Dating hasn’t transformed all that much since the time you were available, despite the fact that it might and feel like it has, particularly for single parents, a stage or two out of shape. The essentials of searching out an accomplice are, at their center, the same regardless of who you are, and paying little respect to regardless of whether who you are currently comes as a bundle manage one or more modest people you call your children.
But there is something different about you. You can see it in the way you spend your free time, create priorities, and the kind of hanky-panky you’ll engage in without a “ring on it.” Understandably, dating with kids does shift one’s perspective and approach. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you explore dating as a single parent.
You vs. Them
Kids can get hurt just as much by a breakup when they’re also invested in a relationship, so you probably instinctively don’t allow anyone into your inner circle until they’ve proven themselves. A potential partner needs to be willing to adapt to the house rules rather than expect the rules to adapt to them. With that said, focus on yourself as a couple before considering how you fit as a family. It really is a two-part process of compatibility and attunement, and from my own experiences, it seems to work best giving each component of the relationship its appropriate space and care.
Couple vs. Family
I can remember going out on first (and second) dates only to discover halfway through that the person across from me was a single parent. I’ve never minded dating someone with children, but I always felt a little betrayed right out of the gate when someone chose to hold such an important part of their life back. And while I do agree that the first date should be more about the two of you, it should also be in the back of the other person’s mind that there is a lot more to your story, as well as built in complexities involved in the situation. Any potential partner needs to be made aware of this, even if you may initially lose a few fish off the line. Trust me when I say you really aren’t missing any “good catches” when they bail that easily. And on the opposite end, be careful of looking for someone who fits the bill of what you think a “good parent” looks like. There are an awful lot of great mothers and fathers in the making, unaware of their potential to be fantastic, nurturing guardians simply because they’ve never been given the chance to discover that part of themselves.
Secrets vs. Downplay
Some single parents choose to hide their dating practices as a protective measure for their kids’ sake. This is a natural response with a lot of good intention behind it. However, some research suggests that if you start a relationship keeping secrets, when your kids discover you were not being completely truthful, they will have a more difficult time trusting the new person (both you and your partner did lie, after all). But you also don’t want to get them too involved until you have a better idea of where the relationship is heading. So how can you balance these two wrongs to make a sort-of right? Just be honest and matter-of-fact. The difference is that you tell your kids everything, but you downplay the importance. And considering most children have a difficult time ever imagining Mom or Dad falling in love again with someone new, this approach will be entirely acceptable.
Show vs. Tell
As a parent you know what your kids need most of the time, and you also know what you need. But sometimes in the exhilaration of a new relationship it can be hard staying faithful to both sets of needs. You want your kids to feel important, but you also need to give your dating relationships enough attention to let them flourish. Because as much as I’ve heard a single parent must “always put the kids first,” there are times when a partner needs to be held pretty high on your priority list if you want to keep them in your life. The idea of Show Vs. Tell is to be conscious of all promises you give to both your dates and kids, and make sure you are following through with them. Your children, and relationships, need to feel secure, and this kind of security is developed by demonstrating your commitment through actions, not words.
Do vs. Wait
Some single parents will look over these realities and feel overwhelmed. Their option may be to wait until “the time is right” before they invest in a new relationship. It’s understandable, but this passive approach is really no different than taking the waiting approach to your entire life.
“As soon as I get over the hurt from that traumatic event, I will resume my life.”
“As soon as I have the perfect job, I’ll feel good about myself.”
It’s amazing how life continues throwing obstacles at all of us (yeah, it’s not just you) throughout our attempts to attain one conditional state or another. If you’re waiting for the path to be clear, you might never get the chance to move beyond where you’re standing right now. Don’t wait to do something tomorrow when tomorrow will likely present a whole new set of trials to overcome, not to mention opportunities to seize that could be overlooked without a more open mind. As a single parent, the importance of embracing an adaptable, proactive attitude to your dating life could be what makes all the difference in your search for new love.