Editor’s Note: You’ve mastered the playdate, but now it’s time for the date-date. If you’re feeling nervous or confused about entering the complex world of dating again, you’re not alone. Read on as single parent Monica Cobis shares her dating dilemmas.
The Challenges of Dating for Single Parents
By Monica Cobis, M.Ed., Right from the Start, Inc.
Did you know that in the world more single parents are now raising their kids than ever before? This new demographic is not currently served well when it comes to healthy relationships. The New York Times reports “Across the industrialized world, about 15.9 percent of children live in single-parent households. The United States is at the higher end of the single-parent spectrum, with 25.8 percent of its children living with just a mother or a father.” This doing double duty has a significant impact on one’s dating life.
As a single mom myself, I find it difficult to date for several reasons.
One, I struggle with time management. Working two jobs, raising my son on my own and taking care of the household means that Mama is overwhelmed. Two, I am not sure I even know how to navigate the new world of dating. It seems odd to me personally that people share their lives with someone online that they do not even know. This opens up a new dimension to set boundaries that I have never experienced before. Three, I have been burned and am a bit skittish to return to the dating world where one needs to be vulnerable in order to grow in a relationship. In today’s world, being vulnerable involves risk and the stakes are perceived to be higher than at previous times in our society.
As an observer of my own behavior, I realize that the time management issue is a reality and a challenge. I feel that I am constantly on the run. Even though I wake up early for a 45-minute walk three times a week, it seems as if that is the only time I have to reflect and just de-stress. Asking for help or seeking a support group is one of the ways that we can alleviate the time crunch. Asking other parents to pick up or drop off your child, asking family/friends to babysit once a month, or just saying no to certain activities may help.
What I have learned is that not valuing myself leads to trying to totally control everything in my life. Time management is really a mindset that I will be okay no matter what happens. My strength and weakness to be in control need to be in balance in order for me to have a healthy existence. Trying to control something or someone is rooted in fear. I recognize this as being my own nemesis.
We don’t want to talk about it but it really is at the root of many of the issues of a single parent who is dating. Fear that the children will be affected; insecurities about finances; doubts about our own masculinity or femininity. I mean when was the last time you went out to buy something that made you feel sexy? These self-induced digs infiltrate our minds without our awareness. Some of us are just trying to get by and going deeper is allowed only on the weekends, perhaps over a cup of coffee while the laundry is being done. The real fear comes at night when we are lying alone in our bed wondering if we are even loveable.
Yet fear is justified in this highly digital world. With Tinder and other apps taking a date from zero to 60 in less than a day or a week, our lives become overwhelming and unmanageable. True relationships take time. We know that intellectually, yet we grasp at that one morsel of instant gratification because deep down we are not getting our needs met. If we do not have time to get our needs met in healthy ways, we for sure will get them met in unhealthy ways. That even means speedy relationships with people who may not be the best for us in the long run.
How do we set the boundaries and deal with this fear of instant relationships? Set a 90-day rule of no touching, only talking. Discuss values, spend time together in different situations and don’t, just don’t invite them into your living space with your kids until you know this person and can trust him/her. That is a given for safety reasons. Secondly, determine that you are a treasure and do not settle. You are worth all of the gold in the world and if your dating partner does not agree, it is time to move on. Third, have fun. Evan Marc Katz, a dating coach, says that affection, having fun and companionship are the key ingredients in dating. Don’t we all want that?
Truth is, we have all been hurt. For those of us dating after marriage and kids, a whole new realm of perception is allotted. Even for those who have never been married, their hearts have been wounded. So, what do we do about it?
First, do not share your entire life story with your new dating partner during the first date or even the first couple of months. Like a flower, sunlight, water, and good soil are needed before you open up to even a great date. The good soil is the foundation of the relationships and allows for the roots to deepen and expand. This comes through knowing someone through time, talk, and togetherness. The sunlight is trust. Without trust, the flower will not open. The water is reliability. Can that person give you what you need and vice versa?
A vulnerability is needed in any relationship to grow, yet the timing is critical in order for you to be smart and guard your heart.