For many single parents, getting back into the dating scene is daunting. Many single parents who were married for a long time have not been on a first date in years. If this is you, it’s very likely you will feel like a fish out of water. Indeed, dating can be tricky to get back into if your life has been mostly kid-centric.
It’s normal to feel somewhat reluctant to try dating again after a failed marriage or failed relationship. It’s even more normal to be afraid to enter the dating world. Many single parents are also afraid of how their kids will react to a potential new partner. After all, you’re a package deal, and anyone you welcome into your life will potentially affect every member of your family. Studies indicate that these concerns and apprehensions are normal for single parents who venture into the dating world for the first time in a long time.
It’s therefore important to feel that you are truly ready to have someone new come into your life (and your child’s life) before you download a dating app or go on your first date. It is also important to exercise caution and never rush the process. This way, you can take your time to meet someone right for you, who fits into your family. This slow, patient and cautious dating strategy will spare you and your children the heartbreak stemming from a series of almost-relationships, breakups and failed romantic relationships. Check out the below-dating tips for single parents re-entering the modern dating world:
Evaluate How Ready You Truly Are
The idea of getting back into the dating game is not for the faint of heart. You need to have a thick skin and be mentally prepared to deal with rejection, crushed hopes, obstacles and challenges. All of these various challenges will be worth it in the end, however, if you meet someone wonderful.
Dating is already tough enough for any single, but arguably more difficult for single parents. It’s normal to ask yourself:
- Will my kids be okay with someone new entering our lives?
- Can I handle the challenges that come with a new relationship?
- When do I introduce my kids to the new person I’m dating?
These are normal worries that most single parents stress over. However, the toughest part about dating for single parents is getting started and getting your feet wet. Certified couples’ therapist, Alicia Munoz LPC, says that though there is no numerical time window for when to date after divorce or a failed relationship, your future relationship will fare better if you take several months or even one year after the end of your previous relationship before dating again. This will give you and your children time for closure.
At the same time, waiting allows you to settle down into a new routine and paves the way for enjoying new experiences and people. During the dating hiatus, do things that make you feel fulfilled. This time off will give your heart a reprieve and your soul a chance to replenish and rediscover new things that spark joy.
Unpack Emotional Baggage From Your Previous Relationship
Before you begin dating, you must face your demons first, especially if you’ve just ended an unhealthy relationship. It would help to speak with a counselor to assess what went wrong, how your failed relationship affected you, and how you can cope. If you don’t unpack your excess emotional baggage, you will just carry those issues into your new relationship.
Without a proper resolution, it will result in the same stress and relationship fallout. For example, you could have a communication issue that causes a relationship breakdown or body image problems that affect your confidence and self-worth.
Break bad behavior patterns and disruptive relationship cycles with therapy. Self-reflection before hitting the dating scene again will do wonders for your character and personality development. Your new relationship will stand a much better chance at succeeding when you bring these positive changes from therapy to the table. Otherwise, you might bring the pain of your breakup into the new relationship.
Kick Feelings of Guilt to the Curb
Most single parents experience the onslaught of guilt when they start dating. They worry that their children will get jealous when they spend time with someone new. Single parents often feel guilty that any time they devote to dating is time they should be devoting to their kids. And most of all, there’s that lingering fear: what if your children don’t like your new partner? All of these inner conflicts are normal, but never ever let them hold you back from pursuing your happiness. You deserve to be happy, and you can still prioritize your kids even if you’re making time for someone new.
Remember, your children will eventually grow up and leave the nest, so don’t let yourself be left alone. Look out for your own happiness, as well as the happiness of your children. Studies affirm that making time for romance is not selfish, but rather a form of self-care because no person can pour from an empty cup. Dating might disrupt your family life a little bit, and that’s okay. Besides, it is not always a bad thing to meet new people. You might eventually hit the dating jackpot and have a very positive new addition to your little family.
Be Honest with the Kids
Most single parents feel anxious about how children will react as they re-enter the dating world. Do not let your worries or fears hold you back in life. Do not let the “what if”s dictate your life or prevent you from exploring a new relationship.
Instead, have age-appropriate conversations with your children. If you have more mature kids, let them know your plan is to meet someone new. There’s no need to keep things a secret or run around behind their backs, because that will only make you and them feel bad. Talk about your feelings and explain what dating means to you, and what it could mean for them. It is important to keep open lines of communication with your kids, in case things don’t pan out – and in case they do.
