So here you are, in this place you never would have imagined so many years ago when you were in love and walked down that aisle. But it happened…your marriage ended, and now you find yourself a divorced, single parent, and haven’t a clue about what to do next.
You haven’t been on a date since before the internet, so a lot has changed. The mere idea of taking that step has you frozen in terror.
Do not fret. There’s a lot of things you need to know, but it doesn’t have to be unbearable. Follow this guide to dating as a single parent, and you’ll be well on your way.
8 Dating Tips for Single Parents
- First and foremost, remember that your kids are watching you. This does not by any stretch of the imagination mean that you cannot move on, but it does mean that you need to be mindful of how and when you do so. If you jump right into a new relationship, you are teaching your children that relationships are dispensable and easily replaced.
- Give yourself some time to wrap your head around the idea of dating again. I don’t recommend diving immediately into the dating pool right after you’ve separated. Let some time pass, and actually grieve the loss of the marriage, even if you’re happy that it ended. Figure out what lessons you can take from the failure, gain some clarity into who you are and what you want or don’t want. Carry this information with you as you move forward.
- After a reasonable amount of time has passed, usually several months, consider starting to date again. If you’re not ready, some might say you should take your time and wait until you are ready. My opinion is that at some point you just need to go for it, even if you’re not really feeling ready.
- Be aware that dating has changed a lot since your last date. People meet online now and talk before they ever meet face to face. Cell phones have changed the rules of dating completely. Figure out what works for you. Online dating sites? Asking friends and co-workers to set you up? Waiting for a chance opportunity at meeting someone the old fashioned way? It’s all up to you. Just put yourself out there.
- Take it slow. Date a lot of people, and try to find what it is that you really want. Arm candy half your age might be fun for a few months, but is this really what you want long term? Do you really want your kids to learn that you trade in an aging partner for a new, younger version? Be mindful of this; they are watching you.
- Don’t force a new relationship down your children’s throats. Too much, too soon can really backfire on you. It often ends up doing irreparable damage to your relationship with your children. Don’t bring home your new boyfriend or girlfriend after just a few dates. You are smart enough to know that a new relationship may or may not last. There is no reason to introduce a new partner to your children unless the relationship is becoming serious after at least a few months. That means no sleep overs when the kids are with you. Yes, it is challenging to develop and maintain a new relationship this way…nobody said it would be easy. But everything is not about you and what you want and what makes you happy. There are other people to consider here, too, and the idea of you each moving on will take some time for your kids to buy into.
- Once you are in an established new relationship, and at least a few months have passed and you believe you may have a future with this person, then it is time to introduce her or him to your children. Do this in the most appropriate and respectful way you can think of. You only get one chance to do this right, and if you mess it up, your children might hold a grudge against you forever.
- Talk about the new partner a lot before the introduction. Let the kids know you’ve been dating for a while, that you think he or she is great, and just let them get used to the idea that this person exists before they are subjected to meeting him or her. Eventually, you will want to arrange a casual meeting where nobody is being blindsided.
- Do not just have this person show up at an unexpected time. Instead, set up a mutually acceptable time for this to take place, and don’t make it a big fancy ordeal. Keep it simple, like having them over for dinner or brunch.
- Understand it might be awkward for your children, and you need to be sensitive to this, no matter what their age. Just try to imagine what it must be like to see your parent with someone who is not the other parent…try to see it through their eyes.
- Have realistic expectations, and stay calm and keep your cool at all times. Your kids might love him or her right away, they might hate him or her, or they most likely will seem completely indifferent. That’s okay. The goal here isn’t for them to love the person, but rather to accept that this person is part of your life now. The rest will happen naturally as a progression over time.
- Be smart. Set an example. Protect yourself from STDs. The rate of sexually transmitted diseases has more than doubled among middle-aged adults and the elderly. You’ve just come out of a marriage, where you likely did not use condoms on a regular basis. Now that you are back in the dating pool, you must realize that everyone you are having sex with potentially had sex with multiple other people before you came along. Furthermore, unless you are in a committed relationship with this new person, you don’t really know that they are being monogamous. Approach your own sex life with as much caution as you would hope and expect your own children to.
Most importantly, have fun, and know that life goes on after divorce. Many even say it is better than ever. You are older and wiser, you have learned from your life lessons. You will find a new partner if that’s what you desire, and life can be as wonderful and fulfilling as you make it.
Despite the turmoil a divorce can put you and your family through, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t lose sight of it.
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Lori Freson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Southern California. She has been working in the mental health field since 1997, and has been a licensed therapist since 2002. Lori currently works in her own thriving private practice in Encino and Sherman Oaks, where she serves the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles areas. Contact Lori at lorifresontherapy.com or call/text 818-514-LMFT