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Married People Date in Packs

Photo: U.S. Army Medicine

It's Valentine's Day week and romance is on everyone's mind, particularly people in the dating world.

We married people sometimes forget about the agonies of single life. From our peanut-butter-handprints-on-the-back-door-and-bare-feet-on-Lego perspectives, single life can seem like a neverending loop of champagne brunches and sparkling clean condos.

A single friend created a cloud-shared photo album called "Singularly Awful" just to amuse me and a few other married friends. The photos? Screenshots of the not-so-prince-charmings she encounters on Tinder.

Now, none of us are cruel. We wouldn't be amused by pictures of men who were simply unattractive. The pictures she adds -- and there are now hundreds of them -- are of the "what the hell were they thinking?" variety.

If images of burly men in tight black leather shorts or showing off their singlets and affection for professional wrestling are popping into your mind, well, she must have shared the album with you too.

Without fail, every time she adds a picture, I'm am overcome by a sense of gratitude that I'm no longer out in the dating world. But, unbeknownst to my friend, being married doesn't mean that I've stopped dating. To the contrary, now I have to date for an entire pack. Also? There's no swipe left for family dates.

Instead of just having to find someone I'm compatible with, now I have to find 1) a woman I want to be friends with; 2) who has a husband my husband can tolerate (our standards are low in this category); 3) who has a son near my son's age (because my son is at an age where a same-aged daughter won't do); 4) and who has a daughter -- or possibly a son -- close in age to my daughter. (She's a tomboy, so there's some flexibility.)

Bonus points if they have either a teenage daughter with no social life of her own who will agree to watch all the kids -- and we are willing to pay her, FYI -- or they also have a preschooler, gender unimportant, to entertain my youngest.

So, yeah, this magical matchup rarely happens.

Our odds of finding that family are better in the military world, though, but only if my husband initiates the process by suggesting we spend time with the family of a guy from work. As I've explained to him many times, it is much easier for him to find men he's likely to get along with at his work. They all volunteered to live their lives the same way, so they're much more likely to be of the same mind.

However, the transitory nature of the military is brutal. More than once, we've hit the family date lottery only to have that family move away three months later.

Being a Must-Have Parent can make it easier too. If I match up to a wife and our kids all match up, but our husbands can't stand each other, we can just wait until one or both of the guys aren't in town to make plans.

But solo parenting can also make it more difficult, particularly if the other husband never travels. If I can't provide a guy to entertain him while his wife and I ruminate on "The Bachelor," they're not likely to want me and my kids just hanging around wrecking their chances of having dates with other families.

If I'm super lucky (and this is also more likely in the military world), she'll be a Must-Have Parent too and we can hang out when both of our husbands are gone. At this point, we may even move into "deployment wife" territory -- aka, the holy grail of military spouse friendships.

Just like these families in Brooklyn, I'd be willing to endure all sorts of inconveniences to keep a solid family romance going. That sort of living arrangement would have seemed ridiculous to me before I had kids. Back then, I thought couple friendships were as easy to forge and maintain as they seemed on, well, Friends.

Now I know that dating never ends -- it just gets bigger.

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Rebekah Sanderlin Family and Spouse

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Contributor

Rebekah Sanderlin is an Army wife, a mother of three and a professional writer. Her work has been published numerous places, including The Washington Post, The New York Times, National Public Radio, CNN, and in Self and Maxim magazines. She currently serves on the advisory boards of the Military Family Advisory Network and Blue Star Families.

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