

  4. Honeymoon dating period is 18 months. Date this guy for that long and then assess if he is right for long-term. Heard that kids should not be introduced for at least a year. Despite that, every one has their own agenda. But it sounds like wise advice to me. Because kids bring a different event of their own that needs to be nurtured regarding new relationships. It’s not just about you and him. but about the kids too.

    From my own perspective, I have a friend going through the same. She is in the same place as you are, but I see her getting sucked in to the quickness of things even though not ready. What’s the rush? You went thru the pains of divorce. YOU deserve the fun that must be had. ;)

    Best to you and your decisions. But do what is best for you and your family.

    1. I agree with Elizabeth – need to get to know this guy for a longer period of time. I get it that the date was magical, but as you know that is not everything. Getting to see him over a period of a year doesn’t mean that you have to be exclusive does it? I personally have never been able to emotionally and sexually connect with two people at the same time, but I hear modern women and men do that all the time – so each their own. I would worry more about that intellectual connection. If you see eye to eye in that level why not be friends with benefits. It does not mean you should marry him. Enjoy your freedom, see if your kids get along too. And remember that once you have that sexual freedom, you know how it feels, you will know how to get it even from your long term partner. So do not overanalyse :-) just do it. go on a date, enjoy his company in every level, and go on more dates.

      1. Hey Ana – love this advice. I totally agree — dating multiple people is an option, except when one person is emotionally involved and wants exclusivity. Then the couple is at a crossroads, as in Culver’s case. So she had to let him go.

  5. I think Single Mom Debt is on the right track — you need to know someone for an entire year and see how they experience stress, sickness and success, as well as birthdays, holidays, and vacations. I think you should MAKE time to get to know someone … it’s far less painful and expensive than a nasty break-up past it’s due or an expensive and contentious divorce.

  6. We’re talking about two different things.

    Culver isn’t event considering a serious long-term relationship right now. She’s just contemplating a second date! She has men coming out her ears, limited time, a desire for fun, playful exploratory dating and wants to make the most of all these forces.

    So if you have dudes lined up around the block, aren’t feeling one of them, why would you commit for 18 MONTHS?!

    Now …. if she were wondering about committing to this guy, 18 months or one year is sound advice. But that does not apply to this situation.

    1. Ah! My apologies for understanding the post differently as intended. I was thrown by “meet his son and long-term plans for our future”. That in itself sounded quick. but made me feel that if he is already speaking of that after one date, his intentions are not just to date ‘confused in culver city’ intermittently but to swoop her in as his bride.

      Okay, okay… may not totally like and that quick, but my look on his intention.

      Well if a second date is the case, I am all with the recommendations listed.

  7. Great Advice! Just like there are a ton of bad guys there are also a ton of good ones. There’s always going to be a good guy that comes around. Many of the good guys I know we are still friends to this day and that friendship is way more valuable than a jump in the sack.

  8. Simple question, why can’t you feel confident and sexy within a committed relationship. I feel like the reader is indicating she can only feel those things by “whoring around” if that’s true, that’s really sad. If I misinterpreted, my bad.
    Sexiness and confidence should be an internal not externally based on the number of guys you can bed or get to give you a second look or take you on a date. What happens when that’s over? Do you become a non-sexy women with no confidence?
    Just my thoughts.

    1. Hi Penny – Really valid points. Yes, women (and men for that matter!) can certainly feel sexy and confident in a committed relationship. But that just doesn’t happen that often. That takes a lot of work, the right people in the relationship and a magical alignment of stars.

      Validation from many men is one of the most intoxicating experiences in life. Even if you are in a committed relationship- of course it feels wonderful to be admired and flirted with by attractive men! I’m simply addressing what happens: People get divorced. All the time. When they emerge from the crisis they often feel sexy and confident. They want to explore the world. Their options. And all this is a heady, sexy amazing experience. I encourage you to enjoy it. This feeling doesn’t last for ever. Eventually you will want a serious relationship. But casual dating is amazing, powerful and empowering.

  9. Do I have to move to Culver City to get some action? I wish I had her problem. My experience has been few and far in between for actual “dates,” but an endless supply of horny younger men trying to go on the free ride. My choices are A) Stay at home and be a good mommy and become a nun while I wait for Mr. Right to show up (and I went on a 1 1/2 year stretch of celibacy while I did that), or B) Go for it and fuck around with the hot, hard bodies. Um, I tried A before and it sucked big time. I’m ready to settle into B, since I’m horny all the time.

    Where are men that are ready to commit like the guy in this story? For the life of me, I’d love to be the one on the receiving end of some clingy guy who only wants to see me all the time. But nope, I get flaky guys who are sometimes too lazy to even schedule a casual fling. The world has gone mad, dating is extinct like gentleman, and I must be living in the worst place for a single mother to meet a decent guy… (I’m in North County San Diego, btw).

    Tell her if things don’t work out with awesome single dad in Culver City, there’s a hot and ready single mom just a stretch south.

  10. Sheila – I wonder: How are you meeting guys? How can we turn this around?

    FYI, got an update from Culver. She went on the second date. Called it off, but she is doing fine:

    “I swear, Emma, I am like a pot of honey to bees. You’d think I could shoot sparks out my pussy or something.”

    And there you have it.

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