As a single mom of 10 years, I have vacillated back and forth from “There is no evening that I wouldn’t rather take a bath than go on a date” to “ok, this might be fun.” Mostly, thinking about dating as a single parent just makes me tired. Whether you are feeling trepidations, hope, or somewhere in between, there are helpful things you can keep in mind around your decision to start dating.
First, you don’t have to do it. Many of us hear from friends and family “it’s time to get back out there.” Only you can decide when it is actually time. I strongly believe that your best investment in a future relationship is yourself… identifying your values, prioritizing your time, engaging in activities that make you feel healthy and happy are all more important than finding a romantic partner. By investing in yourself, not only are you acting as a strong role model for your children, but also you are positioning yourself to enter into a romantic relationship because you WANT to, not because you feel like you NEED a partner to be happy. And an added benefit—nothing is more attractive than a confident, centered and fulfilled person. A great article I read said “How do you know when you are ready to date? When you don’t need to.”
If you are ready, take your time and test the waters. Make sure you have your compass in place… what are your life values (so you can evaluate potential dating partners based on goodness of fit), how much time are you willing to devote to dating, how do you feel about telling your children you are dating, at what point is it appropriate to have someone you are dating meet your children? Unlike a nonparent who is dating, the dating parent has to consider all of these things plus what type of family are they hoping to create. If you eventually decide a potential partner is not a good fit with your children, it won’t matter how much you love him or her. These are all complex issues that depend a lot on the circumstances around your being single (i.e., divorce, death, never partnered), the age of your children, other support in your life, your job, etc. There isn’t a “right” answer.
When you are ready to move forward, you might consider telling friends you are open to meeting people. You might decide to take a more active route and investigate on-line dating sites. Meet-ups (there are single parent meet-ups) and other activity-based social events are great ways to meet other single adults as well. I have found that it is helpful to approach dating with a curious attitude and as a way to make new friends rather than to find a soulmate. The more of that pre-dating work you have done (feeling good about yourself), the less hurtful it will be if your interest isn’t reciprocated (because you will feel confident in what you are looking for and respectful of others doing the same).
Finally, don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. Talk to other single parents who have made this journey. Meet with a therapist to help guide you, particularly if you know that you have trouble keeping your bearings in the throes of romantic love. Reach out to friends who can serve as “reality checks” when you just aren’t sure about what to do next. But most importantly, keep a sense of humor. Your worst date can be your best story when you get together later with your friends!