I feel like dating used to be so simple. People meet, they arrange a time and place and hopefully it turns into happily ever after. Fast forward to now, where almost nothing is done face to face anymore — especially this year. Apps may have given me the world at my fingertips, but dating never felt harder. Throw in being a single parent, and the stresses and pressures are that much heavier. However, now I know that with some thinking and planning, the end result could lead to deleting all those apps.
I met my current partner online — Twitter of all places! — and we started chatting in November. I wasn’t new to the idea of online dating, but I had just hit the big 4-0, so I wanted to try a different approach: doing the opposite of what I felt were unhelpful dating tendencies.
Have you been struggling with romance since the pandemic started? This mom’s with you. Read her story here.
Be upfront and honest
Stop when this sounds familiar: you meet someone, start corresponding and it’s calm, cool and casual. Depending on the platform, there’s an unspoken understanding about what you’re looking for (no judgment, single parents need sex too!). After a few dates, and late-night calls into the wee hours, you ask where things are heading — and he replies, he’s not looking for anything serious. You say, “That’s cool, neither am I.” Except that’s not true. I’m not dating just for fun, and since I have a child that’s especially true. However, that’s why I learned it’s important to…
Date for you first
I’ve been a single parent from the onset, so my son had never seen me date anyone. When he turned six, he really struggled with not having a dad, and I had to learn to manage his emotions and the guilt I felt at not being able to order one and place him under the tree at Christmas.
“It’s easy to fall into the trap of dating for the sake of finding a parent for your child ….”
It’s easy to fall into the trap of dating for the sake of finding a parent for your child — but first, I have to date with the mindset of finding myself a partner. I don’t need to know in the first three dates if he’ll be good for them, I need to know if they’ll be good for me. Which leads me to my next point.
Trust your instincts
When my child was born, I activated the parental instinct gene. The one that senses a disturbance in the force when they are a little too quiet. But this superpower works for dating, too! I’ve made sure to pay close attention to the little things that make a difference when looking for long-term love. Are they quick to temper? Are they open to learning? Are they rigid and inflexible? I have the head start in parenting my child, which they don’t have, so I’m also patient with them. I’ve learned to take my time, because I’ve taken my next point to heart.
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There is no schedule
Some schools of thought say to introduce the kids early in the relationship to get them used to the new person. Others say to wait an indefinite amount of time, to ensure your romantic relationship is solid.
“My son and partner were supposed to meet over March break, and then a little global pandemic broke out.”
My son and partner were supposed to meet over March break, and then a little global pandemic broke out. Until recently, they chatted using video chat apps — and finally met this summer. I had a lot of anxiety heading into the trip because I wasn’t sure how he would do with having kid-friendly foods and an early riser in his house for two weeks. How would my son would react to me cuddling up to another man? And how would I manage both their feelings and my own? But that first meeting was everything I hoped it would be and more.
Communication is key
I’ve learned that from the onset, you have to know where you stand, what your potential future partner has the capacity for, and how to prepare your child. I hid my partner from my son for the first few months of us talking, because I had no idea what I was doing. Once it became clear that he was the one, I found small ways to integrate him into our lives. I wanted my son to understand who he was to me and who he may become to him. I gave him an opportunity to ask questions and most importantly said that if he doesn’t like him at first, it is OK. My son needed to know that he wasn’t being misplaced or replaced by a new person. And no matter the age, I would make sure to explicitly tell him that.
In the end, we took the first step towards becoming the family I’ve always envisioned when I was in the pool swimming through plenty of fish or swiping left. And like most things with parenting, there’s not only one right way to date as a single parent. So above all else, be honest and true to you — the rest will bumble its way into place.
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