Identify Your Negotiables and Non-Negotiables (Dealbreakers)
When you’re dating as a single parent, you cannot afford to play games or waste your time. Single parents will likely have dealbreakers in mind as they start meeting new people. It’s vital to identify what you want and need from the start, as well as what you won’t put up with. (For example, you won’t put up with someone you’re dating demanding to be your first priority.) Before you start dating, make a list of what you’re searching for in a new potential partner. Then, anchor this list to your values.
Figure out your negotiables and non-negotiables in life and in relationships. Know your boundaries and the dealbreakers that you cannot compromise on. This will help you find the right person and assess if the relationship is worth pursuing. You’ll want to date a patient and tolerant person, especially when kids are involved.
Be Honest with Your Dates
Let your dates know that you are a single parent, especially if the other party doesn’t have kids. There’s no need to hide this detail because you have nothing to be ashamed of. After all, you wouldn’t want to be in the middle of a date and bail because there’s an emergency call from your sitter. Though you don’t have to share your whole relationship back story, letting the other party know ahead about your littles can even help you filter and find the right person. Be sure to tell them about your kids right away. Don’t wait until the 2nd or 3rd date.
A good potential partner will understand that children’s needs come first. This person will respect that parenting ideal. Besides, the selfless nurturing that makes a person a great parent also constitutes a great partner. You’ll know you have a keeper when your new partner is also happy to be involved in your kids’ lives.
Limit the Baby Talk
It is inevitable for your children to come up in conversations. However, try to limit topics about them, because your date wants to hear about you and explore your unique personality. Talking too much about your children is a buzz-kill. Though your children play a huge part in your life, remember that your kids do not define who you are. Instead, steer the conversation to other topics, such as:
- Different hobbies you enjoy
- Work life
- Favorite movies and books
- Travel dreams
- Other interests or passions you have
- Ambitions or goals
Give Online Dating a Real Try
As a single parent, you’re a one-man show. Your days off are most likely spent bonding with your kids, ferrying them to practices, etc. Unlike true singletons without children, you don’t have the luxury of spare time to hang out in a bar. For this reason, online dating is the perfect avenue for reentering the dating scene.
Take online dating seriously, and remind yourself that this is a very normal way to meet someone new. Enter the online dating world with a positive attitude.
The key to success in dating is choosing a reputable online dating site. Pay for premium sites if you have to, because this increases your likelihood of finding someone looking for a committed relationship. In general, people who pay the higher-tiered fees instead of using a free service are more serious. Once you’ve signed up, work on creating a nice profile (with a thoughtful write-up) so you can meet a good match that’s worth meeting in real life.
Introduce the Kids at the Right Time to Avoid Disappointments
Solo parent dating is tricky because you want to make sure everyone is ready to meet each other. When things look serious, your kids deserve to know your partner and vice versa. Start with your kids and ask how they feel about meeting your new partner. They have to be open to the idea before you make introductions.
In the same token, you and your partner must be on solid footing with genuine love and long-term commitment on the horizon. If you are unsure, don’t introduce your kids, because you don’t want them to get attached to someone who will just leave. Thus, your relationship must be strong enough to avoid disappointments.
When it comes to introducing your kids to the person you’re dating, it’s crucial to take your time. You really want to ensure that you’re dating someone who is interested in a long-term relationship with you before you introduce the kids. In the beginning stages of dating, stick to photos of your kids and the odd story about them. Save the real life introductions for a few months down the road.
Do Not Settle For Less
Just because you have children doesn’t mean you are no longer desirable as a single, or have to settle for less.
A mature and reliable person will not let your children or your life story get in the way of falling in love with your unique personality. Never settling for less starts on date number one. If you observe any shady behaviors, don’t let them slide. If you notice red flags, don’t paint them white just because you’re worried that it’s slim pickings for single parents.
Enjoy the dating journey, which some say is akin to a rollercoaster ride. Accept that your dating life will have ups and downs. The let-downs and the ‘lows’ are a natural part of the dating process, as are the ‘highs’. It is impossible to have things perfect. Even if you meet someone great, adjustments will be made, especially when your kids and new partner meet. Though the dating scene is bumpy, it is worth a shot. The hope is that you’ll meet a mature individual with high emotional intelligence and a kind nature, who loves kids and is open-minded about dating someone who has kids.