Dating as a single parent comes with plenty of challenges and heaps of rewards. There are stigmas attached to dating, yet it can be enormously comforting. It’s an intricate sphere that needs thought put into it and, unfortunately, can sometimes result in many parents thinking they shouldn’t date at all.
It’s important for single parents to feel like they can and should date if they want to for many reasons. Dating will give parents a sense of freedom and autonomy regarding their decisions, be it in the dating world or other aspects of life. Being a single parent definitely isn’t easy — that can make single parents feel the need to drop dating altogether instead of dating when they want to.
The most common anxiety I see in single parents trying to get back to dating is that related to their child’s acceptance and perspective on them as a parent, explains Dr Adams Ph.D., dating and relationship expert and coach at Hetexted.com. “It’s always ‘I don’t know how my kid is going to feel about this,’ or ‘what if my kid starts hating me about this?’ that tends to be anxiety fuel for single parents trying to start dating again.”
Single parents should try to approach dating with a relaxed mindset. Try to see it as something fun to add to your life. Something that can turn out awesome, or something that might not work out, but still won’t affect you in a huge way. This way, you can approach the process with a sense of fun and balance.
We spoke with Dr. Adams to break down some of the challenges and rewards that come with dating as a single parent.
Challenges of dating as a single parent
1. Your child may not be supportive of your dating journey
At some point, you may have to tell your child that you’re dating again or that you want to bring someone home for them to meet. This part can be especially challenging if your child doesn’t support your decision. You’ll have to talk to them about it calmly and be open to hearing what they have to say about this.
Get ready for compromise. The changes in your lifestyle can affect your child as well. Especially when it comes to a new partner. This is why you have to make sure your child feels involved in your life. Dr. Adams says that you should try reassuring them that you having a new partner doesn’t mean they’ll come second in your life.
2. Disclosing that you have kids
In theory, it can sound quite easy to do. You simply tell your date that you have a child (or children) and that you raise them on your own. However, practically, this tends to be slightly more difficult to do since there’s no such level of detachment from the situation.
You’ll be in front of a person you like (who likes you back), and eventually, you have to prepare for any reaction from their side. They may or may not be in for this. Hence, the sooner you tell them, the better.
Dr. Adams recommends that you maintain a calm approach, yet be confident about it. An example of this balance can be “to avoid any misunderstandings, I’d like to tell you that I’m a single parent.” This will clear the path and will highlight whether you’re on the same page or not.
3. Your child’s emotional, physical, and mental health matters
If your child(ren)’s health has been a source of worry or stress, you’ll be affected too. While dating, you’ll reflect that in this area as well through lack of time to devote to your partner, or lack of energy to deal with problems or issues in the relationship.
Your child is your priority, hence the relationship’s flow is likely to depend on your relationship with your child and their health. To avoid hard feelings, Dr. Adams says you should try to let your partner know about this, and state this as a boundary. Your child is a priority in your life — this way you set them up for realistic expectations.
4. Not everyone is wants to date someone with kids
Some people don’t want any children, while some others are okay with other people’s kids as long as they don’t have any of their own. Different people have different preferences regarding kids, hence you should be prepared for this conversation.
You might like one another a lot, and you might click, but if they’re a ‘no children’ person, you might have a hard time seeing eye-to-eye on your priorities and long-term plans. If you want this to be easier, Dr. Adams says you should try putting this topic on the table as early as you can. See where they stand regarding children, what their viewpoints are, and discuss boundaries, needs, and wants. Be honest and understanding, while also maintaining your child(ren) as a priority in how you proceed, or don’t, with the relationship.
5. Setting boundaries
Setting boundaries is extremely important in any relationship, especially romantic ones. Whether you’re looking for a casual relationship, a serious one, or a simple one night stand, your boundaries should be set and communicated early on. This can be a challenge because your boundaries won’t be set on the basis of your own preferences and needs but also your child(ren)’s.
Keep your child(ren) in mind while you set your boundaries, says Dr. Adams. Think them through before you discuss them with your partner. Talk with your child(ren) too, and see if your boundaries align with their needs and opinions regarding your relationship with other people.
Rewards of dating as a single parent
1. Having support and not feeling alone
When you’re dating, you’ll have a partner, a spark, and someone to rely on for emotional support (or at least a heartfelt conversation when you need one). That of course if you’re looking for something long-term.
On the other hand, even if you’re looking for casual relationships, you’ll still have that sense of support and fulfilment, says Dr. Adams, since you’re interacting with another person on an intimate level.
2. A sense of comfort and security
A romantic partner often represents comfort and security, and rightfully so. Of course, this feeling should come from within, but a romantic partner definitely can enhance this feeling and give it more meaning in your life.
This will help you find calm and peace a lot easier, explains Dr Adams.
3. Exploring yourself as an individual through dating other people
A lot of single parents tend to be stagnant in this area, says Dr Adams. Often due to their hesitance regarding dating. Exploring other people will intricately help you explore yourself too. You’ll find out a lot more things about yourself, and you’ll definitely start noticing your preferences, needs, and wants much better.
This can help you to spot the problematic parts too. It can be a great push to start working on yourself to become a better version of yourself.
4. Gaining confidence
Sure, maintaining a balance between relationships (familial and romantic) can be difficult, but doing so will make you see your power. The moment you see that power, you’ll be more confident in your skills as a parent and also your skills as a lover.
You’ll be maintaining two beautiful relationships that will nourish you emotionally, says Dr Adams. That will reflect on your mental health through confidence and joy.
5. A healthy relationship with your romantic partner can help you be an even better parent than you already are
Being on your own as a parent can be very stressful. Another hand, mind, and heart to team up with yours can be extremely helpful and relieving. You’re very likely to become less stressed when in a healthy relationship, hence you can focus a lot more on having a good time with your child instead of simply fulfilling their needs.
Since you’re more relaxed, that will reflect on your relationship with your child as well.
On the other hand, you might also get helpful insights from your partner regarding your relationship with your child. And if those are welcome, you can put them into practice to better your already awesome parenting.