There comes a time for many single parents when they want to start dating again. This is not a sign of becoming detached from their children or being lonely, but simply reflects a need for other adult company and to have some fun. Lots of single parents feel they are still young enough to potentially form a new relationship with someone else. The thought of remaining single for the rest of their life is just not for them.
There is no ideal time after separation when dating should begin. Some people just aren’t comfortable being single; they claim they feel and function better being in a relationship. Others aren’t even vaguely interested in forming a new partnership and actively discourage any advances from others.
If the separation has been bitter and difficult, then it can take much longer to develop the need to meet other people. You are an adult and have choices. When and if you choose to date is entirely up to you.
Why am I doing this?
There are lots of reasons why single parents want to start dating. Sometimes it’s difficult to identify an exact reason why – and there doesn’t even need to be one. Here are some of the more common answers single parents give:
Curiosity – “Have I still got what it takes to be attractive to someone else?” The excitement, fun, dressing up and going out components of dating are known to bring back some thrill into everyday life.
Company and companionship and a genuine need for other adult conversation.
To feel wanted and needed by someone other than the children. Being viewed as another adult, separate from being “Mom” or “Dad” is a genuine, valid reason for many to date.
Men, in comparison to women, tend to re-partner more quickly after separation. Some seem to want another woman to fit into the role of mother for their children, especially if they do not feel confident in their own nurturing ability.
For children to have access to the opposite gender of the parent who is caring for them. This is especially true for boys who are being cared for by their mother and who don’t have other male role models with whom to identify.
For sexual gratification. This is not high on the priority scale for every single parent, though for some it is.
To alleviate boredom. Always doing the same thing in your free time is bound to become tedious; you have a right to enjoy the company of other adults.
To find the “right one” with whom to spend the rest of your life. Dreams still factor into our thinking and motivate us towards forming happy, long-term relationships.
Single parent dating tips
Your whole family will be affected by your dating, including your children. If they are old enough, involve them in a conversation about why you feel it is time you shared some time with another adult. Don’t look for your kid’s approval, but do be honest with them.
Avoid introducing new partners to your kids in the very early stages of meeting them. Build some trust and a relationship first before you arrange the big “meet and greet”.
Extend the same respect to your date’s family commitments, as you would like them to do for you. Mutual respect and courtesy are not outmoded aspects of dating etiquette.
Respect yourself and don’t appear too desperate. Give yourself time and trust your gut feelings about who you go out with and where. Your safety is important. Don’t disclose identifying information about you or your kids to people you don’t know.
Be open to meeting potential dates wherever you are. Although on-line meeting websites are popular, they do not hold a monopoly on introductions. Widen your network of friends, acquaintances and social groups.
Trust the judgement of your friends and family. Don’t ignore their input and advice. If they don’t feel comfortable with who you are dating, they may have good reasons. You may not like or appreciate their honesty, but consider that they may be right.
Plan ahead if you are going to be intimate with your date. Going somewhere other than the family home is not only wise but sensitive. Make sure you protect yourself against STDs and unwanted pregnancies by using contraceptives. And with the prevalence of HIV/AIDS one could never be too careful. If the unexpected happens, check with your GP or pharmacist regarding emergency contraception and testing.
Avoid feeling you need to compromise too much. No one is perfect and every date will have their flaws. But if you feel you will need to do as much propping up in this relationship as the one you’ve left, then what’s the point?
Red flags on the dating scene
If you have already been in an abusive relationship, the risks are high that you will find yourself in another one. Seek counselling if you feel you need to develop skills in building your self-esteem and protective behaviours.
If the person you are dating is abusive, threatening or critical of you or your children, terminate the outing immediately and don’t resume contact with them.
If the person you are dating becomes controlling, overly jealous or manipulative, rather break it off – you don’t need that in your life. Their unresolved emotional issues are best dealt with by a professional - your energies are better spent elsewhere.
If your date speaks negatively about other people, is critical and demeaning. Chances are they will speak about you in exactly the same way once your back is turned. This usually reflects poor self-esteem and an attempt to drag other people down so individuals feel more superior about themselves.
If your date expects you to pay for every outing and always makes excuses about why they can’t contribute. Don’t be taken for an easy ride; these personality types usually have a history of similar behaviour and can be very clever at hiding their tracks.
If something just does not feel right, then trust your instincts. Tell a family member or friend when you are going out and when you expect to be home. This is just a precautionary measure for your own security.
If your date talks constantly about their ex-partner, their children, investments and debts. If there is no room in the conversation for you to contribute or you feel you are just a sounding board for their issues, then get out.
If you don’t share similar ideas on the purpose of dating. Some adults are ready to commit after a few dates and aim to match the person to their ideals. If you feel you are being pushed into doing something you don’t want to do, then say so. You will be treated how you allow yourself to be treated, so be assertive and honest; this is always the right approach.
Share the costs of outings, at least in the early stages. This avoids any obligations on either side to “pay back”.
Have fun – dating is not meant to be a chore.
Share the talking, don’t monopolise the conversation and show some genuine interest in your date.
Expect to feel nervous and a little apprehensive if you haven’t dated for a while. Give yourself permission to feel a little awkward. They probably do too.
Prioritise your own needs for adult companionship. If you are happy, then your kids are more likely to be as well.